Monday, July 20, 2009

Frank McCourt, R.I.P.

Well, it usually takes a death or something equally terminal to rouse me from my extended summer silence, and it saddens me to report on the untimely exit of Frank McCourt, one of my favourite Irish writers - dammit, one of my favourite writers, full stop.

He is probably best known as the author of Angela's Ashes, but I actually preferred 'Tis, the touching story of his first faltering footsteps as a teacher in a foreign land. Here's what I wrote about him a few years back...

*******

Well, the other day I spotted one of the [Irish] authors’ works in my local bookshop, and I bought myself a fine book entitled ‘Tis, by Frank McCourt. It’s a delight from start to finish, I must say, written in a pacey style which is almost stream-of-consciousness. What’s more, it’s a must-read for all Teflers, as it chronicles the poor fellow’s shambolic teaching career as an immigrant in a foreign land (in this case, the USA).

I won’t spoil it for you, but let me just say there are several moments, exquisitely described, that I could empathise with immediately – teaching (or not) with a large hangover, ditching the course book in favour of something more (un)suitable, and trying to motivate a room full of testosterone-charged teenagers to study English.

Even better, there are several quite moving scenes too, but I’ll limit myself to illustrating just one. In a quiet moment during a class test, the rookie teacher Frank starts rooting around in some cupboards at the back of the classroom…

[I] find them stuffed with old grammar books, newspapers, exams, and hundreds of pages of uncorrected student compositions going back to 1942. I’m about to dump everything in the trash till I start reading the old compositions…

I pile the crumbling papers on my desk and begin reading to my classes. They sit up. There are familiar names. 'Hey, that was my father – he was wounded in Africa'. - 'Hey, that was my uncle Sal, who was killed in Guam'...

While I read the essays aloud there are tears. Boys run from the room to the toilets and return red-eyed. Girls weep openly and console each other… Dozens of Staten Island and Brooklyn families are named in these papers, so brittle we worry they’ll fall apart. They are suddenly interested in compositions with the title ‘My Life’, and I want to say, "See what you can learn about your fathers and uncles and aunts? Don’t you want to write about your life for the next generation?”

Ah, the joys of writing – and the power of literature.

*******

Your loss is a sad one, Frank, and quite premature. I was hoping to be able to interview you one day, to pick up a few tips and that, but you've slipped away from me, you old bugger!

Who can possibly ever replace you?

http://www.scotsman.com/latest-irish-news/Author-Frank-McCourt-dies-at.5474008.jp

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/8615809

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8158451.stm

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.ajarn.com/Contris/steve%20schertzer/schertzerjuly2007.htm

says it all really

Anonymous said...

how dare you say anything positive about anything or anyone
that is not your job

KALINAGO ENGLISH said...

Condolences, Sandy. Now go back to sleep.

K

Windsor Watcher said...

The sequel was much better:

Angela's Hashish

SEEKER OF TRUTH said...

And THUS the many faceted font of vileness perpetuates his malfeasance upon the unsuspecting isotopes of facile obsequiance. IF AN OCTOPUS SAYS "OVER THERE" where do you LOOK??? IF a gibbering preening FOP slanders me and SCORNS my SPARK where do I go for REDRESS? NOT the courts, they have abused me ENOUGH. NO NO I shal find OTHER ways to settle the old SCORE SCOAR that has enveloped the WRATHFUL morningtide of this incarnadine sea. NO paltry poultry architrave shall vanquish ME. And by the way I am NOT EXACTLY PAUL LOWE (NOT today anyway ha ha did you get the JOKE mr SPOKE mr BLOKE mr TOKE TOKE FOLK BROKE BROKE JOKE) but rather an ADMIRER of the effulgent BEAM that shines his light from the PALATIAL EDWARDIAN RESIDENCE wherein he dwells as the lambent spirit of GENIUS dwells in the YOOOMAN soul. AND ASHLEY if you read this I AM FOCUSSING on YOU also you BETRAYER of my trust and CONFIDENCE YOU who stood just a FEW YARDS from here in the crown COURT (CAUGHT CAUGHT a homophone I believe how APT) and pleaded GUILTY to the thousand foulnesses you have committed. TAKE your pay from the CRISP MACINE you traitor. EVERY MORNING I TALK to a gerbil dressed as ERIC MORECAMBE (or is it the other one oh fuck it what difference DO IT MAKE) and he TELLS ME what to DO. GERBIL GOD is good. NONE but the brave shall vanquish the architect of this NON-SPARK HIDEOUSNESS. NOW I am PAUL again.

SEEKER OF TRUTH said...

NO I am not PAUL I am the other one stop talking you vOICES I cant take much more have you ever known what MADNESS is?? it is THIS! DEPERSONALISATIOn is just a word BUT I TALK TO GERBILS for FUCKS SAKE how mad is THAT? Goodenough not GOODENOUGH to JUDGE me to check fAXCTS before putting PEN TO paper not GOODENOUGH. THAT is my lesson for TODAY. I will visit you again. DRESSED IN WHITE ROBES. CASPIAN THESPIAN drastic swile lounger. NOW I am PAUL once MOre.

Dan said...

Dear Sandy


Very entertaining and useful. I’m about to enter the trade as a means of evading homelessness and penury and am reassured that alcoholism and psychosis seem to be no barriers to entry and will indeed propel me up the management ladder.

Thanks again

DAN

The TEFL Tradesman said...

Welcome to the party, Dan. Yes, you do indeed appear to have a natural advantage over many of us less privileged Teflers. Being an alcoholic fruitcake of no fixed abode will serve you very well indeed, and I look forward to seeing your name appear alongside those greats such as Mario, Scott, Michael Swan, etc.

Let me know when you start your own blog or website, and we less talented Teflers can all follow your progress keenly.

John King said...

Ah, yes, looks like a 'Merlot Moment' in someone's life.

Which we all remember from Windsor days.

Like chaining the chairs to the tables. Or screaming hysterically at students who walked past the premises on Saturdays.

Or opening a school in Playa del Carmen del Santiago del Chile (where IS that exactly, Paul? Is it near Bournemouth? Have you ever been there? Or was it just a brief exchange of emails with a couple of humorous Spanish types who thought you were fucking stupid?)

Or leaving Ashley to answer the phone when the bailiffs closed down the Oxford school.

Ah, those Merlot moments. The £2.99bottle from Tesco in Dedworth was a particular favourite, I remember. Often washed down with a handful of the necessary from the chemist.

How is Community Service going? No doubt they are making the most of your talents!!! Have they given you a map of the world and a pin, and asked you to open more schools?

Now, how does it go? You have a school in :
Playa del Compostella del Carmen del Chile del Barcelona del Prague.

No, that's not right.

Miranda del Carmen del Windsor del Santiago del Prague del Playa des Ingles del Slough del Trinity?

Hello Paul? Paul?

Wake up, sunshine. Time for more road sweeping.

You fucking idiot.

Andy Cardsharp said...

I too remember the screaming - standing at the window, frothing at the mouth, shaking fists at the world in general. A sad, pointless little man with no future and no interest in life except bullying and persecuting those weaker than himself.
Who does that remind you of?

SEEKER OF TRUTH said...

Woeful and delinquent slander from the FONT of vileness - what else can we EXPECT?? When a hamster tells you he's on a treadmill - what DOES HE MEAN?? If you give a BABOON an astrolabe, will it MEASURE THE earth's latitude?/ NO HE will bang himself on the BONCE and crap all OVER THE FLOOR because he cannot UNDERSTAND. AND thus is it when I share my insight with THE TEFL SQUAD who gather NIGHTLY like HAmmer film EXTRAS to MOCK the lord of the MANNER (PUN _ GEDDIT) YOU durst not delineate the heathern consequence of YOUR IMPERTINENCE odessa is it, on the KASPIAN riviera??? Manty therein can be prevailed upon to commit AN ACT for fifty dollaroos or less I fancy. WHEN shall it be done?

Anonymous said...

Paul Lowe has stopped taking his medication again,has he? I knew that his relative lucidity wouldn't last for long ,and his daemon-possessed ravings would keep everyone entertained yet again.More piss-takes shall follow,i am certain,by the likes of 'The Breakfast Man,''Lunchmaster' and others...

attenTION,HEADs OF THE TEFL hYDRA...WE ARE THE MORONS.POOR RELATIONS TO THE MYSTERONS.FITTINGLY,WE LIVE IN PAUL LOWE'S HEAD and iMpart higher and secret knowlEDGE Tto Paul as he lies awake in the REAches of the NIGHT,his big Brain ADRIFT on the seas INCARNADINE.WE speak to him in VOICES and we impart Higher KNOWLEDGE and PLANSPLANSPLANS.Paul LOWE,Effluent and cloacal Seeker of SHITE has adorned his paDDED HELMET of spasticatedness WITH TINFOIL and WE caNNOT REACH THE aRchitrave.We have taken brief control of the FOUL TOWELHEAD wilLIEm FredericksHUN TO communicate with pAUL.

if You doUBT us...{UGGGH!..William Frederickson wants to do WHAT?..To WHO?..Strawberry jam...and also OUT her WHERE?..runny Branston pickle?..yuck!That crack addict?..She looks like she doesn't wash regularly!Tut!Tut!That's disgusting...eeK!..we had better be brief and not linger in the overflowing cess-pit of DEPRAVITY AND poltroonery that is the psyche of THE frederickson.}

PAUL! cloacal and scrofuloUS SEEKER OF SHITE!Divest your PADDED HELMET OF sPASTICITY OF the TINFOIL thAT adorns it and go to the HIGHEST building iN Windsor...GO forth in thy SQUIRREL-Tail veil and your POSING POUCH wot is made from a furry cHIHUAHUA'S ear.AS you are a true SPARK NO harm will come to you.YOU WILL NOT SPLATTER ON THE GROUND BELOW NO IT WILL NOT BE ALLOWED. O sEEKER OF Shite you will SOAR LIKE a magnificent eagle.DO IT NOW PAUL! god-like puissance and IMMORTALITY AWAIT YOU,O CLOACAL aRCHITRAVE .YOU will see a NAKED WOMAN for the first time in your lIFE.Ashley in STOCKings AND sUSPEnDERS DOES NOT COUNT PAUL-EVENif he hAS a girly naME!

MORTALS...PAUL LOWE IS SUPERB CLOACAL AND EFFLUENT...HE has HIS eyeeyeEYE on you all FROM behind HIS squirrel tail veil...FEAR the WRATH Of his DORMOUSE'S EAR posing pouch...look upon the PILE OF EXCRETA that is wINDSOR tefl and tREMBLE...WE will speak to THE Cloacal and faecal PAUL throUGH the gerbils squirrels and hairy BABOONS of the field...William FREDERICKSON is a Foul pervert...

What the ripe and rancid fuck was all that about? No wonder Paul Lowe is stark raving fucking bonkers...There has to be a rational explanation for that jumbled mess above...

It may be due to the organically-brewed German beer that i had with my lunch;even the wheat used doesn't benefit from chemical crop-sprays.Probably the result of poisoning from the mould that grows on wheat and barley;ergot,an LSD-producing fungus.'Dr Mengele's Experimental Wheat Beer'... No wonder the key-board of my PC started melting and i felt a bit 'oogie-woogie.'

Wait a minute...usually when tripping one concentrates on hallucinations and such...not bloody beings from other worlds...Paul Lowe must be possessed by wandering demons...We had better get the Shite Reverend Septimus Harding to perform an exorcism on the Pained One-involving an iron bar battered against Paul's skull to let all the heebie-jeebies out of his brain.I am not superstitious,but how the hell did whatever it was know i had a secret desire to feltch table condiments out of Amy Winehouse's naughty bits?..'There are stranger things in heaven and earth..'

If Paul is consorting with Satan and all his little red devils,then i suppose it'd be a good excuse for burning Paul Lowe at the stake,then burying his remains at the nearest crossroads.After having prodded him with sharp blades,like Matthew Hopkins,Witchfinder General used to do.

FLOREAT VAGINA,
William Frederickson.

Anonymous said...

As regards prodding Paul Lowe all over his body with sharp blades then burning him at the stake,i put it to all you TEFLers out there that the traditional values are the best. I'm with Maggie Thatcher and Tomas de Torquemada of the Spanish inquisition when it comes to sorting out loonies like Paul Lowe!

William Frederickson

The TEFL Tradesman said...

See what I mean? I turn my back for a few days, and out come the creeps!

What a business to be involved in! It makes me SO proud!!

Anonymous said...

Sandy,just thought i'd raise the taking-the-piss-out-of-Paul Lowe stakes that little bit higher,rather than accuse him of un-natural sex acts and being gender-confused as well as mentally-confused.

William Frederickson

Nothing happens slowly said...

Paul,

I think a baboon could in fact be trained to use an astrolabe. Provided he went on a shambolic 4 week training course in a damp building in Slough and came away with a worthless certificate signed by a convicted criminal serving a 9 month prison sentence.

How DID your summer school go??! Not too many takers this year, apparently. The market is a harsh thing, is it not? It forces you to do things such as sell your car and cook breakfast for a living. Reality, eh? You could always stack shelves in Tesco Dedworth, in between cleaning the streets.

Nothing happens slowly said...

Sorry, bad idea, Tesco don't employ convicted criminals. Your options are dwindling fast.

Anonymous said...

Indeed they are!The effluent Paul Lowe's IKEA cast-offs-furnished Bed and Botulism establishment doesn't appear to be doing too well either.The calendars used to show when various rooms[including the lavvy!]are available on the Windsor Edwardian website are devoid of red squares denoting that they are booked.

Well,Paul,including a photograph of your lavvy on your website tends to make potential victims...ermmm...guests wonder WHERE you relieve yourself instead rather than convince them that Windsor Edwardian is a suitable choice for a short stay in Windsor.Bed and Breakfast customers generally expect the lavvy in an establishment to be clean as a matter of course,not a bloody 'extra.' I suppose it comes from you being a loony and crapping in the airing-cupboard and weeing in your potted plants!Or going for a dump and crapping beside the lavvy,not in it as you are supposed to do.

Furthermore,what in the name of Satan's porn collection and well-used wanking-sock is the 'Porch Room?'A fucking glorified broom-cupboard? I wouldn't bloody spend the night in there-Paul might spazz out,forget where the lavvy is, and have a crap in there while i'm asleep!Lord have bleeding mercy!

William Frederickson

Anonymous said...

As for the 'breakfast' side of things...Would anybody want Paul Lowe to cook their breakfast? He's a raving loony and a 'spanner.'He probably picks his arse and eats what he finds up there.All spanners and mongs do that:it stands to fuckin' reason,folks. 'Peanut Surprise*'for breakfast anyone?..No,i bloody well thought not... Somebody call Environmental Health...before it's too fucking late!

William Frederickson

*The 'surprise' being,gentle TEFLers and fellow drunken thugs,that the peanuts have been pre-digested by 'Pained Paul'him/her/itself...Or not,as the case may be,the smelly little rassclot!They might have been up Ashley's shitter...

seeker of truth said...

Foul and demented FONT of bugbear and GRUDGE. How dare you mock the BREAKFAST SKILLS of the effulgent beam, he who RESIDES in PALATIAL SPLEDOUR adored by all MORTALS lower on the EVOLUSHUNARY SKALE such as you and that DUNCE ALEX CASE. Mr LOWE's jam and cocoa porridge is FAMED the breadth of the HOME COUNTIES and BEYOND. AND NO, I a NOT the man himself, but an ADMIRER a DEVOTEE of his wisdom and GRACE. BUT IN every detail, every CORPUSCLE of the business, I have his accreditation and I shall continue to use it. So check facts BEFORE putting pen to PAPER, you who are stuck on a trade SITE with no hope of anything better, EVER. SEE my website at SEEKEROFTRUTH.COM. CRime numbers obtained for all THIS. DAVE is very SUPPORTIVE. The voices very loud TODAY, telling me to DO DO DO things you could not IMAGINATE. For gods sake, PAUL LOWE took me in when I was homeless, gave me a job on £11 an HOUR and let me sleep ON THE PREMISES. HE gave me the BENEFIT of his WISDOM and taught me how to PROCESS CREDIT CARDs. NOW Do you know who I am??? And don't bother calling in your little BRUMMIE CHUM that lop-eared dulcimer ALEX CASE. BY GOD SIR, I have the measure of you NOW. I will be SEEING mr LOWE personally tonight to OFFER MY SERVICES and I expect effulgency of ACCORD i may assure you SIR. SCARED ARE YOU? YOu should be. PAUL and ME together, RULING THE WORLD. His brains and my VERBAL DELINIATION , your simple phygionomy could not COMPUTE the scale of our independent school POTENTIAL, you state-educated simpleton. HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY is close to COMPLETION and you have a chapter to YERSELF, chavster. OH voices, voices, what are you TELLING ME???
Oh no, no. I cannot do it. BUT if it must be DUNN. DONE . I am the architrave of purpose and forsooth preshadowing of Paul's GENIUS.
ENOUGH NOW.
I will visit you again IN WHITE ROBES.

Seeker of TRUTH said...

STOP IMITATING ME. STOP IT. STOP STOP STOP IT. Judge Goodenough? Not good enough to judge me. NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Anonymous said...

Another 'Merlot Moment,' O Effluent and Faecal One? Bloody hell,don't 'indulge' too much, when you have to wash down 'the necessary' from the chemists! Wouldn't it be a pity if you suddenly 'ceased to be?'

Heyyyyyy! What's shakin'?
Paul Lowe's left leg when i scratch him behind the ear!

William Frederickson

William Frederickson said...

Also-Paul the Effluent and Cloacal Architrave of Gerbilling{or summat!} has started two blogs with woefully dire postings:'alex case teflspastic' and 'Jenny Pugsley Trinity Tefl.'I accessed these via a link on his aler-ego 'Michael Flynn's' blog 'Sandy Macmanus TEFL.'

Hell's bells,owls' bowels and lady-boys' haemorrhoids! I thought Paul would be busy sweeping roads,cleaning up grafitti an' that! Or cleaning 'Edwardian Guest's' lavvy,if not...

William Frederickson

Rollo Ahmed said...

Oh dear, I fear we're in for another dose of madness from the Windsor tribe. Wwhy do you put up with it, Sandy?!

Actually, what I heard by way of rumour is that Paul Lowe has been indulging in a little occult business lately - and I don't mean his hiding other people's money in his trouser pocket.

Can anyone confirm or deny that Satanists are at work at 21 Osborne Road? He's beem getting a lot of Aleister Crowley and Dennis Wheatley books out of the library in recent weeks, so we can only presume that the forces of darkness and evil are making a lengthy stay at Windsor Edwardian, the B&B for discerning devil-worshippers.

Any news, William?

William Frederickson said...

Don't rightly know,but i'm staying away from that organically-brewed German ale in future...

Elron Hubbard said...

Apparently he's been sacrificing. . .his career.

Nothing happens, slowly said...

I must say one thing in Paul's favour. He runs his hostel with real conviction.

8 real convictions, in fact.

And he can certainly string a sentence together.

A nine month sentence, apparently.

Come on, Paul, laugh at yourself.
It's gallows humour.

William Frederickson said...

Well, all i can say is that the Devil will be pissed off at 'Pained Paul'if Paul makes a Faustian pact with him and then tries to pay him with the contents of the nearest vending-machine!

Nothing happens slowly said...

Sorry, that was nine real convictions, I forgot about the extra one for fraud.

William Frederickson said...

If that ugly,piss-stinking drag queen Pauline Lowe has been up to owt in Spain,and the local police want to get hold of him,a recent agreement between foreign police and those of the UK could well mean that the greasy little runtling ends up in jail in mainland Europe.

P.S:What has lots and lots of pairs of legs and smells of piss?

Not,as you might think,a conga in an old folks' home,but wherever Paul Lowe keeps his spare pairs of trousers.

William Frederickson said...

Come to think of it,I can remember one service that Paul Lowe may well have paid in full for:the secure document disposal and recycling service that used to turn up at the Central London Ramillies St establishment (shurely...'clusterfuck'...)in late 2006.

A good means of ensuring that any incriminating evidence didn't fall into the 'wrong' hands.A goldmine sadly lost,i'm afraid!(I should have paid someone to nick the office computer,too)

Nothing happens slowly said...

Ah, the London branch!! The 'Jewel in the Crown' of the Windsor empire, as Paul and Ashley insisted on describing it at the time.
Sadly, the people of London didn't agree. We eventually had to pay students from Windsor £5 per hour (plus train ticket) to travel to London to sit in the trainee's TP lessons.
As an excercise in logistical economics, it wasn't exactly Albert Speer.
I think it was at that point that Paul evolved his 'pin and map' strategy for global expansion - so much cheaper!!
He was a true genius, and still sadly missed by everyone at Spearmint Rhino in Hounslow.

William Frederickson said...

More like the'Jewel In Windsor's Back Passage,'i'm afraid:that coward,liar and 'Spargeltarzan'Simon and that poisonous fairy fuck-pile Robert Weeks.Completely rammed with shit,mon brave. What,too, was Paulie doing at Spearmint Rhino in Hounslow? Working as an ugly fag-dancer?

Clarence Rhode said...

Just seen the 'Porch Room' on the Edwardian website. Hilarious. This was the cramped and airless back room in which Paul would assemble his 'staff' for 'meetings.' These consisted of interminable monologues on any subject that was in Paul's mind at the time - life in outer space, global conspiracy theories, how the neighbours were 'undermining' him by complaining about the noise, mess and illegal car parking from his school. If you've seen the German film 'Downfall' you'll have some idea of the atmosphere in this bunker-like environment. Ashley's job was to nod and murmur 'exactly' at vital moments, and also to note down the names of any teachers who were nodding off or suppressing laughter. These unfortunates would later receive memos in sealed envelopes warning that they were 'compromising future career development' or 'betraying the trust of the Windsor corporation.'

William Frederickson said...

'Life in outer space,global conspiracy theories...'Maybe it wasn't the organically-brewed German ale after all,then? What the naked arse has all that twaddle to do with running a bloody TEFL school?

Ashley was probably Goebbels to Paul Lowe's Hitler,then (cue the smart-arse references to Godwin's Law!)...I remember him advising me not to report the London centre's shit-bag convener for allowing cliques,bullying and racism to go on or involve a lawyer in the proceedings...What an unutterably vile shower of putrefying shit!

Did Paul Lowe wear a tinfoil helmet when in the midst of all these global conspiracies and maunderings about heebie-jeebies from outer space? Or are you having a larf,Clarence,old bean?
Any particular conspiracy theories,too? Interesting stuff!