Monday, 23 November 2009

Mervin & Mummy, New Moon and Wurzel Gummidge

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Working as an English teacher is hit and miss at the best of times.

I've worked for some right toilets in my time. From a school that fired me one week before Christmas just coz my mate who hired me had resigned, to one run by a bad tempered old bitch in Milan who'd inherited a huge wadge of cash and used it for what she thought would be an easy money maker (i.e. opening a language school). She had no idea of how to motivate people, regarded all her staff as cash cows to put money in her pocket and was rude and aggressive to all and sundry. Every summer all but one of the teachers left, meaning the malodorous cunt had a set of naive new faces every September and couldn't understand why noone wanted to sit next to her at the Christmas party.

The school I'm at now have always been decent. We get paid 17 Euros an hour, are paid to attend staff meetings, there is free tea, coffee and biscuits and two free Xmas parties (one at lunch time and one in the evening, so if you are teaching during one you get to attend the other). While this might seem trivial it's the little things that matter and the owner, a decent sort, will even give you an advance on your wages if you are short before payday. Some schools I worked at would not pay you to attened staff meetings but insist you came anyway, paid less than 10 Euros an hour and would tell you to keep one plastic cup from the water cooler with your name on it to cut down on expenses.

However....

Yesterday the heating packed up completely. It's going to be 3.30 tomorrow afternoon before the plumber turns up to fiddle with the boiler, meaning if it's something serious I will be teaching in my jacket like today.

Rainy, grey skies and a cold workplace are NOT conducive to a happy working atmosphere and despite how decent these people are it's time to seriously analyse what I want out of life which isn't cycling to a language school in the rain in November to teach English in the freezing cold.

People have told me that I'm both aggressive but also "passive aggressive". I'd never heard of the latter expression but found out from that old stalwart of knowledge, Wikipedia that it means you channel your aggression in seemingly passive but obstructive ways such as refusing to move when asked to or being sarcastic.

I have always had a problem with anger and was unable to lock down exactly why I got so fucked off about VERY trivial things. When I'm having a bad day bad memories float to the surface like scum on a pond and I am able to get utterly twisted up about crap that happened over 20 years ago.

Attempts at spiritual harmony, forgiving the past and meditation have proved sporadically successful to say the least and even the Landmark Forum, Advanced Landmark and Self Expression and Leadership programme from Landmark Education didn't do anything except increase my self confidence.

My anger is very rarely channelled to other people beyond verbal abuse. I am able to stand up for myself but get beyond furious at the fact that I'm being disrespected or mistreated or simply that some cunt is taking the piss.

A few years ago I finally sussed why I get so upset and pissed off about confrontation and attacks on my personal space and dignity.

At the age of four I attended play school like most other kids (I think the Yanks call it Kindergarten) and after a few days was coming home upset and crying coz another boy named Mervin was bullying me, hitting me and taking toys off me. My father said after about the third day that if I stopped crying like a baby and "stuck up for myself" he would buy me a present. Dad was high up in Judo (I think even in the early 70s he was a black belt) and could handle himself. He taught me how to punch and the next time Mervin came at me I belted the little twat in the face, busting his nose open and sending him howling off in the direction of Mrs Mann, the play school leader.

My fear conquered I went home and proudly told my daddy what I'd done. He gave me a hug and a kiss and the next day came home with a Disney Goofy toothbrush holder and said he was proud of me. I would proudly show the gift to guests and state boldly that my daddy had bought it for me "because I hit Mervin" to which my father would patiently correct me with "no, I bought if for you because you stuck up for yourself".

I remember that feeling well, of no longer being afraid of Mervin or anyone else that might have a go at me and knew that next time I would be able to defend myself and that nobody would be able to upset me like Mervin had.

One problem.

My mother was from a middle class background and went to the kind of wanker's paradise school where you had Head Boys and cricket captains. In her world view, nice boys didn't need to hit other boys, they would be sooo popular with their peers that physical aggression would be unnecessary. Negotiation and being "nice" were the keys to a successful career as a chap that everyone would want to be pals with.

Mrs Mann had approached my mother when she came to collect me from play school, saying in a concerned whisper "err...Mrs Manley, Lance hit a little boy today".

She said nothing to criticise me for this at the time, nor on the way home and sat there and watched my father congratulate me for standing up to a bully and remained mum when he bought me the Disney merchandise as a reward.

Three days later at the dinner table while we were talking about the subject she suddenly rared up at my daddy out of the blue and began to furiously castigate him for telling me to hit Mervin. I was sitting between them on one side of the table with daddy on my left and mummy on my right. I watched them argue and started to cry, believing it was my fault they were squabbling (after all, they can't be wrong, they're Mummy and Daddy). When you are 4 the two World Powers in your life aren't America and Russia, they're your parents and they were beyond reproach to me. My mother browbeat my father into submission for being so stupid and telling me to hit Mervin shouting "HOW'S HE EVER GOING TO MAKE ANY FRIENDS IF YOU TELL HIM TO GO AROUND HITTING PEOPLE?".

My father, like most men, wanted a quiet life and held up his hands in a conciliatory gesture and went "alright, alright" which even at the time I knew meant "I concede the point".

My mother predictably, deliberately misunderstood what he'd said and snapped "It's NOT alright Mick, it's NOT alright!"

Totally confused and bewildered by this change of events I came to the conclusion in my 4 year old brain that it had been wrong to hit back at Mervin and as Mummy and Daddy could NEVER be wrong, it was obviously because of me that they'd fought. Although I couldn't understand why I'd been rewarded and then they'd argued about it in front of me it simply MUST have been my fault.

The closest comparison I can come up with is that scene in sci-fi movie 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey where they discover the reason that the computer HAL murdered nearly all of the crew and had to be shut down was that it was given conflicting orders and tried to make the best of both of them, which drove it insane.

The next morning I vividly recall my mother squatting down in front of me to zip up my jacket for play school and saying sternly "now remember, if somebody hits you, you DON'T hit back. You go and tell Mrs Mann and find out why they did it AND if you're nice to people they won't hit you".

My sense of liberation and lack of fear of the bully Mervin was now replaced by a horrible, heavy guilt that I'd caused the two people I loved and admired most in the world to fight. Within a couple of days Mervin's cautiousness vanished and he went back to bullying again when he realised that I wasn't going to hit him any more.

My mother's egotism ruled the fort and when I would come home and say that I was being bullied she was unable to see that her advice was flawed and would simply say that I needed to be "nice" to whoever it was.

I would reply "but I was being nice to him" and she would add:

"maybe you need to be even NICER to him".

Further arguments would simply result in her snapping at me "if you pull that face/ talk to people like that/ stamp your foot etc. then I'm NOT surprised people hit you".

So...I could never win. I was to blame for hitting Mervin and to blame for every unkind act ever perpetrated on me by other kids and grown ups. All because of the ego and ignorance of one very stupid woman.

Years passed and I forgot about this incident. It however had nestled like a leech in my subconscious and effected every action based on confrontation that I ever got into. Of the three primary schools I went to I was bullied almost constantly at one of them and by the time I was at secondary school it was practically unremitting.

Problem was I had a big mouth, was intelligent and opinionated but couldn't defend myself physically due to a mental block put there in 1974. I was punched and abused verbally throughout the four years at that shit hole school from 1983 to 1987, ages 12 to 16 and used to get so angry that I wanted to tear people's heads off and shit down the hole in their neck BUT was unable to act aggressively.

Long before Columbine happened I used to fantasise about killing these people who gleefully made my life a misery. I had three lists in my head and can still remember who was on them. One was for people I would let live. One was for people I would shoot in the head and one was for people I would kneecap first.

Years later (while meditating) at the age of 25 I remembered the Mervin incident and two years later told my mother about it. She sat there visibly upset the whole way through and tried to blame my dad, saying three times "but your father shouldn't have backed down" before I banged my hand on the table.

It was however the only time I have EVER received a spontaneous apology from her and while using the computer upstairs 15 minutes later she came up to me crying, put her arms around my neck and said "I'm sorry love" to which I replied "it's ok. But you don't realise just how much it means to me to hear you say you're sorry".

According to Louise Hay, within each of us is our inner child. It never grows up and is never more than 4 or 5 years old. She tells us to get in touch with that child to tell it that it is loved and safe and we will never leave it or let it be hurt. This in turn will lead us, as adults to deal with confrontation easily and to interact with others without fear of rejection or getting hurt.

She also suggests that we write questions with our dominant hand and let the "inner child" answer them with the other hand. I tried this tonight and got the following answers.

Me: What do you want me to do?

IC: Be everybody's friend.

Me: How can I make you happy?

IC: Forget what you want.

Me: Are you still unhappy

IC: Now you still should know.

Me: What are you scared of?

IC: Being alone.

Me: I promise you I'll never leave you. Do you believe me?

IC: Yes.

Me: How did you feel when nana died?

IC: I wanted to cuddle her.


Thursday night I had an "interview" for a new flat. The area is St. Giovanni, about 20 mins from the Colosseum and I lived there 13 years ago. I decided to cycle as it was a clement evening and thought it would take about an hour. Thirty minutes later I was at the place with another hour to kill so I took a tour of my old haunts and lo and behold, my old barbers was there called Progetto Capelli (Project Hair, slightly less impressive in English). The guy who snipped my barnet in 1997, Stefano was still there, only difference being he has crows' feet round his eyes and is grey at the temples. He didn't feign remembering me and I pointed out that I wasn't so arrogant as to assume he would. Very surreal, particularly as one of my students, built like a gladiator and with a moustache, is 14 but would have been 2 the last time I saw Stefano.

I got to the flat and the door was opened by two women in their mid 30s. They took me on a brief tour of the flat and the bedroom that is up for grabs. It's twice the size of my current one with a king size bed and a DVD collection in the hallway of about 200 titles. I expected this to be chick flick bollocks but amongst all the Dirty Dancing (1 and 2) and Ghost was every episode of House and Lost plus the entire Saw collection. We got on very well after I expressed my love of movies and we all agreed that the Angel Trap from Saw 3, while innovative in its design, was completely vomit-inducing.

After about an hour the most important tenant (i.e. the one whose name's on the contract) turned up and despite telling me that I should say "stronzo" instead of "bastardo" when talking about people I don't like (she claims the latter is much ruder in Italian than English) she invited me to stay for dinner and a coffee and then friended me on Facebook. Bodes well and they said they'll let me know on Sunday if I can have the flat in January or not. I asked if they mind living with a bloke and they all said not at all, provided I don't mind living with 3 birds.

Following day my neighbour came round for a yoga lesson. There is a cash 'n' carry called Metro just down the road and as I still have a card for the English one I frequented 6 years ago in London, I am entitled to use the Roman equivalent by waving the card and then getting a day pass. She came round wearing a crop top and tight jeans and while demonstrating a position where you lay on your back and pull your knees up to your chest, my eyes were practically oozing out my nostrils trying to keep my gaze on her face and not on her rather delectable crotch.

The following Saturday she sent me a text with an invite to go and see new disaster movie 2012 at the local flicks. As I am currently off the ale and in what could euphemistically be called a "dry" month for wages I was only too pleased and sat in the back of the motor, scrunched up against her scrumptious bum with 3 of her friends. Turned out all the tickets were taken except two, and those were on opposite sides of the theatre. We opted instead for Michael Douglas flick "A Perfect Alibi" which would have been entertaning as an ep' of CSI but was overly long and boring as a 2 hour movie (although it was fun watching that fat, bullying cop getting shot repeatedly in the face).

I had washed my hair on the Saturday afternoon and for some reason thought that using conditioner would be excessive and put me more in the Wurzel Gummidge mould than normal. Bad decision as this would have calmed it down. I have some "anti frizz" oil from Superdrug and took about 8 times the recommened dosage onto my palms before smoothing down my barnet, hoping I hadn't overdone it and it wasn't too greasy.

It was windy when we set off to the flicks and a few times I had to push my locks back out of my face while we stood around in the car park waiting for the lucky sods who got to see 2012 to come out and meet us. When we got home, the lift doors opened and the mirror in the rear of the elevator showed me exactly what my hair did in fact look like.

Imagine if Bob Geldof stuck his finger in an electric socket.

I quickly tied it back to amused giggling from my date and her pals and went "why didn't one of you tell me?". My new girlf then matter-of-factly pointed out that after she'd gone to the toilet halfway through the movie she'd located her seat by looking for my unkempt bonse from the rear of the theatre.

A pony tail seems to be the way forward from now on.

I invited her for lunch the next day and we had a pleasant time and a snog while the pasta sauce bubbled on the stove. Turns out that she fancied me for quite a while and it all came down to our first encounter in Metro.

Our memories of this intial meeting differ.

My version:

I had forgotten my card and spoke to a good looking bird on the reception desk who said I couldn't buy anything without ID but she would let me in to have a look to see if the USB keyboard I wanted was in stock. I then came back with the card and after some flirting and finding out we lived in the same apartment block, she let me in. Got home, the keyboard was a poxed fugazi that didn't work. Took it back expecting a row and she said that she would vouch for me to the guy upstairs in the IT department as I was her "vicino". Said goodbye. Two weeks later saw her while jogging and she said "Ciao, Harry Potter" which I didn't understand. She said she had a bad back. I do too so I offered to show her yoga positions. A week later I saw her again, apologised for not dropping off the instructions, gave her my number and the rest is history.

Her version:

A bloke who looked like a pirate, dressed in a red doo-rag and Punisher T-shirt, wearing a ring with a large green jewel and with several days worth of facial stubble came into the store and got lippy with her when she tried to explain the rules of the shop. This guy was quite rude to her and snapped "I don't want Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, just tell me the brief version". She thought this bloke was a bit of an arse but also thought he was cute. As she let him in to the store she said "maybe I'll see you at home" to which I apparently replied "I hope so". She then checked my details on the system and after we met a fortnight later and after I promised to give her yoga instructions, she apparently checked her mail box every day.

An Irish friend of mine has a boyfriend with a rather impressive Rolf Harris beard. She told me that within about a week of them dating (and both had fancied the pants off each other for a long time before they got it on) she asked him if he could be so kind as to shave his beard off as it was chafing her delicate little chin. I told her to tell him from me that if he did do that I'd never speak to him again.

Ahem....!

My new girl stated she didn't like looking like a joint of beef in the mornings and asked if I'd mind shaving. As I don't actually have a beard and am just lazy with regard to personal grooming (although I make an effort to trim the ones up my nose and ears as that is just RANK) I thought it was no sacrifice but my Irish pal was giggling and pointing at me as soon as I told her and singing "told you, told you".

In 2006 I worked on a summer camp in London as a centre manager for a bunch of profit obsessed, unprofessional twerps who cared only for making money and put the health and safety of the kids way below actually staying in the black.

I had worked for them in 2005 and my no nonsense approach to discipline and being strict but fair with both staff and students meant none of my kids got hurt, we came in under budget AND we weren't billed for damage. Of the 22 centres owned by these horrible cunts, none other could make this claim. I was also working for City of London police at the time as a Special (volunteer) constable and when the terrorist attacks in July 2005 happened, yours truly was on duty in the aftermath of both.

Short version: I ran the safest and most profitable camp while simultaneously working as a cop.

Problem was, hardly anyone wanted to work with me again due to my hard nosed approach and the following summer the inbred morons at head office said I had to be "softer" this year and my attitude of "the captain dines alone" was to be changed to "having a pint with the boys". The two junior managers they placed with me were inexperienced and while the Director of Studies (DOS) was arrogant and petulant, he at least was attempting to be professional and was conscientious. The other was a lard arsed woman in her late 40s with no previous experience who they for some God-alone-knows reason put in charge of activities. As the powers that be had made it clear to me that we now had "flat hierarchy" (me with 11 years of experience and them with 1 between them...) I was in charge of the centre but could NOT discipline them. Problem was they told these two fuckwits that too and while the DOS and me locked horns on many occasions the Activities Manager defied belief as she was unprofessional, rude, lazy, negative, aggressive and insubordinate. She had no idea what she was doing, refused all offers of help (quote "you're very irritating, if I want help I'll ask for it"), bawled out both her staff and the kids and within a week I had my best Activity Leader in my office in tears with a 4 page complaint against the useless cow, saying she could not in all conscience continue to work at a centre where the children were being put at so much risk.

My Area Manager refused to discipline the obese slob over these issues, plus a multitude of other sins (including the fact that all but one of her staff couldn't stand her) and when asked why replied "because we're not" (i.e. in a recession it's hard to find senior management) meaning she carried on aimlessly fucking everything up and being a useless, incompetent turd who thought it was acceptable to scream at everyone, send coaches to the wrong destinations and leave hot barbecues unattended while children milled around near them.

My mother had a gall stone around this time and was in hospital. I switched centres to be nearer to her, meaning that I moved with my conscience ringing loud bells about leaving this twonk in charge of the safety of children. I recommended the DOS for my position and it was almost worth it just to see the look on his face(imagine that of a kid who's just been told there's no Father Christmas) during the "handover" when I pulled out the 4 page complaint against his former counterpart (up until that point he'd thought the sun shone out of her fat arse) and told him why the junior staff member had REALLY left.

Three years later and I'm working at a school in Rome. In May there's an annual training day for all the schools in the franchise. I go and while waiting for it to start, my Irish colleague with the now beardless boyf, looked at me in shock and went "what's wrong with you, you look like you've seen a ghost".

God loves his little ironies and in a city of 3 million people, around 300 language schools and a training day where only 30% of staff actually turned up....the useless fat fuckwit from the summer camp had just waddled past me in the corridor.

I nearly walked out then and there but found out we were in different groups for the "training" so gritted it out and on the Monday confided in my boss about summer 2006, how upsetting it was to even see this berk again and asked her to assure me that I wouldn't ever have to interact with this creature at work. I remained professional about it and said that while I had simply ignored her on the training day, I didn't want to be put in a position where my integrity could be compromised through having to even be in the same room with her. My boss was very understanding and assured me that was very unlikely and she herself only sees the despicable slug once or twice a year at most.

I put this to one side and more or less forgot about it until last Thursday when I off handedly said to my boss "did you ever hear anything about me from that woman?" expecting her to say "no" or at the very most "just that she knew you".

Instead she replied "Oh God, yeah. She rang just after you spoke to me and was also on the phone to the boss of all the schools".

Feeling pissed off, angry, nervous, scared and insulted all at once isn't fun and I went "you WHAT?!!"

Realising the mistake she'd made she said she couldn't talk now as she had to go but then added that:

a). I still had a job
b). She'd completely ignored what the malodorous cow had said
c). She'd re-employed me five months AFTER the phone call
d). What the fat bitch had said wasn't libellous
e). I only knew because I'd asked her.

I was righteously fucking annoyed about this until I went home, calmed down and realised that I indeed only knew through asking her and it clearly had had no effect on my boss's professional opinion of me. If I was to have a sit down with her the following Monday to find out what had been said I would become angry and this would necessitate a phone call to the vindictive slob's boss plus a letter to the franchise owner AND the lardy lump. This in turn would create bad blood on all levels. After consulting my Irish friend she suggested that this was almost certainly a pre-emptive attempt to "get in first" as the pie guzzling bint had guessed I would tell someone about her behaviour on the summer camp.

I called my boss the following day and said that I'd decided to "let sleeping dogs lie" and that I DIDN'T want to know what the cholestorally challenged blubber heap had said. I also added that it meant a lot that my boss had enough faith in me to ignore what Whale Woman had said and that as she'd specifically stated that the sweating lump hadn't slandered me then I felt it was her version of events and a belated pre-emptive strike.

My boss was quite touched and repeated that Pie Taster's opinion of me had had NO bearing on her opinion of me and we wished each other a good weekend and concuded the call.

Irony...like goldy or bronzey but made of iron.

The second part of Vampire Chronicles for hormonal adolescents "Twilight 2: New Moon" came out last Wednesday and as I teach a lot of teenagers I asked them if they could guess why the movie was being released mid week and not on the customary Friday. After some humming and haahing and a suggestion that it was coz tickets are cheaper. I asked one very eager 14 year old (who was off to the film as soon as class finished with her best friend and a big box of hankies) what she would be doing at 8am Thursday morning. She replied enthusiastically that she would be telling her school pals just how fab the film was. They then all accepted that the "2 days earlier" release date was almost certainly to get the extra moolah from hundreds of squeaking 15 year old girls who would be pestering their parents for the 7 Euros on Thursday night to watch Bella, Edward and Jacob strutting their stuff on the big screen.

Far as I'm concerned vampires don't go to high school and play baseball.

I now officially have a girlfriend. I bought her a rose today (and from a florist's, NOT one of those povvy bastards at the traffic lights). Last night we ate dinner together, then we cuddled on the sofa and watched 'Ocean's 12' while eating chocolates. Today we're off to see 'Twilight 2: New Moon' in Rome.

Gene Hunt would hate me.

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