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
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 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 . . .