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Summer’s ending and other changes



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‘Buy a dictionary. Learn a new word a week’
‘Buy a dictionary. Learn a new word a week’

I still get sweaty thinking of the baking summer of 1976 due to the hot, dry weather we had. Fortunately the rain’s back and we’re enjoying (is that the right word?) cooler British summer weather. I don’t know about you, but my garden was a write-off this year, although I got some joy from my tomatoes, potatoes and marrows. No plums, no beetroots, and my apples mostly dropped off the branches. Oh well, at least my hen could eat them.

I’ve observed an ominous date every September since I was a child. The date when summer holiday ends and school resumes. Summer was heaven on stilts because of the freedom from counting, testing, memorizing facts and, for me, what seemed an endless string of detentions. It was during some consecutively enforced-confinements during my last year at school that I met my Waterloo, and in many ways, my educational inspiration. An unsmiling English teacher, Ms Lowery. Her disagreeable chore was supervising me during frequent one-hour detention sessions.

In the final weeks of my school days, while enduring yet another detention, I brightly announced to
Ms Lowery I’d been accepted at university. She looked skeptical, so I showed her the embossed approval letter.

She pulled a face like she was flossing her teeth. “Want my advice? Wise up. I suggest you subscribe to a serious weekly news journal and begin critically reading it cover-to-cover. Also, buy a dictionary. Learn a new word a week, or you’ll never make the grade.”

Hardly the “Good on you; I knew you could do it, Mike!” I’d expected, yet it sunk in. Ms Lowery’s advice is partly why I became a teacher and writer, and expanding my vocabulary’s become a lifelong hobby!

Hollywood funny lady Lily Tomlin once said of educators: “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” Ms Lowery certainly did that for me.

This year, I actually welcome summer’s end. In addition to some interesting writing projects, I’m considering going to West Suffolk College to train to teach English as a foreign language. Having studied French and Italian at language schools in Paris and Cambridge, I thought it’d be challenging to explain tenses, grammar and homonyms to folks whose first language isn’t English.

Speaking of homonyms, there was a foreign-language student in Berkshire who spotted a big sign advertising a ‘Reading Festival’. Thinking he was going to get tips on his comprehension and English skills, he turned up on the day only to find one of the UK’s leading rock festivals. Yep. That’s our befuddling language for you.

I was pleased to see Camille Berriman reports in this paper that Paddy-and-Scott’s coffee shop has introduced an ‘equity-partners’ initiative offering employees a share in the business’ profits as well as taking a role in the firm’s commercial strategy and development. Jon Reed, spokesman, said: “We’re proudly investing in our team as a way of rewarding them for their commitment while fuelling ambition for the future.” That’s good coffee for customers and great news for the workers.

Finally, there’s much being printed today about so-called fake news and the lack of media objectivity. And rightly so. I know one problem of producing this column is trying to discover interesting things happening around here. My goal is to make the topics about which I write relevant to the widest number of folks who read this paper.

To me, good journalism is about people and their stories. And that’s what I aim to produce. So why not contact me at this paper this year and help me tell your story?