Notes from the TEFL Graveyard

Wistful reflections, petty glories.

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Location: The House of Usher, Brazil

I'm a flailing TEFL teacher who entered the profession over a decade ago to kill some time whilst I tried to find out what I really wanted to do. I like trying to write comedy (I once got to the semi-finals of a BBC Talent competition, ironically writing a sitcom based on TEFL), whilst trying to conquer genetically inherited procrastination... I am now based in Brazil, where I live with my wife and two chins.

Friday, 4 January 2008


The young wench in the picture is Madeleine Albright (name changed to protect her identity). I first met her in late 1995 in a flat in Madrid (for she hails from the Iberian Peninsula) when I was on a lone Inter-railing holiday, a form of excursion not to be recommended, by the way – rather than being feted in bars like an itinerant troubadour with Moleskine and quill in hand, I sat alone feeling deeply miserable and wondering why I hadn’t just gone to Ibiza for a fraction of the cost and tried recreational drugs or something. I was in the Spanish capital returning from Málaga, where I had been staying with my friend Lawtey and his then girlfriend, now lovely wife, Macarena. (Incidentally, should you ever meet her, don’t mention the song – if you do, she’s likely to slash you with any available sharp object).

Fellow TEFL hostage Ticket had kindly offered to put me up for the night before my trawl back up to Paris the next day, and Madeleine Albright arrived home in the early evening. At the time she worked for “¡Hola!”, the Spanish equivalent of “Hello!” magazine, and I sensed some tension in the air when Ticket confided to me that he was planning to dump all her possessions on the street whilst she was at work the next day due to some escalating rent dispute. As I wasn’t involved in their tawdry brouhaha, I made civilised small talk with her, and mentioned that I’d recently been sitting alone in bars trying to look literary and interesting in Málaga.

“Really?” she said, “I’m from Málaga.” “What a coincidence!” we both thought, coincidentally at exactly the same time.

“I don’t suppose you know Macarena J?” I asked pathetically, given that the population of the city exceeds 558,287, according to the 2006 census. In my defence, I was wondering if she’d ever been wounded by her after being poorly advised during a karaoke session.

“Of course I do!” she said, “I used to live in the same building as her best friend!” Little did she know that, if Ticket got his way, she’d be heading back south sooner than she realised.

Coincidences duly experienced and absorbed, I hit the rails the next morning and went home to another rainy, damp TEFL winter of discontent, imagining that that was it as far as the crossing of our ways went. In October 2006 I was back in Málaga, however, this time driven by a curiosity to know whether being a TEFL teacher in a warm place was any better than in a cold, wet place, and a fuzzy determination to try to write something rather than just act like I had, or would one day, pen a masterpiece. A few days into my odyssey and Madeleine Albright walks past a bar outside which I am indulging in some lunchtime beer after a hard morning handing out my cv at local schools. Judging by the fact that she was indeed back on the Costa del Sol, I felt it wise to avoid mentioning Ticket and her unplanned contracting of a removals firm to salvage what she could from the pavement outside their flat. After exchanging pleasantries she left and I never saw her in the flesh again.

Shortly after Show and I legally pledged ourselves to each other in Dorset in 1998, she showed me a photo album of her friends. Flicking through, there was a series of photos of the party she’d thrown shortly before leaving for England. One snap caught my eye – the very same one in which Madeleine Albright appears here, in fact. Against all the odds, Madeleine Albright had appeared at that farewell party in Show’s flat in São Paulo, a guest of a mutual friend. It was the first and only time the two had met.

Jung called it synchronicity – others call it stalking.

Have you ever been victim of an intercontinental coincidence? Have you ever been stalked / a stalker? Have you ever been attacked by somebody because you made an innocent joke about their name? Do you know Madeleine Albright too?

Now playing: The Police - Synchronicity II
via FoxyTunes



Blogger No Good Boyo said...

Ark! It's like the work of Poe himself.

I had a very odd stalker. He had the same name as me, and purported to study Russian at Swansea University too. He even entered the Welsh Universities Eisteddfod translating competition - a Chekhov story into Welsh - and beat me into second place. Various people have met him, as they express surprise at finding out that I too am Spartacus. I've not heard anything about for 12 years now, but know he's waiting with a Twilight Zone denouement.

AS for Hola!, I think it came first. A friend of mine worked for Hello! in London and said it was run by a dessicated Castillian marchioness. Nice to think Spain has given the world something back for once, eh?

8 January 2008 at 13:55  
Blogger M C Ward said...

As bizarre goes, that's damn good.

Thanks for correcting my Hello! magazine blunder. I'm hoping they'll cover my second honeymoon in Fuengirola.

8 January 2008 at 14:39  
Blogger No Good Boyo said...

Graham Greene had someone who claimed his identity too, but at least that chap had the decency to do it to someone famous.

I'm hoping to launch the Welsh Hello!, to be called "Arright?", and we'll certainly do you an entire feature if you can entice Mrs Ward to our luxury caravan in Mwnt.

8 January 2008 at 16:06  

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