Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Everything I Do, I Do It For You


What's that bag doing in the hall?
Nothing, Daddy.
I mean, Why did you leave it there?
I had to leave it somewhere, Daddy.
Is it your gym bag?
Are the clothes for washing?
So why don't you put the clothes in the washing basket?
Because you always do it for me, Daddy.
Well, I'm not going to do it this time.
You'll see.
And what about that rucksack?
What about it, Daddy?
Well, can't you take it to your bedroom?
What for? I'm going to need it tomorrow.
Do you have an answer for everything, darling?
Yes, Daddy. When will dinner be ready?
Don't change the subject.
Don't do too much for me. I'm not very hungry . . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

Life On Mars?


What's your favourite month, Igor?
My favourite month?
Yes, your favourite month.
Owgost, of course.
Yes, Owgost.
When's Owgost, Igor?
When's Owgost?
Yes. When's Owgost?
Yes. When?
After Julie.
Yes, Julie.
And when's Julie?
When's Julie?
Yes. When's Julie?
You no know?
No, I no know. Don't know, sorry.
After Junie.
Yes, Junie.
OK, thanks, Igor. Alright, everyone repeat after me
JUNE. Everyone?
Good. And after June comes JuLY. JuLY. Everybody?
Good. And then the best month: AUgust. "OR"gust. Everyone?
Excellent! June, JuLY, AUgust. Together, please.
JUNE, JuLY, AUgust.
That's better! Now then, Igor . . . So what's your favourite month?
Owgost. I say you!
Never mind, Igor. How about you, Janire?
How about?
What's your favourite month?
Yes, Mars.
That's a planet, Janire.
Mars is a planet.
Sure? . . .

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Won't Give In


Hello. Mr Craphead?
Could be.
I'm ringing from Shitty Telephone Company, and was wondering whether you would like to be ripped off for the rest of your life?
I'll think about it. Bye.
Mr. Craphead? . . .

Hello. Mr. Craphead?
Might be.
I'm ringing from Shitty Bank, and we notice that your tax return was unfavourable this year. Does this worry you?
Not in the slightest.
I said, "Oh". You're supposed to say, "Yes". I don't have a script for "No" . . .

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sealed With A Kiss


If you thought I was exaggerating (see Simply The Best viz. "2000s"), here's a genuine application I've just received from a young English Literature graduate to work as an English Language Teacher at our school. It goes without saying - though I'm saying just in case it doesn't  - that I've changed the poor lady's identity, telephone number, partner, etc. OK, here goes . . .


Myself and my parner are both efl teachers with teaching cert's and english degree's. We are looking to move over to Spain together to teach english, I have attatched our CV's, please contact me via email or on 0123456789.

Do you provide accomadation?


mandy Jones

So, let's see . . . Here we have somebody - an English Literature graduate, for heaven's sake! - who wants to teach English and, yet, she can't spell "attached", "accommodation" or "partner" properly. She also uses apostrophe + s to indicate plurals incorrectly - *CV's, *degree's, *cert's - and employs capital letters when she feels like it, basically. In my day, we were taught to use capital letters for names, places, days, months, etc. Oh, and at the start of each new sentence.

I haven't even talked about style or appropriacy . . . "Hi"? OK, we'll let that go, though I would prefer "Dear Colin" before we declare ourselves lifelong buddies. Obviously, "Dear Mr. Raphead" would be quite preposterous in this day and age. Nevertheless, "Myself and my parner" definitely loses points. Well, that's what myself and my colleges think. Sorry, my colleagues and I.

I was tempted to reply, "Hey Mandy, we'll provide accommodation just as soon as you learn how to spell it correctly". But I didn't. I daresay I'm coming across as terribly snobby and snotty, so I hasten to add that this is somebody who is doubtless a lovely person, and certainly much less a waste of space in the general scheme of things than yours truly. According to Mandy's CV, she was President of her Student Union, Editor of the university newspaper - Editor! I won't shame the university by naming them here -, and a fundraiser for Breast Cancer Awareness. She has a Duke of Edinburgh gold award, and enjoys horse-riding and raising money for charity in her spare time. So hats off to Mandy; that's far more than I will ever achieve in my life, I imagine. It's just there's no way I can take on an English teacher - an English literature graduate!! - who can't write English very well. And yet she can write English well, it seems, as she goes on to list several literary achievements and awards for poetry.

In any case, Mandy's application is fairly typical of the standard we've been receiving these past 10 years or so. For every English Teacher post that we advertise, we receive an average of 50 applications, of which about 50% contain spelling mistakes in the accompanying mail and/or CV. I'm sorry, but I'm with Mr. Grumpy from Tunbridge Wells on this one: 'What ever is the world coming to?' Don't British schools teach the basics of English grammar anymore? Can anybody get a degree in English Literature these days?

Oh, and bring back spelling tests, I say.

Thursday, June 17, 2010



It's been such a cold, miserable, rainy day, I decided to open my last bottle of whisky (a present from Rosa, my sister-in-law). Normally, whisky drinking season for me is from November to March, but recently I find myself breaking more and more rules by the day. Whatever, the whisky is wonderful, and it seems to me a pity in retrospect that it isn't cold, miserable and rainy every day of the year.

I think I might have ice-cream for breakfast tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Monkees' Theme


The Australian wine was pretty awful. And yet I preferred it to my usual Rioja. Sometimes a change for the worse is for the better. It keeps you sane. It's a bit like The Beatles and The Monkees: everybody knows who we should be listening to, but there are times when we all need to monkey around a little.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Say It Ain't So Joe


The greatest singer-songwriter of the twentieth century was Murray Head. No, I hadn't heard of him, either, until I spent a week in France in 1979. Nowadays, most people think of him as a one-hit wonder because of the huge success of the single One Night In Bangkok. A pity because that song is rubbish, it wasn't written by Murray, and he doesn't even sing on it.

If you want to hear Murray at his best, you need to buy The Big Four: Nigel Lived (72), Say It Ain't So (75), Between Us (79) and Voices (80). I've included a link to Say It Ain't So Joe, probably the best song ever written.

After several disappointing albums (inevitable given the standard of the Big Four), Murray finally came back with the brilliant Tête-à-Tête in 2007, together with Crystal Heart, probably the second best song ever written. Though this is pure speculation, I think it's a fair bet that TaT hardly sold any copies.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ball And Chain


The sporting event of the millennium kicks off later today, with millions of football fans glued to the TV over the next month. I wouldn't be surprised to see South Africa giving Mexico a good run for their money - though a 1-1 draw is the likely outcome - while it takes little imagination to predict a goalless draw between Uruguay and France.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beaches Of Cheyenne


There was this bloke, right? And he–
You can't start stories like that, Mummy.
Why not, dear?
All stories begin, "Once upon a time".
Bollocks they do.
What's "bollocks", Mummy?
Sorry, dear, I was talking to myself.
Do you often talk to yourself, Mummy?
All the time when I'm not talking to someone else.
Daddy's stories are crap.
That's not a nice word, dear.
Daddy said people crap all the time.
Never mind what Daddy said.
Has Daddy got bollocks, Mummy?
Yes, darling, but I don't like you using that word.
What about the bloke, Mummy?
Yes, he had them, too.
I meant, What happened to him?
Oh, I see. Well, one day he was walking–
Through the wood?
Don't interrupt, dear.
Sorry, Mummy, it's just all of your stories are about people walking through woods.
Oh really? Well, this bloke was walking along the beach.
The beach?
It's the part between the sea and the land.
I know what a beach is, Mummy. Did you know beaches can have children?
I don't think so, dear.
That's what Daddy told me, anyway.
You shouldn't believe everything your father tells you, dear.
Because he's a great big son of a beach, Mummy? . . .

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad


Three Theory

As we move into the third millennium, Three Theory, which started out as a simple seminar paper given at the University of Aretxabaleta (a small town in the heart of The Basque Country), continues its relentless march up through Europe and into Asia . . .

The central tenet of Three Theory states that, "People, and teachers in particular, tend to think in threes", as is borne out by empirical observation. If you can't be bothered with "empirical observation", just have a look at the facts . . .

- Most schools divide their year into 3 terms.
- School terms are about 3 months long.
- School staff form 3 natural groups: bosses, teachers and admin.
- There are 3 kinds of bosses: the good, the bad and the ugly.
- There are 3 kinds of teachers: the good, the bad and the hopeless.
- There are 3 kinds of administrators: the good, the bad and the petty.
- There are 3 kinds of students: swots, skivers and survivors.
- Most classes have 3 parts: a beginning, a middle and an end.
- Time is divided into 3: past, present and future.
- You can say the same thing in English in at least 3 ways. (Really? Oh yeah? Can you?)
- Teaching is 3 times more stressful than any other profession.
- Teachers are 3 times more irritable than "normal" people.
- Most teenage classes contain 3 giggling girls and 3 goggling boys.
- Teachers usually have to repeat their instructions 3 times.
- Students need at least 3 attempts before they get it right.
- The average teacher sleeps just 3 hours every night.
- Most teachers' cars have 3 pedals: accelerator, brake and clutch.
- There are 3 meals in a day. Most teachers consider themselves lucky if they get 2.
- Most lists end with 3 et ceteras and/or 3 points, etc, etc, etc . . .

By way of an afterthought, you might be interested to hear that the founder of Three Theory, who first presented his findings at the age of 33, is one Terry O'Heeth, a name which, by an even more remarkable stroke of fate, is a perfect anagram of Three Theory.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Free Fallin'


What day is it today, anyone?
Freeday, Vanesa?
Yes, Freeday.
If it's a free day, why are you here?
Sorry, sorry?
I said, If it's a free day, why are you here?
Because we class on Freeday, no?
FRIday, Vanesa, FRIday.
Ah, yes.
Can you say it?
Go on then.
Sorry, sorry?
Say FRIday, Vanesa.
Good. What does "FREE day" mean?
What mean "FREE day"?
Yes, what mean "FREE day"?
Today Freeday, no? . . .

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Day In The Life


routine (n.)
Reliving Groundhog Day again . . . and again . . . and again. Without Andie MacDowell, unfortunately.

Instructions: Read the description below of an English teacher's typical working day, then write a short paragraph about yourself . . .

A Day In The Life Of Colin Raphead, EL Consultant at Looniversal Learning

Normally, I wake up at about 3 o'clock screaming something like, “No, not my legs!” Ever since I took over 3T, I've had this recurring nightmare, but I try not to let it worry me too much. After that, I drop off again until my alarm wakes me up at five to six. I find it quite soothing to roll over and see "5:55" flashing back at me. I have a shower and get dressed (in that order) and then collapse on the sofa for a couple of minutes. A quick glance at my watch tells me it's 6:16, so I grab my old briefcase and charge off down the road, arriving just in time for my 6:30 English for Cashiers class. Personally, I don't see why our local supermarket is bothered about its staff learning English (on the off-chance a tourist comes in one day asking for a Kit-Kat, I suppose), but every time I mention this to my Director of Studies, she just replies, “That's their problem, not ours”.

What really irks me, though, is that my first student rarely turns up until five to seven – “Sorry, I sleep!” –, so I tend to sit there twiddling my thumbs for 25 minutes. On the positive side, by the time the class actually gets going properly (when Student Number Two rolls in at ten past – “Sorry, is traffic!”), it's already nearly time to finish.

Half past seven, a quick coffee and I run back down the road to my 7:45 English for Systems Operators class. This might sound glamorous on paper, but I promise you it's not my idea of fun wading through every single paragraph of a 600-page manual entitled Troubleshooting for two hours every morning – especially as my students say the manual's got it all wrong, anyway, and isn't worth the paper it's printed on; or copied on, rather - nobody seems to know where the original manual is.

A quarter to ten and I stagger out of class and onto the number 88 bus which takes me into town . . . eventually. As I sit there waiting for our driver to finish his cheese and tomato roll, my stomach begins rumbling. Then, I catch sight of Miss Snapper, overtaking us in her bright red Mercedes. I wave feebly, but she never sees me (or pretends not to, at any rate).

By the time I get into Looniversal Learning, it's gone half past ten. I greet Miss Snapper on her way out to some appointment somewhere. She always asks me how things are going, but never hangs around for my answer – “Sorry, Colin, can't stop”. She seems a very busy lady, indeed. I sit down at my desk and prepare my classes for the afternoon. I don't really have as long as I'd like (20 minutes for five hours of classes) but, as Miss Snapper pointed out at the last staff meeting, “Time is money and I pay you lot to teach, not bleat.”

Ten to eleven and, armed with briefcase, four dictionaries and CD player, I sprint down the corridor to room 121 (aptly named as it happens since, although eight students enrolled for my Post-Proficiency class, in practice it tends to be a "one to one"). Anyway, between the two of us, we manage to keep the conversation flowing – it's either that or listen to my rumbling stomach – until 12:59 (one to one again!) when all inspiration suddenly dries up and we both agree to call it a day.

One o'clock at last and I stuff myself silly with a Massive Mac, large bag of fries and a chocolate thick shake at the MadConald's opposite our school. Unfortunately, an irate parent collars me, demanding to know why I've got it in for his daughter. I tell him it's not only his daughter – I hate the whole lot of them in 3T – and that I'm sorry if I sounded a bit abrupt on the phone. This usually does the trick, and then it's blissful peace / peaceful bliss (take your pick) until five to two when I suddenly realise that I forgot to order my photocopies for the first class this afternoon. I say something very rude in a loud voice, shocking everyone around me, and charge back to the staffroom to let my colleagues know that I'm in a bit of a flap.

Panic is not the word to describe our staffroom at two minutes to two: “Get out of my way” . . . “Who's nicked the Headcase Elementary Teacher's Book?” . . . “Where's that bloody CD?” . . . “Hey! Who's swiped my CD player?” . . . “Look what those morons have done to my photocopies” . . . “OK. There was a DVD on my desk” . . . and so on and so on . . . The sense of camaraderie is terrific.

Seven p.m. and it's smiles all round as everybody is friends again in the staffroom: “Sorry, I called you a ****, Colin” . . . “That's allright, you ******” Most of us decide to go down the road to Jackie's, where we unwind over a few wines - “Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh” . . . “Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow” . . . - and exchange plans for the evening ahead: “I thought I'd stay in and mark some compositions” . . . “I've got to prepare my classes for tomorrow morning” . . . “I'm going to get really pissed and paint the town red. Then, if I'm feeling up to it, I'll make a start on those reports”.

Inevitably, conversation turns to the day's classes:

One of my students said she'd never heard of "identifying relative clauses".
Who was that?
You know, the one who's going out with the butcher's assistant.
You mean the bloke who works down at B & M?
Isn't that the supermarket where you give classes, Colin?
No that's M & B. B & M is where Jill works . . .

Eventually, I have to remind everyone that we agreed not to talk shop and, in any case, it's gone 8 o'clock, so we'd better get back to HQ and get our classes ready for the morning.

It's usually about 10 o'clock by the time I've finished sorting myself out for the next day. I get the bus home (same driver, different roll) and stumble up five flights of stairs, carrying my briefcase, a loaf of brown bread and two cartons of orange juice. I fumble for my keys, burst through the door and dump my stuff in the hallway. As I collapse on the sofa, I notice that my clock has just turned "11:11" , which I find kind of reassuring.

A couple of hours later, I usually wake up in a state of shock. “Eh? OK, number six, please, Andrés, er . . . Where am I?” My stomach is rumbling again, so I make myself a massive cheese sandwich and turn the telly on or off - depending on whether I'd left it off or on respectively.

If I've got any energy left, I take my clothes off before crawling into bed. I say a short prayer and thank God I'm still alive.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ice Cream Man


What's your favourite desert, Angel?
My favourite desert?
Yes, your favourite desert.
Ice cream.
Ice cream?
Yes, ice cream.
Where's that, Angel?
Yes, where?
Yes, where's the Ice Cream Desert?
I don't understand.
Well, the Sahara Desert, for example, is in Africa, isn't it?
Is the Ice Cream Desert in Africa, too?
The Ice Cream Desert?
Or did you understand desSERT?
Ah, yes, desSERT. ¡Cabrón!
So, what's your favourite desSERT, Angel?
Sahara, I suppose . . .

Saturday, May 29, 2010

It Started With A Kiss


This blog is now SIX weeks old and I have FIVE followers, of whom FOUR are knocking on a bit, THREE are ladies, TWO are gents, and ONE has just announced that he's going to get married.

So, congratulations, Lord Mickelous!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nothing But The Same Old Story


The Really Ugly Princess

Once upon a time, there was a really ugly princess who lived—

Don’t you mean beautiful princess, Mummy?

No, darling, this one was ugly.

In Daddy’s stories, the princesses are always beautiful.

Well, I’m not Daddy, am I?

Daddy often calls me his little princess. Does that mean he thinks I’m small and ugly?

Of course not, dear. Now where was I? Ah yes! Once upon a time, there was a really ugly princess who lived in a dirty old apartment in a—

Don’t you mean beautiful castle, Mummy?

No, dear, I meant what I said.

So, beautiful people have beautiful homes, but ugly people have ugly homes?

No, Samantha, you’re twisting my words.

What’s twisting?

Deforming or distorting.

I don’t understand.

I think I’d better call your father. Goodnight, darling.

Goodnight, Mummy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The First Cut Is The Deepest


How to make an Anglo-Basque Spanish omelette (Part 2): What now?!

First things first . . . Turn on the TV and tune in to BBC World. Nothing wrong with a bit of culture occasionally, even if said channel is boring as hell. It's important to know what's going on out there, remember.

Second things second . . . Open that bottle of Rioja and pour yourself a large glass. You deserve it. Sieve the contents into a new cork-free glass, and proceed to the next step.

If there's a bolt on the kitchen door, now is the time to use it.

Locate onion, knife and chopping board (the order is unimportant) and begin chopping away like a maniac. The smaller the pieces, the better. At the very least, you should aim for four quarter onions. Then, try chopping those quarters into quarters, and those quarters into quarters again. And so on. Think Russian dolls. No, not those Russian dolls. That's my other blog.

Resist temptation to reply, "No, I'm f***ing not! I'm listening to the f***ing BBC" every time they tell you, "You're watching the BBC" in that ever-so-smug where-would-you-ignorant-sods-be-without-us unbearable Oxbridge accent.

You might as well answer the phone while you're at it, as nobody else is going to answer it unless you do. It's usually Linda for your daughter or Andrés for your son. Either way, it's something immensely important, so scream down the hall to your son's/daughter's bedroom to tell them that the world will end unless they come to the phone immediately. Say goodbye to Linda or Andrés, ask after their parents, and tell them they must come and stay with you for six months sometime. Then run back to the kitchen just in time to put out the fire. Serves you right for heating up the oil before I told you to.

Next time: How to make an Anglo-Basque Spanish omelette (Part 3): Alright, I’ve chopped the sodding onions and aired the kitchen. Now what?!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lumberjack Song


redundancy (n.)

ARS Diploma May 2010, Question 6

The painful truth is this: regardless of teacher, method, resources or techniques, a good student will always learn and a bad student never will.

How do you cope with being a redundant piece of furniture in the classroom?

Examiners' Report

Once again, a large percentage of candidates seemed to accept the fact that they are superfluous to the learning process, and proceeded to belt out their sob-sob stories of I never wanted to do this, anyway, I wanted to be a lumberjack, etc.

It had been hoped that candidates would argue that there is a place for the teacher in the classroom and that they have a vital role to play stimulating interest, organising practice, presenting language, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Several candidates did in fact take this line, while one person passed automatically on account of her including the phrases "source of knowledge" and "facilitator of information" in her opening sentence.

Sunday, May 23, 2010



OK, this is a film from nineteen seventy-two. Anyone here born in nineteen seventy-two?
Were you, George?
Which month?
Yes, Julie.
JuLY, George. And please don't call me Julie.
Joke, George. Forget it.
Forget what?
Exactly. So, let's see, that means you're thirty-seven, right?
I born in nineteen seventy.
I thought you said you were born in nineteen seventy-two?
So, which is it?
I born in nineteen seventy.
And then you were born again in nineteen seventy-two?
I no follow.
I think you mean you were alive in nineteen seventy-two, don't you?
Or at least more alive than in twenty ten . . .

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Piggy Pig Pig


How to make an Anglo-Basque Spanish omelette (Part 1): Ingredients

You’ll need the following ingredients. (A cooker, frying pan, saucepan lid, bowl, spatula, forks, plates, rubbish bin, bottle of Rioja and TV in the kitchen will also come in handy.)

X + 2 medium-sized potatoes, where X is the number of people who originally said they would be dining with you. Bear in mind that X is a constantly changing variable even as you try to dine. For example, when you begin your omelette, you might be forgiven for thinking that you are cooking for a standard nuclear family of four, but by the time the bleeding thing is on the table, don’t be surprised if the doorbell goes and X suddenly increases to eight. To be on the safe/greedy side, always make way too much. If no scroungers materialise, you can always finish off your work of art at lunch and/or dinner the next day - assuming you hide the leftovers well, that is.

X x 1.5 medium-sized eggs. Or X large ones. Or X x 2 small ones. Just use your nous, OK? As a general rule of thumb, the more eggs you use, the more filling and cholesterol-enhancing the resulting omelette will be.

X/4 large onions. Red onions if you’re feeling experimental. Plain old boring white onions will do if you’re too lazy to go to the greengrocer’s and buy delicious red ones.

X x 100 centilitres of olive oil. But don’t drink it all at once.

X x 100 grains of iodised salt. Don’t ask me why it has to be iodised, that’s just the way things have always been in my household, and there’s no way we’re going to change at this stage of the game, is there? If you’re feeling experimental, try using sugar instead of salt.

Next time: How to make an Anglo-Basque Spanish omelette (Part 2): Yeah, OK, I’ve got all the ingredients, smartypants. What now?!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



eclectic (adj.)

ARS Diploma, May 2010, Question 7

I wanna be eclectic. (A.Cooper)

Nine times out of ten, the teacher who claims to be "eclectic" is really a lazy sod who can't be bothered to take an interest in the methodological issues involved.

Discuss the above with reference to yourself and your colleagues.

Examiners' Report

This question was enormously popular, with candidates letting off steam by bitching about their colleagues behind their backs. The general argument was, My colleagues haven't a clue what "eclectic" means, and even if they did, it wouldn't help them.

The overwhelming majority of candidates claimed to be aware of the methodological issues involved but made no attempt at outlining them, suggesting just a hint of hypocrisy on their part perhaps?

Honesty was appreciated, therefore, and candidates who freely admitted to calling themselves eclectic in order to gain street credibility received extra points here.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What Have I Done To Deserve This?


Can I help you?
No, thanks. I'm just looking.
What are you looking for?
Oh, nothing in particular.
I see.
You don't mind my looking, do you?
Feel free.
Thank you.
The shirts and tops are here; the shorts and trousers are over there; and the jerseys and jackets are around the corner.
Thank you.
That's a lovely shirt, isn't it?
I said, That's a lovely shirt.
Yes, it is.
Would you like to try it on?
Not now, thanks.
What size were you looking for?
I wasn't.
I'd say you're a large. Shall I measure you?
Maybe later.
You're not from here, are you? . . .

Sunday, May 16, 2010



Murphy's Law (phr.)
Life's a mess, so deal with it

Group 1: Objects
If you go in with three pens, you'll come out with one . . . and vice versa.
If you need photocopies for your class, the copier will be out of order.
If the photocopier is working, there won't be any paper.
If you find the stapler, there won't be any staples left.
By the time you find the whitener, the liquid will have dried up.
If you're using the computers, there will be a power cut.
If you need to use the whiteboard, you won't have anything to write with.
If the whiteboard needs cleaning, you won't be able to find the board wiper.
If your class is on the third floor, you'll leave your key in the staffroom.

Group 2: Planning
If you plan a pair work activity, you'll have an odd number of students.
If you plan for 10 students, 20 students will turn up . . . and vice versa.
If you plan to take your class outside, it's bound to rain.
The better you plan a class, the worse the end result will be.

Group 3: Setting Up Activities
The more you shout, the less your students will hear you.
The more gestures you make, the more invisible you become.
No matter how clearly you give your instructions, you'll always need to repeat them at least three times.
If you've just set up an activity, three more bastards will roll in at that precise moment.
If you tell students to open their books at page 40, they'll open them at page 14 . . . and vice versa.

Group 4: Punctuality
Just when you think no-one is coming, a solitary student will trickle in.
The one day you arrive late to class, all the students will be there waiting for and cursing you.
If you arrive 10 minutes early, everyone will be 10 minutes late.

Group 5: Cause and Effect
Using computers and DVD players causes power cuts.
Opening windows increases the volume of traffic.
Closing doors makes people want to knock on them.
Marking compositions brings on drowsiness.

Group 6: General Truths
If you give a brilliant class, nobody will want to hear about it.
If you give an awful class, nobody will let you forget it.
If you try to make a joke, you'll regret you ever started.
The more you tell people how tough being a teacher is, the less they'll believe you.
The most boring activities imaginable are the ones your students like best.
The worse you think a class is doing, the more they believe they're making progress . . . and vice versa.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Simply The Best


job applications, 1970s

Dear Mr. Benning,

I am a British citizen and willing to try my hand as Senior English Lecturer at your university, where I understand you have a few jobs going.

Unless I hear otherwise, I'll pop in for an informal chat next Tuesday morning sometime and we can finalise a few details, OK?

Best Wishes, etc.

job applications, 1980s

Dear Sirs,

I am writing to apply for the post of Part-Time EFL Tutor at your school, as advertised in The Times Education Supplement (02/04/84).

I have an RSA TEFL Certificate from No-Questions-Asked-Just-Send-Us-Your-Money-And-Make-It-Snappy Enterprises, and I once spent three weeks as a barman in a summer camp at Blackpool for overseas students visiting Britain.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours, etc.

job applications, 1990s

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to apply for the post of Summer Vacation Temporary EFL Teacher at Cowboy International, as advertised in The Sun (23/03/94).

I have, in increasing order of difficulty, 23 boy scout badges, a 100-yard breaststroke certificate, an MBA in Business and Management Studies, 13 "O" Levels, 7 "A" Levels, a joint first-class BA. honours degree (Oxon.) in Modern Languages / Applied Linguistics, an RSA TEFL Certificate, an MA. in Third Language Acquisition Research, a PhD. in Implications for Fourth Language Acquisition Research, a Duke of Edinburgh Award for Services to British Industry, a knighthood for my part in the Falklands conflict, a Nobel Peace Prize, and an RSA TEFL Diploma (pass).

I have also published 62 EFL course books, 49 English dictionaries and 23 grammar reference books. I used to work as British Ambassador to the United States before moving on to the BBC where for the past 18 years I have been Director of Education. I feel now is the right time, however, to broaden my horizons and move on to pastures anew.

My present salary is £420,000 p.a. (net) plus perks, but I don't mind earning £2.50 per hour (gross) - as stated in your job profile - on the understanding that my position would be subject to review after 15 years.

I enclose a CV, together with a self-addressed envelope, for your convenience.

Yours faithfully, etc.

job applications, 2000s

Name: Sharon Starling
D.O.B.: N/A
Address: shaz_star@hotmail.com
Telephone: 636-734623 (Mobile) or 636-836521 (Baz's Mobile - Ask for "Shaz")
Qualifications: BA in Film Studies (2.2), Clapham Art College, 1996-1999
Previous Employment: Customer Care Manager at Blockbuster Videos, 1999-present
Special Interests: cinema, movies, films, videos, that sort of thing
Reason for Applying: I've always wanted to visit Spain. Where exactly is Kosovo, anyway?
References: On Request -> Please visit our site at www.shaznbaz.com for some nice pix!

job applications, 2010s

Got any jobs, mate?

Friday, May 14, 2010



Our guarantee to you

We want you to enjoy this blog entry in a perfect condition. If you are not satisfied with it in any way, simply return it to us, stating when and why you were reading it in the first place. We shall have no choice but to send you a replacement entry free of charge.

This does not affect your statutory rights (whatever that means).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ruby Tuesday


What day is it today, Maria?
Yes, Thuesday.
Do you mean Tuesday or Thursday, Maria?
Yes, what?
Yes, please?
Can anybody help Maria?
Go on then, Pablo.
What’s the question?
What day is it today, Pablo?
That’s what Maria said, Pablo.
OK, everyone, repeat after me—
Ha ha ha. Listen . . . Tuesday. CHOOSEday.
Good. And now . . . Thursday. THIRDSday.
Excellent! So what day is it today, Adrian?
That was yesterday, Adrian.
Yes I am, Adrian. And it’s not Wed-nes-day. It’s Wednesday. WHENSday. Everyone?
So, Adrian, what day comes after Wednesday?
And what day comes before Wednesday?
I think we’d better call it a day.
Thuesday! I say you!
Yes, thank you, Maria. Er, let’s check the homework . . .

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Get Down And Get With It


teacher (n)
the basic unit of frustration

In this simple self-awareness task, we present below 100 roles that, as a long-suffering teacher, you may take on at some time or another. Put a cross (X) against those roles which you yourself have to assume in the course of your everyday teaching:

• actor/actress
• agony aunt
• air traffic controller
• animator
• answering machine
• architect
• bailiff
• bollard
• bouncer
• bully
• bus-spotter
• butcher's assistant
• caretaker
• catalyst
• cheer-leader
• class mascot
• clown
• coach
• conciliator
• conductor
• coordinator
• counsellor
• court jester
• critic
• cuddly toy
• dental surgeon
• devil's advocate
• dictator
• diplomat
• director
• disciplinarian
• Einstein
• elicitor
• enlightener
• entertainer
• entrepreneur
• estate agent
• examiner
• executioner
• facilitator
• faith-healer
• fire-officer
• fishmonger
• font of wisdom
• gate-keeper
• general dog's body
• genial buffoon
• God
• good samaritan
• gooseberry
• gossip-mongerer
• grave-digger
• guardian
• guru
• hypnotist
• ignoramus
• impresario
• informant
• instructor
• jailor
• judge
• killjoy
• know-all
• lawlord
• lecturer
• lion-tamer
• masochist
• matchmaker
• monitor
• mother-figure
• mother-f***er
• motivator
• nincompoop
• Nostradamus
• occupational therapist
• organizer
• peace-keeper
• physician
• philanthropist
• playmate
• preacher
• prophet of doom
• psycho-analyst
• quiz-master
• raconteur
• referee
• sadist
• scapegoat
• sergeant-major
• sex-symbol
• Sherlock Holmes
• sitting duck
• slave
• social worker
• source of knowledge
• spiritual guide
• sponge
• supervisor
• talent scout
• teacher

1) Deduct 100 points if you counted the roles to check there really are 100.
2) Add up your Xs, then multiply that number by 3.14159 just for the hell of it.
3) Deduct another 100 points if you took 2) seriously.

So, how did you score?

-200-100: You are incredible
 101-200: You are amazing
 201-300: You are unbelievable
 301-314: You are God's gift to the profession
 315-999: You are a liar and a charlatan

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Do You Want To Know A Secret?


Predicting the UK election outcome is a tricky business, but I've never been afraid to stick my neck out so, for the benefit of my four faithful followers plus friendly stalker, here goes . . .

All three major parties are likely to be disappointed by the outcome: Labour (29% ±) because they stand to lose about 90 seats and, with it, their majority; the Tories (36% ±) because, despite gaining about 100 seats, they are still unlikely to have an absolute majority; and the Lib Dems (23% ±) because there's no way they will get anywhere near the 100 or so seats that "experts" have been predicting.

Indeed, the only happy party will be the Green Party because they have real chances of getting their first ever elected Member of Parliament. Possibly in a southern coastal resort with a pebbly beach.

We can expect an overall turnout somewhere in the 65% region.
Watch this space! And remember: you heard it here first.

Friday, May 7, 2010

You Can't Hurry Love


Got any money, darling?
Just ten euros.
I’ll take it.
But I need it for the bread.
Can’t you take some money out?
Can’t you?
No, darling, I’m in a hurry.
And so am I.
But I’m in more of a hurry.
What do you need it for?
It’s my turn to pay for the coffees.
And is ten euros enough?
No, but it’s a start . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You


Theory of Accumulated Linguistic Competence

This states that in any language classroom, the Teacher's Linguistic Competence [TLC] will rise or fall in inverse proportion to that of their Students [SLC], such that the total Accumulated Linguistic Competence [ALC] from which teacher and students can draw at any one time will always remain static.

Year 1
You're Juan, aren't you?
Sorry, I no understand nothing.

Year 2
You're engineer, Juan. Yes, no?
Yes, and you're supposed to be my teacher, aren't you?

Year 3
You're coming tomorrow, aren't you, Juan?
Yes, no?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Dustland Fairytale


The Beautiful Princess

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess who lived in a beautiful castle in a beautiful wood. One day, she was walking through the wood when she met a prince. They fell in love, got married, had babies and lived happily ever after.

Is that it?

Yes, darling. Goodnight.

But it’s terrible! What was the princess’s name? What was the prince doing in the wood? How did they fall in love?

The princess’s name was Betty, the prince was hunting for deer and they fell in love because princes and princesses always fall in love in stories like these.

What’s a deer?

It’s an animal with horns.

What are horns?

They’re long pointed things

What’s pointed?

Look, I’m not a thesaurus!

What’s a thesaurus?

Shut up, Samantha!

Goodnight, Daddy.

Goodnight, darling.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Stop And Stare


Ask your students, Which line is longest? A, E or I? Look carefully, and no rulers!




Most students pronounce A "I", E "A" and I "E" (unless you're foolish enough to teach them the difference), so whatever they reply, you're on to a winner.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Follow You, Follow Me


I now have three followers. That's three more than I had three weeks ago. If I carry on at this rate, I reckon I should have four by the end of the week. I might even break double figures by the summer. Can you imagine that? Ten people interested in what I have to say? No, I can't either.

I finally succumbed to Twittermania, and was delighted to see that there's only one tweeting Colin Raphead. As if that wasn't excitement enough, I soon picked up another follower, none other than Penguin Books UK, who were most likely feeling sorry for me. Anyway, they tweeted me, wanting to know whether I'd ever read any good books, when the question they should really have been asking me was, Have you ever written any good books? But of course that's another story, so we'll leave it for another rainy day.

Oh, and just for the record, here are the seven funniest books I have ever read:

Please note that Pride and Prejudice did not make the final cut.

Thank you for reading this rubbish.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Father And Son


Daddy, you have to give me ninety-seven euros.
I don't have to give you anything.
Yes, you do.
What for?
Sixty euros for the ticket, seven euros for—
What ticket?
For the concert. Social Distension. Don't you remember?
Are they any good?
Of course. All my friends are going.
All five hundred of them?
No, but Jon's going. And Julen. And Jonathon.
Is Juan going?
Why not?
He's going with his cousin to see U2 in Barcelona.
And the tickets cost sixty euros?
That's a good price, Daddy.
Where is it?
In Bilbao. That's why you've got to give me seven euros for the bus.
I don't have to give you anything.
Yes, you do.
Anyway, that still only makes sixty-seven, not ninety-seven.
Plus twenty-five for the sweatshirt.
What sweatshirt?
A Social Distension sweatshirt. All my friends are buying one.
Why don't you buy a T-shirt?
I've already got the T-shirt.
What does Mummy say?
She wants to know what colour the sweatshirt is.
And what colour is it?
Black, of course.
Of course. Look, I'll think about it. OK?
OK, but I need the money tomorrow morning, so don't think too much.
So, let's see, sixty euros for the concert - they'd better be good -, seven for the bus . . . twenty-five for the silly sweatshirt.
It's not silly, Daddy.
That's ninety-two, not ninety-seven.
You're forgetting my pocket money, Daddy . . .

Friday, April 30, 2010



Hello. Could I speak to Cristina, please?
Thank you . . . (Three minutes of silence later) . . . Hello?
Could I speak to Cristina, please?
Thank you . . . (Three minutes of silent cursing later) . . . Hello?
Is Cristina there, please?
Yes. I say you.
Oh, sorry. Are you Cristina?
Oh hello, Cristina, this is Colin calling from—
Calling Calling?
No, my name's Colin, and I'm calling—
Your name's Calling?
Colin. C, O, L, I, N.
Sorry, sorry?
C, O, L, I, N. Colin.
¿Sí o él hay en? I no understand, sorry . . .

Thursday, April 29, 2010

You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)


OK, everyone, let’s check your homework.
Yes, Juan, homework. Did you do it?
Sorry, Juan, no points for honesty.
Never mind, Juan. OK, what page was it, Ana?
What page was the homework?
Hundred seventy-six.
The “hundred” was correct, Ana.
No was hundred seventy-six?
A hundred and sixty-seven, Ana.
I say.
One six seven, Ana. Not one seven six.
Yes. I say.
Well, it doesn’t matter. So, Ana, what did you put—
What page you say?
A hundred and sixty-seven, Pablo. One six seven.
No was hundred seventy-six?
No, Pablo. OK, sorry, Ana, what did you put for number one?
What I put number one?
Yes, what you put number one?
I no put nothing.
I no do homework.
Copied Juan, eh?
No, I think you say hundred sixty-seven.
I did say a hundred and sixty-seven, Ana.
So, why we are looking hundred seventy-six? . . .

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Me Myself I


Learning the English (with guest blogger Miguel Iglesias)

FOR ME no was dificult for to learning the english. Actualy is much people wich always is saying us we must to use the metod "comunicative" but you know what I am used to reply? See me! There are 30 years that I speak the english and have never no problem! You want that I say you how did I learn your lenguage? I explain all . . .

I did have a big luck whith my teacher english who his name was Señor Rivas, man very hard, then we very much frigthen . . .

Repetition! . . . Repetition! . . . Again! . . . Everybody!

And all we responding, Repetition! . . . Repetition! . . . Again! . . . Everybody!

Señor Rivas did insisted was necessary the drills for that we learn in corect manner. Is posible you don't believe but I never will forget how did we make the verb unregulars:

Everybody! RING? did begin Señor Rivas.
RING, RANG, RUNG! did sing we.
Garcia! SWIM?
Iglesias! BRING?

Was normal doing mistakes, but we too made many houseworks like consolidation. All nigth I readed the quotations more famous of Shakespare: Toupee or not toupee? Not you as well, Brutus? . . .

Whith 18 years my fathers presented me a book which name was 100 Esential English Idioms. Thinking in my preffereds: Take the cow by the horns! and By Jove! Is rainning bats and dogs.

Is pity my sons are not agree whith me. The past thuesday Ana said me if his master would have been the Señor Rivas she never had would learning the english . . . What exagerrated, no?

Ana work eventualy on elegant english academy very modern, then always happen the same:
Forget idioms, father. Lenguage is about communication!

After, she tries explaining me what is "information crap" but I interuppting:
Sorry, darling, you're talking rubbish again!

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Piano Has Been Drinking (Not Me)


fluency (n.)
ability to waffle on about anything without sparing a thought for what you are actually saying

In an experiment conducted at the English Language Department in Glasburgh University, ten lucky "students" were treated to a free pint of bitter every 30 minutes, the aim being to study the relationship between fluency and accuracy over time while under the effects of alcohol.

The researchers summarised their findings thus:

From the above, they deduced:
  • Few students can hold more than 14 pints in one drinking session.
  • At first, the more students drink, the more fluent and accurate they become.
  • The critical pint comes after about three hours (i.e. six pints).
  • After this turning pint, fluency continues to increase at an impressive rate.
  • By the same token, however, accuracy shows a marked decline during this period.
  • It's inadvisable to go for the 15th pint - the pint of no-return -, as any fluency acquired will quickly dry up.
The researchers went on to establish an overall communication index - an expression of fluency multiplied by accuracy.

As you can see below, the optimum pint is around the three-hour mark:
From a student's pint of view, in any case, the message is clear: by all means drink, but don't expect people to understand you after the tenth pint.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

We Are Family


Try these out on your favourite class:

Today's Riddle

OK, listen carefully . . . John is June's husband and Jim's brother-in-law. Jane is Janet's niece. Jack is Jim's stepfather. And Jock's cousin's got a big one . . . Got that? So what relation is Jean to Joan?

Today's Dictation

Though we thought it was thoroughly thoughtless of Thomas and Timothy to throw the tough old trouts through the air, they threw them nonetheless.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm So Excited


I have a follower! No, no money exchanged hands. We’re talking about somebody who willingly signed up to read my rubbish. So, thank you, dear follower. Now I can go to my grave – if I’m lucky enough to get a grave, that is – safe in the knowledge that for just one brief microsecond in my life, somebody actually listened to me. Sorry, what was that, Colin?

I’ve had a tough week battling with blog gadgets, Facebook settings, useless “help files”, naughty students and nosey children . . .

What are you doing you, Dad?
Just checking my mail.
So why are you looking at photos?
Oh, you know.
What’s for dinner?
Are you hungry?
Can't you wait another three hours while I install this bloody site meter?

I'd better check the fridge.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sylvia's Mother


Hello. Is that Señora Avería?
Oh, hello, this is Colin from—
Colin! . . . Silvia’s told me all about you.
I bet she has.
So, tell me, how’s she doing? Behaving, I hope?
Well, actually, that’s exactly what I—
We’re thinking of sending her to England this summer. What do you think?
Excellent idea . . . You might even consider sending her this spring.
What about Ireland?
The further, the better, as far as I’m concerned. But that’s not what I wanted to—
Did she tell you we’ve got a wedding in Paris coming up?
Hundreds of times. In fact, I have quite a job shutting her—
She’s so excited! It means she’ll miss a class or two, but I’m sure you understand.
Yes, of course. Actually, I think the break will do us all the world of good.
Well, it’s been lovely chatting to you, Colin.
Likewise. There’s just one thing—
Look, I’m sorry, Colin, I’m in a bit of a rush right now. I'm going to be late for my aerobics session. Can I ring you back later? . . .

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got


Can I go to the toilet, please?
No, Juan.
Why didn’t you go before the class?
I forget.
I forgot.
I forgot. It’s past.
I don’t understand.
Don’t worry. Oh, go on, then, but be quick!
Thirty seconds, Juan.
Yes, thirty.
¿Trece segundos?
Not thirTEEN. THIRty. Treinta.
Is not enough.
Take it or leave it.
Just go, Juan. Now! We’ll count to thirty and if you’re not back by then, we’ll chop your goolies off, OK?
OK. (Juan runs out).
OK, everyone, let’s count together. One . . . two . . .

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Play The Game


Five things I learnt in yesterday’s tennis class . . .

1) Hitting the ball back is more difficult than it looks.

2) When serving, don’t hit the ball until it has left your hand.

3) Keep your eye on the ball that is moving, not the ones decorating the net.

4) Don’t share your water with anybody, especially if they’re younger than you.

5) Sprinting 20 yards to your left to use your forehand is always preferable to making a fool of yourself by risking your backhand.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Just Another Day


What time do you normally get up, Pedro?
Six past ten.
Six past ten?
Yes, six past ten.
That’s a very specific time.
So you usually skip breakfast, do you?
You skip breakfast. You don’t have breakfast.
Yes I have breakfast. Why not?
It’s rather late for breakfast, isn’t it? Six past ten.
No, I have time.
I see. And then you get into a time machine and come to English class?
I said, And then you get into a time machine and come to English class.
No, I drive.
I see.
Why do you say "time machine"?
Because it’s five past eight now and I couldn’t see how else you could get here if you get up at six past ten. What do YOU think, Juan?
If he has an alarm clock. Why not?
And a good time machine. Or did you mean, "ten past six", Pedro?
When you said, "six past ten", perhaps you meant, "ten past six"? It’s just a theory.
Ah yes, ten past six. ¡Cabrón!
OK, Juan, what time is it now?
Eight past six.
Is it? My watch must be fast. Eight past six?
Now it's eight past seven.
Eight past seven?! That last hour really flew, didn't it?
Sorry? . . .

Sunday, April 18, 2010

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet



Since graduating in French Studies over 25 years ago, I have been teaching English as a foreign language to the Basque community of Northern Spain, in addition to raising a model European family of four in three hopelessly incompatible languages during my spare time.

Having slogged through 25000 English classes, having slopped up 2500 Basque lunches - including 250 Spanish omelettes -, and having, quite miraculously, survived to tell the tale, now seems as good a time as any to share my thoughts with anybody who cares to join me.

Thank you.