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.

Thursday, 20 January 2011


The title of this post is a cunningly fashioned anagram of Amy Winehouse, which I concocted recently during a rare bout of insomnia. And if Amy has her wits about her, which is doubtful, let's be frank, she may do well to heed the warning her scrambled name issues.

Show's cousin went to see Ms. Winehouse in concert last Saturday in São Paulo, her participation having been billed as the highlight of a "soul festival" (Amy's participation, not Show's cousin's - though boy, can she dance). Highlight in the sense of the peak of embarrassment perhaps. The signs were not exactly auspicious after Winehouse had whipped her baps out for the gathered paparazzi on the balcony of her Rio hotel while looking like the bastard daughter of Keith Richards just days before. Her show in Rio had been widely judged as pedestrian, with her only performing for an hour, after taking to the stage 50 minutes late.

Many accept this: she's a flawed genius, they explain. The evidence of Saturday night would indicate otherwise. It has been widely reported that she failed to hit the right notes on several occasions, forgot the lyrics to various songs and seemed to have cobbled the band together by making a few phone calls on the way to the gig. Some even say that when she introduced the band members, she had to read their names from a sheet of paper taped to the stage. Perhaps worst of all, in a half-hearted attempt to enliven proceedings, she asked her musicians to each perform a solo, which was clearly an improvisation not set out in their contracts, as the mediocre fare they offered caused shivers down the spine for all the wrong reasons. Even Amy got bored during the drummer's frantic efforts and sat down heavily on the stage waiting for him to calm down again.

All this at absurd prices. Brazilian audiences are the best in the world (according to Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, who come here every year, and Sir Paul McCartney, who hailed his recent gig at the Morumbi stadium as one of the most amazing experiences of his life), but Amy even failed to take this into account, only talking to her "band" members and refusing to engage at all with the fare-paying public.

Being British, I admire a drunk as much as the next man, but there are limits. I think Amy needs to decide if she is going to be an artist or a peace artist, as the evidence would suggest she cannot be both.

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