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…..





Royal pavilion and Funerals a plenty

Comments 6 Standard

I never thought I would ever hear someone really say ” Do you know who I work for?” as in,” I am a very important person and I wont take any shit from you!”  But hear it I did in the form of Irma ( aka Mrs Panamanian) speaking to some poor Booking Clerk at the Royal Pavilion, but there you are.  She goes and does it anyway.

The Royal Pavilion is a confection of Indian ( and Chinese) extravagance paid for by one of our more louche members of the Royal Society.  But it is a “Must Do” if you visit this part of the country…. and thousands do.  However, Irma could not understand why they wouldn’t accommodate 55 French students at 10.30am on a certain Wednesday in May and what were they going to do about it.  She has a tone about her which can immediately ruffle feathers.  Not meant, I know, but it doesn’t help.  As the situation continued, and I watched her cross and uncross her leg; snap a pencil and pace the floor I could see the conversation wasn’t going too well.  By the time she had demanded to speak to the Manager the only way this was going to finish was ” badly”.   I couldn’t bear to hear any more and left the Office.

Whilst it can be very funny and interesting listening to different accents and conversations in foreign tongue, it can also be quite wearing trying to understand the cultural differences.  I have had to move Irma’s desk closer to mine which isn’t the best way to start my day, but I cant have her irritating the arse off Mr Wu or, Lana, our Ukrainian any more.   If I keep her next to me I can throw a paperclip at her or divert her, if I feel the equivalent of the Cuban Missile Crisis is about to kick off all over again.

When I returned after a brisk ( de stressing) walk of fifteen minutes, she was still on the phone but in slightly more buoyant mood.  Apparently she had managed to get the Booking Clerk to change the time to 11.00am which even if it wasn’t 10.30., then Irma would see it as a mild victory.   She told me afterwards that she will just tell the group to get there for 10.30 and barge their way in.  I daresay they wont disobey her.    

As I was seeking out some liquid refreshment, sadly only in the form of Camomile Tea this time, I caught Lana, our Ukrainian, bent over the Air fresheners in a very odd fashion.  Okay, I’ll tell you.  She had one arm above her head and the other was holding the Air freshener! Every time it puffed some synthetic perfume out, she put her underarm in front of it and took the full force.  ” Lana what on earth are you doing?” I ventured but deep down knowing I shouldn’t.

” Oh, no deodorant today.  It run away ( I think she meant, ” it had run out”) so I use brain cells and think, this smell nice so when it goes poof poof I use it for nice smell under arms. No want to smell like Russian old lady picking potatoes in field!” and she winks at me.

” …and Lana, tell me,  is the Fresh Cotton fragrance to your liking?” I ask dryly. 

She shrugs her shoulders and says.” ok. Its ok.  My favourite is summer breeze but none left”  I am slightly dumbfounded because Lana has reduced the time lapse between sprays and now we have her smelling like some cheap perfume ( I might have actually preferred the Russian Potato Pickers armpit smell instead of the heavy cloying fragrance which is now lingering around the office) as it is dispensing “fragrance” every 90 seconds!  I leave her as she now has it angled at her thighs  ( I kid you not) and the term ” too much information” forms speedily in my brain.



I decide to have an informal chat with both Lana and Irma on the slightly thorny subject of Office Etiquette and at the same time I asked Irma not to say ” do you know who I am or who I work for” because the British don’t like that sort of pompousness and it incites others to bring about our downfall.  I try to smile and spread largesse about the community, not rule Brighton with an imaginary rod of iron.  She shrugged her shoulders and walked away.  A few minutes later, she was back.  ” I have to go to a funeral today”

” Oh Irma, I am sorry.  Was it someone close?”

” I didn’t know him.  I am going because they always have good food and I might find a nice man there!  Let’s see. ( another shrug of her shoulders)   I wanna go to one funeral a week now. My target.  I just read the newspaper to find a good one on and stand with other meanies (??) and see who is about.  Might meet nice rich old man there.” (Yes, I know readers, I also think she meant to say Mourners not Meanies, but as always with Irma, you never can tell!)   f47ac-dsc_0763

I smiled at Lana. “Just finish photocopying the Certificates please .  You will have to use the one in the Teacher’s room.  Ours is broken”  I had lost the energy to say anything else and slumped over my desk

” Yes I know it is broken” she replied very determinedly and laid her head on my desk so we could lock eye contact.  I caught a whiff of Air Freshener.  It was acrid. Vile.  ” so I used the other one next to it” she continued…..

I immediately sat upright. “Er, what other one next to it, Lana?  We only have one here”

Sharp exhale of breath from Lana. “One next to big copy machine.  I put the Certificates in – nothing happened yet. Very slow!”   I just wish she wouldn’t reply to me in a tired terse voice. It does hack me off!

“Lana…you bloody idiot ” I screamed, yet again…. ” you have just destroyed 40 Certificates.  Its a Shredder –  not a photocopier”

“Hmm” said Lana ” No wonder its slow doing copies”