I know, I know. I’ve clammed up for more than half a year. Sometimes I have the impression that I’m just writing for the bottom drawer of my desk and then, out of the blue, I receive a gentle reminder from my dear colleague Kata Csizér, ‘What happened? Have you died or what?’ So here I come again.
Conferences. Stirling – and not Sterling as I was corrected by my old friend and publisher, Susan Holden. Two presentations at the invitation of SATEFL (The Scottish Association for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language). The first one is ‘Always Look on the Bright Side – Being a Non-native Teacher’. This I’ve delivered countless times at conferences, but it’s never been the same. I get an invitation, send a menu of my lectures for the hosts to choose from and then, bingo, it’s my non-native talk they request nine times out of ten. I say to myself, ‘Hurray! I won’t have to prepare for this one, I’ve done it some many times.’ I’m sitting at my desk, reading my old notes before I realise that it needs trimming here, updating there, adding a little here, deleting quite a bit there. And by the time I finalise it in a month or two, the whole talk has been rehashed. I’ve churned out at least fifty variations and I’m sure there’re many more in the offing.
You like the phrase ‘in the offing’? As I use it in one of my talks, a participant asks,
Sorry, what does ‘in the offing’ mean?
Well, it means that something is likely to happen soon.
I see. But what is ‘offing’? – she insists.
‘No idea. Anybody know?’
‘A distant part of the sea in view’ – says an elderly man in the audience.
Of course, he was a native speaker of English; you’ve got to be a native speaker to know such words, haven’t you? Truth be told, he was the only participant who knew this word. And you’ve got to be a Brit to know all these nautical terms, too, and not a poor Hungarian from a landlocked country.
Back to Stirling. My second presentation is entitled ‘Elfies at large – Beware!’. It’s meant to be a provocative talk, but this time no bad eggs were thrown at me, probably because there were no elfies sitting in the auditorium. ‘Who the heck are elfies?’ – I hear you ask. Well, they’re representatives of the ELF movement. ‘ELF movement? What’s that?’ It would take too long to explain it in this blog, but if anyone is interested, I’ll happily send them the text of my talk in an attachment.
The campus of Stirling University is the most beautiful one I’ve been to so far. It’s situated on the site of the historic Airthrey estate with an artificial lake (oops, loch) in the middle. Look how beautiful it is:
The conference itself was held in the 18th century Airthrey Castle. I was truly honoured to have the opportunity to deliver my talks in the central hall of this gorgeous building wainscotted all around:
BTW (read: by the way, as I learnt recently), it took me a thirty-minute walk from the Stirling Court Hotel (a student hostel rather than a fancy hotel) to Airthrey Castle on foot. It was crisp but sunny. I’ve always been so lucky in Scotland. I’ve been there at least ten times, and the weather has always been like this. I could hardly believe my host, Eddy Moran, who said that it had been awful the day before I arrived. When I returned home after the conference, he wrote in a message that the weather had turned miserable again.
The best time of my short sojourn in Stirling came when my dear friend Susan Holden drove me to her house in Callander, a small town in the council area of Stirling. As we were chatting, I couldn’t take my eyes off the River Teith just a few metres away from us. The carefree life of ducks was occasionally disturbed by canoes swifting by.
The first weekend of October is traditionally reserved for IATEFL Hungary, of which I’m the proud patron. I love conferences when I’m not a speaker. (It’s conferences when I am a speaker that I enjoy even more, says the man with the big head.) The highlight of the conference was Carolyn Graham, author of countless materials (‘Jazz Chants’, in case you forget who she is). She’s in her eighties, can hardly walk, needs to lean against the table for balance but as soon as she begins to tap the rhythm and plays the piano to accompany her own singing, she turns into a twenty-year-old beauty queen. I was not the only one whose eyes were filled with tears during these rare moments of miracle.
I was also invited to attend a Minsk conference at the invitation of Yuri Stulov, an old friend of mine. It was four years ago that I was a guest speaker there, and I would have loved to return, but I couldn’t. It was not so much the red tape one has to cut through to be granted a Belarus visa why I cancelled my trip, but rather my preoccupation with preparing the third edition of ‘The Non-native Teacher’. I was too busy to break the tempo.
Getting back to Susan Holden, she was the editor-in-chief of Macmillan when the first edition of ‘The Non-native Teacher’ saw the light of day. After the manuscript had been rejected by another major publishing house, I approached Susan whether Macmillan would be interested in bringing it out. A week later she answered in the affirmative and sent me a draft contract. I couldn’t believe my eyes! To cut a long story short, the book was published half a year later and went on to win the Duke of Edinburgh book prize the following year. I was on cloud nine! The book was republished five years later by the German publisher Hueber Verlag, and the third edition is due out any moment.
You won’t believe what I’m telling you now. As I’m writing this blog, I check my email and what do I see? This:
The printer has just delivered 6 advance copies – it took an extra day for the ink to dry properly! It is quite heavy, and I think looks pretty good (although I haven’t looked in detail yet!). I hope you will feel it was worth all that work – and the daily emails! Am looking forward very much to seeing you next week.
And here’s the book cover attached to the letter:
No, no, this is not an All Fools’ Day joke. It’s real. Hot off the press. I’m so overwhelmed with my new-born baby now that I must stop at this point. Please excuse me. Will come back as soon as I’m recovered.