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Lesson Six: Get Into The Bit

(continued from Lesson Five: Strong arms and the law)

Cheet won bi eezi
Joo weel teenk eet estrange
Chwen ah try chew esplain chow ah fill…

Ne’er a truer lyric. The strange and the inexplicable. Susan and Celia, the singing policepeople down Granada way, were that most dangerous cocktail of student. Blindingly obvious deficiencies in the linguistic flair direction, yet driven by a relentless will to succeed. You held them back at your peril. These two came armed with a wondrous enthusiasm, launching themselves at every preposition and phrasal verb unit in the book as if their next traffic ticket depended on it.

Now perish the thought I should ever seek to use this column as a platform for teacher motivation but, for any budding EFL professionals out there, not already put off the idea of doing all this for a living, may I just say that such base learner material should not be shown the door at once. Hopeless cases are always handy for the penniless language teacher anxious not to lose potential students who – by virtue of their very ineptitude – are likely to remain on your books for many years to come.

The message left on my answerphone (kindly loaned me by fellow lodger Sr. d’Avila the bank manager (“is very usefool for peepools to know joo are not orll chere”)) had intrigued me: two policewomen whose main interest in foreign language learning was to sing karaoke. How do you prepare a lesson with these two? No use planning a quick dash through the Present Perfect. If anything, it was going to have to be Sing Something Present Simple.

And so it came to pass that my life was illuminated with two new budding stars of stage, screen, and the local clink. I always knew when the two were on their way up to my bedsit. First, I’d hear the screech of tyres as Susan put the CatMobile through a hard left turn into my street. Next, there’d be a “ssschooooopp” as what sounded like every window in my pensión and the neighbouring houses was pushed open to see what the fuss was about and discuss who might be about to get roughed up.

As you can imagine, after five or six lessons, I became the centre of attention in the neighbourhood. Understandably, my landlady, Señora María del Socorro (credibly translated, you might remember, by Manolo’s “Muther off God, hilp me”), began to think of her reputation:

“Professor Crème, plis onderstant… eez no right two pliswimins in joor bedroom in de night. Eez very estrange deez noisiz joo make up dere.”

She had a point. They always arrived to classes uniformed and then proceeded to spend the first ten minutes divesting themselves of their armoury on the table. It was all so regimented, yet faintly erotic, you see. First, both stood up and insisted on unlocking and unhooking each others’ belts, and then the attached handcuffs were placed side-by-side between us. The respective truncheons were not so much pulled as coaxed by twisting them this way then that out of their leather belt. Bullets were then emptied from the guns, which themselves were then employed as temporary lecterns. The bullets always lay disconcertingly close to my pieces of chalk.

“So,” I began, “why do you want to learn to sing English? I mean, speaking must be more useful with all these tourists around in Granada?”

Susan soon put me straight on the motivation angle: “We are plees only in dee day. In dee night we do a transform together.” *

Celia clarified matters: “In dee day, we are Celia y Shoosan. Pleeswimeen on dee bit, as joo say. De night we are ‘El Duo Dinámico’, dee seenging Granada grope.”

This was all new for me. Up to then, I had seen policepeople in far more obvious roles in Granada – politely hassling suspicious foreigners for their ID cards or helping uncomprehending tourists find the Alhambra by the least beggar-infested route. From the glossy publicity photos the dynamic duo now pulled out of their holsters to prove their calling, I was going to have to rework my image of yer average el cop – and fast. I cannot print the photograph here for copyright reasons and out of respect for the duo’s enormous Berettas, but for those of you old enough to remember sexy, slinky, hot-leathered Suzi Quatro, try get a picture in your minds of the hirsute, muscular bass guitarist and drummer just behind her and you have got it in two.

They proceeded to explain the real motivation behind their desire to learn. It all centred on the act itself. The photos revealed them in what at first appeared to be round blonde gigantic Brillo pads. They allegedly did covers for Madonna songs, but recently had received an offer from a local impresario clearly desperate for a regular spot to aid digestion of the paella at weddings and christenings. This potential prod into local stardom had made them realise it was time to get some learning in as regards them thare lyrics. Might I just add, to excuse what now follows, that my sole intention in asking to hear their current level of lyric-learning, was merely to set a benchmark for the lessons to come; I was rewarded, however, with half the show. And this without the benefit of the paella to distract me. Opportunity proceeded to thud for the dynamic duo.

“Dis chere…” said Celia, grabbing my prize plastic Tiffany’s imitation lamp standard, “…iz mah light…imagine de fukoos iz up mah left chick.”

“Ahm wolk around cher, so,” chirped Susan, stomping this way and that, truncheon in one hand marking time with it on the other, “…and ah sing “Oooo” every time iz necessary.” Meanwhile, Celia was searching round for anything remotely resembling a microphone. Luckily, she lighted upon her Beretta first and brought it to her lips. I closed my eyes (and ears) in anticipation of what was to come and tried to think of alternative ways of earning a peseta.

In comes the truncheon as Susanna marks time: “Un, dos, y…“:

“Like dee veergeen, (Celia: “Ooooo… jes“), tossed for dee fairy feerst times…”

The set then continued to another little number, this time with Celia on accompanying side-cosh and polished handcuffs:

“Troo loaf (Celia: “Oooa Aaah Oooa…“), joor de hchwone ahm driimink off, joor hchart feets me like de gloaf…”

The duets, in particular, were quite disarming and well-choreographed – if you appreciate gun-belts and holsters being swung through the air with the greatest of sleaze. “Moo sick… (Celia: “Jes, baby…“) make dee pimpels come togeder…” and alternating duets:

Susanna: “Wen joo korl mah name, eet like de leetl prayer…”
Celia: “Ahm down on dee nis, ah wan chew take joo der…”

As pure entertainment, I was touched, but not half as much as they seemed to be.

“So, wot joo think? Give us joor veredict.”

Truncheon pointed straight at me, Beretta in mouth, bullets and handcuffs on the table still clinking together from the pulsating efforts of the two, I had been left in little doubt.

“Guilty as charged,” I thought.

I replied: “Fine. How about starting with the Present Perfect and see where we go from there, eh?”

*Aside for budding previously-cited EFL professionals: advise you not to correct this at this point.

PG Author: Dr Graeme Porte

You can find out more about Graeme by visiting his website: Dr Graeme Porte

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