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, 19 June 2009


My interest in foreign tongues was first stimulated by Miss Watters, a shapely French mistress in whose classes, perhaps ironically, I never managed to fully concentrate on learning the language of Sacha Distel, such was the bewitching power of her recently-graduated beauty.

Sadly, she didn’t tarry in her position, and before we knew it she’d gone, not with a bang, or even a whimper. I suspect she finally tired of all the dribbling adolescent attention, such as when the boys dropped items on the floor in her classes in the hope that she’d bend down and pick them up, thus exposing a glimpse of her ample cleavage, or the time when, on a French exchange trip, she made the unfortunate declaration on the cross-Channel ferry, “When we get to Cherbourg, I’ll head you off”, which drew the inevitable sniggers of the assembled lusty youth and the blurted riposte, “Phwoah, yes please!” from the rather unsubtle, not to mention unrealistically optimistic, Dave Wallace.

Although I started ‘A’ level French, I soon gave it up, not least because I realised that Miss Watters would never be mine in the carnal sense. It was a decision I would regret two years down the line, aptly, en France.

Like many a pale youth, I fancied that Inter-railing was the most convenient and cost-effective way to become a Hemingway, a Jack Kerouac, or even a W. H. Davies. It was to be an eye-opening trip spent sleeping rough in railway stations, on hotel roofs, on the deck of the Brindisi – Patras ferry and in tents on campsites across southern Europe. But in the early hours of one particular morning, I wished I had spent more time listening to Miss Watters and less time just staring.

When I awoke, I struggled to orient myself, as is customary when sleeping in an alien environment. All I could compute was this: there was a transvestite clad in black leather standing over me jabbering softly in French and waving a knife around to make various points, none of which I understood. Remembering slowly that we were in an underpass in Grenoble, I began to regret our choice of thrift over public safety concerns, and wondered how I’d manage unarmed in a knife fight with Monsieur/Madame Cuir.

As if the tooled up tranny wasn’t enough, to my right, a weasel-like fellow with a bum fluff moustache was crouching down next to the last person in our group of six. When I staggered to my feet, drunk with sleep, bum fluff man made a hasty exit stage right, and my friend, who hadn’t had the distraction of Miss Watters’ booty to destroy his linguistic prospects, managed to cotton on that the cross-dresser was, oddly, a good Samaritan, warning us of the dangers of sleeping in public places, even in this, the elegant capital of the department of Isère.

If my awakening had been rude, another friend’s had been a lot ruder, as it emerged that he had come round with bum fluff chap’s bony grip around his flaccid johnson in what could only be described as a moment of wholly unexpected intimacy that entered the annals of our collective history as “The Grenoble Grope”. Needless to say, we spent the rest of the night wide-eyed, silently thanking the big-boned drag queen for her astute observations about our vulnerability to furtive weaselly French perverts.

As with all negative experiences, I have used it to learn and grow - I have never slept in an underpass since, nor has anybody ever grasped my johnson uninvited.

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