Never underestimate the unintelligible

Posted on November 8, 2011


I don’t know what I hoped to learn on a training course in London, but a day off work is a day off work; especially when it’s paid for by the boss.  Since I was paired with Teresa, a woman of forty who looked like a large gormless child, I didn’t expect to learn too much.

Our task was to write an article on giving in the public sector.  One glance up was enough to re-assure me that help from that quarter would be minimal.  Her lack of creative input did not dissuade her from speaking; an endless, unintelligible rambling that had no discernible beginning or end.  One moment, the space between us would be full of random noises and extravagant gestures.  The next, silence would descend, prompting me to reply “thanks, very good points.”

Piece by piece, our presentation fell into place.  My careful balancing act between acknowledging her outbursts so as not to cause offence and skilfully recording none of it had produced a presentation that was, if not exceptional, not totally rubbish.

The presentations began.

It became increasingly obvious as the arguments were put forward by our fellow delegates that somewhere along the way I had completely misunderstood the task.  Lacking the time to start from scratch, I went for the next best alternative; panicking.

By the time our turn came, I had achieved nothing but a mild sweat and a reasonable doodle of a cat.  In a last desperate gamble, I turned to my so-far useless teammate.  Without hesitation, she picked up our notes and began haphazardly launching vowels and guttural sounds around the room.  In a display of spectacularly good judgement and incredible luck the instructor replied, “thanks, very good points,” before moving swiftly on.   I think the most useful thing I learned on the course was that intelligence is no substitute for good old fashioned bollocks.