Homework for Grown-ups: Everything You Learnt at School... and Promptly Forgot Hardcover – 28 Aug 2008
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"An obvious candidate to take to a desert island, along with Shakespeare and the Bible" (Daily Telegraph)
"This lovely cloth-bound book is packed full of facts" (Oldie)
`an amusingly testing compendium'
Top customer reviews
Sh... don't say anything, will you?
The book is split into ten main chapters, each filled with facts and figures relevant to each subject and each accompanied by a suitably intimidating Test Paper. There's really no excuse for doing badly on those questions, not if you've read the preceding chapter. Unless you're as thick as two short planks like me, that is.
The notes that link each subject together come equipped with a really lovely and most welcome sense of humour. I can't remember a whole lot of humour when I was at school, which might go some way towards explaining why I found most of this stuff so thoroughly mind-numbing in the first place. If only I could have had this book then, that's all I can say. Maybe I could have been a contender? Nah, it's a book, not a miracle-worker.
1. ENGLISH (Language & Literature) - Grammar, punctuation and honourable mentions for the likes of onomatopoeia, alliteration and assorted mystical components of the English language. Literature-wise, we kick off with some very short guides to popular literary behemoths like 'War and Peace', followed by some mercifully quick trips through the works of Dickens and Milton. You can find out how a poem is constructed and then learn how to analyse one. You can learn four classic poems, always handy when you're stuck for something to say at a party and 'Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious' doesn't seem particularly appropriate. Predictably enough, Mr Shakespeare gets the last word in this chapter.
2. MATHS - They do give this subject quite a nice introduction here and the authors clearly know what sort of audience resistance they're going to have to overcome. Those of us who were stuck doing double maths last thing every Friday for two years on the trot still hold considerable grudges, I can tell you. Averages, minus numbers, square roots, prime numbers... that's all friendly enough. BUT - then they try to sneak long multiplication and long division past us. Wow! They're both as inscrutable to me now as they were in the 1980s although, in fairness to the authors, they do explain the methods slowly and properly. On the positive side, the likes of geometry, angles, area, trigonometry, fractions and decimals all seem rather friendly by comparison. Maybe Maths really isn't that scary after all? Oh, wait - there's still that Test Paper to safely negotiate. Do you know what? It's not all that difficult at all! Especially when you've got the answers at the back there to help you; I'm just saying, that's all.
3. HOME ECONOMICS - Not just basic cooking skills and a few recipes but much, much more. I love the way they tell you how to figure out your Body Mass Index AFTER they've given you all those cake recipes. Of all the advice offered in the event of a household fire, I think 'do not faff about' is perhaps the most useful (I wonder if stopping to rescue my signed photo of Siobhan Fahey would ever be described as 'faffing'?). Then we've got some first aid tips, some energy-saving tips and, bizarrely, instructions on how to make a sausage-dog draught excluder. All you really need is an old pair of tights and I've got loads of those! Table Manners is a subject I am thankfully rather good at although being able to deduce what is meant by all those little symbols on the labels of the things I want to wash every so often is not a skill I possess to any great degree. The tips on 'How to Succeed at an Interview' are excellent as, I'm sure, is the advice on 'How to Survive a Nuclear Attack': although I sincerely hope none of us ever have to put that sort of thing to the test.
4. HISTORY - The bits of this that deal with dinosaurs, the Romans and the Tudors are all very interesting. Anything more modern than that though and my eyes seem to perpetually glaze over. Of all the chapters, this one really is the dullest. The use of 'BCE' and 'CE' instead of 'BC' and 'AD' seems to me to be a bit pointless, especially as it appears to be a modern thing and therefore not something the average reader of this book would even be familiar with. I'm sure there are very good reasons for using that system these days but, for me, its presence makes this chapter even more intimidating.
5. SCIENCE - The delights of Physics, Chemistry and Biology presented in a methodical way. Science is a massive subject, packed full of complicated concepts and virtually incomprehensible jargon, but the humour of the authors makes this chapter a lot more entertaining than it might otherwise be. That doesn't make the questions any easier to answer, but at least you do get a few laughs along the way.
BREAK TIME - This is a nice touch; the rules/instructions for seven 'old-fashioned' playground games (Grandmother's Footsteps; Hopscotch; Paper, Scissors, Stone; Paper Planes; Double Dutch; Kiss Chase and British Bulldog). I had quite forgotten just how awfully violent that last one used to be, otherwise engaged as I usually was in keeping the girls company in a completely different part of the playground and getting myself a few absolutely invaluable make-up tips into the bargain. It says here you can play British Bulldog with people from your office but that sounds even more dangerous to me.
6. RELIGIOUS EDUCATION - A look at Hunduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism.
7. GEOGRAPHY - Thankfully, this chapter is concerned solely with Physical Geography, the exciting half of things. Rivers, mountains, glaciers and volcanoes, that sort of stuff.
8. CLASSICS - The Greeks and the Romans. This is another pretty dry topic, hindered in every single way by the fact that what appears to be a term's worth of Latin lurks within, ready to leap out and completely baffle the reader with its declensions.
9. PHYSICAL EDUCATION - The rules and terminology associated with cricket, football, rugby, lacrosse and field hockey. A brief word about my own favourite school sport too, netball. I would just like to say that it is not simply a sport for the girls, despite what this book might tell you. A bloke can look good in a skirt as well you know! No? Oh well, that must just be me then.
10. ART - Colours, architecture, 'A Glossary of Painting', artistic movements... this sort of stuff is more Greek to me than what I read in Chapter 8.
The most important part of this work is the presence of the answers to these fiendish interrogations at the back of it. Had I any intelligence whatsoever, I would cop a look at a few of them before submitting myself for utter intellectual humiliation. But, well, I don't think that would inspire my two little relatives to perpetually want to take me on in this way. Which, when all is said and done, would mean they really wouldn't have too much reason to want to get involved with this book.
Selfless, that's what I am. Selfless!
Didn't realise how much I had forgotten or missed out on.
Enjoyed getting back to basics with the rules for Rugby Union;(I know they keep changing them!), and have enjoyed learning the Greek alphabet.
Nice to dip in and out of when you have five minutes and makes a change from the dross that is on TV most of the time.
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