Miss Marshall couldn’t dance the Paso doble

South America! Yes! Rio…The Andes…Latin music, adventure and mostly one language top to bottom. Spanish. I was going, so I’d better learn it.

Now the real fear set in. Classrooms and I hadn’t seen each other for some time and that’s the way I thought I would keep it. My old school smelled a little like aged caramel and sweaty socks in the hallway. It was a smell that I could not erase from my memory. I could always hear the deputy’s footfall when we were in maths. It usually meant I was in trouble again. I think I spent more time outside the deputy’s office than in any other place at school. 

I tried to picture my prospective Spanish teacher, but the only image that kept coming to me was of Miss Marshall and her incredibly bad dress sense.

Eiffel Tower

Learn French

I, and 28 others had endured a year of French with Miss Marshall. We all thought she was on with Mr Johnston from Geography who drove a sports car and wore a satisfied look most of the time. The only thing I really liked about French was that it was that it was better than Commerce. When Miss Marshall was out of the room, a moment she only ever took with the possibility of a small riot taking place while she was gone, we would make jokes about her secret liaison with Mr Johnston. Strange how teachers never had first names.

How would I do at Spanish? I hoped it would not be like school.

Oh no! The hallway smelled the same as the one I had left behind so many years ago. Something in the polish I supposed but it was so evocative. The walls looked the same and even had the same posters on them. Someone in school education had bought a job lot. Oh my god! I spied a map of the world coloured in the shades of the colonies, pink for Britain blue for France etc. Some of those countries didn’t even exist any more.

I found my classroom and walked in with a couple of other tentative Latinofiles. We sat down and looked around the walls avoiding eye contact. I checked under the desk and sure enough, found half a truckload of hardened chewing gum. Some scratched hieroglyphics proclaimed that Sean was 4 ever.  The whiteboard (used to be a chalkboard in my day) had been cleaned and some posters with the corner of one drooping precariously indicated that the careers adviser used this room during the day. There were other pictures of serious but happy looking adults engaged in meaningful, productive work. I wondered what had happened to Sean and if he really had been 4ever.

Spanish dancing

Learn Spanish

Suddenly, the iPod, which had been sitting on the teacher’s desk, burst into sound. Rodrigo! The Concierto de Arunjues. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as the almost too bright brass, the thrilling trill of piccalos and the fabulous voice of the bassoon counter posed the oh so subtle guitar. Images of dancing Spanish stallions and beautifully arched flamenco backs swam forward with sound. Popular, powerful, and passionate. This was the very essence of Spain.

At just the right moment, the music faded and from out of one of the front seats rose our teacher.

“Bienvenido a mi clase. Espanol es mi lengua para el final de esta clase le gustara mi lengua asi como yo”.

This was not Miss Marshall.

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