5 November 2020

Remembering

It seems like yesterday but it's over seven years since I returned from my second spell of teaching in Bangkok, Thailand. Looking back,  St Stephen's International School could not have been beaten as a place for bringing down the curtain on my illustrious teaching career.

It was so easy there. No stress. No managerial responsibilities. No need to ever raise my voice and above all there were those delightful Thai schoolchildren. So pleasant and smiley, so grateful for the assistance I gave them and for the lessons I delivered.

In the process of decorating our dining room and shifting the furniture around, I  rediscovered a kind of farewell poster that one of my classes in Bangkok gave me in the week that my contract ended. It was so sweetly put together with "thank you"  letters and a photo of me in the middle clasping a mug of coffee.  The use of the word "Joke" was I  hope positive - referring to my jokey amiableness  in the classroom.

On my very last day there, I attended the final school assembly of the term. The headteacher, who was to die the following year, made a nice speech about me and everybody applauded as I marched up the middle aisle to received my leaving gifts. I thanked the school community and put my hands together as if in prayer as I "waied" respectfully to them in the traditional Thai manner.

The very next day I was on the island of Koh Lanta in southern Thailand where I spent a few days before flying home to England. To travel seven years back in time: Go here.

50 comments:

  1. You made such a difference in the lives of these children. I did not know you had taught in Thailand. The farewell poster is something to treasure, a debt of gratitude and remembrance. You will not be forgotten.

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  2. That's lovely, so nice to discover a lost treasure.

    Nice to see a photo of you as well. How is the redecorating coming along? I finished my ceilings today downstairs. Just the walls and baseboards left.

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    1. Baseboards? We call them skirting boards. Going fine thanks Lily. As I write my apprentice is applying a second coat of the "Just Walnut" emulsion beneath the picture rail. I will be doing the skirting boards later.

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    2. The picture rail, begob !
      We are going in for self-gentrification, are we?

      I have just purchased the Penguin Classics edition of Joseph Conrad's novel,
      *Victory: An Island Tale*. The cover has a detail of a sunset painting which resembles the story's setting in the Malay Archipelago.
      Your memories of Kuala Lumpur and other landscapes must be as vivid as Conrad's complex story, a writer who wrote in an adopted language.

      The Conrad classic comes with an introduction, notes, appendix, and map which we expect from Penguin. The cover art is from a painting in the Greenwich Maritime Museum.
      F.R. Leavis called Conrad *the great exotic of the English novel*: I can remember going with my father to see *Lord Jim* with Peter O'Toole, Jack Hawkins and David Mason.

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    3. Joseph Conrad was such a brilliant writer. I must read "Nostromo" again. One of these days.

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    4. If you can into his hard, enamelled, masculine prose, Conrad is a great read. Scott Fitzgerald thought *Nostromo* the perfect novel.
      Graham Greene said he had to break away from Conrad's influence.
      Virginia Woolf kept returning to *Lord Jim*

      A Christmas present for any reader is Conrad's *The Mirror of the Sea* published by Little Toller Books. It comes with colour illustrations from Herbert Barnard Everett (1876-1949) who was an art student at the Slade.
      A friend of Thomas Hardy, Everett painted sailing ships, seascapes, and sailors. The National Maritime Museum in London display his work.

      Little Toller Books are durable paperbacks with fold-back covers; all come with superb illustrations. I like their edition of *The Shining levels* by John Wyatt with its monochrome images of the Somerset Levels, Gavin Maxwell's *Ring of Bright Water* and Clare Leighton's *Four Hedges*.
      *The South Country* by Edward Thomas is haunted by the poet's death in the trenches and his loving wife Helen.

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    5. In Paris Hemingway wrote an obituary of Conrad either for his paper in Kansas or Toronto: it was published in Hemingway's collected journalism, *Byline*.
      He said he was glad that he had *saved up* a couple of Conrads that he hadn't yet read.

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    6. The first sentence of my first comment should read:
      *If you can GET into his hard, enamelled, masculine prose ...*

      My younger sister read James Kennaway's *Tunes of Glory* for the first time and found the prose had odd turns of phrase and recondite words. I don't find this in Kennaway, but it is the effect of time on the written word.

      Strangely enough Walter Scott's Journals (published by Canongate) read more easily than his novels, and are packed with funny anecdotes, country houses, meals, drink, life in Auld Reekie and the Borders. Worth seeking out.

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  3. Lots of good memories. It's good to look back from time to time.

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    1. As a former teacher you know where I am coming from with this blogpost.

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  4. What a lovely fare well poster and TQ notes. I also find the Thais so very gentle, kind and polite. They speak quite softly in a sing-song manner. I think you made a big difference teaching these children.

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    1. I spent a long weekend in Kuala Lumpur. In general, Malaysian people seemed more vocal - less soft and reserved than Thais.

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  5. That certainly is so sweet and well written for someone who has English as a second language. Clearly she had good teachers, well some. You were Thai cave diving before it all went terribly wrong.

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  6. How wonderful to have such a nice place and good students for the final year of your career! How long did you teach there? Did your family come with you? It must have been a wonderful experience for you!

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    1. Two separate spells of six months Bonnie. Shirley came out both times and my daughter came out once.

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  7. That must have stirred up some memories! Seven years on, who knows what has become of your former students. I am sure they still remember "Mr. Neil" fondly. Are you still in touch with anyone from back there and then?
    You all look so smart with ties and shirts! Not what the average German teacher and student wears to school.

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    1. The school was modelled on formal British lines. I am still in touch with one of the students. He is twenty four now! Also in touch with my friend Jon who persuaded me to join him in Bangkok. He is now working in Taiwan with his Filipino girlfriend.

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  8. What a great poster and a nice find. It says something that the students took the time to make that for you.

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    1. And it says something about Thai culture.

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  9. One of the beauties of age can be our memories.

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    1. That belongs in "The Edwardian Book of Quotations". It is so true.

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  10. Ahh, farewell Mr Chips.

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    1. “Brookfield will never forget his lovableness," said Cartwright, in a speech to the School. Which was absurd, because all things are forgotten in the end.

      - "Goodbye Mr Chips" by James Hilton

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  11. What a wonderful reminder of the final months of your teaching career.
    No doubt your Thai pupils were so different from those you taught in England? I should imagine they were so much more eager to learn than many of the school children you normally taught. There are still countries where education is a privilege, and the children make the most of their luck.

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    1. In my comprehensive school in North Sheffield many children came to school without pens. In Bangkok, some of my students came to school with cabin bags filled with pens and other stationery items. I never had to lend a single pen to any child.

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  12. What a lovely tribute to your teaching career and something to hang on to for years to come (I hope you havent thrown it out). It's a real treasure.

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    1. I was going to throw it out. That is partly why I photographed it for this blogpost.

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  13. "Mr Neil". Were you lined up next for a job on the Basil Brush Show like Mr. Steven and Mr. Rodney? "Boom Boom Mr Neil!"

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    1. Ha-ha! It is the Thai custom to address people by first names. One's surname has less significance over there. Boom! Boom!

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  14. You are clearly in need of strokes. Send me your ego and I will massage any pulled muscle gently. Think Chinese walking your spine.

    Indeed, good teachers will always be remembered. As will the evil. The ones I feel sorry for are the mediocre whom no one remembers. Insipid. Never left an impression, just a yawn. What a fate to befall a teacher! Still, not to be mean and pay him his dues, one of my geography (!) teachers managed to hook "Taiga, Tundra, Steppe" (Russia) into my memory.

    Bangkok, Thailand? What made you go? A love of Thai food? One of my father's friends bagged himself a Thai wife. With the wide eyed observational skills of my then nineteen year old self I was amazed. Such subservience, such a permanently pasted on smile, the men in the room so "graciously" accepting her attentions to them. She blended in with the wallpaper well; one barely noticed her.

    I take it Shirley isn't Thai - going by little information other than her name.

    U

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    1. No. Shirley is a Lincolnshire lass. I went because I was asked and then persuaded to go to fill in two unexpected vacancies. I had already taken early retirement. Until then I had never had any particular desire to visit Thailand.

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    2. Want "creepy", John?

      Make sure your Hansel has a Gretel by his side as the Witch fattens you up and the oven is on.

      U

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  15. I love this! You were obviously an amazing teacher, and well loved by your students.

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    1. I wish that had always been the case in the challenging high school where I spent the previous 22 years of my sparkling career. Some days were like battles.

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  16. Mr. P.! What an amazing adventure for you and it is obvious you were important in the lives of those children. I read your post about the hidden beach and my soul yearned for green water and white sand, perfectly placed (by nature) plants and trees. What glory!

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    1. It was the most magical place. A piece of Eden left behind.

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  17. There are plenty of places in the world where an education is not taken for granted. Children are in school because their parents see the need for it. When parents recognize the value of education, almost invariably, their children do to. It is not the case in most schools in my country. Sadly it sounds like it is that way in your country as well. My daughter taught in Kabul. Monday, a university there was attacked by terrorists. The students' responses to this are inspiring.

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    1. You are so right Debby. Education is a rare privilege to those who have to really strive to get an education.

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  18. It must have been an incredible experience working over there?

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    1. It was indeed. There I was also a "northsider" - living in the sprawling northern suburbs of Bangkok.

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  19. If only I'd have had a teacher like you.
    A heart warming post.

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    1. If I had been your teacher I would have been happy to give you extra tuition Christina.

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  20. I hope you don't throw that poster away, it's something you should treasure.

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    1. We can't hang on to everything Sue. At least I have captured it in a blogpost.

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