i went to a 'celebration brunch' today.
it was for adult learners who have come back to school to upgrade their literacy and basic skills.
that would be my students.
and it was for the instructors.
that would be me.
after the intros were done by the MC and the guest speaker (who i will tell you about next time) had finished her inspiring talk, the mike was passed around the room to each table so that participants could say what their past struggles were and how being back in school was going to, or had, changed their lives.
i had taken 4 students with me.
carefully selected for their ability to dress and behave in a manner that is considered publicly acceptable.
believe me it was not an easy choice:
not everyone among my students would be able to adhere to this criteria.
i might explain that on top of being challenged academically, most of my students have intellectual disabilities.
we are not part of the mainstream.
one of them, BJ, i have mentioned before.
he's a complete ham.
he's a total anglophile.
speaks with a great southern english accent,
tho' he was born and raised in canada, albeit the child of english parents.
he has a thing about me because i have an accent.
he knows i am from newcastle and he, as do many misguided people for reasons known only to themselves, supports man utd. soccer team.
let's just glance over that then.
he loves to rib me about newcastle united.
he's really got it into his head that it bothers me.
and i let him think that it does.
back to the mike.
here it comes and i could feel BJ's anticipation as it worked its way around the room.
at the other tables the participants are telling their stories of triumph over disaster.
there's tales of abuse, tales of addictions, tales of woe.
tales about being a parent and not being able to read to one's children.
there's a feeling of hope in the air as they describe their new lease on life, a new purpose.
they all commend their teachers: if it wasn't for them, etc etc.
there was hardly a dry eye in the house.
the mike arrives at our table and the other 3 students pretend they don't see it.
but never mind, BJ has and he's on his feet in an instant as he grabs it greedily from the MC.
i should say, he's dressed impeccably, sort of like a middle aged british civil servant circa 1950.
and, i might mention,
i believe he was reared on a diet of benny hill, mr bean and keeping up appearances.
he can recite episodes of brit-coms chapter and verse;
impersonate british characters from old movies and sounds a bit like the fella from pathe news when he's in full rant.
in his well rounded BBC english.
a plum in his gob, as me mother would say.
for some reason he likes to illustrate his points by saying 'bloody this and bloody that' as often as he can fit it in.
he thinks it's 'proper english.'
"good evening ladies and gentlemen (no matter that it's actually 11.30 in the morning)
"i want to tell you a little bit about myself."
and he does.
for about 2 minutes.
he mentions his struggles with some learning difficulties at school and how they had affected his ability to get a job.
it was quite interesting and i could see people were intrigued with this 'english fella'.
he was off.
"my teacher, he began, and heads turned expectantly my way, as others waited to hear just what kind of instrumental change MY lessons had been in BJ's life.
... is a bloody Newcastle United supporter."
you could have heard the proverbial pin.
mainly because the room was full of people who neither knew nor cared who or what newcastle united was.
"...and as we ALL bloody well know," he ranted like some old drunk down the pub, "N.U.F.C. is the worst CRAP team in the whole of the bloody UK! and MY team manchester united is the best."
oh God, somebody take the mike off him.
i looked around and smiled feebly.
he was on a roll and i could see that he felt he was doing a stand up routine worthy of any comedian.
he paced around the table as he spoke, one hand in his pocket the other handling the mike like a speaker to the manner born.
"i hate Math (which he pronounced maath) he announced "and SHE bloody well makes me learn it. it's a bloody waste of time actually.
i tried to laugh.
"and now", he carried on regardless, "i shall leave you with a joke."
whereupon he proceeded to tell everyone about his (last?) visit to buckingham palace (naturally he's obsessed with royalty and thinks that being english means you are only one step away from being royal) and how he went to pet the queen's corgi but when he bent down he realized it was actually camilla.
somebody at the next table laughed loudly.
i have a feeling it wasn't at the joke tho'.
when the MC took the micropohone from him he sat back down looking very content and most pleased with himself.
''i can't wait to get back to class and tell everyone how well i did.' he said smugly.
"i can't wait to get back to class either." i replied.
"you know what, pat?" he said,
"i think i went over very well. when's the next celebration? i think they might want me back."
i love this kid.