It’s been a strange “week” at school for me. The timetable I have been carefully trying to compile has gone out the window. Today, there was some inter-House badminton match on and lots of teachers were involved, so I was drafted in to do what we call in Scotland “please-takes” or “yuffties” (you have to take a class) and much of my supposed timetable just melted away. However, every cloud etc., and it meant I met quite a few of the older kids. I sat in on a bunch of year 10s working through Edexcel past papers. They agreed what they were doing was useful and got stuck in for most of 2 periods, the only conversation being – in English – about transpiration etc. Another class were doing Human Reproduction: I did my usual spiel at the start about not teaching that subject, but being willing to try and answer if I’m asked, but I’m glad to say there were no questions. At one point I had a class of two girls: one tiny wee one who had not yet – as they say – “blossomed out” and another, a lovely girl, who looked about three years older than her classmate. We chatted in a very grown-up way: they asked interesting (and interested) questions, we did a wee bit of ICT on my laptop, but mostly we just chatted. At some point I commented they must be about 15 or 16. They laughed and said “13”. Near the end, the rest of the class came back: mostly boys, pleasant but raucous and a bit daft. I quietly asked my two original girls “Do you think sometimes the boys are a bit immature in their behaviour?” They pondered this and nodded in agreement. “Don’t worry:” I said, “they’ll catch up!” “I hope so,” was the reply.
I asked my 13 year-old interlocutors when they thought it might rain. The answer was “April”, but they commented that climate change had brought irregular weather patterns, so it might be different.
Another experience came about by accident, I suppose. I had KG1 on my timetable and hadn’t twigged this meant “Kindergarten”. I was supposed to be reading to them and luckily had some suitable material in my bag. When I got there, the teachers of KG1a and KG1b knew nothing about the plan, were in the middle of doing something different and certainly didn’t want me interfering. I felt they were quite reasonable and well within their rights, the conversation taking place very amiably. Knowing how tight the staffing was I dropped into the Depute Head’s office and said I was available. “KG1?” she asked, so I explained that the teachers weren’t expecting me, they were doing something else and I thought there was now an arrangement in place for next week. She took this as a reason to go along and stick her oar in, whilst I stood behind her and made apologetic gestures to the teachers. It ended up with me being invited, nay, required, to teach the letter “a” to Kindergarten class 1. They had been working on it earlier, tracing the shape in their books etc. I only had to do about 15 minutes, before their break, but it was hard work! One little boy spent some time telling me he had the biggest fishtank: I won’t try to explain the connection, but it wasn’t “a is for aquarium”! I plan to be washing my hair or something when “b” and its followers are being done. In all seriousness, it’s really a bit daft me doing anything with the wee ones: reading a story, so they get used to another accent, is fine, but me teaching the letter “a”?
“A” is for alcohol and I reckoned that I merited a beer – the first “A” to cross my lips since I left the UK. From school, I took a bus into town. The 10 minute journey cost 3/-, but since the only coin I had was 2/- and the conductor clearly couldn’t be bothered changing a 50/- note, he let me travel for 2/-. That’s a penny.
I wandered around a bit, bought some tea and looked for a cafe / bar. I eventually found a “Wines & Spirits” Merchant who insisted that “Carlsberg” was local beer. It is admittedly made here under franchise, but “local”? I was looking for Cobra or Elephant or something, but had to settle for a tin of chilled Carlsberg complete with tuk-tuk-ride-induced fizz in my hotel room. I had imagined a bottle of something local by the beach, a cooling breeze, possibly a palm tree. Perhaps tomorrow if I hit Unawatuna.
The hotel pool gets emptier by the day: for apparent reasons of corruption or misuse of office, an enterprise owned by a local councillor has been allowed to tap into the village-down-the-hill’s water main. This has reduced the hotel’s water pressure and they can’t fill the pool. They clearly can’t go on bringing in bowsers of water, which each take a day to clear in the pool, at great expense just for it to evaporate into thin air. I tried swimming yesterday and was limited to the deep end if I didn’t want to keep hitting the floor.
When I got back to the hotel, there was a wedding in full swing: it had started about 10:30am with the religious bit and now there was a fully-fledged bass-enhanced disco with accompanying dancing on the other side of the concrete ceiling in my room. I would have been interested to observe the reception for a few minutes, maybe take a bit of video, but I was worried someone might make me dance. Sylvia, who has been at “dozens” of SL weddings, said “Don’t worry; it’ll all be over by 5pm.” And sure enough, by 5pm there were only two or three stragglers left, the disco was being packed up and Furry Lees was audible again in quadraphonic. Funny, you get to miss it. But it would be nice if someone cleaned my room or changed the sheet!