14 June 2011

(Re)discovering the Beatles

The Beatles and I were born in the same decade.  I grew up hearing their songs on the radio non stop, both while the group was active and much later after they disbanded.  But I was impervious to their appeal; I hated them!  I acknowledged that they were talented, masters of the pop universe (I never asserted that they were rubbish) but I just didn't like their style, for some indefinable reason.

Then they went their separate ways and left me in peace.  Of course, the radio continued to play their hits but more and more infrequently.  We were moving into the 70s and 80s and other dogs were having their day.  In the meantime, poor John was assassinated and George passed away.  Ringo became a grandad and Paul championed worthy causes.

Fast forward to 2011.  I am charged with teaching English to a group of 6th and 8th graders.  Not an easy assignment, given that they have poor discipline, a low attention span and detest grammar.  I too get fed up with the stale coursebook and arid worksheets.  The entertainment value of crossword puzzles and games is limited to five minutes.  To break the monotony I decided to introduce songs into the lesson, using the lyrics to expand vocabulary or reinforce grammar.  The first song I found was Yellow Submarine.  No way! I thought, I'm not doing a Beatles song.  But I was short of time and didn't have the chance to find and prepare another song.

To my utter amazement, the students loved the song.  Once we had completed all the exercises, they wanted to hear the song again and again.  I replayed the CD and they all sang along with their completed lyrics.  Even more amazing, I found myself singing along too!  The passage of time had softened my indifference and disdain and I realised what lovely little stories these songs told, with beautiful melodies.  I don't know what is to blame for my turncoat tactics; whether it is the sentimentality that accompanies approaching senility or a nostalgic yearning for past decades I cannot say.

Today we sang Help! and Beatles songs have a firm place on the timetable.  But it just goes to show how a bunch of 11-year-olds can introduce you to songs from the Swinging Sixties.

11 June 2011

Walking down the aisle

Imagine the scene.  It's midday in a busy discount supermarket and I'm wandering the aisles looking for inspiration for the evening meal.  Easily distracted as I am, I come across a prominently displayed box of shower gel and stop to look.  Okay, it's not going to help me decide what to buy for dinner, but it was a brief respite from the intense intellectual activity.  The price seems really good; 1 litre priced at a 250ml bottle.  Not bad.  I forget the groceries and pull over to the side to take a better look.  There must be a catch somewhere, the product was ridiculously cheap.  

On the opposite side of the display I observe another housewife with her trolley eying up the bottles.  Her face displays the same thought processes that are going through my mind: shall I buy a bottle, or not?  Unable to decide, she picks up a random bottle from the box and flips the top in order to smell the contents.  Sniff, sniff and she wrinkles her nose.  She then offers the bottle for me to smell.  I lean forward and inhale.  
"It smells just like washing up liquid," I opine.
"You're right."  The other lady smiles, returns the bottle to the box with its friends and continues pushing her trolley along the aisles.  I, too, follow my own path.

My short interlude provided no inspiration for the 'dinner dilemma' but it did give me an insight into the philosophy behind effective retailing.
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Squeaky Door by Elizabeth Chairopoulou is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.