Saturday, 9 October 2010


I have an Italian student in Cannes.  That is to say, he has Italian nationality, I don't teach him Italian.  (That would be a short lesson - how long does it take to say 'Cornetto'?)  Anyway, we'll call this Italian Paolo.  (Phew).  

He's 17 years old and, like the rest of his age group, wakes up at 4.00 in the afternoon.  Which is a pity, seeing as I teach him at 8.00 in the morning.   (Once, at 7.30.  Che palle).  As you can imagine, this is not something that entirely fills him with glee, but he has an Italian mother, and so has no choice in the matter.

The first time I saw him I had to check out his vocabulary and reasoning, and so I described various scenarios to test his comprehension.  

'Imagine you are coming out of Cannes station to see a man running away very fast with a woman's handbag under his arm; what would you think?' I asked him.

Deadpan, and quick as a flash, he replied:  'Good for him'.

Paolo has left school, and is a bit of a golfing genius.  When he turns 18 he's going to become a golf pro.  Having picked up his lack of enthusiasm for academic tuition, I thought I'd liven the lessons up a little, so in the early days I would reward him for (eventually) doing stuff I was nagging him about.  

'You're too old for gold stars,' I told him, 'so I'll give you golden golf balls.'

And I drew a golden golf ball on a sheet of paper.  Half an hour later I awarded him another one.  He tried not to smile, but the corners of his mouth were - almost imperceptibly - turning up, and I could tell he was pleased.  

Paolo is very interested in politics, which is great for me, given my studies and (hitherto) writing career.  (Haven't quite sussed out the politics of microdermabrasion yet).   Even more to his credit is the squeamish horror with which he viewed that bastion of British political life, George Galloway, crawling over to Rula Lenska in the Big Brother house, purring and intoning 'I am a cat', when I showed him the clip on You Tube.  (It was rather satisfying to be able to counter Silvio Berlesconi with a home-grown political liability).  

On one occasion we were discussing conspiracy theories, and the topic came up of the first moon landings.  Paolo was certain Neil Armstrong stepped out of the landing vehicle onto a moon surface procured by the film set dresser.  

Later on that lesson I recapped on what we had covered that day.  For pronunciation purposes I asked him to tell me what Neil Armstrong's profession was, 'astronaut' being a bit of a tricky one for non-native English speakers.

'He's an actor', Paolo stated firmly.

Last week I asked him if he still had the sheet with the golden golf balls. 

'Oh yes, I'm keeping it safe.  I'm going to sell them,' he replied.

'On eBay?' I asked.

'Yes,' he said.  

'What are you going to ask for them?'

'Fifty euros', he told me.  'There's always some eediot willing to pay 50 euros for rubbish on eBay.'


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