Sunday, 16 July 2017

Birmingham again – July 2017

Sooty checks her emails over breakfast
We returned to Hall Green and Sooty cat for another month of housesitting, via Mark and Fiona’s house, as we were invited to their BBQ. They had invited a lot of former members of Solihull Mountaineering Club, many of whom I had been climbing and mountaineering with over the past 25 years, so it was really nice to catch up with so many familiar faces.

Many of them Jackie only knew from previous summer BBQ’s at Mark and Fiona’s, but she was able to catch up with Tim and Jill, friends we will be house and cat sitting for in August in Derby while they are on holiday in Australia, as well as chat to their, and Mark and Fiona’s daughters about their plans and preparations for the universities they are planning to go to which, for Grace will be Loughborough if she gets the required grades in her A levels.

A very tired Sooty
Staying at Abi’s house looking after Sooty is always a pleasure for us, the house is a small terrace, very well planned and decorated by Abi, but there are always jobs to be done, which we enjoy. She vacates the house when we’re available so she can get out in her caravan, see friends and her mum and we can repay her kindness through a bit of hard work. It’s also centrally located for us, allowing us to visit friends and family nearby and it now feels almost like a second home. At the end of this stay we will have been housesitting Sooty on eight separate occasions and have enjoyed every one of them.

Sister Denise with birthday cake
We had a really nice day at my sister Denise’s, with husband Paul, we took a shop bought birthday cake and candles, sat in the garden with a cup of tea, sang happy birthday and shielded the candles from the wind so she could blow them out rather than the wind. Wind 3, Denise 1, I think was the score.  

Our ‘Sunday Tea Club’ group got together at Manu and Crystals this time for a BBQ. As usual, I was driving so had just one drink, but Manu cracked open some of their wedding prosecco and I’m afraid Jackie and Manu saw off several bottles before I took a giggling Jackie home and Manu nursed a bad head the following morning.

Friday night was a BBC Balti night out at a buffet Indian restaurant somewhere near Saltley in Birmingham. I say 'somewhere' as we had no idea where it was, we just followed our sat-nav through many narrow city streets until we arrived there, repeating the procedure to get home. 'BBC Balti' is actually a loose term, of the eight people who were there, only three of them still work at the BBC. I, one of the eight, was the only person never to have worked there, the other seven were all previous employees, Jackie being one of them. Only Sarah and Arif are still at the BBC in Birmingham, with Andy, their previous boss in Birmingham, making a special effort to drive down from Manchester for the evening where he still works for the BBC. It was an excellent buffet with great food and, as everyone regularly went up to get more food, people swapped places when they came back to chat to other people who they hadn't seen for a while. As I've now been to quite a few of these reunions I now know them quite well and feel quite comfortable with them, even though I don't know anything about their work. I even got a man-hug from Arif!

Mike and Ella's BBQ
Last night was Mike and Ella’s summer BBQ, this year a Caribbean theme, so I bought a child’s T shirt in Primark (I’m only small, it fitted but was a bit tight) and Jackie got some colourful trousers from a charity shop. Ian and Helen and Phil and Sue, who we went with, all of us dressed up in suitable colourful clothing as well as were probably half the people there. Live music was from a guy on a steel drum, plenty of food and a chance to catch up with another set of old friends.

Phil mixes cocktails watched by Sue and Helen
A lot of our time here so far has been spent studying for a TEFL qualification (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) which we enrolled for in March while we were still in Guatemala. At first the studying was fairly slow as we were still travelling, but has now accelerated to the point where we have now completed all ten modules, leaving only the final test to do, followed by two assignments. We’re not sure quite what they will entail, but we have a strong impression at least one will be on lesson planning, so I have bought a copy of ‘TEFL Lesson Plans for Dummies’, sounds right up my street! Hopefully in a few weeks we will have finally finished the course and have a TEFL qualification that we may or may not use. We certainly don’t want to commit to long term jobs, but occasional teaching in foreign parts to disadvantaged people might be both fun and rewarding and, at least we’ll know roughly how to teach English.  

Dressed up and ready to go. Phil, Ian, Sue, Helen and Jackie
Two of the modules were on English grammar, which have been both quite difficult and very enlightening for both of us and has made us look at the English Language from an entirely different perspective. We now realise what a difficult language it must be for speakers of other languages to learn, with words that are pronounced differently to how they are spelt and other words that sound the same but have different meanings. Consider a couple of examples sent by our friend John in New Zealand: ‘Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.’ And, ‘The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.’

All of us in our costumes at the party
Of interest for me was learning the twelve tenses we use in the English Language and above, in this text I have used all twelve of them, some a number of times, plus one conditional sentence, can you spot them?

One thing I’ve never been quite sure about and wasn’t covered in the grammar modules was the correct use of the apostrophe. I’ve tried to get them right in this text, but I’m sure my father-in-law, Richard, who lives in Spain will spot an error and will be all too keen to point it/them out to me. Well Richard, can you find any?
The man on the steel drum at the party

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