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“
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!”
and indeed it was…..
I popped into the Luvvies earlier to see if they had any Feta cheese. It was a pointless exercise as asking them if they had Feta Cheese was like asking the Pope if he had any ( spare) condoms! It aint gonna happen.
However whilst there , I noticed that in the corner there was a bit of a fracas going on with Beryl and another woman. Now I hadn’t seen much of Beryl since she got the Llama drunk ( as some of you will remember ) and had decided to keep a low profile, so I wasn’t sure whether to go and see what it was all about or keep on going to Waitrose to get said Feta Cheese. In any event I went over there for no other reason than nosiness and was quite surprised at what I saw. Beryl appeared to be slightly flushed and red in the face so I wanted to ensure she was ok. The woman who was entering into combat with Beryl seemed absolutely furious and although I have known Beryl to be slightly, ok very annoying at times, I have never known her to be confrontational and frankly, combative. I decided to weigh in.
“Are you ok Beryl?” I said, which I agree was a pretty naff thing to say but it started conversation off . Whilst I was doing that Mr Luvvie came over as well, probably encouraged by Mrs Luvvie and boosted up with courage by my being there also. ( Note to Hariod, I put a comma here instead of the old ……. ( is that correct please?) told the other woman ( are you keeping up?) to scarper. What was it all about, I wonder?
Whilst Peter Luvvie droned on about the saga unfolding right before his eyes, my mind was on other things as usual and I didn’t really get all of the reasons why and wherefore. I had just put out a couple of fires ( literally!) at the school which was the result of Dennis Much-Humper’s wife being slightly too imperious with some of the students. Dennis Much-Humper;s wife was privately educated in Switzerland, don’t ya know, and has a voice which is always slightly breathy on account of her weight and would be better suited to Phone Sex than TEFL> The voice – not the lady! She is rather posh and makes me feel very second class so I do remember to moderate my tones much more than usual when she is around.
She had stood in today as an Emergency Teacher for a group of ” shssh sshh, you know who’s” from Paris and they had all taken a dislike to her. So much so that when she was busy writing up phrasal verbs on the whiteboard they threw some paper in the bin and set fire to it. You can imagine her saying ” Does anyone smell burning” and they all laughing and saying “Pourquoi?” as the French do in that rather annoying tone of theirs.
She finally found the offending wastepaper bin alight under her desk and having success in carrying that to the water cooler and extinguishing it, the “little darlins'” had lit another one. In all they lit three bins until there was nothing more to light and although she demanded all lighters to be given over to her, no one took a blind bit of notice. The lessons went from bad to worse until their own French teachers were brought in to supervise. Not a good day for Sherry Much-Humper and she took herself off in a fit of pique in the direction of the Teacher’s Room to study up for her afternoon lessons. As they were a case of privately educated Japanese girls, she didn’t fear that the lessons would be so tortuous and in any case, she was getting Mr Wu to sit in and help her ” after all they are from the same country – sort of!” she declared to me with a wave of her hand and as if to say it was going to happen and she would brook no argument!
Whilst I didn’t have a problem with anyone assisting I certainly didn’t want her to think it would be best to have Mr Wu there because as we all know, he is from Hong Kong and they don’t speak the same language as they do in Tokyo. I tried to explain this to both her and Mr Wu but neither were having any of it.
“Everything is A OK” as Mr Wu was fond of saying ” Its ok, I have Sherry’s backside and everything will be fine” and with that he went into the corridor and shouted at them ( because that’s what you do with foreigners, isn’t it.. shout so they understand 🙂 ) ” All students follow me. And he bowed very low and shouted ” Sayonara. Sayonara” which as you can expect, caused a lot of confusion, not only in the corridors of power, but also in the minds of the little Japanese Girlies who were all left open mouthed and wondering where to go and what to do!
“err, Mr Wu, I think you have just told them goodbye” questioned Sherry
“Yes, everybody happy. Come. Come.” and he opened his official Tour Guide Umbrella in the corridor and led them all to their classroom with shouts of ” Follow me. Follow me. Keep up everybody follow British umbrella” even though the classroom entrance was right next door to where he was standing.
As I walked by later I could see that Sherry was sitting in the corner and had given over the entire lesson to Mr Wu who was telling them about the culture in Britain! As I happened to glance at the material on the board that he was using I could see he was speaking about breakfast in Britain. ” Everyone here, we eat good breakfast every morning. Egg. Bacon. Mushroom. Beans. Not too many. Make you fart ( and he gave a little laugh) and strawberries. ” I peered again at the teaching material Mr Wu was showing and could see that he had mistaken a bloody tomato for a strawberry. I couldn’t stop myself. ” Mr Wu. Its not a strawberry. We do not have strawberries on our breakfast. Its a tomato. We have tomatoes with our breakfast.” and to emphasise the point again I said ” TOMATOES!” in a very tired tone. ( Well it was 3 o clock by this time and the day seemed awfully long)
It was quite important to get this right as we were taking the girls out in the morning to experience a British Breakfast from a Hot Food Truck! I do so love these cultural immersion ideas we have…..( see picture at the top )
He looked at me. The Japanese girls looked at me. Even Sherry, who thought this might get interesting, looked at me. He looked again at the picture. I could see I had made a mistake. I must remember that the Chinese don’t like to loose ” face”. Silence. Then he replied, “Yes, of course. You put tomato on egg. I put strawberry on egg. Its an Englishman’s privilege to choose” and he laughed again thinking he had dug himself out of a deep hole
Mr Wu. An Englishman! I didn’t see it coming.
I made my excuses, bowed and left the room. Suddenly a cup of tea seemed the answer to everything. As they say in the Pacific Rim, but more particularly in Japan, Konichiwa… 🙂
Oops… the Thought Police have been on the phone again and taken issue with my latest “Newsletter to Host Families”. I tell you now, I feel a bit like Salman Rushdie trying to explain myself and have the Fatwa removed from my head.
For heavens sake, I am hardly trying to incite racial tensions amongst local residents, let alone world wide! I need host families not want to lose them….but here is a flavour of the beaurocracy as have to put up with…
We were about to welcome a group from Paris who are, dare I say, a group who like to follow a Hallal Diet, if you get my drift. Nothing wrong with that, nothing at all but I thought I should give the ” heads up” to the Hosts and inform them on what is and isn’t acceptable to put on the plate at meal times…….
Now I thought I was being helpful and because people often fall asleep when I relay information, I thought I would keep it amusing. ( Peeps… are you still with me, or has your train of thought wandered off as well?
So in my newsletter of Handy Tips and Hints I remind them that when we say they follow a ” vegetarian diet” they don’t really mean that they want Tofu and Nut Roast every day, they are simply saying that they don’t want our skanky meat if it isn’t hallal and so ditch the Pork Chop, but they will, however, happily tuck into a bag of cheesy chips and pizza. This does seem to stretch the imagination of a few host families when it comes to packed lunch. F. F. S. what is hard about not putting a pork derivative into a bread roll and replacing it with,… oh, lets me see….
Cheese? Egg? Salmon or even that good old standby Tuna ( from a tin!) So I continued on with my amusing theme and said…( and I quote) … So if you have a ” No Porker” try to respect their diet and offer an alternative as suggested beforehand. I thought everyone would have got that but apparently Mrs Farnes was struggling with that in the literal sense. I shall explain….
A group leader comes up to me. ( Nice lady. Parisian Chic but really she should stop the smoking, especially when she blows it out in my face. That really does hack me off! …
” I thought we gave you a list of students who mustn’t eat porc” ( no H its not a typo, I thought I would introduce a little bit of gaellic interest and spell it the French way : -) )…” eh you did… has someone ignored it?” I ventured, knowing I would regret it.
“Well Madame Farnes has given Ham sandwiches now for 2 days. Can you believe it?”
Frankly, I could but I wasn’t going to admit that one in public. I pick the phone up ” Mrs Farnes… I thought I explained to you that your students are Muslim and therefore no pork”. ” Quite right, I know that!” she replied in a rather testy manner.
” Eh well it doesn’t seem to be the case here, I’m afraid”
” Look,” ( I could feel her puffing her ample bosum up and crossing her arms defensively
” Look” she repeated for emphasis ” I have followed the diet. You said No Pork and No Pork is what he has ( is that a double negative there?”)
” But the sandwiches”…..she interrupted me
” Whats wrong with the bloody sandwiches? You said No pork so I gave him ruddy ham! Yesterday and today!” As I said, you couldn’t make it up….
Back to the newsletter… so I wrote up the little telephonic exchange in the newsletter for clarity and as an Information Leaflet and ended it with ” So folks.. just to remind you… Ham really does come from Pork. Which is also known as a Pig! ”
….and for emphasis and clarity for those who struggle with the written word, I attached a photograph similar to the one at the top of this page of a little pig.
Someone reported that exchange to the British Council saying I was being racist and not respecting Muslims diet! Really??? Well excuse me whilst I cough, but I thought I was showing the world what a Drongo of a Host Family Mrs Farnes was, ie highlighting that Brits are a stupid race, not being a Racist and actually helping them respect other culture’s diet. Apparently not. I am still waiting for a knock on the door….
So I have had to take the advice of LM and tone down my newsletters and make them factual and not whimsical in case I get put on the Fatwas list and have to run away to Namibia and live a life on the run until they forget all about me or Bocal Haram run away with me should I stray into Nigeria. Whichever way, it would appear I am doomed!
I will keep this one short as I have already had another complaint. The leader said that two of her girls weren’t happy about being awoken at 5am by the Parrot chanting and calling the host family to Prayer. (Yes of course one of only 4 non Muslim students and I happen to put them with a Muslim family.) I didn’t know what she meant and thought I would pay a visit to Mrs El’oun and ask her about it. Mrs El’oun is actually White; Christian and British and is more commonly known as ” Bogbrush!” This is on account of her cleaning everything with household bleach, including her hair. Which, as you can imagine is not sleek and shiny but more rough and spikey because the ends have broken off with the over use of household bleach. Mrs El’oun’s husband is from the Gaza strip but isn’t a Migrant as he has a regular job in Halfords and is actually a very nice man. There has already been a highly publicised Court Case between neighbours over the raising of Israelis and Jewish flags in local gardens so I wanted to keep everything quiet. When I got down there, she told me he was about to start his chant but wouldn’t do so if he had spectators and could I hide under the staircase so he didn’t see me. ( This is absolutely true) It was easier not to argue.
So I crouched under there along with Mrs El’oun and an assortment of buggies and smelly trainers and waited for the parrot to start up. As sure as eggs were eggs, off he went and to cap it all he then starting swinging on his bar like a trapeze artists. She said he does it three times a day to remind her husband to come and pray and Halfords have been very good at changing his ” dinner time” to allow him to pop home. Apparently her husband bought him from a Manchester Mosque when the Holy Man there decided Mr El’oun needed to pay more attention to his prayers and less to Brighton and Hove Albion going up into the Premier Division. However it was quite a loud noise and although not as bad as the canned muzak you hear from the Mosques in Cairo, it was pretty grim and I could understand the complaint. Mrs El’oun told me that even if she wanted to, she couldn’t stop him now and even though they throw a cover over him at night, he still starts up as soon as he sees daylight is approaching each morning. ” he doesn’t even take a day off for Christmas” she whispered to me with a conspiratorial wink. The day was becoming more surreal by the minute.
” He also dances to Barry White as well. Do you want to see?” …….and before I could say ” Allah Akbar” she had switched the Barry White cd on and I was privy, once again, to the Parrot singing along his bar. Oh and worse, whilst we were enjoying the avian equivalent of “Britains Got Talent, Mrs El’oun asked me to come in with the chorus.
I sighed. Sat down on a couple of smelly trainers. Up close and personal to Bogbrush’s very wiry hair and did as she suggested…..
(Oh death, where is thy ( sweet) sting?)
Folks, as they say, a day in the world of EFL is always way too long! Until next time…
(Disclaimer – Just to say, all of these stories are true and accurate. Only the names have been changed to protect myself! And as I am currently hosting and mothering two trainee Libyan (Muslim) Pilots, don’t anyone dare say I am racist!)