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Sunday, 19 October 2008


With the thought of teaching bright and early tomorrow Henderson and I decided to go to the Connemara to take the edge off things. He nursed two and a half pints of Guinness and I a grudge which was not softened by two chilled glasses of Mosto the nation's favourite grape drink. As is his wont we discussed collective nouns with a murmuration of starlings and a murder of crows being my favourite. Pity the class that is probably still not in bed as I write this is a litter of hoodlums who breakfast on bars of sugar and inevitably bring out a reluctant Joyce Grenfell in me. 'No Jorge, don't stand on the radiator while flinging your pencils at Maria's eyes. Please Sergio, take your foot out of Fernando's mouth. That's right Javier put your pants back on we don't want to see your 'pompis' thank you very much. Yes, I quite agree Nico, it is rather rude of Santi to say you are an unbearable, anti-social son of a bitch but try to ignore his boring opinions'.

My first class here with a different sleuth of reprobates started with me being dropped off by Henderson. A rather cherubic child rushed up to me and asked if he was my dad. Later on Henderson asked if I wouldn't mind buying him a bottle of whisky which he said was for his coffee but was probably due to the fit of pique he had on finding out what the kid had said. The whisky in the Aldi was locked up in a small glass cabinet and when I asked the girl on the till if I could have a bottle of J&B she didn't understand and she kept repeating 'Jota B?' to my 'Si, Jota B por favor' until a rather large queue of impatient Spaniards had formed. Perhaps if I had left out the 'por favor' bit she would have got the jist.In the end she shouted what seemed like 'could assistant number twenty nine come and help the half cut English teacher as she is after another bottle' into the tannoy. When assistant number twenty nine came they kept repeating 'Jota B' between them till the queue was by now apoplexic. Number twenty nine got her keys out, went to the cabinet, got the bottle, handed it to a young man in the queue and everyone said 'No! It's for her', and pointed at me. I almost said 'it's for my dad' but thought better of it as the ensuing saga didn't bear thinking about.

I caught a glimpse as I wafted in and out of the living room this evening of one of those fly on the wall programmes dealing with unhappy, disobedient, rude British teenagers. There were two and they had been sent to South Africa to stay with a family and go to school there where they could learn what most people would like to think is normal behaviour. They took the image of whingeing pom to levels I thought weren't possible, the teenagers that is. When people lament the decline of behaviour and respect in Britain they should think about countries like New Zealand where you often think you are in England in the 1950's. Britain seems to have a lot in common with Spain when it comes to that self centred attitude that shocks many people who had some other idea of both countries. It just manifests itself in different ways. The England or Britain of C.E. Eckersley only exists in books and maybe pockets of the English countryside. Elsewhere maybe go and live in Canada or New Zealand but like everything it won't be perfect and you'll find yourself upset about some affront. The Spain of today manages to preserve an almost medieval way of life but is quickly catching up with Britain when it comes to children dictating how teachers and parents should deal with them. We definitely went wrong when we told children they could call teachers by their first names.

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