Wednesday, 21 August 2013

50 SHADES OF EFL (Part Five)

50 SHADES OF EFL (Part 5)

Here’s a run-down on what you’ll get when you buy EFL minus the B.S. There’s a country-by-country breakdown on teaching in all the Asian countries, and a vaguely alarming chapter on how many hoops you need to jump through to secure work permits for those countries. There’s a chapter on living and working overseas – not all wine and roses. There are the chapters where I’ve roundly criticized school management (mostly mismanagement), language teaching theories (mostly mumbo-jumbo), and linguistics (wholly mumbo-jumbo). Plus some tips on teaching children and teenagers, and on how to fine-tune classroom dynamics. I rail on about bosses I have met (nine out of ten of them all-round ass-holes) and teachers I have met (nine out of ten good to work with, the others undeniably weird). There’s a chapter about how to start up your own school, and another about sex and the single teacher (based on extensive field-research on my part). There are no chapters on pedagogy, or the meta-cognitive paradigms of second-language acquisition. You’ll have to look elsewhere for info on those subjects. When writing the book, I didn’t overly concern myself with political correctness. Some readers have taken me to task for this, accusing me of insensitivity, chauvinism, racism, negativity, and just plain ignorance. Gulp, I’ll try and do better in the sequel.

Now here’s something not related to teaching, but something that’s been on my mind lately. Associations. No. I’m not talking of the Automobile Association or the National Rifle Association here, I’m talking about the weird associations our minds make with specific places and specific events. Associations that will stay with us until the end of our days. You with me here? No? OK, let me give you a few examples.

I’m in New Zealand, I’m in a supermarket queue, and I overhear the lady in front of me saying “Isn’t it terrible about Princess Diana?” A moment forever frozen into my memory. Another example: In New Zealand once again, but this time in a small, isolated West Coast hamlet, and I hear a customer remarking to the shop assistant “It’s sad, isn’t it? And he was the twin of Robin. I never knew that before.” My heart gave a bit of a lurch, and I hurried outside to tune into my car radio and await the news. As I had feared, Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees had died.

I’m sure you all have similar associations. Most people can tell you the time and place where they first heard news of a beloved celebrity’s death, whether it be JFK, Lady Di, Amy Whitehouse, or Elvis Presley. 

Most of my mental associations, I’m happy to say, are not connected to the death of someone, but to music. I’m in Katmandu, I have an eye infection that’s keeping me closeted in my dingy hotel room day and night, and the guy a few rooms away is playing the Bee Gees “Tragedy” over and over and over. I’m teaching in Seoul, not enjoying it all that much, and AFKN (American Forces Korean Network) is incessantly playing Randy Vanderwarmer’s “Just When I Needed You Most”. (Great song, great voice; I wonder why he sank into oblivion immediately thereafter. Perhaps it had something to do with his choice of name.)

Whenever I hear the old Bee Gees hit “Holiday”, I’m instantly transported to a flat in Gloucester Road, London, that I shared with 14 other people. Whenever I hear Cat Stevens sing anything at all I’m back in London too. “Knights in White Satin” puts me back in the Atlanta Hotel, Bangkok. I hear Bob Marley singing “I Shot the Sheriff”, and I’m wandering down Notting Hill Road. I hear “Disco Duck” (a horrible song that enjoyed brief popularity in the mid-seventies) and I’m transported to the Kings’ Club in Itaewon, Seoul, where a hundred or so sweating, off-duty GIs are singing and quacking in unison. And whenever I hear The Eagles “Tequila Sunrise”, I’m sitting in a hostel dormitory in Jakarta with my best friend who insisted on playing the song non-stop. 

Yes, funny things, associations are.


The last time I mentioned EL James, author of  50 Shades of Grey, I referred to EL as ‘he’. But of course EL isn’t a ‘he’, she’s a ‘she’. My humble apologies.


  1. Hell, did your blog about associations strike a chord with me! And believe it or not, your connection between “Knights in White Satin” and the Atlanta Hotel in Bangkok is exactly the same as mine. In the downstairs Restaurant of the Atlanta, to be exact. Sitting in one of those cubicles pressed in by half a dozen attentive bar-girls, and every second song on the jukebox was good old “Knights”. Those days may be over, sadly, but these mental associations remain in the mind forever.

  2. Yeah, I’ve got those associations too. I guess everyone has. And everyone’s association is different. For me, the Bee Gees’ “Lonely Days” transports me to the lounge bar of The Gloucester Arms in London, where the whole bar sings along in drunken disharmony. Man,those were the days.