Giggle as you swivel with the Chinese belly-dancer

23rd September 2005 at 01:00
Go on, admit it. Haven't you always wanted to throw yourself into a taxi and yell: "Follow that cab"? I have. I've also had a long-standing ambition to shout "wait!" in a restaurant, peel off a handful of notes from the stash in my wallet, throw them on the table and rush out.

Immortal lines from the movies. In real life, the politely whispered "station please", or the fumbling in your handbag, opening a prissy little pink purse, then working out who did have a starter and if you should pay more because you had pudding - well it's not exactly edge-of-the-seat stuff, is it?

But things have changed. Real life has suddenly become more dramatic. You'd expect drama in a theatre but, when an actor collapsed on stage 10 minutes into the production, the dialogue was suddenly for real. The producer came centre stage: "Is there a doctor in the house?"

That's a line I'd only ever heard in black and white melodramas on rainy Sunday afternoons. It gave a curious sense of unreality to the crisis. Many in the audience thought it was all part of the play. A doctor there was and, as the seriousness of the situation became apparent, we filed out from the theatre, disoriented by the blurring of fantasy and reality.

The actor made a steady recovery. I wonder if, looking back, the producer contemplates the strangeness of voicing a corny old line which suddenly springs into new life.

I was pondering all this while doing my stint at our part-time enrolment session. I was covering dance, music, art, drama and media. The fun stuff.

A colleague covering business and management had just come over: "There is a Chinese lady who would like to join the over-50s belly-dancing class.

Could you see her?"

Now I would bet that David has always harboured a longing for just such an immortal line. I'll bet he has spent his whole career stuck with a script about end-of-year profits, report writing and Serious Things Like That.

The lady said her English wasn't very good, and it did take some time to reassure her that it was indeed an over-50s class. "Not under 50," she kept insisting, and I kept reassuring her. We spent a lot of time distinguishing "over" from "under": for some reason, we both found this very funny.

She told me about her family and her husband's restaurant business and we became pally. Before she left, she straightened up my table and tucked in all the chairs neatly. I hope she's enjoying her classes and I bet the over-50s are doing a lot of giggling as they swivel.

Sometimes I relieve the tedium by trying to guess what people are going to choose. The girl who walked over next had beautiful poise and a certain way of carrying her shoulders. Dancer, definitely. Spot on. Two lads in leather jackets and shaven heads. Embroidery.

My next client was a single parent who had two small, energetic children in tow. Once they were settled with enrolment forms to draw on, he said he wanted to change his life. We organised the first small step and he enrolled on a full-time course. I am only now slightly concerned that one of our classes contains two small children under five.

At six, I was relieved from my post by a colleague. "Busy?" he asked. I pondered an immortal line. How about, "we're gonna need a bigger boat"? Or, "fasten your seat belt. It's going to be a bumpy night"? Instead, I managed "so so". Then I leapt into a cab and whispered: "Station, please."

Dr Carol Gow lectures in media at Dundee College.

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