I saw this poster on the tube on the other day. It couldn’t help but catch my eye. These are the happiest, most excited and fulfilled people I’ve ever seen! My future starts here, you say? I had to go in for a closer inspection.
1. Joy: Those beaming faces say more about the results of education than any prospectus ever could. Strength through learning! And the excellent teeth displayed by all the students tell us that the fees at Anglia Ruskin are not so prohibitive you’d have to forget about cosmetic dentistry for three years.
2. I have in my hand a piece of paper: But what does it say? Perhaps these students share a house and have just used university facilities to print out copies of their cleaning rota. Perhaps they have been photocopying their arses. Perhaps they are applying to go on Deal Or No Deal. We will quite literally never know. Note however that the paper is held in the right hand for women, and the left hand for men.
3. Dress code: Women may wear any shoes at Anglia Ruskin, but otherwise a strict dress code of blue jeans and a scoop neck top should be observed. It’s not clear whether chinos and a checked shirt are as rigid a uniform for men, as we can only see one guy, but it would make good practical sense.
4. Jan 2013 Starts APPLY NOW: The thing is, when you’re buying media space, they’ll offer you all sorts. A free week here, a month’s run-on for half price there… Before you commit to anything, take a good hard look at your ad and ask yourself if anything on it would look silly if it stayed up for a couple of extra months. There.
5. Leaping: Clearly, the higher the leap the greater the joy. There are various levels of elevation on show here, from tentative to fully airborne. The most enthusiastic is the unseen fifth student – ah yes, had you noticed her*? All we see is a foot on one side of the lead student and an arm on the other, like a botched attempt at B*Witched’s Rollercoaster dance routine. Yet this shadowy figure is the one most stimulated by her degree prospects. Who IS she? (*Yes obviously it’s a woman, as the paper is held in the right hand.)
6. YOUR FUTURE STARTS HERE: It’s great to look at a poster and know that your life has changed with immediate effect. Even if you don’t apply to Anglia Ruskin University, your destiny will now take a different course, subtly or otherwise. We’ve all seen Sliding Doors. And look at me. Last week I could never have imagined myself sat here making things up about an out-of-date university poster. No actually I could.
7. Psalm 16: Intriguing. The makers of the poster couldn’t have known that someone would write “Psalm 16” on it at Upper Holloway, and yet here it is. Authorial intent aside, anyone seeing the poster will, like me, see the addendum too and then find it linked with Anglia Ruskin University in their mind. So what’s the significance of this psalm?
Well it’s a psalm of David, that’s a good start. “Keep me safe my God, for in you I have refuge,” it opens. “You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.” To be honest that puts a bit of a downer on the rest of the poster. Perhaps you’ve got this far down and are already thinking how happy you’ll be starting, say, a foundation degree in Equine Science with Rehabilitation Therapies. Then Psalm 16 comes along and points out that nothing matters except God – it may as well walk into your house and shit in your bath.
“Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more,” it hectors, clearly singling out the students on the poster as they race down that corridor, hellbound. “You make known to me the path of life, you will fill me with joy in your presence” – so we can forget everything we’ve just learned about education being the path to joy. It ends “…with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” And we know what that means – a female student with a cleaning rota.