TESOL Truths

Since I've been down in Devon, my main occupation has been to teach English to foreigners (from 9 till 12 daily).  It's a nice kind of job, with afternoons free for recovering.

Anyway, so this morning I had chosen to do a thoughtful little lesson on poignant poetry: Stop All The Clocks [WH Auden] and Danny Boy.  Having dealt with the huge emptiness and desolation of the first one (also known as Funeral Blues) I asked what sort of contrast the class could see or feel in the song.  One of the German boys – not a particularly confident guy in general, about 15 - put up his hand and said:

Death is not the enemy.

That was it.  Fantastic stuff really.  When I asked him to explain, he talked about the writer of Danny Boy obviously believing in God (a good observation), and how that changes the attitude to dying.  I was so impressed – well done him.

We Are The Dead

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

 Henry allingham  Harry patch

Henry Allingham [RAF] & Harry Patch [Army]

Our last servicemen from the Great War, died within a week of one another.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Westcountry, La La La …

Right, so my last couple of posts might have implied it (what with their twee, rose-tinted pastoralism), but I'm now living in the country, and LONG MAY THAT CONTINUE!

[I qualify the vociferosity of that statement, naturally, by pointing out that this afternoon I've been interchanging gardening and drinking scrumpy ("the workers' drink" – my Dad).]

It's now been two weeks and a day since I farewelled Auld Reekie (which doesn't actually smell at all, except for the rather endearing aroma of the McEwan's brewery) and I thought I'd say something about how it's all been looking since.

I'm getting married in October, and until then am expecting to be living with my delightful parents at Arborfield.  At present, I'm working 3 hours a day as a Teacher of English to Foreign Teenagers (TEFT), alongside watching bits of the cricket, seeing Mark Cavendish destroy everyone in the Tour de France, and hanging out with my Granma.

Granma is 90 – she was born in 1919.  Most people my age don't have the chance (or the inclination) to get to know someone of her age, and I'm doing my best to make the most of it – this week I found out the name of my great-grandad's hometown, which I'd never have had a clue about otherwise.  In the last fortnight I've also discovered why my Granma was brought up in a rather bleak set of villages in south Wales (her Dad played the bugle), and how she came to turn down her first proposal of marriage (she wanted to 'do something with her life' first - good girl!)

In marrying Maria, one of the things that has struck me most often and most deeply is that her family will then be mine (and vice versa).  We are expecting to live in England – and, with any luck, near my folks in the Westcountry – but we also have a responsibility to know and be known by her (magnificently large) collection of relatives.  I love that.  I love that we'll not become any less part of our own brood, but we'll get a whole extra lot added on as well.  For example, in October I will inherit two new grandmas: one of whom moved from Lebanon to the States about 60 years ago, whilst the other, apparently, lost her first love in the War.  I am an English, British, Cornish, Yorshireman (brought up in the Home Counties), but I will soon also become American and Lebanese, amongst quite a lot of other things.  Excellent, head-spinning stuff 🙂

And in the meantime, I am eating pasties, hanging out with my gorgeous neice Ivy, driving(!), and waking up to the sounds of birdsong & my mum making up the first teapot of the day.  Wish you were here …



'There are times when Nature seems to be nothing but a revelation of beauty and glory and divinity; when it seems utterly obvious that the Creator is not only a thoroughly good chap but one who takes a special pleasure in beauty.

'I've been watching swallows, you see.

'I was walking a sunken path, to my left an expansive field of green corn, and saw, flying low, apparently for the simple pleasure of getting their tummies tickled by the tips of the corn stems, a small group of swallows lost in the wonder of their own agility.


'What is more perfect than a swallow? The effortless flight, the astounding speed and accuracy, a splendidly natty colour scheme (pale below and navy above, with the elegant touch of a red face mask), the swept-back, fighter-plane wings, the long tail streamers, the way they love curves and despise straight lines, the knowledge that they have travelled in sweeps and swerves all the way from Southern Africa.

'They look as if they have come here specifically to tell us that the run-stealers flicker to and fro, to and fro, that there is honey still for tea, that God's in His Heaven, all's right with the world.

'Mind you, it's possible that an insect would see a swallow as something different – a ravening beast from Doctor Who, perhaps, or one of those unexpected monsters from a Ted Hughes poem that attack the sensibilities. But when we see a swallow, we human beings, at least, experience beauty and thoughts of the benignity of Creation lurk in every curving, twittering fly-past.'

From an article by Simon Barnes in The Times.  I concur.

The Peelite and the Oak Tree


There's something beguiling and lovely about the Olden Days.

A slower pace, but harder work; labour requiring muscle.  Tree and grass, axe and spade, craggy skin unable to be airbrushed away.  A closer kinship to creation, and clothes that remain, oblivious to fashion.  And a Prime Minister who would walk the London streets at night, trying to convince prostitutes to change their lives.

There's more colour in this photograph than its pigment might suggest.