October 27th – Room 101

Some of you will have wondered how my mother is getting on. Much better, thanks. I apologise for the lack of updates.

Her move to a private room more or less coincided with the start of my CELTA course at the end of September. It happened with no warning at all. We had spent the weekend at my mother’s house on the Isle of Wight and I got the news from my uncle on the way back to London. On Friday, it had been business as usual in Intensive Care but, by Sunday, she was sitting up in bed with her reading specs and a newspaper, talking normally and sipping (specially thickened) apple juice through a straw: no more ventilator, no more trachyotomy.

Mum still has a long way to go. She doesn’t seem to tolerate solid food very well, and she is having to learn to stand on her own two feet again – literally! We have had to postpone her 80th birthday party next month but, at least, we are looking forward to spending Christmas together. Realistically, for us, it is likely to be Spring before we get home to France.

… and Room 101?

In George Orwell’s book, 1984, Room 101 contained “the worst thing in the world”: a place where enemies of the state were subjected to their own worst nightmares. The name isn’t wholly inappropriate. Mum’s worst nightmare at the moment is her twice-daily torment by the “physio-terrorists”, who bully her into doing her exercises!

October 25th – D’ye come ‘ere offen?

Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been well over a month since my last post …

I’m in the launderette again. Of all the disruptions caused by the building work, I find our weekly washing arrangements the most tedious. On the other hand, if I ignore the exuberant Asian talent show on the TV and the Hilda Ogden look-alike doing her washing in 4″ hair rollers, they do provide me with an opportunity to catch up with the blog.

Heard the one about the Englishman ,the Scotsman, and the Irishman … the Turk, the Pole, the Chinese and the Russian? Allow me to introduce you to my fellow CELTA graduates.

“Cancel your social lives; no late nights, no evenings out …”, warned Christine, Language Link’s Polish secretary, on our first day. Indeed, the four-week intensive course was no place for shrinking violets. After one day of tutorials and observation, we were thrown in at the deep end; teaching grammar to intermediate English speakers, who probably knew the rules better than we did. But, before you feel too sorry for them, I should add that these lessons are free. Students are simply required to pay a £10 registration fee for a four week course. A sense of humour helps too.

The school itself is in Earls Court, a neighbourhood long-since re-Christened “Kangaroo Valley” for its population of Australians and Kiwis. The Antipodeans remain, but the influx of foreigners from the other three corners of the globe has been such that English is very much a minority language. Take my recent exchange with a very polite and efficient Indian Post Office assistant:

Me: How much is a stamp for Portugal?
SA: 56p. Err … are you working here?
Me: Well, yes, I suppose I am … “studying”, anyway.
SA: Do you need a credit card while you are here?
Me: Er, no thanks.
SA: What about a phone card? We do very good international rates.
Me: No thanks.
SA: If you don’t mind me asking, where are you from?
Me (bemused): Fulham.
(about 15 minutes’ walk)
SA: No. I mean where were you from originally … before you came to England?
Me (embarrassed): What do you mean? I was born here …

At this point I could see the conversation going downhill rapidly, so decided to quit before I was accused of insulting the unfortunate woman. However, it wasn’t quite the end of the story.

Back at the language school, I related my experience to my fellow trainees. Far from the gales of laughter I expected, I was greeted with quizzical looks. Eventually, someone spoke, “Well, we were wondering where you were from. Where did you get that accent?”I was, for a rare moment, completely lost for words or, to use one of my least favourite expressions, utterly gobsmacked!