Volunteering as Tribute

Landmark today – I wangled my way onto my first school trip with the English department.

Alright, so it’s not as impressive as it sounds… and no, it doesn’t even sound impressive. But as most of the other assistants that I know have already had their fair share of school outings, I consider it an achievement of sorts. Working two jobs as I do, it meant a whole heap of complications with my second school, which will see me making good on that lost hour tomorrow, at the cost of one of the ‘incriminated’ school’s classes. Such is the way that fee-paying schools seem to dominate things. Throw money into the mix and it just makes things unnecessarily complicated. That’s why I could never, and will never, lead the life of an artist. Why would you ever charge for something you love doing?

That’s enough preaching, BB. Back to the story-telling.

I guess you can say what today’s trip consisted of was exactly the kind of thing we get in schools in the UK for free (or at least, I always assumed they were free); that is, a low-key production managed by a small cast with minimal props. You know, the kind that had a message for us all, like don’t feel pressured into sex, don’t smoke, love yourself etc. Things that a hundred-odd zitty, long-haired English teenagers really love to hear. Today’s plays had no moral, but the ambience was more or less the same; the important thing was that they were performed in English, by two English actors.


Cue yours truly being hustled over by the students as a portable translator. It wasn’t even that the English was complicated – it really wasn’t, and there was plenty of repetition – but I suppose the kids were just feeling lazy. The faltering sound system didn’t help either, which meant that most of what was said was completely and utterly lost on the kids. I got it, but only because as an Englishman abroad, I’ve become very, very good at picking up on English at a distance, even if it’s just a snatch of a conversation. My ears prick up whenever I hear it, and there’s little I can do to help that. I guess it’s just a kick from the nervous system, reminding me that, for all the will of the romantic in me, I’ve spent more years in England to call it home than Spain.

The first play was called Mary Frankenstein, for the kiddies in the first and second years of ESO. Plenty of selfie-sticks, slow-motion chases, inadvertently sexual moans and Jim Carrey-esque movements to keep my lot satisfied. The second play – The Final Answer (a mock-up game show based on Do You Want To Be A Millionaire?) – faced the tougher challenge of the third and fourth of ESO; the fifteen and sixteen-year olds. Some of the same gags, and some of the same laughs, but they were on the whole fairly mutinous throughout, and when it came to asking for a volunteer, I’m ashamed to say my school royally let the side down. I haven’t seen such resistance to going up on stage since… well, I don’t think I ever have. It makes me realise just how showy the Langton ethos really was after all. The poor actress’ exasperated expression very nearly had me crying out in frustration.

Which is why I got up and volunteered, I guess.

It was the perfect opportunity. She’d used an ask-the-audience wild card, and was panning the crowd for the answer to the question ‘Where were Shakespeare’s plays acted out?’. Since nobody here cared diddly-squat about Shakespeare (one thing they share, at least, with English schools), I volunteered as tribute. The expression on the actress’s face when it became apparent – probably as soon as I opened my mouth – that I was English was priceless. I got called up to the front to give the answer whilst my London Underground shirt was remarked on for the umpteenth time; she was keen to point out  Paddington, her home, on the map. With something of a that’s-how-it’s-done gesture to the kids, I left the stage.


I didn’t volunteer the second time around, and the three students who were called up were from the other school present, themselves taking up less than a quarter of the theatre. The disappointment continues. The lads on my row tired of trying to translate the play for themselves and instead asked me on my return for my opinion on the actress’ breasts, and when I declined to reduce her to that much they spent the rest of the hour sizing up the females in the auditorium. I won’t go into even half of how much needs saying on that matter (it’s a thousand-word post at least), as it felt like I hadn’t even left the bestial world of White Fang, but I will say that it’s really not very difficult to see why Reggaeton is so popular here in Spain.
Y eso. Here’s to a slightly more productive trip next time around, and here’s to there being a next time around. There should be a natural sciences trip to Monfragüe on the cards that I’m already signed up for, but… This is Spain. In the meantime, my ever-wandering mind has been dreaming of Cameroon and the hills of Rhumsiki. Until then, b’salaama. I could really do with some Arabic practice x


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