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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part I. North West

Meeting Kane, Teaching Jesus

Steve Porter
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I was called in for a chat with Kane. It took a good hour to walk to the other school where he was encamped. There were meetings every Friday and now here I was called in on Thursday as well. It must be urgent if it couldn’t wait until the next day. Things had been on a downward spiral for me after an observation from Moran.

“I don’t mind taking criticism,” I said to Hamish, “but he might have found something positive to say.”

“He just couldn’t be arsed with it,” replied Hamish. “Remember he was carried out of my place just a couple of nights before the observation.”

I entered the sanctuary where Kane sat behind an oak desk puffing on a cigar.

“Come in, sit down.”

He was studying the papers in front of him, turning over the pages.

He shook his head. “Mmmhhh.” I didn’t know whether he was about to call me Rosebud or get up and sing “Bring me sunshine”.

Without looking up Kane said, “Very serious. This isn’t good at all.”

“At least it’s an improvement on my last one.”

“No, not at all. This makes very grim reading.”

He was referring to a second observation that had been carried out by another teacher who was more constructive in her criticism.

“But you have to admit there was an improvement,” I said. “Look, it’s here in black and white. More ticks in the pass column.”

At least I had given this Spanish thing a go. In my mind were puddles on the tarmac at Edinburgh Airport.

“We must see a big improvement. The students are bored, not enjoying the classes at all.”

“Who isn’t enjoying the classes?”

“Almost everybody I’m afraid.”

“Can’t you be a bit more specific and give me some names or at least groups? I’m not going to kill any students. I just want to know so that I can discuss changes with them.”

“No. The observation sheet tells you where you need to improve. Basically in every department and it had better happen quickly. More preparation might help.”

“Look. I spend several hours a day on this as it is, and that’s on top of the compulsory hour in the school that you don’t pay me for. And it doesn’t help when I’m asked to come over here two days in a row. I only found out about our meeting this morning when I wanted to prepare for tonight’s classes. I don’t have time for that now.”

“Now just a minute,” he said. “I’m giving you an opportunity to gain experience here. You should be thankful for that. I’m a busy man. Close the door on your way out.”

As I was about to shut the door, he added, “By the way, Carmen is enjoying her Saturday morning classes. I forgot to mention that.”

It was difficult to handle the noise and energy of the children. I preferred small classes with adults. Carmen and Jesús first appeared one Saturday morning. It was a big responsibility teaching a Jesus. He gave me incredulous looks as I asked him to describe the images on postcards. Later we moved on to discussing the recent Expo in Lisbon. They both liked the Cuban part of the exhibition and talked of all the puros on display.

“How do you say in English?”

“We call them ‘joints’.”

“Joints,” said Carmen.

“Really? At the Expo?”

“Yes, very good joints,” said Jesús.

“Do you like joints, Jesús?”

“Normally, no. But I try at the Expo.”

“Lot of people smoke joints at Expo.”

“Lots of people, Carmen. Or a lot of people.”

This Expo was a cooler, laid back affair than I had imagined.

“They have Cuban joints there. American say they don’t like Cuban joints, embargo and all that, but Clinton buys from Castro.”

“Embargo? Clinton buys joints from Castro? Oh sorry, wait a minute...”

I had got confused between porros (joints) and puros, which, of course, are cigars.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
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Date of publicationApril 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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