In my previous posting about the sheer folly of committing yourself to a six-week sentence on a residential Summer School, I promised (threatened?) to spill the beans on those other clowns in the equation, your ‘professional’ EFL colleagues. So, here it is, the uncut version. By the way, if you think you can recognise any of your former colleagues here (see picture alongside!), or yourself even, you’re probably right.
Your crackpot colleagues, that mixture of the innocent and the despicable, who have all been mad enough to make the same stupid commitment that you did, will very probably come in three general types: the frequently drunk, the seriously alcoholic, and the totally psychotic. While you’re far more likely to meet the first two types, it’s the third that you really want to look out for, as he (it’s always a bloke) is by far the most dangerous.
Anyway, let me explain in historical terms, as I describe the very first Summer School that I ever did, somewhere near fashionable Folkestone, back in 1990. Our Director of Studies there was a diminutive Scottish guy called Derek, and while he seemed alright at first, it soon became clear that our Derek had a few, erm, ‘medical’ problems.
For starters, he was often a bit unsteady on his legs by lunchtime, and tended to disappear during the afternoons. Then, some time between six and seven o’clock, he would make a spectacular reappearance, usually by crashing into the photocopier, or falling down the stairs. His character would often oscillate between being overtly pally to bawling at people for minor misdemeanours, like leaving a window open, or a door unlocked.
Of course, poor Derek was a sad alcoholic, but did his darnedest to try and hide it. He would even tag along with the teachers to the pub in the evening, as if he hadn’t had enough during the day, and usually rounded off the evening by abusing a few staff members, who meekly accepted it as if it had been written into the job-description. Some nights he would come charging through the teachers' quarters, all lit up on liquor, bellowing that he’d been let down again by a bunch of no-hopers who couldn’t teach a baby to shit.
One night we’d all had enough of our dearest Caledonian Del-boy and his unwanted attention, so we slipped out of the Friday night end-of-course disco one by one, at two or three minute intervals, with the intention of reassembling at the local curry house. And so we did. Only, Derek turned up too, just as we were tucking in to the steaming vindaloos and tandoori chicken, and proceeded to abuse us again for being ‘a fine bunch of mates, leaving me alone like that’.
Well, I’d had enough – in both senses. So I stood up and told him straight that we didn’t like him, didn’t want to be with him, and he could fuck off back to the school right there and then. But he didn’t. Amazingly, he just plonked himself down at an adjacent table, ordered himself a meal, and sat there all by himself, cursing us roundly between mouthfuls of curry. Oh, you poor abandoned soul, Derek!
Then there was Ipswich man, a few years later. Now, he wasn’t so much the alcoholic, more the psycho type – but with a drink habit on top. I saw him ranting one day, his eyes rolling as he was telling some unfortunate Spanish kid of about 10 that Ipswich Town were the best team in the world, and England too, because Alf Ramsey had been their manager. Thrilling stuff, I thought, I’m sure Pablo will appreciate that nugget of wisdom. But it was his habit of rolling fags and ‘prowling’ around the school grounds after dark that marked him out as a true weirdo.
Then one day, on an excursion, Ipswich man abandoned his charges and disappeared for a couple of hours. When he later re-emerged by the coach, he had a few cans of Stella in his hand, and plenty inside him, obviously. On the ride home he started singing, all by himself, and bawdy footy songs, no less. Another clearly disturbed chap, in this case he just had to be given the push.
The saddest thing was that he abandoned his room in such a rush that he left most of his personal belongings there, including his degree certificate (not bad – a 2:2 from Sheffield University) and letters from his parents, indicating their concern for his mental health. Another poor sod – I do sometimes wonder how he’s coping, or whether he’s still alive.
Look, I could go on with similar tales, but I’m sure you get the picture. However, I have left the worst to the end. It’s a case of a guy who, upon arriving on site, appeared to be a bit of a bible-basher, what with his habit of lifting quotes from the Testaments old and new. However, the staff started to become more than just a little agitated when he decided that the building, along with some of its occupants, needed exorcising. This one was clearly not the average Tefl nutter.
Just as our Loony Lord was in the midst of terrorising all the teachers, the cavalry arrived: four burly coppers, who managed to pin him down in a back room, and then carted him off to the local nick. I can’t recall if it was actually true, but somebody did mention there’d been a full moon that night, too.
Again there was the painful task of gathering up his belongings and sending them on. In this case, there were several doses of anti-psychotic drugs, a well-thumbed copy of The Bible, and, strangely, some First Aid manuals. A very sad business indeed. Later that week we phoned one of the people who had given him a reference, and told them if they’d known he was on medication. The woman sounded apologetic, although not enough, and merely informed us that, when he’d worked for her the previous year, he’d been ‘having problems with his sexuality’. Obviously he’d moved on to more serious matters – God and the Devil.
So, have I managed to put you off doing a Summer School this year? I certainly hope so, for your sake!
First Published: Monday, 9 May 2005