The Bourne Mouth Identity

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August 25th 2008
Published: September 11th 2008
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Limestone cliffs of the Jurassic coastLimestone cliffs of the Jurassic coastLimestone cliffs of the Jurassic coast

as they call the South West coast of England
While we were still in Madrid we arranged a job in England for the summer - working for EF International Language Schools in Bournemouth. The draw of this, other than money was the free accommodation and the fact that, unlike other language summer school we didn't have to look after kids between lessons. Anyway, the way the summer schools system works is that lots of people from around the world come to study English in Britain for the duration of the summer. Some of them even stay for a whole academic year, but there's a particularly high peak in the summer months. As a result, language schools that cater for this need a lot of temporary staff during this time. Which is good for me and Kate.

Think of Bournemouth. What springs to mind? Personally, having never visited before this July I thought of beaches, fish and chips and retired people. I wasn't mistaken. What I didn't also think of was - the highest number of international language schools outside of London. What this means is, particularly in the summer, Bournemouth is extremely cosmopolitan. While I thought students would be largely European, it turns out that people descend on the seaside town from all continents. The result being you can end up teaching classes of students from China, Iran, Mexico, Holland, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan, France and Thailand...all mixed up together in room. Which can be interesting. More on that later...first, the accommodation...

Big Brother's Little Brother

As mentioned above, our accommodation for the 7 weeks in Bournemouth was supplied by EF and was based in what appeared to be a ex-hotel near to Boscombe, just along the coast from Bournemouth centre. Basically it had been used in the past to accommodate students but was now being used solely for teachers for the summer months. We arrived there on the Thursday from London with work starting for us on the following Monday and a few days to kill having a look around.

Basically, it felt a bit like the Big Brother house- hence the title above. There seemed to be about a million teachers staying in the house and most of them were well into their 1st or 2nd week of teaching when we turned up. With it being such a big house with a shared kitchen and sitting room, we tended to meet
Celebrating Kris's birthday Celebrating Kris's birthday Celebrating Kris's birthday

with some fellow English teachers
everyone in dribs and drabs and it wasn't unlikely to pass someone on the stairs who you'd never seen before and just assume they lived there too and probably weren't burglars or psychopaths (although, admittedly, living there and being a burglar/psychopath was not mutually exclusive). Anyway, it all turned out to be pretty interesting and everyone was from a variety of places and most had taught in an equally wide variety of countries. People from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and even Sunderland were harmoniously brought together by their common passion for teaching English.
Err....sort of. Or at least to earn money and live rent-free. Moving swiftly on...

The British seaside, stag nights, hen nights and Polish delicatessens

Bournemouth! The quintessential British seaside town! Fish and chips! Pensioners with flasks of tea! people "sunbathing" come rain-or-shine, amusement arcades and noisy seagulls! As I already mentioned, it was my 1st visit to Bournemouth and it was nice to be by the sea again. I grew up within a 10 minute walk of the icy expanse of the North Sea and I, you know, do like to be beside the seaside (where the brassband plays diddly-om-pom-pom). If you've read previous blogs you'll know that we did live for a time near the sea in Pattaya, Thailand, and while relentless sunshine, palm trees and tropical cocktails are can't beat the British tradition of braving the elements and the gulls (there's a distinct lack or giant aggressive seagulls in Thailand - but then they do have crocodiles) and taking to the coast for a bag of chips out of some newspaper. Anyway, Bournemouth really does have an impressive beach! It's huge and goes on forever and on a sunny day, it's pretty lovely. Bournemouth itself isn't bad either - with its pretty parks and the Bournemouth Eye - basically a hot air balloon on a rope that you can fly up in (when it's not too windy) and see the expanse of the coast. If you fly up there on a Saturday afternoon you'll no doubt also be able to spot a multitude of men and women in eye-catching fancy dress Bournemouth appears to be one of Britain centres for stag and hen parties...

Each weekend the streets of Bournemouth fill up with women wearing L plates on their bums and men dressed as women - all in the name of a pre-marital party (so they say). I mean, this happens all over the UK obviously, but maybe it's just that Bournemouth isn't so big that they're so obvious there. I did wonder if any of the blokes just used this as a cover so they could dress as women for the weekend and blend in. I mean, how many of them were actually about to get married..? Anyway, this all resulted in the pubs of the town being packed out on a weekend evening. Well, probably that, the general holidaymakers and all those foreign students. Hmm. Come to think of it we can't blame the pseudo-transvestites for too much. Still - queuing to get in a pub?? Are you mad??? Consequently we showed our age and spent many an evening in the local Wetherspoon's - the famous Moon On The Square.

Something else we noticed about Bournemouth was the huge number of Polish shops. Err, by Polish I mean the nationality. I don't think Bournemouth has any more cleaning product-style, Mr Sheen shops than anywhere else - though I didn't check this. This resulted in me trying absolutely zero Polish cuisine but drinking a lot of Polish beer
EF Leaving curryEF Leaving curryEF Leaving curry

lots of teachers
- which turned out to be deceptively strong. Such was the number of Polish shops in Bournemouth that when I told some Polish students they should try English beer they replied that they couldn't find any - only Polish beer! Crikey.

Weddings and parties

A great thing about being back in the UK for a while has been catching up with friends and family. Living in Bournemouth meant that we could attend the wedding of Paul and Sarah. You may remember them from their trip to Thailand to see us. They tied the knot in a country house and garden in Malmsbury (somewhere in the South of England, we're still not entirely clear as to where it was). We also got to Mike's 30th birthday party in Bedford. Mike, of Mike and Monica fame, who came to see us in Madrid. Both of these events were lovely and very swish, complete with great food, champagne and cocktails, and made us feel like grown up responsible folk, rather than gypsy-bums.

We also didn't take living in the South of England for granted. I actually went to uni in Southampton, way back in the dim and distant past, so I had already seem some of the South. Kris, however, was abit of a Southern virgin. So we had a old good explore....the Jurassic coast, Corfe Castle, Lulworth cove, Poole, Christchurch, Southampton....even the dreamy spires of Oxford. It's nice, but it's not the North is it? And in the age old competition of North vs. South, we cheer on the North every time!

Almost forgot - teaching!

Teaching in Bournemouth was tiring but lucrative! Lessons were long and we taught a lot of them and by Friday each week we were knackered. Lessons started at 8.45 each morning and we generally finished at 6.30 in the evening...then we went home, ate dinner and then started preparing for more lessons! It was all a bit intense for everyone I think. I taught 2 main class 4 days a week, a total of 9 hours each class - one at pre-intermediate level and one at pre-advanced. Meanwhile Kate taught an intermediate and an upper-intermediate. On Wednesdays we taught extra option classes of writing skills, communication, grammar and pronunciation. It was quite a challenge - particularly as, unlikely in our previous teaching experiences, the classes were mixed nationality so had different problems with the language. You can probably imagine that a person from Beijing has different shortcomings in English to someone from Madrid. Nevertheless, it did make class interesting and full of different points of view and experiences. Once you got everyone to stop complaining about British food and weather you could find out some interesting facts and attitudes of different nationalities. There are too many comical classroom scenarios to document here, but one in particular stands out...

Having a bad day...

In one class the topic was "having a bad day" and the aim was to get students to use past tenses to describe an experience. I asked for examples and was given the usual stories of losing mobile phones and broken limbs. Until I got to a bloke from China. As soon as he began his story I knew it was going to be different. The 1st few words were ominous - "I was in China and I went to the toilet...". Basically the story that unfolded was thus - he went to the toilet, there was no toilet paper, so he wiped with money (I confirmed it was paper money). The multinational class listened with a mixture of hilarity and shock/disgust. Then the story teller put the cherry on the cake by explaining - he then washed the money under the tap so he could still spend it...
If that anecdote isn't a reason to keep teaching English I dunno what is...

Additional photos below
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The Jurrassic coast is so called because of the eraThe Jurrassic coast is so called because of the era
The Jurrassic coast is so called because of the era

the Jurrasic, when dinasaurs ruled the earth, hence a footprint

11th September 2008

So Jealous
I love your blog Kate and Kris (I doubt very much that Dan ever reads it but I do try and keep him in the loop.) Anyway...what's next???

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