Last night Tumblr user urbanAnchorite unwisely allowed both me and Shelby to have a look at an English exam for ninth graders. It was a comprehension paper based on a passage from Gerald Durrell, in which he talks about his attempts to look after a litter of baby hedgehogs when he was a boy.
Shelby scored 15/30. I scored 0/30, largely because I got bored and turned the paper over to some friends. uA has requested that I show my working.
(Please be warned that, as this was originally written for Taz, I bring a rather rougher variety of chuckles than I would normally make public on Tumblr. Please also note that I have no beef with poor Gerald Durrell, a writer I greatly admire.)
1 (a) Why did the writer go to various parts of the world to collect animals?
TT: Sheer ennui.
TT: The dreary months of nothing but sheep had taken their toll.
TT: His palate had become jaded.
TG: yeah one morning he got up and gazed out across the paddock with a creeping sense of dissatisfaction
TG: and was like ‘you know what’
TG: ‘i want to put my dick in a pangolin’
TT: And thus began his new calling as a sort of itinerant gourmand of zoophilia.
TT: The Captain James T. Kirk of botany.
TT: Boldly seeking out untainted biospheres.
TG: and tainting the fuck out of them
(b) Explain, using your own words, the change that takes place in baby hedgehogs a few weeks after they are born, which is explained in paragraph 1.
TG: they turn legal
TG: game on
TT: Strictly speaking the age of hedgehog consent is a whole month.
TT: But by that stage their youthful bloom has faded and their spines have lost that initial supple delicacy.
TT: The true connoisseur cannot afford to wait so long.
TT: Also, they start dressing in provocative hotpants and frequenting a certain type of bar.
TG: its a dress not a yiff lalonde
(c) How did the writer solve the problem of feeding the baby hedgehogs?
TT: He sealed them in a large cake.
TT: They were forced to eat their way out, or suffocate.
TG: never have kids
(d) Give FOUR words or phrases from paragraph 3 which suggest the hedgehogs are like human babies.
TT: Terezi, none of those words are in paragraph 3.
GC: W3LL 1 4M SORRY FOR B31NG BL1ND!!!
GC: TH1S 3DUCUT1ON4L 3ST4BL1SHM3NT 1S NOT WORK1NG H4RD 3NOUGH TO CAT3R TO MY UN1QU3 N33DS
GC: 1 D3M4ND TW3NTY F1V3 P3RC3NT 3XTR4 T1M3 4ND B3TT3R-T4ST1NG P4P3R
GC: NON3 OF TH1S 1NS1P1D X3ROX FODD3R
GC: SOM3TH1NG W1TH W4T3RM4RKS
(e) Re-read the lines “As it was…away from their box”. Choose THREE words or phrases which the writer uses to describe the difficulty the baby hedgehogs had in walking. Explain how each of these words and phrases helps you to imagine their movement.
TG: okay picture a really fat guy trying to swim across a carpet
TG: see what i mean
TG: shits hilarious
(f) State ONE thing the writer thought he would be able to feed the hedgehogs when they were old enough to be taken on walks.
GC: OTH3R, SM4LL3R H3DG3HOGS
TT: The old lie: dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
TG: seven inches of rock hard cock
TA: all three of you are goiing two hell.
(g) What effect does the writer achieve by writing “I should have known my sister better” as a separate paragraph?
TG: emphasises his regret
TG: that he never tapped that flawless ass
TT: All the missed opportunities of adolescence, encapsulated in seven short words of heart-wrenching simplicity and pathos.
TT: Truly Durrell was a second Nabokov.
GC: 1 SHOULD H4V3 KNOWN MY HUM4N S1ST3R B3TT3R
TA: but now 2he’2 run off wiith a paiir of hot aliien2.
GC: 4ND 1 4M 4LL 4LON3 >:[
TG: fuck you guys i have my hedgehogs to console me
(h) Explain, using your own words, what the writer means by:
i. “thrived on a diet of diluted cow’s milk”
TA: “diilutiing a cow ii2 2urprii2iingly hard.”
TT: Again we see the pernicious influence of the weak past tense.
TT: It ought to be ‘throve’.
ii. “Like four survivors from a raft”
TG: guys thank fuck
TG: for a minute i thought that goddamn raft had the drop on us
GC: 1T M4Y ST1LL B3 N34RBY
iii. “I emphasised the greediness of the hedgehogs”
TG: i called the hedgehogs fat
TT: You bitch.
(i) By using details from the whole passage, write a summary of what you have learnt about hedgehogs. Write a paragraph of about 50-70 words.
TT: On my
TA: ii have had
GC: QU1T3 4 NUMB3R OF B4BY 4N1M4LS.
TT: The female hedgehog is
TA: bliind and helple22
GC: 4ND M4D3 OF RUBB3R.
TT: They gradually harden and turn brown when
TG: held in the mouth of the baby behind.
TA: a 2trange priickly centiipede
GC: W4S 4BOUT TH3 S1Z3 OF 4 FOOTB4LL, 4ND
TT: was much too large for their tiny mouths.
TG: luckily a friends young daughter had
GC: TO S4T1SFY TH3 4PP3T1T3S
TT: and sucked and sucked and sucked.
TA: that’2 iit, we’re out of 2pace.
TG: seven marks in the fucking bag
2 Imagine you are the writer’s sister. Gerald has asked you to look after the hedgehogs. Write a conversation that you then have with your mother. You should include:
- what you have to do to look after the hedgehogs
- why you don’t want to look after them
- what you think about your brother’s interest in animals.
Begin your conversation with:
You: Mum, I really don’t want to do this…
You should base your ideas on what you have read in the passage, but do not copy from it.
TG: oh my fucking god are you serious
TT: Come on, Dave.
TT: Twenty whole marks.
TT: I’ll start.
TT: “Mum, I really don’t want to do this.”
TG: shut up and put on the mask
TT: “Gerald has demanded I attend to his hedgehogs.”
GC: 4ND WH4TS WRONG W1TH TH4T
TT: They’re small and bristly and I don’t know how to handle them correctly without causing injury.
TT: Also, there are four of them.
GC: P3RF3CTLY NORM4L
GC: H3 1S 4 GROW1NG BOY
GC: SW33TH34RT YOU H4V3 TO L34RN HOW TO H4NDL3 4 M4NS H3DG3HOGS SOM3 T1M3
GC: YOU 4R3 4 WOM4N NOW
TG: oh jesus this is fucked up
TT: But he keeps them in a cardboard box under his bed.
TT: He’s also instructed me to, and I quote, “suckle them tenderly at my nurturing bosom”.
GC: YOU MUST B3 C4R3FUL
GC: ONC3 4 H3DG3HOG B3COM3S TR4PP3D 1N YOUR BR4 1T 1S V3RY D1FF1CULT TO R3MOV3
TG: hmm yes harrumph whats all this then
TG: dinners not on the table yet i see
TG: chews on pipe
GC: H3LLO D34R HOW W4S WORK
GC: G3R4LD H4S 3NTRUST3D L1TTL3 ROS4L1T4 W1TH H1S H3DG3HOGS
TG: ah yes excellent
TG: i like to see a young man with a healthy interest in animals
TG: i was just the same when i was at eton
TT: Father, don’t you ever worry that Gerald is a little too interested in animals?
TT: Also, let me sit on your knee and twine my girlish arms around your neck.
TG: holy shit get off
TG: i mean er blah drat too interested whats this rubbish
TG: no such thing as too jolly interested in animals
TG: why if i hadnt been so keen on the dashed things id never have met your mother