Sunday, November 29, 2015

These Are The Days Of Our Lives

Oh dear! It’s the end of the month again and, as always, I have nothing remotely worth telling you. I’ve written nothing, sold nothing, done nothing, posted nothing, contributed nothing to society and, in brief, made no progress whatsoever on whatever it is I had been meaning to do when I began writing ‘seriously’ seven years ago. I haven’t even started my Christmas shopping, though that is, of course, quite usual for me. So, anyway, in the absence of anything to report, I thought I might bore you with a few lines on what I get up to during the week. Fascinating, eh? I’ll try and keep it brief because, let’s face it, how complicated can being an English teacher be? If you only knew...

I’m one of the privileged ones in my company. My first class is at eight o’clock (in the morning) and just a couple of miles down the road from where I live. Fortunately, I have a car. Many of my colleagues are already in class by half past seven (or earlier), often teaching in freezing classrooms in godforsaken locations  where nobody in their right mind would dream of setting foot at such an early hour in the morning. I too did more than my fair share of the graveyard shift in the past, the only advantage being that there is no shortage of parking spaces available at a quarter past seven in the morning.

As you can imagine, that first class tends to be the highlight of my day, after which it is all downhill. I’m incredibly lucky with my students – and  incredibly unimaginative with my choice of adverbs – because, on the one hand, they always pretend to be enjoying themselves; and, on the other hand, they rarely remember anything that I ‘teach’ them, which means I can regurgitate the same exercises week after week, year after year. ‘Don’t you ever study your notes?’ I’ll chide them, knowing full well what their answer will be. Anyway, everybody seems quite happy with this state of affairs in the tacit knowledge that the real point of these early morning classes is to warm up for the day ahead.

After my first class, I’ll grab a quick coffee and get to the office for about 9.30. Some kind soul will usually have already turned on my computer for me, so I really have no excuse for avoiding those dreaded emails any longer. Officially, you see, I am also director of studies, which suggests that, when I’m not teaching, I should be “directing studies”. And so the emails pour in about teachers who didn’t show up for work today (they overslept); teachers who are threatening not to show up for work tomorrow (they want more money); teachers who can’t understand why they haven’t got a contract (we forgot to do one); teachers who don’t know what they have to do (we forgot to send them the programme); teachers who don’t know where to go (we didn’t tell them); teachers who urgently need books (we forgot to order them). 

Then there are the mails from customers or HR directors who urgently need a 20-page report by midday because ‘the auditors are coming this afternoon’ (a likely story); customers who want to know why you billed them for classes they never received (it was worth a try); customers who want a training plan for Pepe who needs to be fluent in Italian by Christmas (because we never say No to a challenge); customers who have thirty people to be tested immediately and who want to start classes next week (or tomorrow if possible). And so on, and so forth. Not that I’m complaining, mind you. After all, I am paid to cause solve problems like these, and, as I say, I am one of the privileged ones: I have an interesting job, a fair salary, good holidays, delightful students, supportive colleagues... and countless headaches. Thank goodness for Ibuprofen, I say.  

At some stage during the day, I will be off to give further classes, sometimes in the local university, at other times in the farmhouse where we give immersion courses. The latter is always a welcome opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Basque scenery whilst listening to Meat Loaf’s warning that objects in the rear-view mirror may appear closer than they are.

Back at the ranch, and time permitting, I’ll try and create a worksheet for future classes. This is the nearest I ever get to being creative at work and, basically, keeps me sane. Here’s an extract from my latest creation, “Doctors, Operations, etc.”:

Choose the best word to complete the sentence... 

  1. I went to the doctor's to have my ears _____.
 removed  /  syringed  /  vacuumed  /  waxed

  1. They advised me to have the mole on my back _____.
 fed  /  removed  /  shaved  /  waxed

  1. I'm thinking about getting my ears _____.
drilled  /  holed  /  pierced  /  screwed

  1. The dentist said I needed three _____.
fillings  /  pastings  /  stuffings  /  toppings

  1. They said I should have my chest _____.
X-factored  /  X-plotted  /  x-rayed  /  X-waxed

  1. Doctor Scalpel is in the operating _____.
room  /  stage  /  studio  /  theatre

  1. ...

And it goes on in similar vein for another 44 questions. I look forward to using this worksheet in all my classes over the next week or so. After all, what subject could possibly be more important than one’s health and well-being?  

All being well, I’ll call it a day sometime between half past six and seven o’clock – at a quarter to seven, for example – and head home via the supermarket, fishmonger’s or wherever I have been instructed to go before reporting home for dinner duty. But that’s another story, so I’ll save it for a rainy day.

Thanks as ever for reading.


–¿Puedo ver su tarjeta sanitaria?
–Soy británico, no la necesito.

–Can I see your health card?
–I’m British, I don’t need one.

–Bien, bájese los pantalones, por favor.
–¿Para qué? Mis piernas están estupendamente.
–Haga lo que le digo, ¿quiere?

–OK, drop your trousers, please.
–What for? There’s nothing wrong with my legs.
–Just do as you’re told, will you?

–¿Cuándo fue al baño por última vez?
–¿Y a usted, qué le importa?

–When’s the last time you went to the bathroom?
–Mind your own business!

No le puedo ayudar si se niega a colaborar.

I can’t help you if you refuse to cooperate.

–¿Cuánto tiempo me queda, Doc?
–Querrá decir, ¿Cuánto dinero me queda, no?

–How much time have I got left, Doc?
–You mean, How much money have I got left, don’t you?

–Tómese estas pastillas.
–¿Para qué son?
–No pone.
–¿Qué clase de médico es usted?

–Take these tablets.
–What are they for?
–It doesn’t say.
–And you call yourself a doctor!

El problema con vosotros los británicos es que no tenéis sentido de humor alguno.

The problem with you Brits is you have no sense of humour whatsoever.

Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 10, “At the doctor’s”