Saturday, August 12, 2017

Rat catcher

This week I had a chance meeting with a rat catcher - not that he was called that, of course.  There I was, serving teas in the coffee shop of the National Trust property where I volunteer when a workman came in.  I offered him a cup of tea.  He was wearing a shirt with the Rentokil name on the pocket.

First he said he had not come for tea, but to check on the mouse traps.  Then he told me that I had taught him English at secondary school.

This is something that used to happen regularly.  I would be window-shopping in a local town and some hulking six-footer with a beard would accost me: "You taught me in Year 8," he would say accusingly, as if wondering how I could have not recognised him.  But it has not happened for some time, and certainly not in our coffee-shop.

Now I used to enjoy inventing ideas for making writing interesting and real.  One of my better wheezes was to put the students into small groups to produce an inside page of the local paper, emphasising the fact that they had to select which of recent events to cover.  The events were the interesting bit.  I made up a list of stories in one-line summaries, using the names of the students in the class.  For example, Local mum, Sharon Smith, gives birth to triplets assisted by midwife, Clare Jones. Or, Wayne Robinson has opened his fifth hairdressing salon in Braintree.

As the years went on I reused the list many times, substituting names from the current class each time.  It was fun to see other English teachers use the same material, and the same list of stories with their classes.

But here's the thing: It never occurred to me to include the profession of pest control in my list - and I imagine it would never have occurred to my former student as a possible career option - until it did.

He seemed remarkably content checking the mousetraps, and was able to give me some quite technical information about dealing with an infestation of bees in a loftspace, so it is obviously an interesting job.  Anyone for rat-catching, I wonder?

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