AS A STUDENT SISTER-TUTOR
When a hot body and a cold body are placed in contact, the hot body becomes cooler and the cold body becomes warmer. The principles of thermometry, the measure of heat. With glazed eyes and whirling brain I read through my physics notes.They meant nothing to me. A cold body was still someone in need of a nice cup of tea - like me. But it was two o’clock in the morning and at 10 o’clock I had a physics viva and as yet I knew nothing. With growing panic and despair I poured over textbooks and diagrams. I studied Boyle’s Law, Newton’s Law, Dalton’s Law, Ohm’s Law, all a complete mystery. But I had to go on with the farce; on to electricity, on to the generation of electrical energy, electromotive force, conductors, commutators, converters, electric poles, electro-magnetic generators, and armatures.
After two more hours of intensive studying, I closed the books decisively. I knew when I was beaten. If I’d not taken it in after six months of intensively cramming at college, enlightenment was not likely to come to me in six hours before the oral exam. Failure and disgrace stared me in the face.
Well, I stood outside the laboratory waiting for the fatal doors to open and admit me to the inquisition. I was beyond worrying. I knew I had no memory to refresh, so I thought about going to the cinema: there was a good picture on.
‘Miss Moody, you’re next.’ My heart gave a wild leap and came down heavily in the pit of my stomach and my legs buckled under me. At the same time I wondered if there was hereditary madness in the family, for surely I must be insane to submit voluntarily to this torture. As I turned to meet my doom, I gave the other waiting victims a brave sad smile and raised my hand saying, We who are about to die, salute you!
I was guided towards a bench on which was arranged a mass of electrical equipment. As a composition for a surrealist picture it was interesting, but how it worked or what it meant was one of life’s greatest mysteries to me. From a great distance I heard my Torquemada in a white coat speak.
She had a gentle soothing voice and she was asking me about an electric bell. I came to and remembered that it is always best to say something as examiners hate silence. So I searched my tiny mind for electrical terms feeling sure that some of them must be in the electric bell. ‘It has an electro-magnet,’ Blurted out triumphantly. I watched the Torquemada closely to see the effect of this pronouncement. She inclined her head gravely. ‘Yess - and what else?’
What else did I know. ‘ An armature.’ I suggested doubtfully. ‘Yes,’ confirmed the T. in a relieved voice. ‘Now will you point it out to me on this bell.’ She had me there. I hadn’t the remotest idea what an armature was or what it looked like, but having got so far I thought I would go on with it so pretending to myself that I was just picking out the Derby winner with a pin, I closed my eyes and plunged my finger blindly into the entrails of the bell. I left it where it landed and looked hopefully up at the Torquemada. ‘No,’ she said sadly, ‘That’s the electro-magnet, isn’t it?’ ‘Oh, of course it is I laughed! How silly of me.’
I shut my eyes and struck again. ’That’s it’, said the T. ’That’s the armature.’
She then launched into a detailed description of how the bell worked to which I listened blankly with an expression of great intelligence. Every now and again I nodded sagely and said ‘H’m, H’m.’ in a knowledgeable learned way. And that was how I passed my physics oral exam. I think I must be lucky at exams.