Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Doing what I love

Sometimes you just have a day. You know it's going to be a day before you even wake up. Your body tries its best to stop you waking up because it knows, it knows that when you do, it's all going to turn to crap.

This was one of those days, only worse, because my body actually kicked me out of bed before I needed to. I woke up at 6.30, freezing cold, because the heating system in my flat turns itself off at around 5. This has happened three times in three days, and for the life of me I have absolutely no idea why. Ever since I got rid of my duvet, the evil genie that apparently lives in the radiator has decided to knock off at 5am.

I couldn't get warm in bed. I couldn't get back to sleep because I was cold and apparently wide awake, so I had a shower instead and then some coffee. The luxurious pace with which I broke my fast should have told me of the heapings of crap that were soon to land on me, but no. I was lulled, like a fool, into the sense of smug self-security that envelops a chap when he thinks he is ahead of his schedule.

I arrived at work a couple of minutes early, perfumed, fresh, rascally handsome. Today was a full day, but I felt prepared to face it. I was full of nutella and home-brewed coffee. My first task was the pilot light of the deep-sea fish of a day I would shortly encounter. I had to pull up some statistics for my colleague regarding memberships: who's paying, who paid last year but hasn't yet, how many of the new graduates are ponying up the cash…it was a task that she told me I needn't rush, that would take a couple of hours. 

Imagine her surprise, and the smug look on my face - vile, isn't it - when I returned the document to her twenty minutes. It wasn't a magic trick, but it may as well have been from the look on her face - but then, an awful lot of magic is knowing something the other person doesn't know. In this case, it was knowing that all of the characteristics my colleague needed could easily be identified by "IF GREATER THAN" and "IF LESS THAN" formulae.

In any case, with this task completed ahead of schedule, I thought I could relax - but instead, a huge ginger Belgian came roaring into my life. I do mean roaring;  he has a laugh that most of the school can hear. Once his hair goes white I can see him making a pretty penny as a Santa lookalike. It was for this gentleman that I had recorded the Mind-Mapping video, and he was exceedingly happy with it.

Except one part. One little part, that would only take me ten minutes to sort out.

The man knows me. It was only a small thing, and I was confident it would take no more than twenty (he knows me, and that means he knows how to flatter me) so, with time to spare, I agreed to sort it out there and then. I set myself up in my office, sat myself down, and made sure I was handsome. I was. I am.

I started the recording. I opened my mouth.


A chainsaw makes a noise that, if unexpected, is one of the most terrifying in the world. I leaped out of my skin and hung to the ceiling by my fingertips, like a bloody and disgusting Spider-Man. The noise stopped. I crawled down and re-installed myself. Hair a little wild, but otherwise ready to begin again. I took a perfunctory glance out of the window. Nothing.

I started the recording.



And this continued for twenty minutes. Every time I started recording my mysterious tormenter turned his or her chainsaw back on. Every time. If I ever meet the despicable animal who was doing this to me, I'm going to do absolutely nothing because they have a chainsaw. I'm not a total imbecile.

While I was slowly going mad inside the space of my own mind, I got a text - an unknown number. Unknown numbers always make me nervous, because I don't give out my number very much, but it was a woman who wanted to know if I could tutor her son. Sure, I said, when?


I warned her that I'd not be there until around 7.15; she told me it wouldn't be a problem. I hate such short notice, but a job is a job - and, speaking of jobs, it was time to get filming for the second video project of the day. There's a rather large announcement coming up in the next week, but due to various staff/national holidays, we've not had any time to prepare the online release, which will involve a video in Spanish. So that's how we two hours today: recording a three minute speech. How does one spend two hours recording a three minute speech?

Well, we did it by recording it a number of times and struggling with lighting issues, noise issues, and battery life issues. And pronunciation issues. And people-ignoring-signs-and-wandering-in-and-not-leaving issues, which were the absolute worst. In any case, we got it done, and for the next two-and-a-half hours Meyling, Sophie and I pieced together the takes to form a glorious, flowing draft. We had merely to add transitions, credits, and movement. Exhausted, we agreed to reconvene tomorrow at 8am to complete the project.

That completed, I took a whole half an hour to set up meeting the next day and chat to my colleague about work that I needed to take over from her while she jaunts off back to Blighty. Having added her items to my work schedule (and gained a new respect for the woman, she does a lot of work I didn't know about) it was to my French lesson, where I tried not to get irritated by the notion of the "traditional family," which at best is rose-tinted and at worst bigotry masquerading as "but we've always done this."Perhaps I was overreacting, but the one place in France where I've heard people using the phrase "traditional family" most was on the marches to deny the right to a family to homosexual couples. Perhaps I Pavlov'd myself again and I'm reacting to a slight that is unintended. All the same, I wonder how the class would feel if they had to describe the "traditional family" in the terms they reserve for non-"traditional" families: monoparental, recomposed (recomposé) and homosexual families versus "traditional" gives a linguistic bias (in my opinion) to the word we recognise and feel comfortable with."Hetero families" is as clinical a term as "recomposé," so why not use it?

As a result there was a slightly tense moment when I was asked what a family that is composed of a previously married father, a previously married mother, and kids from both previous relationships and the current is called. I said "a family." Because that's what it is. The day she has to say "I'm in a hetero relationship" rather than just "I'm in a relationship" is the day she has the right to label other people's families.

Sorry, that become something of a rant. I'll try to get back to the funny.

Mid-lesson I got a call from Sophie to say that the man at the top of her chain of command didn't like the video and that we'd redo the whole thing tomorrow, in one go. I have to say I'm a little relieved that our early morning meeting has been cancelled, but at the same time the fact that we wasted several hours in post-production was a knife to the kidneys of my soul. In any case, it was time to haul ass out to St. German to meet my new student, H, whose English is quite frustratingly good/bad. What I mean by this is that he has a solid to excellent grip on all English tenses and can use them comfortably and with ease, but then says "childrens" and "mens". Which is heartbreaking.

I finished that lesson at quarter past 8. I took a bus, and wrote most of this blog on the way. Since getting home I've replied to more emails and eaten half a kilo of ravioli, and I'm pretty okay with that.

Tomorrow promises to be just as exciting as today was. Oh - and I found out the name of the person who'll be replacing me. If it's you, and you read the blog, why not send me a message?

In the meantime, here's a sneaky picture from today's shoot. Hip height, so I apologise for the quality. 

As always, thanks for reading.

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