Gerbils on the horizon

Comments 15 Standard

I took a call recently on the Bat Phone. 


This is slang for the emergency number, and no, I don’t know how it got its name… although I think we borrowed it from the highly successful Batman and Robin Series.


The phone call was from Mrs Bxxx.  Mrs Bxxx is a lovely lady who has hosted for many years and you can’t get much past her with regard to student’s behaviour.  In fact I would venture further to say that Wars have been won and lost with people like Mrs B in control of Troops. But I digress….


 Anyway the reason for her call was that, as she put it, ” she was in a bit of a state…”    I wondered what the reason could be and I could hear that she was labouring her breath when the story unfolded.  I sat down and knew this could be a story to beat all stories.

 Apparently she had gone to the Linen Drawer where she always keeps her clean pillowcases and was about to put the clean ones in when a little face popped up at her.  She said she immediately screamed loud enough to raise the dead from their graves and dropped all of the pillow cases into such a heap that they would have to be ironed again. I was still no wiser as to the situation and began to list the many other things I could be doing when she continued her story.  Somewhere between laying down the pillow cases in her linen drawer and her about to close it tight, a little face popped up to say ” hello”

 When I say ” little face” I am NOT talking about a student.  No, I am talking about a Gerbil. 


Somewhere between the students arriving and going into Brighton one or both of them had purchased a Gerbil and made it a super nest in the Linen drawer of Mrs Bxxx.  And not just any pillow case, I’ll have you know, dear readers, but apparently some with an extremely high thread count which means that not only will they mark quite easily but also crumple without a care in the world, notwthstanding that Mrs B had actually just ironed them to within an inch of their lives! Oh, and don’t get her started on the starch.  Yes, she had starched them as well….

 Surprisingly the little Gerbil didn’t mind Mrs Bxxx screaming at the top of her voice and continued to bed down in her best cotton as well as gnaw away quietly on the lace.  ” Oh heavens above, ” said Mrs Bxxx ” my best lace pillow cases all frayed and chewed, and I have had those since my wedding day”.   ( So readers that is quite some time as Mrs Bxxx is approaching 70, I would say !  Actually its probably 80, but I wanted to be kind)


I apologised profusely and said I would arrange to go around and bring with me the offending student (s).  She also said that she thought I should hurry up as the Gerbil looked like it could be ” in the family way” and she didn’t want another dozen staring up at her when she next went to put the pillow cases away.  I agreed and sped off to the class.

 As I was walking through the corridor I heard another eruption in the class of Richard who appeared to be about to self combust. Richard, although a teacher of extremely qualified means, does sometimes have problems with the care and control of his students. They seem to play upon his good nature and as recently as last week I was called to confiscate a football which seemed to have worked its way into the lessons and whilst he was explaining about the rights and wrongs of ” double negatives“, to the kids in the front, the ones at the rear were playing football off the walls.  So thinking it would be a good idea to drop by first and pin point the noise, I popped my head in the door to see a crowd of people, including Richard, leaning over a student and a rather large empty box.  Yes, dear readers it would appear you are there before me, and we had indeed another case of ” Gerbil in the House

 Gerbils 2

This time it was not one, but two Gerbils and they were now scampering around the classroom, having made another ” Great Escape ” trying to be trapped by excited students who thought this a lot better than learning all about phrasal verbs.

 Gerbils, it would appear, are full of fortitude and didn’t seem to care one jot about the noise around them.  They probably were enjoying their race to freedom and were in and out of legs and rucksacks without the slightest care in the world.  Of course this was a great diversion for the students although it’s fair to say that Richard didn’t see it in the same way and chaos was reigning however hard he begged for silence.

 I tried to shout over the noise which seemed to be resembling something like a Wednesday morning in a local Tunisian Souk ( or Souq).  Noise; Chatter; Smells and, of course, animals on the loose. It really was great fun. Finally, Andreas managed to catch both  Runaways, and we tried to reassemble the class, but as I am sure you can imagine, settling them back down to lessons was not an easy task. 


Lunch was early that day!

 As the day wore on, I took a total of 4 phone calls from Host Families who had discovered Gerbils in various places, although Mrs B’s does seem to have remained at the top of the list for ” interesting places to hide!”.  As she reported back to me later in the week, whilst she could see the funny side of it, she hoped her mother in law – who had been dead some forty years, wasn’t rolling in her grave over the state of her wedding present linens.

 When all Gerbils were rounded up, even the ones who appeared to be about to give birth, I herded them back to the Pet Shop and caused somewhat of a debacle myself.  Whilst in my quieter moments I did indeed give a little chuckle in the night at the amazed faces on host families and teachers who came across these little animals, I was not going to admit it to the local Pet Shop who sold these creatures, knowing they were foreign students and would not be allowed to take them home. No, he needed to be made to squirm and squirm he did.  At first he said there were no refunds and ignored my pleas, so I turned nasty and said that if he didn’t want a scene outside his shop, I would bring the students down there for a mass demonstration with placards.


I suggested he should give all the students their money back if he didn’t want a mass Rally akin to Greenham Common on his doorstep and so having found he had no option but to do this, he handed over the thirty pieces of silver and also took back the Gerbils! As they say in Hip Communities, it was a ” bit of a result!”  Everybody but “him” was happy.  And, as always, after retelling the story to Mr Wu, he has the usual upbeat response…  ” Everybody happy… its all A-OK!”

mr wu

and indeed it was…..





Suffer little children…..

Comments 61 Standard

Well draw up a chair.  Light a cigarette and take a deep breath.  This Blog wont be a pretty read… and its nothing new and its been done before, but forgive me if I do it again.

Once, back in the 1970’s I had the mis-fortune ( yes, that’s the right word) to work with some South Africans.  Both white ladies and both ex Brits who had gone out there twenty years before and returned when things got “sticky”.  By the mid 1970’s the Group Areas ( Removal) Act was well under way.  The white man began to sleep with bars and fortified houses and buses were noted by who they carried as opposed to their destination.

I remember being quite young and very naïve about the situation ( after all it was so very far away..) and hearing them say it was quite appropriate for the Blacks to use a separate Bus and if they didn’t employ them for a few Rand a day, who else would?  They even argued that the Black community needed the White community to feed and clothe them.  Thankfully, we have moved on somewhat…or have we?

I cant keep being cross about the housing situation in South Africa, or can I?  When I go there I usually stay in a delightful and very colonial place called Simon’s Town.  Home of the Navy, or at least the Navy dockyard, it has a very British feel.  Its all rather pleasant and pretty and everyone has time for a chat.  Tourists keep the place buoyant, which is just as well when you remember that the Town, almost overnight, lost a good majority of its population when the Group Removal Act came into force.

The one thing in Simons Town favour and more particularly the Mayor at the time, was that almost without exception, everyone in that town voted for the Black and Coloured people to stay.  Petitions were drawn up; Acts ignored but in the end it was fruitless.  People who had made the town their home were suddenly miles away.  Without cars, it was impossible to get there each day to work.  Public Transport was scant, if at all.  Schools who had happily taught all colours were suddenly two thirds empty and the remaining scholars were white.   Fishermen who used to sell their catch on the Dock had gone; Cape Malays who had farmed in the area for generations had lost their home; their stock and their means of earning a living.   No one won…not even the “Yarpie!”  ( slang  term for White Afrikaners)

However Simon’s Town has a name for being one of the safer neighbourhoods in The Cape and this is put down to the fact that all of the residents fought tooth and nail to keep all “locals” there.   It would appear that on the whole, Black and Coloured people don’t bear a grudge towards the white man here ( fuck knows why! ) and both seem to help each other.  Its just a nice place to be and it all centred on the fight to keep the community together all that time ago.  Its still a bit odd though.  Young people matured and moved away.  Black and Coloureds only return to work.  The old (white) folks of the Town… and that’s all that is left now… walk along the beach each day and meet and drink coffee.  A lot of White Rhodesians having scarpered over the Border have settled here.  Most bemoaning their lot and living in reduced circumstances.  Their Black Zimbabwean neighbours having followed them, settled in Red Hill. No black faces here… almost like a Whites Only Club.  When will they learn?


The Ex Pats still thinking they are living in Happy Valley and having a Gin Sling.

Meanwhile over on the Beach, the Black kids make a living looking for sharks and putting out shark nets each day.  The net bordered the whole beach and took ages to drag in at the end of each day….but at least the Whites can swim safely.


How easily would you see a shark coming to you in these waves?


It was their final task of the day to drag the nets in and put them away


However, there was an area called Red Hill and this was one of the many coloured areas.  It was very hard to define ” coloured” in those days and when you look at the photographs in the Link below you would easily think ” white”.  When it was earmarked for ” so called” development, people were moved on to another area and their homes ( many of them humble but secure brick farmsteads) were demolished.  Forty odd years later, the land is still undeveloped  and many say it was a ploy to forcibly removed all Black and Coloured People from the area.  You can read more about it on the link below and it has some rather interesting photographs.  Please note this was the original “Red Hill”  and as you will see, in a better state of repair than the one now called Red Hill.  It was a community, not a Township.  The informal settlement of which I am now writing is actually over the mountain top

Now it is what they call an ” informal settlement” or a Township, although it is fairly small by Township standards.  Its quiet and self policing.  Its poor. Its desperate. Its filthy. Its overcrowded.   But it also has a huge sense of community ; of real hope for a better tomorrow and a resignation that this is ” their lot” so just get on with it.  I spoke with this lady.  Look at her eyes.


Each time I look at this picture I see something different.  Hurt; desperation; confusion; pain.  She looks after 22 children every day.  22 children under 4 years of age whilst their parents go out to work.  She does this with the help of one young girl and not a lot else.  Her shack is 2 rooms.  The back room where she lives and cooks.  The front room is her bedroom.  In the day it is converted to her Nursery.    Can you imagine what she does when it rains and she has 22 children in there, including 5 or 6 babies who don’t have a cot, so she sleeps them widthways on her bed.


I asked her when she could expect some sort of permanent housing.  She tells me, without any malice, that she has been waiting 20 years, so maybe some day soon!  She doesn’t complain.  Who can she complain to?  There are too many people like her.  You truly are pissing into the wind if you think building a few thousand small single story houses is knocking any fraction off the housing situation

When we went there we took some supplies.  When we arrived and got out of the car she looked at me.  ” I have been blessed by God, ” was all she said.  It made me cry.   She didn’t want my tears and I hurriedly wiped them away.  How can you believe in God if he allows you to live like that?  But she did…..   She was just grateful that someone had brought her some nappies; some Vaseline and those all important wet wipes.   We added to the list a sack of maize so that she could make some stew and soup for the children to have a hot lunch each day.  She looked at me and said she would make a huge stew for all of her neighbours to share this weekend.  That is what I mean, a real community.     What they don’t have in material things, they have shedloads of in terms of what is important.  ” Love thy neighbour and share and share alike”   On her list she asked for wet wipes.  I admit to being a bit surprised thinking them somewhat of a luxury.  She explained they didn’t have any running water.  Someone had cut the water supply six weeks ago to sell the piping and no one had been to them to reconnect the water with new piping.  So the only water these people have, is what they carry home on their heads, or by walking to the standpipe at the entrance to the Settlement, just off the main road. Wet Wipes meant she could at least clean the babies’ bottoms.     She also said that she was looking after 2 babies who were sick.  She didn’t have any paracetamol or anything like it to give them to soothe their temperatures.  It was hot inside and out.  Flies hovered around them and slept alongside the babies.  Right outside her shack ( please don’t think I am being disrespectful, its the term they use for their home) were two chemical toilets.  Almost full.  No shelter; no privacy.  If you wanted to use it, you did so in full view of the community.  I asked what she did.  She said the kids used it, but she tries to wait until she can go to the Town….its more private!

I glanced across and saw a Clinic.  Upon closer inspection I saw it was closed and stripped bare.  “Its been closed for 2 years now.  We used to get a Nurse every Saturday but they closed it and we have to walk now to Ocean View ( another Township but more established with shops and a school) if we want the doctor.   She looked at me as if I had a magic wand.  I looked at the floor, suddenly mindful of the dreadful imbalance.

I didn’t outstay my welcome.  The kids are curious about ” white people” but already know not to bite the hand that visits them.  The adults go about their daily business; acknowledge you politely but nothing more.  They probably think another white person come to look; stare; gasp and then go away.

I left there determined to try to help.  I returned to the Office and galvanised staff into action.  We are trying to raise 2000 GBP to prepare a porch and a concrete path around the Nursery before the rain comes.



You can see from the picture that the road outside is mud.  The kids play in the mud and the dirty carpet is the only thing that stops the dust coming into the shack.  You can imagine, it doesn’t really do anything and when it rains, it becomes a soggy mass of fibre.   The concrete path will enable them to walk without getting filthy and the porch will keep some of them dry when they are forced to sit outside and eat.  I already have 5 people pledged to go there in June and do the work.  I just need to raise the money for the materials

We are contacting pharmaceutical giants to ask them to donate a basic First Aid Box.  They don’t have a Clinic but we are trying to get them a Medical Box of bandages; aspirin; TCP and things like that.  Even these basic things will stop the 45 minute walk to Ocean View.

And our Volunteering Project for University Kids means they will go there for up to 2 months and help the kids speak English.  Their language is Xhosa and is spoken when at home.

Although they can speak English, its their second language and is often stilted .  If you cant speak English, schooling is hard.  The school in Simons Town now is 80% black.  We went to meet the Headmistress as we wanted to send some European kids there.  She was bemused by this request!  She has been one of the children removed from the area in the 1970’s and she returns as Headmistress to a school she was once removed from.  Ironical, eh? Its true to say there is an element of “ fuck you” in her but this makes me like her all the more.

What she has achieved with those kids in that school is nothing short of a miracle.  The Pass rate is now 97%.  She has encouraged them all to achieve things and points at the disadvantage she had when she was younger.   The conversation with her gave me hope and we decided to send our ” rich white European kids there” for an African experience.  We both exchanged a look.  I don’t think for one minute they will be unsafe but I do think it will be a wonderful lesson in life.  Their parents, surprisingly agreed with me.  Interestingly, all kids have to wear a Uniform and if you don’t have the Uniform, you cant attend school.  That’s right across the board.  So what do you choose?  Food for your family or school uniform so you can educate your child.  What a Catch 22 situation?

Although it is fair to say that there are now local Charities which raise money so that black kids can have a uniform to go to school.  Otherwise the cycle would never end.  No education…no progression.


Simons Town’s hope for the future!


On a final dismal note to this rather depressing Dispatch and one which may help you understand why I feel so useless as well as so angry, I said to the lady at the Nursery…

” Have you thought about asking the Supermarkets to give you the food they throw out each day”

“Yes, but I have to register as a Charity before they give me any food, although they know we live here”

” Can I help you do this” I asked,

“No.  we tried” she replied

“What happened?”

” We cant register as a Charity whilst we are in an informal settlement.  We have to wait until we are in permanent housing.  We have waited 20 years, it cant be long now”

So the crux of this conversation was that the local government and huge supermarket giants know these people are hungry.  They know they need the food.  They know this informal settlement has been in existence for more than 25 years and yet because no one will acknowledge its presence, the red tape means they will continue to go hungry and Supermarkets will continue to throw food out in front of their eyes. So she continues to wait until they are re-housed and she can then register as a Charity, until then, as Marie Antoinette would have said ” let them eat cake”

Meanwhile back at the Beach.. no longer for Whites only, but during all my morning walks, I didn’t see one face other than a white one use it.  The answer is easy of course, the Beach is in a wealthy white area and difficult for Black and Coloured people to access.  Its a strange sort of inequality and part of the division is still there.

South Africa is a beautiful stunning country with some of the most vibrant and engaging people I have met.  During all my times I have been there, not once have I encountered malice; rudeness or indifference from Black or Coloureds. Only courtesy; helpfulness and a smile.   As you can imagine, with the Whites, they have an imperious streak of their own making.  Maybe that is unfair, many are pleasant and friendly it is true.  And many do their best to raise awareness and funds,  but I cant understand why change doesn’t move faster and how most White people can sleep at night.  If nothing else, its downright embarrassing.

As I was told I don’t live there and I don’t know the Policy! But what I do know is what is right and what isn’t… and currently…. Red Hill isn’t…

I make no apology for my feelings….. sleep well !

Vanity, be thy downfall…..”

Comments 67 Standard

Saw my friend Sue last week.  Her opening words to me were “ when I read some of the things you write or believe, I wonder why I like you!”  Praise indeed and I duly thanked her!


Sue is the one with the red coat and matching hair.  She would never wear ( true) Blue!


Sue is the Ying to my Yang and a good balance for my opinions. She is also a good listener and I cant tell when she switches off from one of my ” I Love Trump” Campaigns.  She is also a jolly good egg and wonderful company.  If I am more right wing than Genghis Khan, then she is so far left, she makes Polly Toynbee look like she is a handmaiden for Putin…well you get my drift. On paper Sue and I have nothing in common.  I make a comment and she raises her eyebrows.  Sue, however, being a lady of very strong views, albeit slightly mis-guided most the time, (!)  is dealing with my eccentricities ( as she calls them) in the only way she knows and moving to Unst in the Shetland Isles.  I have to ask….” was it something I said?”


Stunning for sure, but did you have to go this far away?



Yes you can imagine that she is another one of the many millions who didn’t want to leave EU and didn’t think Trump should get in. Out of all of the people I am in contact with, I have yet to meet anyone who said they would vote for Trump!  In which case, the result MUST have been rigged.     US-VOTE-ELECTION

Also I haven’t met anyone who actually liked our Hillary.  Indeed, we do live in strange times.   So anyway, Sue’s feelings about my views, takes me very neatly on to the Trump/Farage saga ( and don’t worry I am not doing politics all the way through) It would appear, if I may make myself so bold, that the current Government have still not learnt a single thing!

My good Blogging mate, Hariod Brawn ( points me to a very interesting revolution that is going on quietly with the common man. Its a fascinating subject and I thank him for drawing my attention to it. But it is also a case of ” we are all doomed Mr Mainwaring!”   He is another who sucks his teeth when I make these random comments because H is a gentle man with a gentle cause.   Do try to find time to watch this though and thank you Hariod!

I have watched a lot of this debate and really do concur.  Politicians, especially what I would call the “Chinless Wonder Set”  really do need to WAKE UP!  If Brexit was a call to arms, then they should have got ready and noted this.  However it would appear that they felt it was more a ” hold your course and steady as you go” even if with a new Captain at the helm.

So,I am taking the rather pragmatic view that Trump can run a business (or three) and whilst some of you ( okay, all of you from what I can make out) don’t think he is an ideal businessman and so by default not an ideal President, you really do need to change your mind set and hold on tight.  THINGS NEED TO CHANGE and that is the word on the street, otherwise why would Hillary have lost??  Oh and please do keep quiet in the “three and halfpennies” and stop banging on about the Electoral College Vote) and why did Brexit happen?  You lost and we need to move along now.   It’s going to a Russian Uprising all over again.


Come out of your Ivory Tower and listen to the People

Whilst I ” love” Boris and know he is an extremely intelligent man he is still one of the Establishment and whilst Teresa May thinks she has made the swift hop from Grammar School girl to Inner Circle Tottie, I can tell you that, in reality, it never happens.  People don’t just hop over invisible class boundaries. You are there by birth, not achievements!


She needs to listen to what is happening out there. Sadly, the fame seems to have gone to her head.  Reality Check please !! If America is a business and we are looking for a way in then we need to get that elite invitation via a Third party.  Isn’t that the usual business way of doing deals?  You want an introduction, so you network.  Trump is saying loud and clear that the “Third Party Introduction” Britain is looking for is Farage.  And yes to strike an odious pun, currently Trump does hold the Trump Card.

Okay, so” we” don’t like it and most definitely Government doesn’t like it.  But if we carry on this way then I see a reoccurrence of Maria Antoinette and the “ let us eat cake” sketch.  And yes, we are gonna starve….


Teresa May – anyone can lose their head or their job!


Sometimes, whether we like it or not we have to give in to what is going to be the easiest option for the best result.  There isn’t a lot else on the table and we are starting to believe some sort of media copy that we can be Great again.  Well, yes, I daresay we can but to do that you need to cut both your losses and your pride but still keep your head!  If we don’t give in , in the short term to Trump ” suggesting” Farage gets a place, then we can go and sit on the naughty step and watch other trade deals being made around us. We will be punished.

Now before some of you Liberals get all excited and say we have to stand up to Bullies and not let him rule us, then what is the option in both the short and long term? Being sanctimonious wont help the JAMS….. Pride will surely be their downfall and when we end up with nothing, don’t say I didn’t tell you so. Pride and Vanity make very lonely bed fellows.

It doesn’t matter whether you like Trump or not.  Its a simple question of economics.  He has what we want and need.  There is no entitlement to this.  If we want it, we have to go and get it and accept some of it on his terms.  If we want to play schoolboy games and sulks and thereby keep Farage out of negotiations, then I fear we may well be towards the back of the queue when it comes to Trade.  And whilst a long weekend at Buckingham Palace, (hopefully after the horrendously expensive restorations have been completed) will be offered, believe you me, I don’t think its gonna be a deal breaker. And we can pout, pirouette and stamp our feet all we like, if you want to play with the big boys, then we really do need to ” grow a pair!”

Time for a quick Joke and to lighten the mood.   

  Trump went to stay at Buckingham Palace and walking through the corridors with The Queen he said to her, ” Well, Liz I have to say you make a good job of keeping this place clean and tidy”

To which the Queen replied in that wonderfully posh voice and you should imagine her reply as such ” Well, one (Juan) does what one ( Juan) can”

” That’s just great Liz.  Shame you are employing Mexicans though!!                      ( Get it? )

Wake up Britain.  For far too long we have been liberal with this and liberal with that and suddenly its not cool to be liberal, but it is cool to eat; work and have a fairly recognised standard of living… or not.  Go and be proud outside Parliament Square and see where it gets you.

On a very simpler term, it’s used in business every day.  Networking! However much you hate it, it is a valuable tool.  When I think about doing business with a new Company, I ask my existing ones if they know of them.  When I want an introduction, I see who can do it.  And when I need to swallow my pride ( so very hard for ME to do ) then I will if it gets what I want.  A signature on a contract.  This way, I look on it more of a success than a failure.  Hollow victories throughout the world are made by cutting noses off to spite faces.   Our Government was definitely hacked off that the local, and somewhat uncouth, kid on the block made it to Trump before them.  He cut corners; he holds the ace card.  Rather than making it personal ( and My God how they have done that) why cant they see that he is British and negotiating a very fast entry admission ticket to the Trump Table.  I think it would rather “cock a snook” at the EU and Obama, who snidely said that if we leave EU, we will be at the back of the queue negotiating trade deals with the US!  ( Of course that was when he was confident Hillary will be the heir apparent)   Putting Farage in the Hot Seat with Trump would just send the right ( F.U.) message to the EU that they were wrong and more importantly, it would show that leaving the EU was totally the right thing to do for all the Brexit UK Doubters.

So for now, whilst  I am not any sort of Politician or Specialist, I look at it in the simplest of terms and say to take personalities out of the equation.  See what they have to offer and do what we can to get it done.  And, if it really hurts Ms May and Boris the Buffoon to give Farage a job, then so be it. But on that basis, heads will definitely role and Teresa May will  end up like Maria Antoinette  without her head or a job  and most definitely at the back of the Job Queue.  I do hope her CV is up to scratch!


but we soon could be if we don’t ” wake up!”


Questions anyone?????


 In all of this I forgot to mention my illuminating day in London.  So that will have to wait until next time. 


Oh Mr Wu – what did you do?

Comments 28 Standard

I am writing this after having had a couple of ” drinkies” with Rita this afternoon.  She hasn’t been well lately and so I popped over to see how she was.  She opened the door with something like a Mama Cass Kaftan around her body and a feather boa tied around her neck.  I wasn’t sure why.  I did notice however, that every time she took a sip of her Gin, the feathers  got in the way and she kept spitting them out along with a mouthful of drink. I had to keep ducking out of her range. I was wearing a rather nice silk shirt and didn’t want saliva stains  ( from Rita) on it as its dry clean only!  I can tell you that the drink didn’t last long that way and she must have topped it up about four times and still been stone cold sober.  Not so for me….sadly!

Looking at the above picture I can remember that it was about a year ago that I wrote of a predicament I found myself in at the Synagogue.  Oh, I hear you say, did you change religion, I thought you were a Christian and a Catholic at that…tee hee.  Nope, I haven’t changed religion but the Local Synagogue does have 6 rather large classrooms ideal for us when we have run out of our own rooms.   And run out of classrooms we have…..

Its The German Season and that means most of the groups that come to visit at this time of the year are… ( yep, you’ve guessed it..) Germans!!  We currently have 250 students with us and 200 of them are Germans.  ( in case you are interested, the other 50 are from the Czech Republic!)   So you can understand that I was a little worried about placing a German group in the Synagogue.  Not sure if I was more worried about upsetting the Rabbi or if the Germans would think I was trying to upset entente cordiale so I thought to tread carefully.

Last year we had a German girl in the office who make a big deal of being liberal. She loved Lesbians; Gays; Fluffy Kittens; Kurdish Refugees; Fat People; Thin People and downright thick people.  Yep, she loved everyone, or so it seemed.  She wasn’t keen on certain jokes and the morale in the office went down.  I admit that we are all rather non pc about things but we only say it in jest. Never has it been said with spite or malice. A sort of safety valve.

Some of you will know, I can have a serious conversation one day about Isis, Isil, IS or Daesh  with Aledene ( call it what you will, Alaedene refers to it as Daesh) and how he has shed many tears about his homeland (Libya) and what is being done to it and then another time when he comes back home I will say ” rucksacks at the door please. No rucksacks inside” and wink and he will laugh.  I also want to say right now if anyone wants the recipe for Libyan Pasta please let me know.  I think I have had Libyan Pasta at least twice a week now for 4 sodding years so I know every variation on it and believe me, Folks, there ain’t that many!    da669-eating-at-the-table

So I hope no one thinks I am racist and certainly if I was, I don’t think I would last in my own office where, Brits are the minority, or indeed in my particular Industry at all.

But for some reason that I cant explain I remain very trepidacious about Jews and Germans and therefore asking the Synagogue to host a group of Germans and the Germans to have lessons in a Synagogue makes me very worried indeed.  You know its a bit like a white person letting a black person out into the stream of traffic….” oh look, I have let a black person out so it shows I am not racist” and you look around to see who has noticed.  A sort of overkill to be sure.

The said German girl was not someone I could have a discussion with about this and when one day she greedily sank her molars into a Chocolate Éclair and ended up with fondant under her nose, she strutted around the office, one arm raised above her head asking if she looked like Adolf Hitler.  As I said to her dryly, ” only you would be able to get away with that Anoushka” but no one really laughed.  I am pleased to say she left shortly thereafter, filled with self importance and complaining that she couldn’t work in a place as ” narrow minded” as we were.  Narrow Minded.  Hell’s teeth, I thought we made the Bloomsbury Set look like Sunday School teachers… oops, I have digressed.


The other reason why we have to be careful is that last year Dennis Much-Humper took in a Prawn Pot Noodle and had it for his lunch.  Once he was found out, it left a bit of a scar on the proceedings and I had to send Vicki down to make things right with the Rabbi.  So again I remain very worried that someone will take a Pork Pie or Ham Sandwich in and upset them all over again.  ( for those of you who don’t remember or possibly didn’t even read my ” earlier work” ( ha hah ) it is referred to here…..( The Prawn Identity)

So if you did trawl to the bottom of that previous dirge you will see why I have reason to worry.

On a plus note,  it would appear that Mr Wu did miss us and has returned.  He has been on coach duty this week.  Coach duty means many things to many people but to Mr Wu it means making a bit of a fuss and celebration; stop as much traffic as you can and park the coach with trumpets and fanfare.    We have to park the coaches at the back of a very well meaning petrol station but to do this and reverse the coach in, one of us has to take their life in their hands; stop oncoming traffic on both sides of the road and allow the coach to manoeuvre back in.  This does take some time and also raises the hackles of many locals when I don my orange Hi Viz and hold my hand up .   Its true that traffic does stop immediately because I simply walk out and stop in the middle of the road but I am not particularly popular and everyone wants to get on their way.  And once it has stopped, then out comes Mr Wu with more hand signals and manoeuvres up his sleeve and takes over.  You will see from the pictures below that things are never as clear as one would like and often, the coaches just do their own thing!   Mr Wu just gets ” carried away”  .  “ Stop Stop” he shouts.  No one pays any attention.  

(You can just make him out to the left of the picture trying to attract the driver’s attention.  Said driver is having none of it and just reverses on his own. Probably much safer! )



” Try again” he instructs.  ” Back, slowly. Slowly. Now right. Right. Right, I say”

All safely parked and the kids get off and escape whilst they can.  Mr Wu looks very satisfied.  Another successful manoeuvre.  Everything is, as he would say ” A-OK!”

The lady with Mr Wu, looking slightly nervous, is Vicki.  She is on Rabbi Duty this week and lives in fear of being spotted by the Priest entering the Synagogue.

Anyway, the Germans are back!  Mr Wu is back!  And so long as Dennis Much Humper leaves his prawn Pot Noodle in the car, we will be back!




Alcohol and Mindfulness

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I am really enjoying lying on the floor.  I close my eyes.  Lie flat and breathe deeply.  I have even taken to sucking a raisin whilst on floor just to really get into the moment and relax.  Mindfulness! Eat your heart out – or poke your eye out if you are prone on the floor. So, there I   lie and just wonder when it will all end and try to drift away.  No such luck!

Instead of lying quietly and colleagues picking their way carefully around me, it has got one better.  Now, because they want an answer they just lie down next to me and give me a nudge.  When they feel they have my attention  ( ie I either open my eyes and look their way or I say ” hmmmm?”) they begin their quest.

“Do we need more bus tickets?”

” Who is going with the group to Hampton Court?”

” Do we need another Animateur with the French Juniors?” and so on and so on

I duly answer their question and they then get up and go about my day.  Its no big deal and almost as if my office has been transported to the space next to the Printer.. its where I currently lie.  Although its not very quiet, it is out of the direct sun.  A blessing in some things, eh?

Anyway Tonight is Disco Night.  Something not to the missed.  I have dragged in Son Number 3 to be another Responsible Adult for the kids at the Disco.  Its a No Alcohol Disco, but don’t let that put you off, because the Darlings get it anyway!


Having done almost the equivalent of a strip search before they got on the Bus, I felt sure that we had removed all offending bottles and on they went.  Whilst queuing outside said disco, Number 3 Son text me to say they have just confiscated alcohol from one of the Italian students.

” which one?” I ask

” the one with a dodgy haircut and a beard!”…….

I know immediately who this is and am surprised as its the boy who got lost on the bus and ended up 15 miles from home on the wrong route. Oh yes, and in tears.   Still waters and all that

We do have a zero tolerance policy but I don’t think they care.  They read it and ignore it.  Last year we had a boy sign up for 6 weeks.  His mum was a high flying Journalist from Milan.  He was here for 3 days before I found him flat out on the pavement having taking a ” legal high!”.  Not sure where he got it but it wasn’t going to happen again… well not on my watch.  I called Mama and she said ” really?…. oh well, never mind.  I shall talk to him!”

Much hacked off she was when I said ” Nope… we don’t do talks, except on the first day when we tell them and show them zero tolerance for



Knives ( except if you are from Paris and want to throw a pen knife at Cherry Much Humper then that is allowed !)

Is important to be firm when all around are testing you… and there is nothing more testing than a kid from Milano.  Believe you, me!

Anyway back to the disco.  Number 3 Son and Alaedene are doing the alcohol check.  One bottle removed and the rest makes for a slow night.

Now all we have to do is get 93 kids on the last bus home.  So we hope for a kindly bus driver who cant count too well so we squash them on and hope they all keep quiet

bus home

Meanwhile, we get ready for the Moroccans.  They arrive Sunday.

Salam Alaikum  and all that jazz.  Until next time….


Its all T.F.D. lately….

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Somewhere along the line I am getting things very wrong.  We are two months away from a 3 week break in the school curriculum, which means time to get away and we cant find anything to do or anywhere to go.   Of course that’s not strictly true.  Our ideas are several and varied but nothing that really makes us jump up and down and say ” yes!”.   I feel slightly uncomfortable about that.  How can I feel like that? Its slightly immoral.

Florida is out of the question ( I wanted to drive through the Keys and visit Hemingway Country) due to the humidity and possible hurricanes.  Its raining in South Africa and anyway, I am off there in November.  We have done Camper Van trips for 2 years and so feel something new should be done.  We missed the last cabin on the boat trip up the Croatian Coastline.  What else beckons…..

Its part of the malaise that I am currently feeling.  It must be to do with getting older and getting stale.  I no longer feel able to view anything at work with interest or amusement.  ( I cant even Blog about the current saga this week.  2 kids have Mumps and its spreading like wildfire.)    I tried horse riding today and kept looking at my watch to see when it would be finished so that I could get back home and so on and so on

We have been invited to two parties over two weekends and the excuses are already on my lips.  I wont go.  I simply wont.  I have tried meditating but I am too angry to sit quietly and think about sucking a raisin. I cant be imagining raindrops falling over leaves or water tumbling over stones.  I pace the floor at night unable to sleep and then crave sleep in the day just to escape and shut things out.

( Up the Revolution, Brother!)

Brexit was discussed amongst our friends over the weekend.  I looked at them around our table.  From socialists to conservatives and Imperialists in between. Any decision wouldn’t really affect them , or me.   Shall we stay in; shall we leave.  My thoughts have ebbed and flowed.  In truth as I cant make a decision and stick with it, I know I probably wont even vote. Currently I don’t even care. I hope the rest of the UK is not as apathetic as I am.

But then when I think about other situations.  Awful situations around the world and try to feel ashamed at how small my ” problems ” are… it still doesn’t seem to help.   I try to engage people in my passion in South Africa, but again, no one can see beyond mess and violence.  So no one is interested in what I would like to do.  In truth I would like to take off; spend time with these lovely people; teach English; hang out. Spontaneous; generous minded.  But how can I leave the business I have?  As the Pilot once said to me… ” Jacks, be careful what you wish for.  You have created a beast”  He was right and the beast now controls me…)   When I visit the Masi Township I always hook up with this lady.  She is probably 20 years younger than me but 50 years wiser.  And she does such great works for her community.  I have never felt anything other than warmth and kindness from her.

Mama Charlotte

All of the profits that we receive from the students we send to Cape Town, are sent back to the local community. Its a drop in a very large ocean and it doesn’t do the trick.  It doesn’t salve my conscience.  It isn’t tangible enough for me.  I want to be in it.  In the thick of it.  In truth of course, I don’t have any problems and just need one of those proverbial kicks up the arse I used to give my boys.

I am off to bed and hopefully tomorrow I may feel better, but I wont hold my breath!

Night night……    Too late

Its all finito, Bonito

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Mr Bonito is a lovely chap and we really enjoy him coming with his groups.  Mr Bonito is from Corsica ( wink;wink;nudge;nudge) and is in the habit of wearing gaucho boots over his trousers.  Once I asked him why he wore them and he said ” comfortable” and gazed into the distance.  He also keeps a knife in them.  I know, I have seen it.  Although by definition it is more a large pen knife than a dagger.  Mr Bonito is, though, a hugely likeable fella but prone to acts of Latin temperament when upset or emotional.

As always he tends to show them when he visits us.

Mr Bonito is here for the last time. We are all, actually, rather sad.  He is retiring after too many years in education and wants to go out with a bang!  Usually he bring 50 kids but this time he brought 150. Or thereabouts.  Three coach loads anyway.   coach

On the first day of their trip they went off to Harry Potter Studio.  Firstly whilst I know many people love it, it annoys me the price they charge.  It also annoys me that they have timed entrance and if you have 49 kids for 12 noon and another one wants to come – its tough until 2pm.  No flexibility.  And if you really want to get me started I think they have an over inflated idea of their own importance!  Apart from that, its pretty good.

Anyway Mr Bonito was very excited to visit HP World as were his charges and off they went in their three coaches up the M23 at some ungodly hour soas not to be late and miss that window that cant be changed.  We waved them off and didn’t expect to hear from them until about 7pm that night.  Oh how wrong we were……

HP imge

So sitting down to a late breakfast( but early enough to miss Irma and save myself indigestion) we get a phone call from Mr Wu.  We sent Mr Wu with the group to supervise.  Yes, I know, a bad idea.  A Chinaman supervising an excitable Corsican.  But there you go, stranger things have occurred in the world of EFL ( and worked!)   .  After the first usual exchanges ..” we got to the crux of the matter.”

So it went like this.  (Mr Wu)  ” I have to report a situation!”

My heart stops.  If Mr Wu has a situation it is almost like someone is about to press the red button.  ” Really Mr Wu.  What is it?”

” Err.. Mr Bonito.  He has been arrested!”   It would appear that not long after arriving, Mr Bonito had had one of his ” emotional outbursts” and had been arrested at Harry Potter Studio in front of all of his kids.  As Mr Wu was speaking to me I could hear him wailing in the background and the more the policeman told him to calm down, the more he  ignored him and the louder he wailed.

Apparently it was all a storm in a teacup, initially, but Mr Bonito being a fiery and very emotional ( but not unkind, remember!) Corsican refused to bend and so the Police were called.  It all started when they passed through security and bags were searched.  Then one of the Security Guards, who obviously was doing his job very thoroughly, noticed the pen knife in Mr B’s boots and asked him to remove it.  Mr B of course thought he was a fellow admirer of such a ” weapon” and pulled it from his boots and handed it over.  The Security Guard told him that he could not have it back and it was a dangerous weapon.  That was when, I would imagine, the balloon went up!

So Mr Bonito told him that he had no right to confiscate such an item ; that it had been in his family for generations; ( it probably had) ; that the sentimental value was beyond price and anyway, he said with a shrug; he only used it to cut his fruit with.  Now that bit I do believe but the Security Guard wasn’t having any of it.  Mr Bonito of course exploded into both fits of rage and tears in equal parts and wasn’t going to budge.  Meanwhile, so I understand, the 150 kids around him were having a wonderful time just watching the exchange.      knife

When Mr B was told that if he didn’t calm down he would be ejected ( minus the knife) he just sat on the floor and formed a ” sit down”.  His kids of course seeing that this was another drama of a fair magnitude promptly all sat down as well and shouted

” Independence for Corsica” and ” Get out England” .. all rather drole, or not, depending on where your allegiance lies  demonstration

The protest had caused congestion at the Gates and as everything is timed to within an inch of its life at Harry Potter you can imagine the  mounting stress levels as people were missing their ” timed slots”. F.F.S.

He pleaded to the Policeman to allow him to keep his pen knife as it had huge sentimental value and he could not bear to loose it.  I daresay at this point there was much angst and wailing for effect.


He also argued, probably quite successfully, that it was not likely he was a terrorist with 150 children around him and so he wasn’t going to cause a rumpus or stab anyone.  ( Interestingly, he was already causing a rumpus but he seemed oblivious to this fact)  The Policeman who had appeared asked if I could vouch for him and I said I could.  Interestingly, but not without some merit, he didn’t ask the question of Mr Wu.  Well, come on….. would you?  ( Sorry H for the ellipses )  However, I also added the disclaimer that any reference given was without liability to the “writer”.  The joke went over the policeman’s head.  ” I really don’t want to arrest this man but he wont let us dispose of the penknife”   I could already hear the tiredness in his voice  ” but if he continues to hold onto it, I shall have to evict him or arrest him.  That would mean the children could not attend the Tour as there would be one less adult to supervise them”

I asked to speak to Mr B but wasn’t hopeful.  Once he goes off into his ” woe is me” mood, there isn’t any shifting it for days.  ” Mr B, think of the children.  You are ruining their day”  But judging from the noise in the background this new turn of events was far more exciting to the kids than seeing Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley…

“But I use it to eat my fruit.” he whined down the phone at me and at that moment I could have willingly knocked his block off.  ” Suggest that maybe they keep your penknife somewhere safe and you collect it when you leave.  Ask on this one occasion if they will do this as its a family heirloom”  The phone went quiet and then more sniffing and snuffling.  I heard some mutterings in the background and then Policeman Plod was back on the phone


” it would appear, Madam, that we have a small problem.  Mr Beneton ( Beneton, where did that name come from, its bloody Bonito, I wanted to shout) has agreed to allow the Studio to look after his knife whilst they tour and then it will be available for collection ONCE ( and he said this most sternly) he is ready to leave”  Pause for effect .  He sucked his lips, or he was eating, I couldn’t determine which.  ” Its the best I can do Madam, in all of the circumstances”

” Well that sounds like a fine solution.  Thank you very much Officer”

“Its Sergeant, Madam.  I am a Sergeant”  ( and I could sense a puffing out of the chest)

“Well, Sergeant, a wonderful solution.  Well done and saves all that paperwork arresting someone you will have to release by the end of the day”

I am sure the irony was wasted on him, even if he was a sergeant.  The phone went dead and I assumed that Mr Bonito disbanded his European Sit In and enjoyed the Tour.

The rest of his stay here was fairly uneventful.  Thankfully.  On the last day we all arrived at the departure point to wave him Goodbye.  Three coach loads of Corsicans and Mr Bonito, complete with pen knife proudly showing from the top of his boots all running up and down shouting; waving; cheering.  ” I wont see you ever again” he said and a tear formed in the corner  ( okay, I made that bit up, but his lip did quiver )

“well you never know”.. I ventured

“Oh never again will I come with my children.  What will I do?    But my knife… I still have my knife” and with that he burst into tears and took his knife out and stroked it ..( that bit IS true )

” Oh Mr Bonito, don’t take on so.  You may be back.  Come and see us anytime.  Now come on, get on the coach or you will miss the ferry.  And we cant have that, can we?”


But he sobbed again and wiped his nose with his hankie.  We bundled him into the coach and off they went.  Mr Wu chased the coaches up the road waving…” come back next year. See you soon!” shouting at the top of his voice like a village idiot.

Mr Wu, what part of ” he is retiring” don’t you understand?”

As they turned the corner, we looked at each other and said…

Yes, it really is  “All Finito Bonito!” and maybe, just maybe, we also had a tear in our eye too.

 PS     For those who like to form an image in their mind when they are reading this tripe, I attach a picture of Mr Wu when he met the Chinese Delegation in Brighton.  Mr Wu is on the right  in traditional Chinese robes.  Very proud.  And rightly so!Mr Wu.panda