Aug 2006 – Back to London

2 March 2008

In August 2006 we came back to London. There were many things to be sorted out. One that now seemed simple and obvious was that Joe should go to Pimlico. It was on our doorstep, it was probably all right, if not we would find out and could do something about it. The only question in my mind was whether there would be a place for him.

There wasn’t a place for Francesco at St Gabriel’s, so he went to Churchill Gardens Primary instead, with the understanding that he was likely to go back to St Gabriels if a place became free. That did happen after a couple of months, and in the meantime it wasn’t so awful. When I first looked at Churchill Gardens Primary over ten years ago it was in a pretty bad way. But since then it has had strong leadership from Mr Pye. He has told me that he spends up to two full working days a week researching and applying for grants and funding, and it shows in the way he has transformed the school. He also says that he gets no support from Westminster City Council. I can believe that.

For Joe at Pimlico there was no problem getting a place. We went to see the head of year 7, and in general conversation it came up that Joe plays the piano. “Oh, he should go on the Special Music Scheme, then.” And he did. As simple as that.

So in the first term, everything seemed to be going well.



22 February 2008

So we went to Italy for the academic year 2005/6. We lived in Lupompesi, a village of 60 inhabitants, where Annalisa had lived all her life until she met me. The children went to the state school in Vescovado, 1 km away, which has a population of a couple of thousand.

And I went there too. I offered to assist with English lessons in the Scuola Elementare (6 – 11 years) and Scuola Media (11 – 14). There was some bureaucracy to go through before I could start, of course. But not, as here, for child protection. No, they wanted me to sign a form to make sure that I was not going to turn round and say that I had taught a certain number of hours and now demanded to be paid! Just one example of the cultural difference.

They started me off with the oldest ones. I was quite scared at first, to be put in front of a dozen or so 13-year-olds. They were meant to be practising conversation, but it soon became clear that their English wasn’t really good enough to let them talk. I spent a few lessons talking about English life, London, and whatever came into my head. They were very interested to know where I had been when the July 2005 bombs went off. (At work in the City).

To get them talking more and me less, I started writing down some dialog for them. This developed over the months into a little playlet which I used with all the classes. It gave them the chance to practice everyday expressions, and I put in some jokes to keep myself interested. By the end of the year I knew that I had enjoyed myself and learnt a lot, and I hope they learnt something useful too.

Coming back to England, I started thinking about teaching here, and teaching my own subject, maths. The government is crying out for maths teachers, and, to cut a long story short, I enrolled to do Secondary PGCE at the Institute of Education, starting last September.


22 February 2008

It’s three years ago now that we made the decision to spend a year in Italy.

We had been thinking about it for a long time. In summer 2004 I had a gap between contracts – what actors call “resting” – and I remember sitting out having lunch in the garden and saying to Annalisa, “I’ve never known the market as bad as this. If I don’t get a job soon, why don’t we just go to Italy.” But another job did turn up, and we didn’t go.

That was at Merrill Lynch, and it turned out to be the best contract I’ve had. Interesting work, a line manager who really appreciated my work, and a whole slew of creature comforts – for instance a staff restaurant with a huge range of choice. So it was a bit odd that I only stayed a year. They wanted to renew, but we had decided to go away.

The main reason for going was that Annalisa wanted to live close to her family and friends, at least for a time. And we wanted the children to experience Italian life, and life in a village, and learn Italian.

But another reason why we chose to go then was that it meant avoiding the decision where to send Joe to secondary school. I thought probably Pimlico was the best bet, but we knew almost nothing about it. Annalisa was apprehensive, because here in Churchill Gardens a lot of the gossip about Pimlico is very negative. I think it’s probably the same around any school: people are frightened of teenagers, and when they see them out buying chips at lunchtime, well, they notice the worst behaviour and don’t see anything positive.


19 February 2008

So here we are. As I say on the About page, I’m not a natural blogger. More later.