Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I just let England down horribly.

The Deputy Headmaster at the school I teach – as delightful as every other teacher here – is fascinated by England, and at lunchtime today he wheeled his chair up and started asking questions that I didn`t have the foggiest idea of how to start answering.

“Who is Ben?” he asked me enthusiastically (via our translator, the English teacher). This was clearly a question that had been troubling him for some time, because it was out of his mouth before his chair had stopped moving.
“Ben?” I said.
“Ben. Big Ben.”
“He`s a clock,” I said. “A big one.”
“Yes, but why is he Ben? Who is Ben?”
“Oh, God, I don`t know.” His face dropped, so I quickly Googled it (I Google things about twenty-five times a day; I`m that kind of girl. Being a geek is so much easier these days). “Aha,” I finally announced; “Ben is actually the name of the thirteenth bell in the tower, not of the clock, and was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, who was the first commissioner.” (Although, I added mentally, probably not the man who designed or made the bell in the first place. He will go down in History as completely insignificant.)
“Aaaaahhhh!” The response seemed to be exactly what my boss was looking for; his face lit up, and he murmured “Big Ben, Benjamin,” happily a few times.

I sat back in my seat, but he wasn`t done.

“And who is number one in music in England now?”
I thought about it.
“I have no idea,” I admitted.
“Queen?” he asked.
“I doubt it.”
“Brian May?”
“I doubt that too.”
“Who do you like?”
I thought about it, but I couldn`t think of one single English artist that wouldn`t confuse the hell out of everybody in a six mile radius.
“Laura Marling?” I ventured, without thinking about the consequences of this name in a language that doesn`t contain Ls or Rs. He looked at me blankly, and then brightened;
“You like Olivia Newton John?”
“Mmm,” I lied. “And The Beatles,” I added, in the hope of steering the conversation away again.
“The Who?” the English teacher interrupted.
“Them too.”
“No, who is the Beatles?”
I gave up.
“Brian May and Olivia Newton John,” I said. “That`s who I like.”
And there was much happiness and applause and my music taste has been confirmed by my colleagues as possibly the best music taste in the history of all English assistants, and I decided that it was time for me to go home and try and work out what the hell has been going on in England while I`ve been away. Because the chances of Brian May and Olivia Newton John reaching number one in some kind of duet in the next few months are small, frankly. And I have a suspicion that this question is going to be coming up again (we`re all going to Karaoke tomorrow night).

That`s something they don`t tell us before we come to a foreign country. We swot and we swot about the country we`re going to, but we never think for one minute that we might actually need to know something about the place we`ve just come from, too.

So it looks like I`ll be spending the next few weeks learning English cultural and musical history, as well as Japanese.