Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Things They Say (Part 9) Mischief in the Playground

La señora Pérez is very agitated this morning, and young Rafa is looking cross. He’s got his arms folded tightly and a stiff pout squeezing all the colour out of his lips. She’s jabbering Spanish at great velocity and I haven’t understood a word. She tries to remonstrate with Rafa but he shrugs her off and stares out towards the orange trees. So she starts jabbering at me. I concentrate gamely but the sun is ridiculously hot, the sweat is pricking out on my temples and Sara is tugging at my sleeve and whining, ‘MeessaDeeeeMeeesssaaDeeeeeee.’ This is not a good way to start the day; angry parent, at least two angry children, surface temperature of Mercury reached before we even start, and me humiliated, again, by my pathetic command of a language which all the 6- and 7-year-olds in my class can use effortlessly.
La señora Pérez turns on her heel(s) and starts running, yes, running out of the playground. And suddenly I catch a word that she’s shouting. ‘¡Un rato!’ she shouts. ‘¡Un rato!’
A rat? She's seen a rat! Christ, it doesn’t surprise me. The smell from the sewers is now in peak season and easily masks the smell of all the children and teachers in a school where the only air-conditioning units are in the office areas and the SMT ‘lounge’. I noticed in the TES some time ago that SMT (senior management team) has been changed into SLT (senior leadership team) but we haven’t kept up with this ‘reform’. (It's not the only one.)
I shrug and smile at Rafa. But he intensifies his bloodless pout so I lead my group towards the class, scanning the playground for a mischief of rats as I go. Did you know that the collective noun for rats is a mischief? Well, it’s one of many actually. It’s also a colony, a horde, a pack, a plague and a swarm. Or so it says on the internet. I remember learning (some of) these nouns when I was at school. It seems to have gone out of fashion. Wonder if it’s worth bringing it back? Of course, they’d have to sort out the mess and decide on one name to learn. I mean, they couldn’t expect children to learn them all. But that would cause an almighty row, as all the pedants argued amongst themselves about which one was ‘correct’. Probably best to not bother. I’ll stick with ‘mischief’ myself. No particular reason.
No sign of any mischief in the corridor so I lead them into class and get on with the registration conversation. I’m halfway through when there’s a knock on my door and la señora Pérez bustles in without waiting for a reply. She’s breathing heavily, sweating, still muttering about the rat- and carrying a box.
Bloody hell! Rafa is suddenly all excited and pout less. He’s up off the floor, blood flooding through his lips and he's reaching for the box.
‘Woah, hold on!’ I blurt in less than fluent español, reaching out and getting hold of it without actually securing possession. Rafa has also managed to grab a corner although la señora Pérez still has a firm grip.
‘You can’t bring a-‘ I stop short of alerting the rest of the children to the fact that there’s a sharp-toothed rodent above their heads. What are they thinking? It’s not Rafa’s show and tell today, and even if it was, I’d have insisted that he bring it in a cage. La señora Pérez looks confused, Rafa is starting to pout again but I can’t let this go on. I try to give the box a good yank but only manage to twist it sideways. I feel the contents slither to one side. It’s heavy. A big one! Suddenly, la señora Pérez loses her grip. I take the opportunity to pull it out of Rafa’s small hand but I’m stretching out too far over the heads of the spellbound children on the floor. Rafa tries to strengthen his hold but only manages to grab the lid which comes off. I now have the box by one corner but the weight of it means I can’t get enough purchase to keep it from tipping-
‘No!’ I manage to blurt as the weak side of the box starts to tear and the contents tumble out, bouncing off Lídia’s head before landing at my feet...
‘Ooee!’ says Lídia, staring at a banana and the tell-tale shape of a bocadillo (sandwich) wrapped in silver foil.
‘Oh!’ I say. ‘I thought you said-'
Rafa starts to gather his bocadillo and (rapidly bruising) banana. ‘My marm, she olvida my esnack!’ he snarls to himself. (My mum forgot my snack.)

Note to self. The Spanish for ‘rat’ is rata. The Spanish for ‘mouse’ is ratón. I knew that last year. I'm sure I did!
And un rato? Well, that actually translates into English as... ‘a short while’.
Good idea not to mix them up.

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