Monday, 5 March 2012

Bad Penny

My nanny was Spanish and I hated her.  She could trap consonants in her throat and gargle with them until they submitted and died, and she seemed to enjoy doing so.  As I grew up I was constantly reprimanded and given additional homework by my teachers because spending all my time with my Spanish nanny mangled my English accent into something monstrous.  When I finally realised what the problem was, at the age of eight when I met my best friend's Phillipino nanny and discovered that there was nothing normal about the way my nanny spoke to me, I hid half the silverware in her underwear drawer and tried to get her sacked.
Only she gargled something in her hideous accent at my father, who clearly didn't understand a word she said, and somehow remained in our employ.  So next time I packed all the silverware into her suitcases and left them by the front door just as my parents were coming home and she was getting ready for a date with some poor, unsuspecting idiot.  This time my mother dealt with the situation the only way she knew how: by shouting and shouting and shouting until the nanny picked up her suitcases and ran.  Taking all our silverware with her.
I didn't get found out, luckily enough for me, but the new nanny was Welsh which led to complications all of its own, especially as her political views clashed violently with father's.
Four years later, my nanny reappeared in my life as my Spanish teacher at school.  I walked into her classroom and first smelt a perfume that took me back to eating porridge in the nursery.  I stopped dead, and two of my classmates walked into me causing a pile-up that we all thought was very funny.  Then a voice rasped something out that I assumed had to be in Spanish, so we stopped laughing and looked up.  When I realised it was my old nanny looking down at me I screamed.
Spanish class was hard: it was mandatory and the school only had one Spanish teacher, so I had no alternative but to attend.  I would sit mutely at the back of the class, wondering what the hell she was saying, and trying to learn Spanish from the materials.  The text-book taught me how to write in Spanish, and the listening comprehension taught me how to understand well-spoken Spanish, but my Spanish teacher's horrible accent meant that I couldn't understand a word she said in any language.  After three weeks she gave up asking me things because all I could reply was that I didn't understand.  At least I always said it in Spanish.
In the test at the end of the first term I got a little under 40% and was mortified.  All my marks so far were in the 70-85% range, and a couple, in the more scientific subjects, were higher still.  Having a failing mark, in a language I wasn't being adequately (in my mind) taught, was more than I could stand.  I found excuses to visit the staffroom and worked out which was her locker, and one evening, after everyone was supposed to have gone home, I bribed the cleaning staff to let me into the staffroom for three minutes.  They thought I was delivering a late homework; in fact I left a stack of thirty copies labelled 'End of Term Exam answers for Class IIIb" and left one, as though it had slipped out and been missed, on the floor.
We had a substitute Spanish teacher for two weeks while she was investigated, and I could understand what she was saying for the most part.  I got to participate in the class, and actually started to enjoy the lesson.  Then my ex-nanny came back, with fire in her eyes and vitriol in her heart, and once again I was a stranger in a strange land, on my way to failing Spanish for the year.
I was daydreaming in my chemistry class as the teacher went over, for the fifth time, how to balance chemical reactions, when my friend Robin was called out and disappeared from the school.  We found out, through rumour, teachers who liked us, and the occasional parent who didn't check their post carefully enough, that Robin had tried to bribe the cleaning staff into letting her into the staffroom to deliver a late homework and had been caught on video camera.  My ex-nanny had insisted long and hard that this must be the person victimising her and had had her expelled.  Now I had two reasons to loathe the woman.  I thought long and hard about how to get revenge, and found that it simply wasn't that easy to get to someone who was on their guard.  Walking past the post-room one day though, and seeing the Amazon packages being delivered for staff-members, I suddenly realised that I had a plan.
Three days later and a friend of a friend who knew a guy who knew a guy who could get some drugs delivered a package to the school for my ex-nanny, asking for her by name and describing her quite particularly.  He was very insistent that he should hand-deliver the package, whihc of course wasn't allowed, and only gave it over reluctantly.  This was all suspicious enough that the package was checked, and found to contain a half-kilogram of marijuana leaves, and my Spanish teacher was escorted off the premises, shouting and presumably swearing in her grotesque, gargling accent.
I passed Spanish, with a final mark of 68% which I put down to the poor start she'd instilled in me, and thought nothing more of her.
I started work at Tiblins and Smithco last Monday, and was told that the HR manager was away that week and so would see me this week to go through necessary paperwork.  At half-past nine I knocked on the door of the HR office, and my ex-nanny opened the door and greeted me.  At least, I assume she did, as I couldn't understand a word she said.  I smiled, and wondered if the woman would haunt me for the rest of my life.

No comments: