Posts Tagged With: Bradford

Estrangeiro in my own back yard

abroad

Globe-hopping is exhilarating and sad at the same time

There is an old Gaúcho proverb down in the south of Brazil that goes something like this: ‘Don’t jump over the fence when there are plenty of cows in your own field.’ Well, folks, that sounds a little like the story of my life – always heading for the greener grass only to find a field full of manure. In fact, fence-jumping, although glorious in its gay abandon, always seems to leave me with a deep sense of sadness. No sooner have I landed in a new field than I start to feel empty, scared, nostalgic. What madness have I just committed? Where are all those people that filled my life just weeks ago, those smiling faces, those warm human beings I once hugged on the other side of the world? Where did all those summers go? What the hell am I doing in Scarborough?

goat

Does this grass really taste any sweeter?

So, I ask myself, what exactly did I learn during my last escapade, from upping sticks in leafy Surrey 7 years ago, soaking up that Brazilian sunshine in “lively port” Porto Alegre and landing back with a dull thud in gritty Yorkshire? Well, for starters, I still believe wholeheartedly that Travel with a capital T is priceless, and nothing in this life comes near it for enriching your spirit. But moving countries is an emotional roller-coaster that leaves your heart with a few missing pieces. And the worst thing about living abroad is not knowing how long it’s going to last and when the people and places right in front of you are going to become misty memories.

Parque_Farroupilha

Parque da Redenção in Porto Alegre – now but a misty memory…

My barber in Brazil was a realistic sort of a chap. When I told him I was thinking of coming back to England he said something which could be roughly translated as, “too right, mate!” He continued: “Ask yourself what you are going to miss, exactly. I’ll tell you the only two things you’ll miss about Brazil: the weather and the people.” And in a way, of course, he was right. Yet even the weather and the people on their own amount to a sizeable chunk missing from your life, especially when you are shivering in a dark, damp Bradford bedroom. All of a sudden, Brazil’s many charms begin to replay in your mind, like a Thomson’s holiday promo video with your mates waving in the background.

buffet

Brazilian buffet lunches are a glorious ritual

Brazil is a beast of a place, a big busy sweltering ‘bagunça’ going backwards. Brazilians are always moaning that nothing works, but that is the charm of the place. In Brazil you don’t throw anything away and you don’t take anything for granted: on Friday you celebrate getting through the week in one piece. But despite the wild-west lawlessness and chaos, the people are easy to get to know and easy to love: they have learned to suffer the fools in charge and make the best of the warm days and barbecue nights. What I remember of Brazil are fleeting moments of joy, of feeling like a hero, a traveller who has been knocked about by a herd of bulls but is still standing and managing a smile. In Brazil the night is a child who only wants to play.

Moments of joy in dingy England are as rare as clockwork teacakes, especially if you live in a provincial outpost where the people look and sound like farm labourers with issues. In my little town, they think Europe is a place beyond the Urals full of foreign spies with garlic breath. But there are a few consolations: catching the Leeds to London express and fantasising about not going back; finding a booth in a light, airy Wetherspoons pub and working through the ale list; reading the Guardian horizontally on Saturday pretending to be the intelligentsia;  singing daft songs in the Spion Kop at Valley Parade after a pub crawl; wading through the £1 racks at Vinyl Tap in Huddersfield with an oscillating heart-rate and a toothy grin; eating battered haddock steaming with malt vinegar; and watching the sun and the empire go down at the end of the pier after another long summer night. 

bradders

Bradford is, shall we say, an acquired taste?

My biggest problem in England, according to social commentator David Goodhart, is that I am an Anywhere and not a Somewhere type. Somewheres grow up and stay put in their communities; they can’t wait to leave school, have conventional ideas and tend to become hostile to outside influences and stray souls invading their territory. Anywheres are rootless, university-educated drifters who move where the work is and tend to be liberal and egalitarian in outlook, identifying themselves within a larger, global image of citizenship. In other words, to the curtain-twitching nutters of this world, I am always an alien intruder who appears self-satisfied and smarmy; a suspicious bloke who doesn’t understand why the locals gang together and grunt like something in a field.

Many of the blues and folk singers I listen to always seem to be “moving on” in their songs, leaving town and heading over the hills, looking for adventure, new friendships, new loves. But life on the move is a long, sad song that gets sadder by the year and eventually leaves you with little else but memories. I may be proud to be an Anywhere drifter, but the Somewheres of this world, and there are many, have one big advantage over me – they don’t have much to miss because their lives and their friends are right in front of them and always have been. They certainly don’t envy me. In fact, they probably feel a bit sorry for a guy who was born in Bradford, ran away to see the world, and now has to face the fact that his beloved home town is only an hour away down the motorway (in a clapped out old banger). I mean, come on – who would be me?!

Biggs-trio

Brazil was a riot for Ronnie, but he missed warm bitter and Bird’s custard

Besides, I am getting a little too old for this adventure lark. Brazil was a blast, and sometimes I crave my old life back – my lovely students, those naughty buffet lunches, the warm nights, freezing beer and the distant sounds of gunshot. But I have to face the fact that Brazil wasn’t really me, if I am honest. Train robber Ronald Biggs eventually got fed up with Rio and craved his old life back, supping bitter down the pub and then popping home for dinner and puddings served with his beloved Bird’s custard. But even if his fantasy of slipping back into England had become a reality, which it didn’t, his new life would soon have become just as stale as the old one. 

As I get older, I may even have to settle down somewhere and grow old gracefully, whatever that means. At least I can take comfort from the advice a pal of mine gave me recently: ‘Don’t worry your head about old age’, he said. ‘It doesn’t last.’

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cowboys and Yorkshiremen?

Gaúcho cowboys stir things up in the 1923 revolution

Gaúcho cowboys stir things up in the 1923 revolution

There is a joke in Brazil that goes something like this: when a Paulista (from São Paulo) does business he asks, “What’s in it for me?”; when a Carioca (from Rio) does a deal he asks, “What’s in it for me and you?”; when it comes to the Gaúcho (from Rio Grande do Sul), he asks, “What’s in it for YOU!?” You see, the Gaúchos have a deep sense of rivalry, always suspicious that the other guy is on the make. In other words, I don’t care about getting one up myself, but I sure as hell don’t want YOU to get one over on me.

Are you a Red or a Blue? Answer wrong and you die

Are you a Red or a Blue? Answer wrong and you die

In Porto Alegre, where I live, there are two big football teams: the Reds (Internacional) and the Blues (Grêmio). Once, a Blue guy said to me: “Of course, I like it when Grêmio win…but I LOVE it when Inter lose.” You get the idea? When I first arrived here, a taxi driver spent the whole ride begging me to be Red. He even followed me up the driveway to the door, pleading with me NOT to be Blue – anything but that. He was visibly disturbed at the thought, animated with anxiety and frustration – he seemed to believe that if I turned Blue, one of his internal organs would stop working.

Hey, Mr Gaucho - watch what you're doing with that pole!

Hey, Mr Gaucho – watch what you’re doing with that pole!

The Reds versus the Blues – it seems like a schoolboy game, but it turns out to be deadly serious. The Gaúchos just don’t trust each other. One of my students once leaned across the table, fixed me in the eye and said: “I don’t trust anybody in this town, only my family and very close friends”. The following week he quit, so he obviously didn’t trust me either. This deep mistrust of the other guy goes back to the imperial wars here in the deep south: the Maragatos (Reds) against the Chimangos (Whites) – a bunch of cowboys fighting for independence and territorial rights. The embedded rivalry, now glimpsed in the fierce football enmity, still holds up progress, polluting political will and causing many projects to hit deadlock.

Players from Internacional and Grêmio go head-to-head on the pitch

Players from Internacional and Grêmio go head-to-head on the pitch

But hang on a minute…is this bloated Gaúcho pride very different from the superciliousness of the Yorkshireman, I ask myself? That bloke who looks upon the rest of the English as hapless wimps or scheming sharks? There is an infamous Yorkshire expression that goes like this: “Hear all, see all, say nowt; eat all, sup all, pay nowt; and if ever tha does owt for nowt, allus do it for thissen.” Roughly translated, this means: keep your mouth shut apart from when you are eating at somebody else’s expense, and never do anything for nothing. Yes folks, Yorkshire is a land of grumpy misers who somehow feel above everybody else.

'Are you taking the rise out of me, Yorkshire pudding?'

‘Are you taking the rise out of me, Yorkshire pudding?’

I once met a Yorkshire bloke in Rio – Howard from Leeds, to be precise – who would walk a mile to save 5 cents on a glass of beer. According to Howard, everybody was out to rip you off. This deep suspicion of other people is a kind of paranoia, a surfeit of bile, a lack of inner peace. Perhaps Gaúchos and Yorkshire folk hate themselves and project it onto everybody else; perhaps they both feel bitter about being treated badly somewhere along the line. Surely the cure for this cringing resentment is to stop being self-obsessed and give a hand to others. Doesn’t happiness come more easily when we begin to be kind?

Bradford fans go ape after equalising with arch rivals Leeds

Bradford fans go ape after equalising with arch rivals Leeds

One thing I have had to learn the hard way is to love my enemies, especially at Valley Parade, where the away fans always have the last laugh. I have had to swallow my pride big time, week in week out. Thus have I learned the joy of being humble. I can laugh at my atrocious team and at myself. I can rise above the rivalry and feel serene. So my advice to Gaúchos and to everybody else is to do a good deed every day. Why don’t you knock on your neighbour’s door right now and ask if you can help change a lightbulb or fix that dripping tap? Go on – you know you want to!

Leeds fans are nutters (Howard must be in there somewhere...)

Leeds nutters (Howard must be in there somewhere…)

Needless to say, there are some inferior, deluded people who are just not worth our sympathy. I refer, of course, to Leeds United fans, known in Bradford as “Leeds scum”. When it comes to football rivalry, the mutual hatred between Bradford and Leeds fans is so strong that when the two teams meet, the devil himself sits in the stand hoping to get some tips. Come to think of it, it makes the battle between the Reds and the Blues in Porto Alegre look like a bun fight at a vicar’s tea party.

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Football, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Like a rolling stone…

"See the world before you get hitched, young man!"

‘Hitch around the world before you get hitched, young man!’ Yes, grandad.

I don’t believe in forever. Forever only happens in fairy tales and my life is not a fairy tale, at least when I’m sober. Nothing lasts forever – not even love. When the vicar reads the marriage vows and seals the happy couple’s fate by making them repeat the words ’till death us do part’ I always feel a sense of wonder at the naivety of such a sentiment. The romantic part about romantic love is precisely that it doesn’t last forever: that’s what makes it tragic and yet irresistible. Time – that old chestnut – does not allow us to keep other people as our ‘possessions’; we are all essentially free-spirits.

Are you sure, kiddies, that you'll still feel the same 40 years from now?

Are you sure, kiddies, that you’ll still feel the same 40 years from now?

Not that I have been to many weddings. The shocking truth is that I have never been to one in my life, unless, that is, you count my own. You see, I was in my 20s in the 1970s at a time when youngsters prided themselves on being unconventional. Lovers were things that came and went like the seasons, part of the emotional journey from adolescence to adulthood. Getting married was seriously square. The important lesson I learned from promiscuity (yikes! – even the word sounds daring these days) is that finding your one-and-only precious ‘soul mate’ is a myth. We all have many soul mates dotted around the world; the tragedy is that we never get to meet them, especially if we tie ourselves to one person from the off.

These days we seem to have reverted to a kind of 1950s-style conventionality, when the aim of your early 20s is to find Mr or Mrs Right, get hitched and start planning babies. I have noticed that many of my former students in England, still in their early 20s, are proudly posting their marriage commitments on Facebook. Here in Porto Alegre, if anything, it’s even worse. Couples meet in the school yard and stay glued together until they march down the aisle 10 years later: ‘one life, one love’ seems to be their motto.

Hey - your soul mate is waiting for you in Buenos Aires...

Hey – your soul mate is waiting for you in Buenos Aires…

Whatever happened to the brilliant idea of seeing the world before you settle down? Surely your 20s are the decade for getting as much life experience as possible, for being a rolling stone that gathers no moss. This learning curve naturally includes having a number of relationships as you navigate your way around the globe, finding love but eventually moving on. Travel adventures are just that: adventures – the very definition of the word implies something that doesn’t last.

Hence, From Bradford to Brazil is, was and always has been an adventure, not a permanent state of affairs – that would have taken all the fun out of it. The glorious state of Rio Grande do Sul is perfect for Gauchos, with their extended families, beach houses and rowdy barbecues. Anybody else here feels like an alien, especially foreigners like me. I don’t fit in because there is nowhere to fit me in. In fact, I can think of only three reasons for staying in Porto Alegre indefinitely: 1) having a prestigious, highly-paid job (salaried in a foreign currency); 2) being part of one of those extended families, instantly adopted by having married one of the locals; or 3) being too scared to go back and face the rat race at home.

Eat English cheese with a bottle of good claret and die happy

Eat English cheese with a bottle of good claret and die happy

Inevitably, people ask me why I am contemplating a return to you-know-where.  Of course, I could take the question seriously and answer in a very measured way. I could say, for example, free healthcare, personal safety, established infrastructures, clean fresh-water systems, low cost of living, and so on. I could be boring. But the truth is, it’s the little things that pull me back like a fridge magnet: English sausages, English cheeses, pie and peas with mint sauce, watching Bradford City at Valley Parade and having a mucky curry afterwards, public libraries, record shops, charity shops, The Guardian, BBC Radio 4central heating (yes, you heard me right)…the list goes on.

Best view in the world! Bradford seen from the Kop at Valley Parade

Best view in the world? Bradford seen from the Spion Kop at Valley Parade

Unfortunately, back in Blighty, I will have to put up with English people who don’t hug and kiss like Brazilians. That will be tough. And I’ll probably have to change the name of the blog – From Bradford to Brazil will have to become something like From Porto Alegre to Pontefract. As for my new life, like the blog itself, I will just have to make it up as I go along. But then life is a series of wondrous adventures – you never know who or what is round the corner on the B 69 to Dewsbury. As they warn me every day on the local radio news channel here in Porto Alegre, “Em vinte minutos, tudo pode mudar” (in 20 minutes, everything can change). Watch this space.

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Have you heard the one about my life?

I was born in Bradford...lived in Brazil...buried in Scunthorpe. The End

I was born in Bradford…lived in Brazil…buried in Scunthorpe. The End

‘If I wrote a book about my life, it would be a best-seller!’ How many times have I heard that old chestnut, I wonder. People presume that their own life is like a racy novel, beginning in the cradle and ending in the grave. All they need to do is write it all down. Evidently, philosophers describe this kind of thinking as ‘diachronic’ – treating life as an evolving narrative. But is life really like that? Don’t we all remember things in a muddle, forgetting most of it and piecing the rest together like highlights from a B-movie? How much of what we remember is reliable? More to the point, are we the same person all the way through? Am I really that daft schoolboy who clapped in the middle of a chamber music recital because I thought it was finished? Beetroot was the colour of my face (and the headmaster’s).

Surely we need to be selective about our pasts, dredging up only a few choice morsels. So, scratching my head, I have come up with a few incredible moments from the rich tapestry of my life so far – ‘from Bradford to Brazil‘…

A tractor factory is no place for a vinyl junkie!

A tractor factory is no place for a vinyl junkie…

1974: As a Bradford lad with very little between the ears, I found myself working in a monstrous factory, fitting wheels on tractors. One day an older workmate was boasting about his son passing university exams. Feeling jealous, I told him proudly that I had passed a few ‘O’ levels myself. He looked me up and down – observing my grimy overalls, oily face and unkempt hair – and said: “You! You must be joking. You are nothing but a filthy stink!” The next morning, as I approached the factory gates, I stopped and thought, ‘I can’t face it anymore’. So I went for a steamclean and a week later got a job in a record shop.

A cross between Jim Morrison and Rupert Brooke? Doing my homework for Bradford College, 1982

A cross between Jim Morrison and Rupert Brooke? Doing my homework for Bradford College, 1982

1982: Landing back in starry Bradford after 6 months in California, I thought myself a man of the world. I had also read the odd book on my travels. One night an old pal heard me and my new posh voice waxing lyrical about literature. “Eh, Martin”, he said, “you’re talking to your mates, now. Stop trying to sound like Oscar Wilde.” It was true, I had become a pretentious chump. So I cut my long hair short, bought myself an old suit and tie from a charity shop and enrolled at Bradford College: I went from Jim Morrison to Rupert Brooke in the blink of a town hall pigeon. After a couple of weeks on the course, one of my fellow students said: “What’s with the suit? You look like a down-at-heel insurance man”. Charming.

Irish writer Anthony Cronin once dubbed me a 'playboy' for some reason...

Irish writer Anthony Cronin once dubbed me a ‘playboy’ for some reason…

1986: I pitched up in London and was invited to look after the flat of a distinguished Irish writer, Anthony Cronin, while he went back to Dublin to think. As my passport was about to expire and I didn’t have a job, I asked Tony what I should put down as my ‘occupation’ on the application form. “Just put playboy”, he said. Then I did get a job, teaching English to foreigners in a school in the West End. One day, after a heavy lunch with an Italian guy whose English was appalling, we returned to the school to carry on with the lesson. Despite my Herculean efforts to keep listening to the guy, I nodded off, slumping onto the desk in front. I woke up with a bang as the student’s fist crashed down on the table and he shouted: “Wake up! I pay many money for this course!”

1992: On my first trip to Brazil, I headed to Rio and a job in an English school. As a single bloke, I was understandably looking forward to sowing my wild oats with a bevy of Brazilian beauties. I knocked on the door of the school and it was opened by a coordinator who welcomed me and attempted to introduce me to some other teachers. But it was lunchtime and the place was empty. Apart, that is, from one young woman sitting at a table marking her students’ homework. So, lo and behold, I was introduced to my future wife. Bang went any fantasies of dental floss bikinis – my fate was to be under the thumb for the next 23 years…

So sorry that I cannot join you, ladies...I'm getting married!

So sorry that I cannot join you, ladies…I’m getting married!

2000: It wasn’t enough for lowly Bradford City to have reached the Olympian heights of the Premiership. Oh, no! We had to STAY there. Needing a win on the last day of the season, we faced the mighty Liverpool (Stevie Gerrard, Michael Owen et al). One goal from Bantams captain David Wetherall did the trick, sending the fans at Valley Parade into hysterics. Having watched the game in a London pub and imbibed a skinful of Youngs Special Bitter, I went and laid down on Richmond Green to look up at the sky and thank God in his heaven. In retrospect, I don’t think he was listening.

My begoggled son Edward winning the World Cup for England, 2008

My begoggled son Edward winning the World Cup for England, 2008

2008: As a proud dad, I watched my son, in goggles and gloves, win the World Cup almost single-handedly! Not the dastardly FIFA one, I mean the version for 10-year-olds in Chertsey. Guess which team he was representing? England, of course. Some of the other dads were not happy with the result and swore the match had been fixed. It had. Edward, my son, had accepted a bribe: if he lifted the cup he would be rewarded with a homemade cheeseburger and could stay up to watch Match of the Day on telly.

Erm, excuse me, are you sure this is the Richon Hotel, Porto Alegre?

Erm, excuse me, are you sure this is the Richon Hotel, Porto Alegre?

2011: After selling up in England, my family and I landed in downtown Porto Alegre, Brazil, with 9 heavy suitcases on a sunny Saturday lunchtime. Our hotel was just yards away from the city’s teeming ‘camelódromo’ – a ramshackle street trader’s market full of cheap tat. What a shock! From the sleepy villages of Surrey to the chaos and human struggle of the Brazilian poor. I laid down on the bed in my puny hotel room, pale and shaking, believing I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I was wrong, of course. After a few beers I remembered that you can’t have real adventures without taking risks.

As for the next 40 years, I wonder what thrills await me before I shuffle off this mortal coil? A few more second-hand LPs to add to my collection, at least. What I really wish for is the chance to go back to 1974, where I started this little trawl through the past. It could all have been so different. I could have been a contender…

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sorry, could you repeat that again, por favor?

My teacher says learning a foreign language is a piece of cake...and I LOVE cake!

My teacher says learning a foreign language is a piece of cake…and I LOVE cake!

If you’ve been following me recently, you’ve probably digested my instructions on how to become a fully-fledged traveller. Now I want to focus on the next stage: the day when you decide to settle somewhere for a year or two. This is the time when you reach another plateau, when you become that curious species known as the ‘expat’. This odd term conjures up images of lobster-skinned young males in rope-soled sandals and Hawaiian shirts guffawing together in a beach bar erected between two coconut trees. Sounds like fun? Well, I’m still looking for that bar, though I lost the fag packet with the address scribbled on the back years ago. 

Once you are firmly established as an expat, you have a big decision to make, especially if you are a native English speaker. How much of the lingo do you bother to learn? After all, you can get by in most countries with English and a smattering of the local language. So much so, that English speakers have become hopelessly lazy at learning other langauges. Many expats I have met socialize mostly with fellow English speakers and refrain from making inroads into their adopted culture and its native language. Why should they? These types exist in a kind of bubble, craning their necks to hear the Hartlepool football result every Saturday whilst crying over their cackhanded attempts to make toad-in-the-hole.

Don't be a naff tourist - learn the local lingo!

Don’t be a naff tourist – learn the local lingo!

But some of us like a challenge, and there is something magical about submerging yourself in another language and losing your clumsily conventional Britishness. So we try our damnedest to learn the native tongue, patting ourselves on the back every time we buy a pair of flip-flops without hitting a brick wall of incomprehension. Then comes the dreadfully painful day when we realise our so-called ‘fluency’ is mangled by a heavy accent you could cut with cheese wire. Curses! Why do I have to sound so foreign? Why can everybody tell a mile away that I’m from Doncaster?  What do I have to do to sound like Rafael? Eat more garlic or put a snail under my tongue?

Spot on, Haruki, whoever you are...

You took the words right out of my mouth…

No, but you have to face the fact that every language learning attempt reaches a glass ceiling beyond which you may only venture if you are prepared to split your personality. To take that final leap into the unknown means leaving your former self behind. To crack the native accent, you have to reinvent yourself, to adopt a new persona. To copy all those tricky sounds you have to become a mimic, a barefaced ventriloquist who can fool a native for at least a couple of minutes. Believe me, this is so difficult it makes nuclear physics look like Candy Crush.

As an illustration, I will compare two Brazilian speakers of English I met a few years back in Rio. One was a young woman who had just returned to Brazil after spending 5 years in England. She came to me for lessons, but only 2 minutes into the first lesson I stopped her short and said: “Your English is so good you sound like a native. You don’t need me.” But as the lesson continued I began to notice how many little errors she was making – I had been fooled completely by the accent. She was the exception that proves the rule. The other case was a Brazilian teacher of English who, in a higher teaching diploma exam, gained the highest score for that year in the whole of South America. Her English was exceptional, virtually error-free, except for one thing: her accent was as heavy as a wheelbarrow full of church lead. You always knew when she was coming down the corridor of the school because the cockroaches jumped out of the window en-masse.

I clicked and clicked and clicked until I cried

I clicked and clicked and clicked until I cried…

So, unfortunately, unless you have an ear for mimicry and are prepared to contort your precious voice into myriad new-fangled sounds, forget mastering the accent. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there is another intimidating barrier you come up against as a language learner. Teaching yourself to say a few things and be understood is all well and good. But how the hell are you supposed to catch the flow when people are rabbiting nineteen to the dozen? In other words, understanding is always more difficult than being understood: you can speak the new language at your nice, slow pace, but native speakers expect you to follow their rapid delivery, with different accents, registers and slang thrown in. Often you feel like shouting SLOW DOWN!, but that would only expose your incompetence. So instead you stand there grinning from ear to ear praying that the speaker hasn’t asked you a question and you’ve missed it.

I once had an extraordinary phone conversation with a tele-sales girl in São Paulo (phone calls are mostly nightmare in another language). She called me to discuss a new phone plan and before I could stop her, she had launched into a quick-fire spiel about the new services I should expect to receive . When she stopped there was a crackly pause and she asked if I was still there. I said yes (sim), and then tried ineptly to produce a summary of what she had just told me, missing out loads. This gave her a fit of the giggles. When I did get something right she said (I’m translating): “Yes, that’s it, Mr Martin!”, obviously trying not to laugh. Then the inevitable happened and she asked me where I was from (a sure sign you don’t fool anybody). I nearly said Bradford but thought better of it.

Sorry, can't help you with that rubbish accent!

Sorry, can’t help you with that rubbish accent!

Based on the above, it always makes me cringe when somebody says they have a friend whose cousin speaks 5 languages fluently. “Really!”, I say, burning inside. “How nice for them!” Except I don’t believe it. Why? The key word here is “fluently”. Mastering a language is not like riding a bike or memorising the chapter of a book. To speak a language fluently you need constant, daily interaction with native speakers, reaching into all those distant idiomatic and colloquial spaces that all languages contain. Doing this in one other language would take up all your time, so how could you possibly do it with 5? Being able to get by in 5 languages is something completely different, though even that is commendable in my book.

I've never played Candy Crush, but I can say 'cobbles' in Portuguese

I’ve never played Candy Crush, but I can say ‘cobbles’ in Portuguese!

So, if you just can’t be bothered with all this language learning malarkey, I have the perfect solution: get yourself a ‘sleeping dictionary’ – a boyfriend (or girlfriend) who is a native speaker of the language you want to learn. Geddit? A word of warning, however. Make sure your new, exotic love doesn’t speak a word of English or you could end up with a freeloading student on your hands. As usual, I speak from experience.

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Is your TEFL ticket past its sell-by date?

Excuse me, love, do you have any bangers and mash?

Excuse me, love, do you have any bangers and mash?

Travel, travel and more travel – that’s what everybody would like to do, if only they had the time and the money. “See the world, lad, before you settle down”, my grandad used to say. Of course, he was right. There is nothing like travel for seeing how the other half live, delving into exotic cultures and then realising the limitations of your own. For some of us, travel can be addictive. We soon get bored with the easy life at home and yearn for adventure. When the travel bug gets serious, we want to throw off our tourist garb and settle somewhere for a while, learn the lingo, fall in love, submerge ourselves. But how to earn an honest crust?

Teaching English abroad is bags of fun when you're young...

Teaching English abroad is bags of fun when you’re young…

Well, if you are lucky enough to be a native English speaker, Bob’s your uncle! You can teach English, of course – what could be simpler? You were born speaking English so it’s as natural to you as falling off a lorry. All you have to do is talk…and listen to your sweet (but very slow) students without falling asleep. Eureka! Instant job, instant income! But hang on a minute…you know how to speak English, but you’re not sure how to, erm, ‘teach’ it. What about grammar and all that stuff? Well, to be honest, depending on how far-flung your destination is, you might get by with little or no previous experience. If a student asks you about the ‘Present Perfect’, you can always say you’ll do that in the future. Trouble is, if you go somewhere more popular, you might face competition from somebody ‘trained’: a qualified TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher, no less.

Yes, folks, the world is choc full of TEFL teachers of every hue and stamp – the young and the old, the keen and the jaded, the settled and the shackled. In my experience, there are three predominant ‘types’ of TEFL teacher you are likely to come across on your travels:

Hooray - I've got my TEFL ticket to the world! How far is Timbuktu?

Hooray – I’ve got my TEFL ticket to the world! How far is Timbuktu?

The Backpacker: this is the charlie who jumps off the banana boat in Rio and, after filling his nostrils with that tropical sea air and spotting the beach totty, bangs on the door of the first ‘School of English’ in view. He’s a chancer, an opportunist, but hey – he’s doing no-one any harm! Besides, he will most likely be paid peanuts but doesn’t care because he is only in it for the ride, ‘the craic’ as they say in Dublin. Come Christmas he’ll be on the plane heading back to Aunty Doreen and Uncle Derek in Darlington, no hearts broken. Believe me, there is wisdom in his nonchalance.

Forget grammar, Alfredo...let's just chat till the pubs open

Forget grammar, Alfredo…let’s just chat till the pubs open

The Dabbler: these guys are by far the most common, thickly spread like dandelions in a prison garden. They arrive in their 20s on a Club Med holiday, get hooked on the sun and the laid-back lifestyle and end up drinking so much they forget to go home. These time-servers have a rudimentary knowledge of English teaching methodology, having completed a three-week crash course in Bournemouth in 1991. Or was it 1993? They can’t remember. As teachers they are popular types, ditching the dreaded ‘course book’ for something called ‘conversation’, which often turns out to be a teacher’s monologue about past exploits, peppered with personal anecdotes. Lessons may be extended if there is a bar nearby. For the dabbler, ‘home’ is a murky memory too scary to contemplate, a cold dark place full of stressed-out people with crippling mortgages.

The Pro: this power-dressed Iron Lady makes the rest of us look like supermarket stackers on a pub trip. She has spent years studying the whys and wherefores of teaching methodology and the science of language acquisition, finally being honoured with an MA in Linguistics from Utah University. She is Miss Serious and never gets her knickers in a twist. When not in the classroom overawing students with her knowledge, she can be found lurking in the corridors of TEFL Conferences in Milan or São Paulo, clutching a bunch of papers concerning the effects of modal verbs on mental health.

Today's word is 'cheek'...these are your cheeks - go on, feel them!

Today’s word is ‘cheek’…these are your cheeks – go on, feel them!

Different though they may be in many respects, these TEFL ‘types’ all face the same dilemma: whether to stick it out in the big wide world or whether to face the music one day and creep back ‘home’ to Bognor Regis. The key words here are ‘happiness’ and ‘job satisfaction’: if you have both of these, you are laughing. You may also be well-integrated into a new, foreign family and feel perfectly settled in your adopted homeland. But for those of us who haven’t embraced TEFL heartily as a lifelong career, endless days of ‘conversation’ – broken by the occasional detour into the dictionary of phrasal verbs – becomes steadily less rewarding.

There were two old TEFL teachers sat in deckchairs, and one said the the other...

There were two old TEFL teachers sat in deckchairs, and one said to the other…

After all, TEFL is not rocket science. Actually, it is much more of a laudable profession for those people who are non-native speakers and have had to study the language for years. I have met many non-native EFL teachers and they love everything about English, gaining much personal satisfaction from their achievements in a foreign tongue. Most of them put us native ‘buskers’ to shame.

Miss - how do you say 'I fancy the pants off you' in English?

Miss – how do you say ‘I fancy the pants off you’ in English?

So, as an old hand at the ‘game’, what is my advice to those of you considering the TEFL route around the world? That’s simple: definitely go for it, no question about that. Nothing comes close to the soul-lifting experience of living abroad. However, there is a caveat I must throw in: don’t put all your eggs in one basket (or all your verbs in the same sentence). In my experience, it is only for the very few that TEFL becomes an engaging and financially rewarding long-term career. Before you swan off to Beijing, you need to think seriously about adding more strings to your bow, or developing a parallel career. Then, if you end up back in Blighty with a backpack full of memories and empty pockets, you are not reduced to serving behind the bar at the Nag’s Head in Romford.

All those fabulous memories...but one day I might end up back in Wigan

All those fabulous memories…but one day I might end up back in Wigan

TEFL may be a ‘ticket to the world’, but it just might not be enough to keep you abroad forever. As Spandau Ballet put it so memorably in the 80s, ‘I bought a ticket to the world / But now I’ve come back again / Why do I find it hard to write the next line / Oh I want the truth to be said’. ‘Writing the next line’ is, figuratively speaking, what you will have to do post-TEFL, so be prepared. Oh, and the name of the song? True, of course, like everything I write in From Bradford to Brazil! And don’t be late for class tomorrow…

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The square root of love

The universe is expanding but are we getting any wiser?

The universe is expanding…but are we getting any wiser?

In class this week we looked at some big, existential questions: What happens when I die? Is there a God and if so, what is she/he/it like? Einstein said that if there is a God, he must be a mathematician. I suppose God would have to be quite a lot of things, besides being good at maths, in order to comprehend fully what goes on down here on planet earth. When I was a child I imagined God as a big bloke in a boiler suit, but I suppose that was just a childish fantasy. Now my imagination goes a bit further.

I Sing the Body Electric! Poetic prophet Walt Whitman

I Sing the Body Electric! Poetic prophet Walt Whitman

I still think God must be pretty massive whatever it is. I don’t think he’s overweight because I doubt he actually eats anything. I suppose he isn’t male or female, though he might be both at the same time. One day I would really like to thank him/her/it for inventing all kinds of stuff, not just maths. The sky and the ocean, for a start. Stereo and vinyl, of course. But also real ale and romantic love and avocados and poetry and jazz. I suppose if he is even slightly human he must love children and Bradford City FC and battered haddock and papaya. I expect he adores Walt Whitman and Jeanette Winterson, Thelonius Monk and Sandy Denny. His favourite subjects are probably music, philosophy and nature studies, though I’m not sure about PE.

Of course, thinking about it, there must be quite a few things that get on his nerves. I expect he hates bullies and money and drivers who push in the queue. Anybody who gets above themselves in general, really – the vain and conceited and corrupt. I expect he invented the phrase, ‘You can’t take it with you when you go!’ Exactly, I say. He is brilliant at languages, obviously, as he understands everybody who tries to send him a message. He’s probably mates with Father Christmas, too, though I guess he doesn’t like hospitals because they make him sad.

Dinner to die for - stout and battered haddock

Dinner to die for – stout and battered haddock

I sometimes wonder if he’s Swedish or Alaskan, English or Brazilian. I suppose it’s possible that he comes from Yorkshire originally, though I doubt he’s been back there for a while. In fact, he must be way too big to have any nationality; that would explain why he hates our petty earth squabbles. When I think about it, he must be sad most of the time: sad about needless violence and killing, the way so many people die tragically, though death may be beautiful after the fact, for all we know.

If I’m honest, I see God as a huge, powerful force. If you imagine the expanding universe and infinity and eternity all powered by LOVE, you may get the sense of what I mean. Neither intolerant nor judgemental, God is kindness personified – a giant, transcendental loving hug.

Mars bars and Frank Zappa? Somebody's idea of heaven...

Mars bars and Frank Zappa? Somebody’s idea of heaven…

A colleague of mine once told me about a mate of his who had found a kind of heaven here on earth. This guy’s paradise could be reached by sitting on his comfy sofa listening to a Frank Zappa LP played loud, with a novel on his lap, a cup of strong tea at hand and a Mars bar to dunk into it. I instantly identified with this image, though it wouldn’t quite work for me.

Give us a kiss! Whoever invented Romantic Love was a genius

Give us a kiss! Whoever invented Romantic Love was a genius

No, heaven for me would involve some time travel. I would wake up in my flat in Bradford in 1977 looking exactly like I did then (well, maybe a bit taller and with a few more muscles). The big difference is that I would have my 2015 brain inside my head: I would be wiser. Then everything would happen just as it used to, except that I would be kinder, more patient, more appreciative of everything around me, more alive. All those dumb decisions and stupid mistakes would be avoided. Most importantly, I suppose, I would try so much harder to give a little bit of love to those around me…in the way that I suppose God must do in his wisdom.

Categories: Great Minds, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why blokes never grow up…

Tom Butchart, proud owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton

Tom Butchart, proud owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton

“When I play a record, I can tell you where I was, who I was going out with…it’s all about memories.” So says Tom Butchart, owner of Sound It Out Records in Stockton-on-Tees. Tom has a theory that blokes like to collect things as a way of holding on to their youth. That way they never grow up. He admits that 99% of his customers are men. For Tom and the rest of us vinyl junkies, records are endlessly fascinating because they hold memories and emotions. We are forever trying to recapture the past. Through the music we hear on old vinyl records, we are transported back to a time of big hair, flared jeans and necking in the back row of the pictures.

Recorded in Oslo, pressed in Munich...I must hear it!

Recorded in Oslo, pressed in Munich…I must hear it!

Now as you may or not know, I was once myself a record shop man – the manager of HMV in Bradford, no less. I worked there from 1974 until 1980, certainly some of the best years for music, I’m sure you’ll agree. I was 18 when I joined and 24 when I left, so they were formative years, years when one’s musical tastes are cemented. But whereas everybody else who worked in the shop in those days has now forgotten about their experiences and moved on to other things, I haven’t. For some unfathomable reason I am obsessed by those 6 years of my life. So much so, that I have spent all the intervening years trying to find all the records that were in the shop at the time. And I mean ALL of them! Yes, folks, it’s a kind of madness.

A record I just HAD to hear in 1975...

Now does the music match the cover, I wonder…

When I started working in the shop, some of the big sellers were records like Sheer Heart Attack by Queen and Supertramp’s Crime of the Century. But I quickly became entranced by more exotic records, LPs with intriguing, enigmatic covers, recorded in Scandinavia and pressed in Germany; unpronounceable names I had never heard of playing racks of polyphonic synthesizers or odd instruments like bass clarinet.  Terje Rypdal, Bennie Maupin, Eberhard Weber, Annette Peacock – who were these people? Suddenly music wasn’t just for dancing or shaking your shoulder-length hair; it was something deeper, magical and transcendent. LP covers were wonderfully artistic, and often the music inside matched the aesthetic promise of the outside.

Here is a picture of 'heaven' for a bloke like me...

Here is a picture of ‘heaven’ for a bloke like me…

If my obsession is a kind of religion, then I worship at a temple in the middle of my sitting room, between two great big speakers. The records I play serve as little prayers and sermons, but without the dogma. In fact, music is a release from moral responsibilities, a suspension of worry and care, a flight of fancy, a time to sing like an idiot on the sofa. Old LPs transport me as efficiently as any time-machine. Now you can see why I, and Tom Butchart, and many other blokes, have never quite grown up.

Worshipping at a temple somewhere between 2 speakers...

Worshipping at a universal temple somewhere between 2 speakers…

Nowadays, we are constantly told to “live in the present”, whatever that means. Don’t think about tomorrow, don’t dwell in the past. Well, I’m sorry, but to quote an old Jethro Tull song, I am very definitely Living in The Past. Does that make me a saddo? Maybe. But for me, music is a kind of emotional touchstone. With the aid of my LPs, I am able to reach down into a well of feelings within myself. Of course, music also gives you a great sense of history – not just the history of music, but of cultural and social change. Reading is wonderful, too, but it tends to stimulate the intellect; music is a kind of  spark that instinctively sets our bodies and souls in motion.

Mental-as-anything Quo fan Shane in his favourite shop

Mental-as-anything Quo fan Shane in his favourite shop

There is a film about Tom Butchart and Sound It Out Records. One of the blokes featured in the film is a regular customer called Shane, whose obsession is focused on one band only: Status Quo (all together now, “Here we go-oh, rockin’ all over the world”). This guy appears to have a humongous collection of memorabilia and is on a permanent mission to buy anything associated with his rocker heroes.  There is a very revealing moment in the film where Shane looks at the camera and says: “I just like my Quo! I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I haven’t got a woman. What more could you want?” I have no idea what he means…

Categories: Blighty, Music, Vinyl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The day the travel bug drops dead

Life in a suitcase is an adventure...but pulling up roots is painful

Life in a suitcase is an adventure…but pulling up roots is painful

I’m a drifter. All my life I have been on the move: Bradford, Iowa, Bradford, Plymouth, Ilkley Moor, Brighton, California, Bradford, Andalucia, Madrid, London, Rio de Janeiro, Bradford, Surrey, Porto Alegre…the list goes on. So, where exactly is home? Wherever I lay my hat? Maybe. But there is a feeling that haunts the constant traveller. The question is, when and where I am going to stop this long, fascinating journey? Because we all need roots, even if they are delicate and don’t go down very deep. One day you just have to stop and say: “This is it. I am ready to stop the magic bus right here and stay forever”. Forever is a very big word. But journeying is a kind of madness; a sweet, delicious madness sometimes, it’s true…but mental all the same. One day you need to end the madness and settle down. The roots need to go down deeper. As Status Quo once put it, Down down, deeper and down.

One day you need deep roots...down, down, deeper and down

One day you need deep roots…down, down, deeper and down

Everybody loves travelling. Why? Well, for a start, when you are travelling you are not working. You are on holiday. You are in a relaxed and excited mood and perceive everything accordingly. All your responsibilities are on hold. Travelling is certainly different to tourism. The traveller goes to way out places, mixes with the locals and stays longer. But living abroad is different again. For that, you have to work. You have to get well integrated into the economic culture of the country you have chosen. You have to pay rent and tax, talk to lawyers and navigate through the treacherous corridors of bureaucracy. Living abroad is when travelling gets serious.

Most people who want to throw caution to the devil and live abroad make a plan to stay one year, or maybe two. There is a kind of wisdom in this compromise: you are taking the plunge to live in another country, but you have a return date. You will come back home with an expanded mind and enjoy a hero’s welcome. You will be a star in the village for a week or two. Having had a deeper and wider experience than most of your pals, you can wear your other-worldliness as a kind of badge of eccentricity. You have “seen the world”; you are different, a little bit wild even. You are cool.

If I ever leave Brazil I will weep over those Florianopolis beaches

If I ever leave Brazil I will weep over those Florianopolis beaches

But what about those of us who have no return date? We are the “lifers”, born into this world to hit the ground running, to take the road less travelled, to squint into the distance to see what’s coming next. And yet, for even the wildest wanderer there comes a day when the future must be faced. Then the question is: where am I going to end my days? Where does my heart tell me to buy a little place, collect my pension, keep a few dogs and chickens? This is the moment your adopted country becomes HOME. You are not moving anymore. You have got everything you need and wear a smile on your face each day. Your roaming days are over.

South America's football guru Tim Vickery has lived in Rio for 20 years

South America’s football guru Tim Vickery has lived in Rio for 20 years

As a born drifter, this is probably the toughest decision you will ever make. We are talking death-bed; finding a place to croak your last as you look through the window at those distant mountains; a place to write your will, leaving all your money, of course, to the George Gissing Museum in Wakefield; a place where you finally have a full drinks cabinet, complete with cocktail-shaker, lemon slices and Epsom salts. I am getting old, remember. My fellow-students call me “grandpa”. I need a place to wear my favourite yellow cardigan with the gnarled leather buttons, the one covered in dandruff and HP sauce stains.

All this points to one thing: LOVE. Do I love my adopted country? Can I picture the neighbours carrying my plastic coffin through the streets as the school band plays Abide With Me? Big question. My old mate Tim Vickery, Rio’s resident football guru, once told me Brazil was not a country to grow old in. Funny that, because he’s been here 20 years and appears totally integrated in the culture. So what did he mean? I think it’s a syndrome all ex-pats suffer from, the fear that this place, Timbuktu or wherever it might be, is my final destination, warts and all.

The Yorkshire Dales is not a bit like Brazil...funny that

The Yorkshire Dales is not a bit like Brazil…funny that

Which brings me to an even bigger question: Bradford or Porto Alegre? Rio Grande do Sul or Yorkshire? Brazil or England? Well, in order to decide, there needs to be some criteria. Things like: comfort, safety, quality of life, cost of living, a variety of fun things to do and at least a few friends you can rely on. Do I have all those? Hmm. Would I have all those in Huddersfield or Keighley? Hmm.

"mother's milk" - Yorkshire bitter with a creamy head

“mother’s milk” – Yorkshire bitter with a creamy head

For a Yorkshireman, of course, there is only one thing to consider: the water. Yes, you heard me. But I mean the water they use in the brewery. The glorious, soft spring water they use to make Yorkshire bitter, so that when your pint appears on the bar, it has a gorgeous creamy head on top. ‘Mother’s milk’, we call it. The problem is, if I move back to the north of England, I will end my days staring out of the pub window at drizzly-grey skies and derelict mills, chuckling at the pasty-white Yorkshire folk at the next table who talk funny. How the dazzling suns of Brazil and those immaculate bronzed bodies on the beach will all seem a million miles away!

Categories: Blighty, Brazil, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The truth about love

Romantic love makes your knees turn to jelly

Romantic love makes your knees turn to jelly

Hey – this is supposed to be an adventure journal, a ripping travelogue from steamy South America! So where do I keep disappearing to? You have every right to ask. I should be writing this with trembling, blood-stained hands. I should be telling you about my hair-raising adventure in the Andes where I contracted double-malaria after being attacked by a herd of tsetse flies. Or I might be dictating this to an amanuensis because I am attached to an oxygen machine after my swash-buckling travails through the Amazon jungle, wrestling crocodiles and with only a tub of Marmite sandwiches to keep me going. But no, folks. The sad truth is that I have been hiding out in my little pad in Porto Alegre, watching Brazilian soaps, reading George Gissing, frying fish and depressing over Bradford City losing twice in the space of a week. Life is a crock of cockroaches at the moment. But I don’t feel sorry for myself – oh no! In fact, by busily doing nothing, I have had time to reflect on something we all cherish, crave and care about.

L-O-V-E. A mystery we never seem to solve. Can we learn more about it, or is it something you can only feel? Who knows most about it? Poets and songwriters? Jilted lovers? If you learn more about it as your life goes on, then I should know quite a bit by now, seeing as I am entering my dotage. One of my very favourite poets, W.H. Auden, spent his whole life trying to understand what those four little letters really mean. He begins one poem wittily:

W.H. Auden spent a lifetime writing about love

Wystan Auden spent a lifetime writing about love

Some say love’s a little boy, 
And some say it’s a bird, 
Some say it makes the world go around,
Some say that’s absurd, 
And when I asked the man next-door, 
Who looked as if he knew, 
His wife got very cross indeed, 
And said it wouldn’t do.

And he ends by asking how he will know love when it comes: 

Will it come like a change in the weather? 
Will its greeting be courteous or rough? 
Will it alter my life altogether? 
O tell me the truth about love.

Of course, I cannot hope to ever match Auden’s insight and wit. I’m from Bradford, remember. But over the years I have had a few ideas about love myself. Romeo I am not; Casanova neither. But having had a few broken hearts and plenty of time to mull over the whole business of romantic love, I would like to share a few of my thoughts and maybe shatter a few myths. So here goes:

LOVE LASTS FOREVER: Who said that? How do they know? Sorry to disappoint you, but love is not a solid, static thing that sits permanently on your shoulder. Love is the most fluid thing; it won’t just stick around. Love comes and goes and sometimes there is nothing you can do to stop it flying off like a bored budgerigar. The point is not to feel guilty about it. No-one is to blame when love steals away. The surest things can change. But fear not: love will come back another day and make you glow all over once again.

Jealousy is self-love tinged with hate

Jealousy is self-love tinged with hate

LOVE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN WORK: Yes and no. If you spend all your time cultivating loving relationships you might end up as a bus driver. Love is here today and gone tomorrow and there isn’t much you can do about it. But there is a lot you can do to improve your work options. And someone who loves their work is much more attractive than a shabby sentimentalist who can’t even buy you dinner. I say: work hard at finding something you love doing for a living, and let love come and find you. Unless, of course, you love buses.

LOVE AND SEX ARE DIFFERENT: Whoever said that deserves a chocolate cookie! The trick is never to confuse the two. But for that trick you need to be a master magician, unfortunately. How many people get married because the sex is good only to find themselves waking up every day next to a wazzock. You see, passion cools, and it’s better to assess the respect you have for your lover when the flames have died down. Because respect is the key to a long, loving relationship. You need to find someone you deeply admire, but still fancy. Tricky, huh?

LOVE IS FEELING JEALOUS: Isn’t it natural to feel a twinge of jealousy when your lover is swooning in someone else’s company? Maybe. But being possessive can be catastrophic and says more about your insecurity. If you genuinely love someone you will want them to enjoy their freedom, too. Besides, if your partner is really enjoying someone else’s company that much, you had better let them go. Just make sure you have a hobby to turn to when you get dumped. I collect plastic submarines.

LOVE IS SAD: I have learnt this the hard way. Love might be quick to depart, but there is always a little bit left over that stays in your system. As you get older, it builds up and can easily turn to nostalgia. Better to allow the old loves to mature inside you, like good wine. Without the sadness that love leaves behind, we would never experience the joy of finding and treasuring love in the first place. Joy and sadness: these are the essence of love.

LOVE, AND BEING “IN LOVE”: “I love my partner, but I’m not in love with him anymore.” I’ve heard this a few times, but what does it mean? It means you don’t really love your partner, or rather, you love him like a brother. But you can live without your brother, so you really need to move on. Love means staying “in love”, and I don’t mean sizzling in the flames of passion, I mean the delight you feel just watching your partner experiencing moments of happiness. Falling “in love” is so wonderful that sometimes we fantasize about having a fling on the side. But if you are prepared to risk all on an illicit affair, better dust off those suitcases in the garage.

Poet Wendy Cope doesn't know what to say on Valentine's Day

Poet Wendy Cope doesn’t know what to say on Valentine’s Day

Love is not “staying together through thick and thin”. It is not a test of commitment. Love is freeing your spirit, not trapping it in a dingy flat in Shepherd’s Bush. Love doesn’t calculate; it liberates. It doesn’t build up resentment; it forgives and renews itself. Love is like a butterfly that doesn’t die. Oh dear – now I’m trying to sound poetic. So I’d better finish with a proper poem, or part of one. Wendy Cope wonders what to say to the man she’s been with for donkey’s years when another Valentine’s Day arrives: 

Today’s the day we have to be romantic.
Our love is old and sure, not new and frantic.
You know I’m yours and I know you are mine.
And saying that has made me feel romantic,
My dearest love, my darling valentine.

I couldn’t have put it better myself. But that’s enough romance. Next week I will post some pictures of me grappling with a big brown bear in a supermarket car park. I thought the bear loved me…I was wrong. 

I found this alligator in my swimming pool, so I've been a bit busy

I found this alligator in my swimming pool, so I’ve been a bit busy…honest!

 

 

Categories: Books and Writers, Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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