Open Eye: Please forgive generously - it's Wayzgoose, after all

First Thursday: Revel Barker
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The Independent Online
In an earlier life I worked across the road at Cranfield University which, inter alia, specialises in aerodynamics. You might have read about its research in the TV preview in these pages last month for the open.saturday slot; you might even have watched it.

One day someone from one of those make-science-fun programmes at the Beeb rang to ask exactly why, when you dropped a piece of toast, it invariably landed marmalade side down. They required the definitive aeronautical justification and were unimpressed by the expert's answer, that the distance (usually table-to-floor) was insufficient for the additional weight of butter and conserve to make any difference. Instead, they broadcast my rationalisation: It just proves that you've buttered the wrong side.

There's Murphy's Law, and there are gremlins, and we suffered from a bit of each in our last issue.

This publication of Open Eye is the twelfth monthly edition and those among you not mathematically-challenged will have worked out that we have, therefore, been publishing for a complete year.

It seems like only the day before yesterday that we launched with a cover story about Tracey Inglis, our 200,000th graduate, who had started her OU life as a sheet metal worker and graduated as a member of the design team on McLaren Formula One.

In the time that's elapsed we have stumbled among a few bloopers: one aberrant apostrophe, a couple of spelling mistakes, even the wrong name once credited as writer. Not perfect, and we will strive to do better in our second year.

Last month, though, was something special.

A short while ago I had responded to a reader's letter by saying that we had not used Open Eye to try to separate our generous alumni from their hard-earned mazuma. But March included something called Make A Will Week and quite a few OU graduates had actually asked how to go about arranging to leave something to the old alma mater in the event that they turned up their toes.

They had asked, I tell you: some people are like that.

So we ran a piece about people who had done it, and described how their legacies had been put to good use and benefited students.

And then what did we do? Did you notice? We dropped a line off the end, that's what, so it read:

For more information about leaving a legacy to the OU please contact

That's it. It stopped, just like that.

One minute the name and phone number were there; they were, and still are, on the proof: the next, they had fallen off the page.

I suppose it really does go to show that, unlike most university alumni associations, we are not exactly hounding our readers for donations.

The contact we should have named is Dr Alison Binns and, if you get a pencil and paper ready, I'll give you her address in a minute.

But there are lots of other ways in which graduates and indeed all of the massive related community can help the Open University.

For a start, you could introduce your friends to the wonders of Open Eye, to its OU news and TV listings.

Heist, the Higher Education Information Services Trust, making a special award of merit last month, referred to this magazine's "innovation and entrepreneurship", to the topical content and the opportunities for both alumni and new markets.

About 640,000 people read The Independent each day, but the circulation soars on the First Thursday of each month. It would be encouraging if it soared higher.

Most practically, the easiest way to help is probably to recommend the University to friends and colleagues. We have so many courses now that there almost literally is something for everyone. Many of the new courses are of course covered in the pages of Open Eye.

Some graduates manage to persuade their employers to sponsor their workmates to study and to allow them adequate time off work to do it - and some are happily in a position (possibly partly thanks to their OU education) to sponsor people themselves.

Some, even better placed, can offer their company's research work to the University.

It all helps.

Of course, writing a cheque, making a regular commitment, or leaving a legacy, might seem so much easier and less bother - in which case (pencils ready?) you need to know that Alison, our Director of Fundraising, can be found at Walton Hall, Milton Keynes, or on 01908 653887.

There! I have actually amazed myself now, because today is All Fools' Day and I wondered whether it might be amusing to leave the details out again. Only this time on purpose.

Then I decided that it wouldn't be amusing at all. At least, not to Alison, it wouldn't.

I'm afraid you are therefore going to have to search the columns of this historic edition for the deliberate mistake, or apparent spoof. And if you find one, please try to keep the information to yourself, because it won't actually be a deliberate one.

The trouble is that, in addition to being April 1st and Maundy Thursday, today is also Wayzgoose, always a holiday for compositors and typesetters, to whom the master printer traditionally gives the day off to celebrate no longer having to work by candlelight (that's not a spoof: look it up, if you don't believe me).

So anything could happen...

And if it does, it will merely mean that those pesky gremlins have been