Summa Cum Laude

Of all the stupid things to do – and Lord knows, I’ve done more than my fair share – dropping my mobile phone down the loo must be a serious contender for the Golden Biscuit.

And how, Mr. Sampson, did you possibly manage to do that?

Well, your Honour, it was like this. On Friday morning, my daughter had to go in early with her mother in order to pick up the results of her baccalaureate. A whole nation, it seemed, was holding its breath. Articles had appeared in newspapers; speculation was rife. Children – or young adults, I should say, your Honour – were worrying whether they would get that new Renault they had been promised, or be beaten soundly and sent to bed.

My daughter had promised to text me as soon as she knew, so I was wandering around the house like ‘Nervous’ O’Toole, clutching my old beaten-up Sagem (which was handed down by my wife first to my daughter and then to me), because I’d been told that you shouldn’t carry them around in your pocket or you might get testicular cancer, and I needed to faire pipi you see, and… well, it’s kind of difficult to do two things at once and…

Yes! Thank you. That’s quite enough. We’re all capable of using our imagination, I believe. So your telephone fell into the… loo, as you refer to it. And then presumably you retrieved it?

I did your Honour. I fished it out pronto. But I had that awful feeling that the game was up. It’s not, you understand, that I’m conjoined to my mobile phone. I’ve only really started using it, fairly reluctantly, in the last year or so, but I’ve grown rather fond of that unlovely Sagem and I take a pride in its lack of features. So I did whatever I could to save it: drying it with a towel, blow-drying the insides with my daughter’s hairdryer, cradling it in my hands, laying it out in the sun. At one point, it gave an awful lowing sound, like the death-throe of some bovine animal, and an unnatural blue light lit up the keypad, and after that everything went lifeless. I’ve tried countless times to revive it, because I’ve heard from friends that mobile phones can start working again several days after a trauma, rising Lazarus-like from the dead one might say, but increasingly I came to feel that my Sagem was an ex-phone.

I see. So we’ve established, I think, that mobile phones – even of a certain age – are unlikely to survive a dunk in the lavatory. In that case, how, pray, did you find out about your daughter’s results?

Well, I had to phone my wife. But she was, it appeared, in the middle of a session with a client. So I had to leave a message and wait. And wait. So I couldn’t possibly get on with anything, could I?

That’s a matter of opinion. Please confine yourself to answering the question.

I am. I’m just getting there. Believe me, I honestly couldn’t get on with any work. So I was left to pace around the house until the phone rang. Back and forth, back and forth, occasionally stopping to tug the dog’s rope or sweep up some of his fur-balls. And then the phone rang – or peeped I should say, because there’s a problem with the cheap phone that I bought from Lidl.

We are not here to praise or ‘diss’ (I think they say now) your supermarket of choice, Mr. Sampson. Kindly keep to the point.

I’m sorry, your Honour. I was just trying to build up a little tension. Anyway, I recognised the phone’s dysfunctional peep, and I fumbled with the receiver in my efforts to pick it up before the messagerie clicks in, because there’s barely enough time to say ‘Jack Robinson’ before it does so, and I still haven’t worked out how to give us more time to get to the phone…

Yes, yes, yes. That’s all quite irrelevant. Who was on the other end of the phone? Was it your wife or was it your daughter?

I can’t remember. They both phoned within minutes of each other. The upshot of the matter is that the kid got her bac. She got a mention bien, which I think equates roughly to an A overall. But it’s all very complicated and confusing. Her final average mark was 15.52 out of 20, so she was 0.48 points away from a mention très bien. I think. It’s all got something to do with multiplication by coefficients. She scored a full house for her art, and because the coefficient is 2, she scored either 20 points or 40 points, since you multiply the coefficient by either 10 or 20. I’m not sure. However, she incinerated her philosophy and scored only 8 out of 20. Because the French are a philosophical race and because it therefore carries a coefficient of 7, you multiply the marks below the pass mark of 10 to obtain a score of minus 14 – which put a spanner in the works and caused her to slip under the threshold of A plus-itude. Which would have been, I suppose, the equivalent of the American ‘summa cum laude’.

Mr. Sampson, what are you talking about? It all sounds quite ludicrous. I’m more concerned to know whether she was pleased.

Oh yes. Pleased and relieved. At one point, she’d even worried about failure. But I’d been prepared to bet what’s left of our life savings on her getting the result she obtained. But I didn’t, which is a shame, or we’d be quids-in (assuming that we could have found a PMU in France, prepared to offer attractive odds on such an outcome). So, yes, she was chuffed. But just a teensy bit disappointed, because she sets herself such high standards.

And you? The proud parent? You’ll be buying her that Renault, I shouldn’t wonder.

No. I never promised her a rose garden, so to speak. I couldn’t afford one anyway. My daughter has no great ambition to drive currently. And I don’t believe in bribing our children to achieve. School’s quite hard enough.

Laudable, I’m sure. And what of the mobile phone?

Well, it seems to be resolutely dead. But kind friends of mine have given me their old phones, now that they’ve both got iPhones.

So, all’s well that ends well?

Hmm. The trouble is, they’re Orange phones. So they won’t take my SIM card. So I have to beg Orange to be charitable and unlock whichever phone I choose, so I can use it.

I see. So what are you in that case, Mr. Sampson?

A nit-wit, your Honour. A big old imbecilic Hector. I should be taken away from here to a place of punishment and soundly thrashed.

You said it, not I.

That's brilliant, Angela! At least you had a proper excuse. My Sagem is still in the bag of rice. I keep hoping for a miracle. Sad git.

Congrats to the clever scholar. I too threw my phone into the loo whilst wiping my 4 year old son's bottom…When the phone rang. Sigh. Let's just say it all turned to s**t and the phone battery sizzled up like the Wicked Witch of the East.

Hi All. Thanks so much for your kind words of congradewlayshuns for my progeny. I'll pass them on to The Daughter and I'm sure she'll be as chuffed as wot I was. And thank you to for the encouragement and challenges. It's downright chuff-making. But as my mother used to say to us four kids, 'I've tried; God knows I've tried'. Right now, I'm concentrating on getting a few things sorted out for Amazon's Kindle line. At least there's no one there to say, 'Push off, mooshe' or 'Thank you very much for submitting your idea to us. Unfortunately, it's not quite right for our current list, but we wish you luck in placing it blah blah blah'.

Ciro, it sounds suspiciously like you need my friend, Bret (as featured a few weeks ago). That man can fix anything. He's a bloomin' marvel, honest he is.

Lets go easy on Mark to begin with Brian....always works to use the carrot first......!

Challenge Carol? That's a demand!

There you go Mark...a challenge!!!

OK, let's get Mark working on a revival of the comedy of that age for today.

All those progs back on Radio 4plus which you can get on your PC iplayer...loved the huggets and they were on the other day...Kathleen Harrison and Jack Warner....

Carol, the Light became R2 with part of it sent off alone as R4 in 1967, the year after I went to university. Only 45 years ago, so I bet as a pre-teen you did. I was a Goons devotee and also have some tapes of Meet the Huggets!

that should read News Script...!!!!

haha! I think you beat me by a couple of years...I am a few...sadly very few off 60....but used to go to bed, especially on a Saturday night to listen to the Saturday night theatre...on the (was it light or home service?) a lifelong listen to Radio 4 still enjoy daily..Hancocks half hour...The Clitheroe Kid etc....! many years later...ended up working for the BBC World Service..I was the one that used to type up the new it came in....and worked for...wait for it....Tony Benns brother!!!! I was his PA.....oh that it had been Tony Benn himself!

Carol! Me too, but 50 years ago it was the BBC Light Service not R4. I agree on the scriptwriting though.

Ditto, congratulations to your daughter. I wish her much success.

Ahhhh, mobile phones, eh? What would we do without them? Another necessary evil that's taken over our lives!! What if we were to go back a few hundred years? We'd be burnt for heresy if we proclaimed that we could talk to people across the other side of the globe 'at the same time', which didn't involved a six month voyage round either one of the Capes.

My landlady is in the throes of changing the screen on her Eye thing and has ordered and been sent a replacement très cheap . . . and now . . . to instal it, because . . . it came with no instructions. Mais bien sûr what does one expect? Instructions en plus? Well two fingers up to Eye thing, Youtube to the rescue because you just know that someone else has had the same problem and some kind person has decided to do a video (thank Gawd). All fine until . . . "ummm, can't get three (microscopic) screws out, think they've been glued in or something? I tentatively offer my manly strength but then thoughts fly back through the years to when I was a child and I had a watch and . . . you know where this is going, don't you? Yes, kerrr-boing, spring's just flown across the room and the cat's leapt three foot in the air as cogs whizz by, like ninja throwing stars!

Landlady declines my offer, thankfully, saying she'll let her partner have a go. Yes, yes, yes, I say hurriedly, sighing with relief. I can just hear it when it all goes Pete Tong!! What ever happened to two tin cans a bit of string?

Nice piece, by the way!!

I tried the rice was cr* phone was still an ex phone...though I now had wet rice too.....I think a phone a phone dead...maybe the friend that passed on the tip..who is from the USA has the benefit of partially waterproof phones...can confirm...the wet French ones...die!

Stupendous...write some comedy for Radio 4....write a sit have the ability...(I know..Ive listened to Radio 4 drama and comedies...for 50 years...!) go for it...delighted for your daughter and for you....expect your name in lights one day...!

Sorry, Mark, forgot to say well done to your daughter!

There is some serious talent in SFN! It was a blast to read this, even for an Android ;-)

Hi all. Having worn my favourite white cardy (with pockets) for three days, and it being no longer white, I filled a bucket with warm water and some Vanish, and plunged cardy in for a soak. Half an hour later, I remembered! The phone, the godddamn mobile was in the pocket. Fished cardy out, drained water from phone, which of course was completely dead. It was the cleanest phone in South county Dublin but it was a late phone, it had departed, it was dead, deceased, it was no more. Hadn't heard about the rice trick in those days, so out came the hairdryer, and what a pose I struck - wearing garden gloves to stop hands getting too hot, I aimed that dryer at the phone for about two hours. There was the odd comment from Henry about the electricity bill being higher than the cost of a replacement, but that didn't stop me. It was all the numbers, the photos, all those bits of information you stick in your phone. It was finally restored, and is still working, although hardly used, as I have converted to iPhone.