Tuesday, September 28, 2004

86. A Day in the Life

I get e-mails from my hordes of female fans (all 3) wanting to know why I don't post more personal details about my life. The simple answer is that I don't want to. Bending to popular demand (a second e-mail) here is what happened today:

6.30 - Alarm rings. Ignore it.
6.45 - One eye opens.
6.55 - Groan and get out of bed
7.00 - Go into bathroom and look in mirror. Retreat.
7.02 - Put on kettle and pop frozen bread slice into toaster.
(the weather is still mid-summer, so any food or milk left out goes bad in a couple of hours.)
7.04- Crank up computer, return to bathroom to wash, shave, etc.
7.12 - Say 'Good Morning" to bleary-eyed wife, mother of my child.
7.13 - Remove burnt toast and put marmalade on it. Make tea.
7.20 - Finish breakfast and riff through the newspaper.
7.25 - Remember computer and go to have a look.
7.40 - Finally delete and trash all overnight Spam.
7.50 - Finish reading genuine messages and look at on-line newspapers.
8.00 - Decide not to wear a tie; get dressed.
8.05 - Say emotional farewell to half-dressed wife; take out trash.
8.20 - Arrive at school, listen to announcements at morning meeting.
8.30 - Go to my Homeroom, smile, give them Kanji Test.
8.40 - Get asked something by somebody in the Staff Room.
8.45 - Go to my first lesson; wonder (momentarily) which textbook to use.
9.30 - Finish first lesson. Lots of fun. Energy level on the rise.
9.40 - Download photos into desk laptop. Edit, crop, delete extras.
10.00 - Have a cup of Instant Coffee. Talk to a colleague in Japanese.
10.15 - Check homework and do a lot of necessary boring admin things.
11.00 - Edit and upload a student essay to our class website.
11.15 - Head off to my Senior English (Reading) class.
11.20 - Enjoy a brilliant class with my favourite kids.
12.15 - Stick around and answer questions.
12.30 - Arrive home to pick up forgotten reading glasses. Wife is on the phone to daughter in Pennsylvania about plane tickets for next Christmas. Talk to beloved daughter ("Gee, Daddy, it's really cheap -- only $930!!"). Think $930 is NOT cheap, not in my day when dinosaurs used to roam, but make encouraging gurgling noises. Tell daughter to write more often. Say good-bye to wife as she heads off to work at 1 pm. Decide, what the hell --why not go out for lunch?
1.05 - Order Lunch Special in neighbourhood Spanish restaurant. Swordfish steak in a mild tomato and caper sauce, followed by two cups of Espresso. Feel distinctly human and forget airfares and school fees. Read a couple of disturbing articles in James Carroll's new book "Crusade". I shall have to write something about this book later.
2.00 - Race back to school to watch students preparing for the Sports Day next Friday. No classes this afternoon which is why I could have a pleasant lunch and a break from the schedule. I usually do 4-5 classes a day with at least one boring meeting.
2.25 - Design a new name card on the laptop in the Staff Room since I have run out of the old ones and need some new ones for a major high school teachers' conference next month.
2.50 - Check out the news on various newspapers and Blogs.
3.10 - Go to the LL Classroom and pop in an Inspector Morse video ("The Remorseful Day") which happens to be the book I am re-reading. Do corrections while listening and half-watching video. Think about Hans and the T-shirt. What to do?
3.55 - Chivvy kids into washing the windows in the LL before dashing over to clean the Staff (Mens) toilet. We have no janitors. We do the cleaning ourselves. The guys take it in turns to swab out the toilets and the duty comes up about once every six weeks. The main thing is to splash a lot of water around.
4.10 - Check out the kids in my Homeroom. Give them time to organize all the details of the Sports Day among themselves before calling them to order. Little pep talk, then the usual "See you tomorrow!"
4.15- Get hijacked by kids from my Club who don't want to run in the Sports Day relay. Sort that out and get 3 definite names -- "I know where you live!", sort of thing.
4.30 - Get told by another teacher that my two students in Ireland haven't responded to an urgent questionnaire sent out to them (by me, as it happens). Start on an e-mail to the agency in Dublin: do it yesterday!
4.31- Another teacher wants digital photos right now of the kid who won the regional English Speech Contest last Saturday -- 3 years in a row, our school, YESSS!! -- but I am ready for him. Did it this morning at, let me see, between 9.40 and 10 am. E-mail gets delayed.
4.50 - Wander over to LL to pick up bag and recharging mobile phone. Three hardcore kids are sitting there. What's this? No club today -- big sign on the board. You should be practicing your dance for the Sports Day next Friday. No interest in that shite. They're disappointed that I won't be showing them more of the strange movies I choose to show every Tuesday in the interests of "English Listening Practice". Too bad, kids, get lost. See you next Tuesday.
5.00 - Out the door as the chimes are sounding. This is the OFFICIAL end of the work day. Most days I'm in the school till about 6.30, along with 80% of the other teachers. Not today.
5.15 - Quick pit stop at home to pick up the T-shirt. It's the right thing to do.
5.30 - Supermarket for ingredients. The wife is away this evening to her weekly concert practice (she nearly got me to join as well last year) for a Christmas performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony. They spend six months learning how to sing the "Ode to Joy" in German. Every year. And then they come back and do it again and again -- each time with six months' practice. One day I will understand this country. Today I have Texas Chili on my mind, which is not usually on the family menu. There are certain things about Texas and the expansive mellow Austin lifestyle of the 1970s which will stay with me for the rest of my life -- but George W Bush is definitely not one of them. To start with, he's not the "rill thang". I'm beginning to really hate this guy, so don't get me started.
5.40 - Drop off the video from the English Club -- it was a 7-Day rental.
5.55 - Park in town.
6.00 - Talk to the printers about my name card design. Choose paper type and talk about point sizes. Settle on a reasonable price for delivery next week.
6.20 - Drop over to the "Lion" for a pint of draught Guinness. There are two places in town that serve Guinness on draught. The other place I got thrown out of. I could understand getting thrown out for ribald and licentious behaviour, or perhaps throwing up on the plants or the carpet or whatever, but as far as I can figure out I got thrown out for going in there to read a newspaper . I had no interest in talking to the owner (a rabid little piece called Tomoko-Something who loved England) so I just ordered my pint and ignored her. Bad move, apparently. She put a notice on the door to say I wasn't to come back. It was weeks if not months before I wandered back in, and by then how many people had read her note on the door? I have to admit it made me a bit angry. Not the way we do things at home ....
6.45 - Decide to have a third pint, but this is the last.
7.00 - March into the Garlic House and ask if Hans is there. He is. I am directed to his table. There's just himself and Howie. I don't want to stay. I can't stay. But I wasn't about to call him up on the phone and say, Sorry, pal, I can't make it to your last night in town. We had a good session last Sunday, anyway, but it's not the same. He came in with a cold at 3 and said he would stay for just the one. No worries. Then he decided to have just one more -- I really can't taste it at all, he said. We got talking and we stayed talking (and drinking) until close to 9. I like Hans. He's a German guy, from the former DDR, who was a young Pioneer and even a soldier in their army. If the rest of the East German Army was like Hans we had nothing to worry about, believe me. I like the guy a lot and he has done wonders for my German over the last two months. He is the only German person I have met in Japan who will glare at me and correct me when I make mistakes. We've been "talking story" since we met and have become -- what? -- aware of each other as similar types? Maybe it's just a recognition that, there but for fortune, we could have turned out the same way if our families and nationalities had been reversed. Hans, from the beginning, has had his eye on a particular T-shirt of mine. In his cups he has offered to buy it several times, going as high as $100. It's a simple black T-shirt from Belfast. It shows a hooded young gentleman with a rifle and underneath in very large letters it reads "IRA". Underneath that again, in smaller block print: "The Undefeated Army". God, how Hans craved that T-shirt and begged me for it. I laughed at him and told him to fuck off, as you would. Anyway, this last night at the Garlic House I showed up and I gave it to him in a yellow plastic bag. His eyes opened wide, he let a roar out of him and he grabbed me in a bear hug. He was so pleased. That was good enough for me and I left him. I was wondering whether to let go of the T-shirt all day. Not easy to get another, for obvious reasons.
7.20 - Stop off for milk and a can of beer (make it 2) at the convenience store.
7.27 - Arrive home, fire up the TV to tape wife's favourite programme starting at 7.30.
7.40 - Take a long delicious shower.
8.05 - Notice that loving but absent (singing) wife has left stew to be warmed on stove.
8.10 - Delay food decisions and decide to watch rest of BBC News.
8.30 - Postpone Chili Day and cook noodles to mix with stew.
8.50 - Deleting Spam, checking e-mail, nearly allow noodles to burn.
8.55 - Simmer unburnt (Thank God) noodles & stew with a dollop of claret.
9.10 - Settle down to watch Inspector Morse unravel the case.
9.50 - Singing spouse comes home; conversation.
10.20 - Wife calls daughter to check on air ticket details.
11.40 - Finish writing a clatter of e-mails to various people.
11.45 - Decide to write a record of the day.
02.25 - Finish what I've written. Time to go to bed.

Well, I'm not going to do that again. It took more than two hours to write the damn thing and I wouldn't call it 'exciting' or 'breathtaking' by any stretch. But it was the record of a pretty normal day. If you are out dodging bullets and bombs in Iraq it will seem unreal. If you are out of your head on meths in Clondalkin or Sioux City it might seem a bit hyperactive. I can't help that. Tomorrow will be pretty much the same.