Back to the whole me-and-my-newly-pierced-nose navigating Italian kids around big old London Town then.
What a crazy two weeks. And tiring too. So tiring in fact, that when I managed to slip in two whole nights at mum and dad's before hop-footing it back to Milan I spent two full hours lay on Nanna’s living room floor just sort of moaning, “I hate my life,” and asking for more cake.
I worked with another English tutor to be responsible for FIFTEEN thirteen-to-sixteen-year-old students, and we essentially acted as tour guides for them, and on occasion spoke to them in English to teach them such colloquialisms as, “You plonker!”, “epic win”, “epic fail”, “chill your beans!” and “Don’t break my balls”. Thus, whenever we had to communicate with them we often used all of these phrases at once, until it became uncomfortable yelling at the kid who tried to get off at the wrong tube stop by saying, “Don’t break my balls you plonker! I SAID KINGS CROSS. You are an epic fail! ” People started staring. And no-one stares in London.
I wouldn’t have even survived the time without my co-tutor, Kerry-Lea, also known as THE MOST PATIENT PERSON IN THE HISTORY OF TIME. One afternoon in Camden Town, she mentioned that she wanted a hat. We passed a hat stall and so I picked one up and said, “Well what about this one?” She looked in the mirror. “Nah. Not me, is it?” she said, and we began to walk off. “Excuse me miss! Excuuuuuuuse me miss! You’re looking for a hat? This one? This one? This one?” the stallholder pestered. “No thank you,” said Kerry-Lea, so chirpily it was almost sarcastic, except for the fact that she is always like frickin’ sunshine droppings on puppy-dogs smiles. “I don’t want a hat,” she continued, smiling broadly. The man looked at her. “Well what about this one?” he asked, at which point I began walking off as he was clearly irritating and unforgiving with it. Kerry-Lea just looked at him and blinked. “Yeah,” she said. “It’s still a hat though, isn’t it?”
IS THAT NOT THE MOST LEVEL-HEADED AND RESPECTFUL RESPONSE IN THE HISTORY OF TIME? Yes. Yes it is. To repeat. IN THE HISTORY OF TIME.
I fell in love with our charges, though. All of them, from the younger somewhat mentally-challenged girls, “Che significa, ‘Space case?’” to the older boys who sprained their ankles by walking into train station bollards whilst eyeing up girls. One girl wore a tee-shirt all week that said, “NO-ONE KNOWS THAT I’M A LESBIAN” and Kerry-Lea woke up at 3 a.m. one morning to find four boys in her kitchen with foil on their hair. They spent a week walking around with orange heads. We felt that was punishment enough.
We spent from 8.30 a.m. to often past 11 at night with these 15 kids. We took them to a graffiti workshop with the biggest graffiti company in the world, and to see a man take off all his clothes at Camden canal for a pound. “It is illegal to grafitti but one can do this?!” one boy exclaimed. “Yeah,” we replied. "'Cause this is funny."
We did a dance workshop with a cast member of The Lion King at Pineapple Dance studios, and then went to see her perform in the show the next day. We went to Buckingham Palace just in time to see the Queen’s car pull out of the driveway and for her to wave at us from the backseat. “I just thought someone was popping out to buy milk,” another tutor said. “I didn’t know it was actually Liz.”
We fed them Chinese food, Indian food, and our interpretation of pizza. They didn’t like it. We took them to Starbucks, thinking it would be a grab-and-go experience and we were an hour. They actually took photographs of their frappucinos. They spent the next thirty minutes photographing squirrals in the garden. We stopped asking 'why?'
We danced with them to Lionel Ritchie impersonators in Convent garden and took them to Oxford for the day.
We made memories with them.
On the final day I asked them what English they had learned.
“Against the wall!” said one, in reference to my commands every time we got off the tube.
“WHERE ARE YOU GOING?!” said another, in reference to my constant dismay that they seemingly found it impossible to stay behind me and yet in front of Kerry-Lea, like an Italian pannino so that we always knew where they were. I always headed up the army, and Kerry-Lea forever brought up the rear, so several times a day she would scream, “FOLL-A LAURA!” in her Blackpool accent, which the kids all thought was hilarious because like, d’uh. It’s foll-OW.
It broke my heart then, when on their final day I had to leave early to catch a train, and one of them said. “For the only time… DON’T folla Laura!”
Cry? I didn’t even know my cold, black heart was capable of such emotion.