Paper Helium Day

paper helium3Planet Academia

As examination Results Day draws near the pulse rate rises, the appetite shrinks, limbs involuntarily tremble, tempers shorten, bursts of perspiration erupt and sleepless nights are wracked with waking nightmares.  And it’s almost as bad for the students.

Only the smug can feign confidence, or those who specialise in subjects that are not examined. Teachers who have sweated through years of cajoling, encouraging, sanction-threatening, begging and bribing pupils whose fate is determined by faceless markers racing through impossible mountains of scripts in return for much needed pittances, cannot be confident.  They must quake.

It starts with over a week to go. Someone mentions the date and the mind-clock cranks into gear to release the satanic intestinal moths. The countdown is underway.  Distractions are sought but have only limited effect. Soon it’s the final weekend, then that’s gone and the days fall like tin soldiers on a fairground sideshow rifle range.  Thursday looms – it’s always Thursday.

On Planet Academia Results Thursday is known as Paper Helium Day.  This is because on that day schools and colleges are allowed to use a special type of paper.  Paper Helium was discovered by accident whilst 19th century Chemist Ernest McRamsey was trying to invent a new kind of firework.

He impregnated strong white paper with cleveite crystals but by chance he had mistakenly picked up a wad of thermosensitive paper and, to his astonishment, when black ink was spilled on the sheet the cells of the paper became enriched with helium. Light falling on black ink generated heat more intensely, triggering the reaction. So potent is the mineral cleveite on Planet Academia that great quantities of helium were generated – though only for a few seconds. Persons holding a leaf of such paper were lifted off their feet.

Ernest’s granddaughter refined his invention some sixty years after his death by using a secret process and produced a material that only allowed the chemical reaction to be triggered if heat was detected in the shape of the letter A.

Results notifications are now issued on Paper Helium and all over the planet pupils holding a sheet with three or more of the letter A printed in the sensitive area, are instantly lifted into the air when they expose the paper to daylight.

paper helium4Three decades ago Planet Academia introduced educational league tables based on the average height attained by a random sample of students from each institution when clutching their results notification sheets.  This eventually led to a flurry of strategies to improve the heights achieved.

Some schools only entered underweight students for final exams, so that the results papers would float them higher. Others insisted on weekly leaping lessons to supplement the lift off.  Others buried camouflaged trampolines outside their premises for photoshoots.

The Sir Duncan Umbrage School renamed itself The Abracadabra Aardvark Academy, printing the school name alongside each of the students’ results grade and hence within the sensitive patch. They remained top of the league tables until a rival school printed its name and that of its official patron under each result. The Archangel Aaron Advanced Achievement Academy sponsored by AAAAACabs is now top.

These tactics are being investigated and reviewed by officials with their own personal memories of getting aloft on Paper Helium Days of yore.

It will soon be that time of year again and media will inflate with a rash of smiling youths floating briefly above pavements, playing fields, and school precincts.

paper helium5Meanwhile, out of shot, tides of teachers head for the pub to liquefy relief, or into private rooms to desperately dissect grade boundaries, or special bunkers to shelter from ambitious managers, or simply off into deep dark woods.


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