As a family, we host students from all over the world who come to learn English at a local language academy.
On their first morning I always accompany them to Manchester, showing bus routes and recognisable landmarks for their journey home and for them to be able to travel independently for the rest of their time with us.
And so this morning I set off with a new Swiss student. We got to the bus stop when I realised that I’d forgotten the receipt for some shoes that I was taking back to Next while I was in town, so I rang my wife: “I’ve forgotten the receipt for these shoes, will you send Millie running around with it?”
I won’t repeat her language. But they won’t be teaching it at the Academy.
In the meanwhile our bus arrived, and I explained to the student: “We will have to let this go. I’m sorry, it’s my fault. But the buses are quite regular and we will catch the next one.”
My daughter arrived, out of breath. “Mum says you’re a nuisance.”
“She says a lot more too.”
(I’d also forgotten vouchers to get a coat with, but thought it best not to push my luck.)
We got the next bus, but was soon caught up in traffic, the clock ticking.
Our student was worried that he would be late on his first day. “It’s not always like this,” I explained, “it varies. Christmas and all that. Perhaps you should get an earlier bus tomorrow. You will soon work out your own routine. But for today don’t worry-you are in a new country, a new city. They expect students to be late on their first day.”
He seemed placated, but then half way on our journey a guy got on trying to use an expired weekly bus ticket, which the bus driver both refused and retained. The man started shouting: “What is up with you? You’ve got the receipt and everything there in front of you!!” Eventually, after a protracted arguement, he backed down and explained “I’m sorry, I was confused. I was thinking today was Sunday, not Monday.” Sure you was. But not as confused as our student.
My Swiss friend continually checked his watch. Finally, we made it into Shudehill, on the edge of the town centre. I attempted to reassure him. “Don’t worry, we are only a minute away from the Academy. We’re virtually there. Everything will be fine now.”
We turned the corner and our bus knocked a man down.
People were screaming, the driver jumped from his cab. A dramatic woman, sat near the front of the bus, shouted into her phone: “We went right over his head! It will be split like a pumpkin!”
“What is a pumpkin?” my friend asked, wide-eyed.
“It’s, erm, like a big vegetable.”
“HIS HEAD IS LIKE A VEGETABLE!!?”
I could see a support officer stood on the pavement, speaking into a radio, looking grim faced down at the road.
That’s it, I thought. He’s dead.
I took the student’s arm. “We are going to have to get off and walk from here.”
As we exited the bus, I noticed that the man who had been knocked down was actually stood next to the officer. So what was the officer looking at in the road so horror struck? I looked-his shoe!
Speed walking through the back streets, we finally got to the Academy. I explained at the desk: “Sorry he’s late, I’ve been showing him the city and how we kill people here.”
I left him there, bidding him good luck. Later on, I recounted the whole episode to my Mum. I honestly don’t know why I bother. On finishing, she said: “God, fancy him being knocked down on his first day in the country.”
“The student wasn’t knocked down!”
“Well who was?”
“Why was the student on the road?”
“He wasn’t! He was with me.”
“Where was you?”
“On the bus with him!”
“So who got squashed like a pumpkin?”
“Well what was the woman looking at in the road?”
“I thought you had the shoes with the receipt?”
“Not those shoes!!!”
Anyway, welcome to Manchester.
Good luck tomorrow.