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.

Sunday, 6 January 2008


The previous tale of Madeleine Albright has brought to mind another strange sequence of events related to me by my ex-colleague Crockers. We were thrown together when our two companies were merged, and we spent a large proportion of our time exchanging knee-slappers by email, normally topical jibes about the big-top-inspired events going on around us. Many such commentaries involved the dapper Andrea, a neat, likeable Italian taken to wearing three-piece suits and arriving for work at six in the morning, a full three hours before the rest of us ambled in.

When the two companies had been combined, Andrea, sensing the opportunity of his vita, had arranged a visit to our office, then moved like lightning to ask for a personal meeting with the owner to utterly pan our half of the organisation and offer himself humbly as the answer to the aghast boss’s hastily improvised prayers. In all the time he worked with us as Office Manager, I can honestly remember only one measure he took that changed conditions fractionally, which was to make a simple cardboard flag which could be craftily inserted into the partitions between the desks, and which would indicate, according to a strict but fair rotation system, which “cell” in the open-plan office would be responsible for answering the telephone for that day. Other than that, our office was as efficient as it had ever been, but of course Andrea took the credit for that, the owner mistakenly believing that his dedicated prodigy had really turned things around, presumably by arriving at six in the morning and wearing three-piece suits. I for one thought he deserved a salary over four times my own - hats off to both of them, I say.

Though I have unfortunately now lost touch with him, Crockers was a dry character bordering on the misanthropic. I sometimes wondered if his tolerance of my inane and relentless japery did in fact hide a deep irritation, even a mild fear, as at the time my tendency to procrastinate had almost become a clinically diagnosable mania. To avoid focusing on my slow death by Accounting, I would do anything to put off completing and submitting my work, essentially because I had no idea what I was doing. It was Imposter Syndrome, then a bit. It probably didn’t help that, instead of diligently studying for an Accounting Technician qualification at night school after work twice a week, I would find myself robotically hanging a right en route to the vapid banquet of straight line depreciation and activity-based costing, spending an industrious evening instead in the local snooker hall, (best break a nine-ball twenty-nine, red, black, red, black, red, blue, red, blue, red).

Anyway, back to Crockers. After leaving school, the innovative cove had set up a business providing paintings of peoples’ most valued possessions, mainly, it seems, cars and pets. Lacking any artistic bent himself, he’d advertise in women’s magazines, etc, receive a photo of the treasured item and send it off to some bloke in China, who had an incredible forty-eight hour turnaround - Crockers would have a perfectly painted portrait in his hands within a week. How he ever came up with that idea I never asked, but after a time his unique business folded for reasons unexplained, and he moved from Bournemouth to London to work in an office job.

One morning at around nine thirty he received a phone call from the Police, who proceeded to inform him that his flat had been completely destroyed in a gas explosion. Everything he had ever owned in his life had been blown to kingdom come in an incident he described, with characteristic understatement, as “a bit of a strange day.” Borrowing money from a colleague, he left his job with immediate effect, took a train back to Bournemouth with just the clothes he stood up in, and had a bit of a rethink about his future.

After opting to do a TEFL course, he headed to Madrid to ply his new trade, perhaps drawn by the earthy women, the free tapas or Julio Iglesias, and his son Enrique. One day, whilst giving an in-company class in a Madrid office, his train of thought was rudely interrupted by the detonation of an ETA bomb immediately outside the building. As shattered glass, dust and assorted debris engulfed the room and the Spanish students, hair smoking, “freaked out a bit” (his own words), Crockers showed typically British sang froid, helpfully informing his disoriented charges, “Right, I think we’ll stop the lesson there.” A model professional.

As far as I know, Crockers hasn’t suffered any more near death experiences involving explosions, which I have often suspected could have been attempts on his life from a disgruntled Chinese fine artist and fan of The Pink Panther movie franchise.

Have you ever survived two explosions? Do you know any Chinese fine artists? Would you be willing to give their names to Interpol? Have you ever had a painting done of your pet / car?

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Blogger El Gringo Vasco said...

"I have often suspected could have been attempts at his life from a disgruntled Chinese fine artist"

good one!

7 January 2008 at 17:11  
Blogger M C Ward said...

Thanks, blue. Finally ended that siesta, huh?

7 January 2008 at 20:05  
Blogger No Good Boyo said...

I do drawings of my own family as animals. I'm a hedgehog in a top hat, Mrs Boyo is a bear, and Arianrhod is pretty much herself. I think it's endearing, but Mrs Boyo's striking similarity to Susan Sonntag ends when it comes to their respective attitudes to camp. Crocker sounds like the sort of fellow you eventually read about in the Telegraph obituaries -"his head was severed by a Jalalabadi jezail in 146. He later went on to teach Latin at Wellington".

8 January 2008 at 13:48  
Blogger El Gringo Vasco said...

the siesta never ends, it's just waiting for next time! :-)

So, you were in the neighborhood but didn't bother to say hello? ;-)

10 January 2008 at 21:41  

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