Monday, 29 November 2010


 Snow update. In blind and selfish opposition to the weather forecast, the snow has continued for three days. Each day me or my parents have cleared it from the front path and every day it's come back. Here is the view out my bedroom window:

 The garden steps are completely buried and the bird table is becoming an igloo.

Out the front...

The cars are almost buried and all the neartly cleared paths have a thick, fresh layer of snow. I don't remember ever seeing this much snow falling at once. And it's still November!

Friday, 26 November 2010

The Consulate General's Reception

I was invited to a reception at the home of the Scottish Consulate General of Japan, as a sort of 'welcome back' (ignoring the fact that I've been back now for four months now...golly, is that all?) to the country. It took two buses followed by a walk up some hilly streets to get to his house. I rang the call button on the wall outside and magically the wooden gates opened in, light streaming down from the residence. It was pretty much as I expected - large, lavish - giant pictures on the walls. On the mantelpiece above the marble fireplace were two framed photographs - one of current emperor, Akihito, and the other of his wife, Empress Michiko. I found this deference to royalty mildy amusing, though it occurs to me that when I was at the British Embassy in Tokyo three years ago, there was more than one portrait of the Queen in the building.

Apparently, there were only three JETs returning this year, or at least only three who could attend (remembering that not everyone is willing to travel several hours for a couple of hours of wine and chit-chat), so the numbers were padded out by other former JETs and various people connected to Japanese organisations. The three of us who came back this year had to give short speeches then all the former JETs introduced themselves then everyone else introduced themselves and we all started eating and drinking. Apparently the Consulate General has the best sushi chef in Scotland, but since I don't eat sushi I couldn't tell you.

There was a former Tokushima JET there. She lived in Hanoura when Hanoura was still a place of its own - its been absorbed into Anan since. There were one or two people that we both knew of, despite being there years apart. It was weird talking about them, like we were talking about dead celebrities.

At one point the Consulate General made us stand round in a circle and watch him sing Moon River a cappella. I didn't know where to look.

When we left, around eight thirty, it had started to snow. Not proper snow, really - just little flakes that weren't lying for the most part. While many parts of the country had been hit by heavy snow over the past couple of days, Edinburgh had missed out. Of course, it's still been absolutely freezing out, which made waiting for a bus that little bit less fun. By the time I got home where was a thin layer of snow on some parts of the street, but it still didn't seem like it would come to much.

I was wrong!

Snaw! (Oor Wullie for 'snow')

Friday, 19 November 2010

The Hard Sell


I just spent forty minutes on the phone with someone offering to make me the greatest English teacher in the Edinburgh area ever. EVVAR!

He's part of this online directory that offers to get one person within a particular field in a particular area to the first page of google when people search for that thing in that area. So I was to be on the first page of google for anyone searching for an English teacher in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, he woke me up (yeah I was still sleeping at 10am) and my voice was all retarded and I didn't know what was going on.

Pretty soon, though, as I lazily agreed to everything he was saying like a good consumer monkey, it became obvious that he was taking my ill-considered assent as a form of encouragement as he asked for my debit or credit card number. I started to wake up around this point and managed to claw things back a few stages, trying to say I'd just started out in this game and wasn't ready to commit to major advertising. But, being a marketing man, he wasn't about to take no for an answer. He ran the conversation like a Socratic dialogue, making me agree to all of his points all over again before making me say 'no' again. I said I didn't have the £399.99 (650 dollahs, ladies and gentlefolk) he was asking for. Then he wound things back, said he could talk to his boss about bumping the fee down. I did my best to give the impression I still wouldn't be able to afford it, but magically his boss came into the room and he bumped his fee down to £250. Not bad. Still, it was too early in my tenure as a language teacher to be committing to this, and too early in the morning for me to be making this kind of decision.

Alas, he wasn't taking no for an answer, and ran be back through every self-evident truth about the opportunity he was proposing. I said something about having classes (meaning teaching students) and he thought I meant I was a student and that was why I didn't have enough money. Then he got even pushier, saying, "Well students have credit cards and overdrafts, don't they?" - cheeky git. Unfortunately I took on the 'being a student' thing as a possible out and accidentally implied I was living hand-to-mouth. He ran through things like, "So if someone asked you to go to the pub tonight, you'd have to say no?" and I was like, "Not exactly, but," and he'd chime in with, "Ah! See! So you do have spare money?" and it got to the point where I was trying to get him to appreciate some self-evident truths, such as, "Just because I can afford £2.50 for a pint, doesn't mean I can afford £250 on self-promotion. Idiot." He wasn't seeing it though, and in retrospect I think he may have been suggesting I go into debt because, "After a few months it's paid for itself, right?"

We went round and round in circles, me not budging any more and him using the same tired arguments, and then, out of the blue, he seemed to give up and said he was moving onto the next person. I'll be sorry, I'm sure.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Coming up Me

So I've gone from being concerned that I'll get nowhere with this private teaching thing to becoming quietly, tentatively confident. I can't remember if I've blogged on the subject before, but after going to the Japanese event a few weeks ago where I met my headmaster, I realised that the person in the JET Alumni Association who'd contacted me was in fact the headmaster's son. We chatted through email about Japan and teaching, and he asked if I was interested in doing private lessons with a Japanese guy he'd been put in contact with. I was worried about it clashing with the hectic schedule of CELTA, but as it turned out he wanted to start this week, so I had some recovery time. We had our first lesson on Monday and, with the help of people from Randolph, where I did the CELTA, I had some good materials to get things going. It was a confidence booster and I hope I'll be able to help him before he leaves the country in March.

While I was in town with this student, I got a text in response to my gumtree ad. On Sunday I paid to get my ad bumped to the top of the results for a week, and also altered my prices to become more affordable. The text yesterday was my first (and so far only) response to the ad, but if it pans out it's as good as four responses. The two Spanish girls in question want four lessons a week and want to start tomorrow. Yikes! But hooray for me - kind of a baptism of fire, but great experience and the possibility of moving out of my parents' house is looking ever so slightly more plausible.

Monday, 8 November 2010


I've put an ad on classified website Gumtree as a private English teacher. Not sure where I'll get with that but it's a step in the right direction. It's a tough marketplace out there.

Gambling on the X Factor

So for the last few weeks I've been having a bit of fun putting money on the X Factor. My motivation was realising that I correctly guessed last year's winner quite early on and could have made money off it if I'd been savvy. But then I was living in Japan and I probably would have been blocked from the gambling site.

So this year I thought I'd give it a go. A bit of a giggle. I stuck £20 onto the gambling site to play with, but instead of betting on a winner - which seemed uncertain early on - I bet £5 on John to be the first to go. My rationale was that he had failed to stand out and was the most forgettable of the 16 contestants. Alas, it was Nicolo who got the boot, someone I'd deemed safe by virtue of his cute foreign-ness. It was a double elimination, however, and I had a second chance to win when they put a time-sensitive betting opportunity on for who would lose the final showdown. I put another £5 hoping that Katie would go, but FYD let me down and I lost again.

In the second week I decided right away that Storm would go, and put a few pounds on him, and won. Then I put a few more pounds on Diva Fever going in the final showdown, and won again. However, I was more cautious with my betting this week and with the odds these artists had, I didn't quite make back my losses from the week before.

Week 3 was another week of losses, as I put money on Belle Amie - bottom three the week before - to go. But they didn't make the bottom two this week, and then I made some more minor losses betting on Treyc to go, considering that since she wasn't favourite to go, any amount I bet on her would give a much better return than a bet on John. However, I got back to how I was at the beginning of week 3 after betting on Belle Amie again in week 4, ending back around £16.

Last night, hoping that time was finally up for the Weasel, I bet on Katie to go. I was thwarted, however, by the abstention of Cheryl Cole, who wouldn't vote against either of her own acts. Usually on X Factor they go to the judge whose own acts are in play last. Cheryl stated she would take it to deadlock - so the results would be determined by the public vote - after Dannii and Louis had voted. However, the voice in presenter Dermot's ear told him that by refusing, Cheryl had lost her right to choose and the result would be determined by majority vote of the other judges. Simon had gone for Treyc to go, Dannii went for Katie, and Louis, the git, went for Treyc as well. £8 down the drain.

Next week I think I'll stick all my remaining money on the Weasel going, but there's the risk that Wagner ends up bottom two which would mean a death sentence for him from the judges. Just have to hope his cult following keeps up the good work.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Legend of CELTA - Dawn of A New Day (the end)

Friday's first morning session was about career progression, and what to do if you burn out. Then we did a lot of admin - making sure we'd filled out all the necessary records. After that we took turns in pairs to present an activity each from a number of books we'd been given to look at. It was a way of getting a sort of party bag of ideas to take away with us. I was with Carol from my teaching practice group and our activity involved showing pictures to students and having them write a story based around it.

In the afternoon we had the final teaching session. For the second day I just had to sit and watch for two hours, which is never that interesting. To pass the time I passed notes to one of the other trainees written in phonemes with a Spanish accent. Sad but fun.

After the day's teaching we did feedback then had a small wine and snacks party to celebrate, before going to the pub to see the students (briefly) then heading to a restaurant where we had dinner reservations. It was all nice and fancy and everyone was happy to be done and enjoying each others' company. We went to another pub later on, and after that some of us went to the flat of one of the trainees in my group until the wee small hours. At every stage there were goodbyes and it was sad and strange. Our lives for the last four weeks had revolved around that school and those people. What was Monday going to be like?

Which is now my question. Where do I go from here? But I've learned so much on this course, and I've found things that I can be good at, things that I enjoy more than I ever imagined I could. The road ahead has every potential to be harder than the last four weeks, but I'm feeling positive about it and can't wait to see what it holds.

So that's it for blogging about CELTA. The Zelda puns were getting a bit convoluted so it's just as well. Regular service will resume soon. But hooray, this is my 100th blog post!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Legend of CELTA - A Blink to the Last (Week 4, Monday-Thursday)

On Monday I was teaching the Pre-Intermediates for the second time. My Sunday evening planning session was a nightmare. The topic was phrasal verbs, which are a nuisance to teach because they don't really follow any rules. The lesson went well, though, for the most part and I had only one more to go after that. In the evening I did Assignment 4, which was about responding to a job advertisement and giving ourselves a critique on our progress for the whole course. I got it back within half an hour of handing it in on Tuesday and was told it was excellent, which was gratifying.

On Wednesday I was teaching my 60-minute lesson, the last big challenge of the course. The language point was on uses of the present perfect continuous form, and it went fine, or at least outwardly looked fine. I ended up skipping two or three sections of activities I'd planned because the time was eaten away. The lesson didn't really suffer for it, however. It was a relief to go home knowing I wouldn't have to teach in front of other teachers and trainees for the foreseeable future.

This morning we had two nice sessions. The first one was on teaching young learners, from children around 4 to young teenagers. In the session we were treated like children and made animal noises and played games. The second session was on using music and songs in the classroom, which involved playing a game where we were given words on slips of paper and had to stand up and sit down when we heard our word in the song.

In the afternoon, because I taught yesterday I was put into a different group to observe, which is the first time we've been able to observe outside of our own group of six. I was back in the Intermediate class where I'd started off three weeks ago. The atmosphere of the class seemed different, but it may have been more a result of the trainees' exhaustion than anything else. I didn't have to stay for the lengthier part of the post-match feedback, so I got home an hour earlier than usual, which was nice. And now there's only one more day before the end. This is, as they say, it.