Cradling a puppy in the morning. Cradling a baby in the afternoon.

It’s before 6am and I’m dog tired. I’m sitting in the lounge of an Iberian airport waiting for my gate to be announced. I’ve managed to avoid, up to now at least, the overpriced refreshments and want nothing more than to take my seat so I can look at the back of my eyelids for a couple of hours. I’m en-route to my summer school…

Yesterday was really busy but marked a fitting end to a two-year stint in Portugal. I woke early and met up with a couple of friends in the park who introduced me to their new addition, a really naughty but adorable Yorkshire terrier. On first sight, I was growled at, so I growled back. I was encouraged to hold him and give him a stroke, he liked that and so did I. I even managed to keep his attention for a while before he spied another dog and jumped down. If it wasn’t for the lead, he would have been off.

The day before I received an unexpected but very welcome email from an old summer school mucker who was passing through town. Years ago, I worked 3 summers with Uncle Pat. Not my real uncle mind, but an uncle all the same. Back in 2007, I was the DoS, Pat was the activity manager and Uncle Jer, an old stalwart and summer school veteran, was the centre manager. For the two summers after that, Jer stepped down and Pat took his place and I became his batman.

We ran two different summer centres together and treated everyone, staff and students, as family members. Those two halcyon summers were great fun; we even had a couple of vans at our disposal!

Unless you are working in ELT throughout the year, you are not really in it for the long game. Pat jumped ship to go back into serious academia, appearing years later on the other side with a PhD. I last saw him when he was passing through London. We played snooker for a few of hours and promised to keep in contact.

Best-laid plans often go awry- that was 2 years ago. When I saw him yesterday, he hadn’t changed a bit. He was again passing through and I was conscious that I had a flight to catch early in the morning. His wife had joined him on his travels, which was great as it has been about 10 years since we last saw each other.

A few months ago, Uncle Jer had dropped me a line to say that Pat was soon to be a father, and lo and behold, as I walked in the room, I was presented with a beautiful bundle of joy. Only that morning I had been privileged to have cradled a rather spirited puppy and yes, there I was holding a little baby! Two experiences in one day! Who would have thought I’d have been so lucky, eh?! The puppy growled but the baby cried- it was time to hand her back to mother.

We spent the next couple of hours talking about the old days and our plans for the future. Conscious of the time, we said our goodbyes, and I made my way back home to do the rest of my packing.

Before long it was already midnight. I set my alarm for 4am, but nervous energy was getting in the way of the precious few hours of sleep that I had left.

Sitting in the departure lounge, my attention has really turned to the next three months, which will be all about commitment and long hours. I’ll be working with a new centre manager as my good friend and brother from another mother, Uncle Louis has gone on to pastures new. He is replaced by Uncle Tal.

I’m trying to patch together the bits of information that have been passed my way over the last few weeks. There are new materials and procedures that need I need to take on board. For many years, changes were few and far between while it looks as though there has been a fairly major overhaul of how things are done. The next few weeks will reveal to what extent this is true. For the moment, however, I thinking of caving in and buying an overpriced coffee…

Ah, too late. The gate has just opened- gate 43. I’ve got to go…


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