Thursday, April 23, 2009

Needing to know the unknown

The Spanish obviously find difficulty with the meaning of some adjectives.

Today, Sant Jordi – the National Day of Catalonia – was the occasion when the staff of my school participated in the ‘invisible friend’ approach to the tradition of book giving on Sant Jordi. We drew names and had to buy a book and have it delivered anonymously to the recipient today.

The Brits in the school entered into the spirit of the event and ensured that their books were placed with or near their intended recipients with minimal fuss. All that is except for one hapless colleague who decided to integrate the other aspect of the present giving on this day – the rose.

In a spirited romantic gesture he cut the remaining rose from his garden to add to his book. Unfortunately his wife saw him enter the house clutching a cut rose and immediately assumed that it was for her. Explanation, as we all know, is invidious.

I advised him to buy one of the extortionately priced single red roses that are on sale at every street corner today by suspiciously foreign looking gentlemen who jump at passing cars in order to foist their floral offerings on guilty male drivers who have not already placated their partners with the appropriate bloody plant!

The British section of the staff saw their books and idly wondered who had bought them. The foreign section saw each book as an intriguing clue and with a cry of “The game’s afoot Watson” (or the Iberian equivalent) they started an inquisition of everyone they saw with an intensity worthy of Torquemada. Obviously the suggestion of a ‘friend’ being ‘invisible’ was a concept one philosophical idea too far!

Some of my colleagues signed their anonymous gifts; others gave them directly to the recipients; other watched with such a propriatorial air that it would have been almost impossible not to guess the donor.

The person to whom I caused my book to be delivered by another hand actually came to see me to thank me – God knows who told her because the only person in whom I confided and who translated my dedication into Spanish didn’t tell her.

After the traumas of attribution there were further delights in store.

There was a full assembly of the school in the playground where selected senior pupils put on some sort of drama connected with St George and later in the day an assembly of the secondary section of the school for the presentation of the prizes for essay writing and photography.

The actual presentations were made by the teachers in charge of subjects but the presentational chat and announcements were all made by pupils.

The behaviour of the audience was appalling. The older secondary students chatted throughout and I could feel myself getting even hotter under the collar (it was a very fine day) and then I remembered that I was on a temporary contract and my wages are pathetic and there were other people there who were form tutors and they could sort it out. This attempt at Zen-like serenity was only partially effective.

Although there were various hushing sounds emitted by various teachers at various times throughout the ceremony it had virtually no effect on the level of chat that went on throughout. I was sitting at the back and I stayed sitting. After the first panic of my doing nothing to stop the grotesque rudeness of the audience I sort of relaxed into a semi detached observation of the futile actions of (very few) of my colleagues who attempted to do something about what should have been seen as glaringly unacceptable behaviour. I shall ponder on the responses of my professional colleagues and add my thoughts to my developing picture of how the school works!

We have had a book shop open in the library and I looked and identified many volumes that I would have marked down for inspection were I head of department. When I actually attempted to buy a book the manager of our temporary shop informed me that the department was entitled to a whole slew of books as ‘payment’ for the percentage given to the school as our cut from the total amount spent on books. The manager urged me to speak to the head of department and see if the books I wanted could be taken as part of the department’s justified cut.

Being told by a book seller to wander about and take what I want was a bit like telling an alcoholic to spend a night in Bottoms Up! So there is now a whole box of books waiting for the inspection of the head of department to check through – it’s almost like old times!

Another colleague commented today that it must be hard for me as a past head of faculty to be a lowly teacher in this school. How little she really knows!

To celebrate Sant Jordi we had a bottle of Gran Plus Ultra – the exceptional Cava – so expensive it has a piece of embroidery on the box in which it comes! To be absolutely fair Toni did not even have one full glass, but that’s the way the bottle empties!

And tomorrow is my early end of day. Please god let the sun shine!
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