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This post was originally published on Marisa Constantinides — TEFL Matters on August 10, 2012. It was re-posted by Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto who supports the ELTchat project, and is very proud of her brief stint as a moderator for the group, so she shared the post on Teaching Village. 

Being a great admirer of both Marisa’s and Barbara’s dedication and work to support the world of ELT, I am now sharing this post here.

It’s sad when something like this happens.

For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.

Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.

ELTchat logo

And that is how #ELTchat was created.

The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy eltchat.com and announced the good news to us after the fact.

A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011, he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.

We never found out for sure.

We never received a single word of response to our emails.

eltchat.com was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it

 

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.

The news is really upsetting.

The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment

We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.

But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased – eltchat.org

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet

And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations

We will be back with a vengeance

We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

 We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

 

See you all in September!!!

Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Melania Paduraru

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers, teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers, reposted this on your blog

If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Edinburgh & Lothians


WOW!

Saint Giles’ Cathedral

7.45am – We’ve been in Edinburgh for 15 minutes and this is the umpteenth “WOW” so far. Find out more about this spectacular cathedral here.

Totally uninspired, we didn’t print any maps of Edinburgh…We’re looking for the Deacon’s House Cafe. That’s where we’re going to meet our tour guide. We booked a Free Scottish Highlands Tour with The Hairy Coo ,  a young company run by five enthusiastic people who deliver the best service they could think of and, at the end of the day, put the ball in the customers’ court and allow them to decide how much to tip their driver/guide.

Deacon’s House Cafe

8.00am – Found the cafe! Unmistakeable, due to the Deacon guarding the entrance. Couldn’t resist taking a photo with him and laughed my head off 30 minutes later when I discovered his dark story.

Deacon Brodie was a respectable business man and city councillor by day and a mysterious nocturnal burgler until 1788 when he was caught and hanged. His day-time business provided him with the means for the night-time burglaries. He was a smith, making door locks for the rich by day and breaking into their houses at night. The story goes that he was hanged from a gibbet he himself had built. Deacon Brodie is believed to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson in creating the famous dual personality character of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Oh, well… I picked the wrong guy.

Forth Bridge – Edinburgh

9.00am – We’re on our way to Stirling. Our guide and driver, Nic (shortened from Nicola, aye, she’s the only ‘girl’ in the company), gives us all the information about the tour, the itinerary, the stops, safety measures, emergency exits and weather forecast, everything spiced with the typical Scottish humour. She’s Scottish – what a surprise!, she strives to keep her accent under control as she’s got 24 people on the bus, which means at least 10 nationalities, so she has to make her interesting stories well understood and really entertaining. First stop, the world famous Forth Bridge. Check out its History Timeline and Image Gallery.

The National Wallace Monument

The National Wallace Monument situated on the summit of Abbey Craig, commemorates Sir William Wallace, the 13th century Scottish hero, central character of Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.

The tower was built in the 19th century. It is a 67-metre (220 ft) sandstone tower, built in the Victorian Gothic style. From here Wallace was said to have watched the gathering of the army of King Edward I of England, just before the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

Nic’s account of the Battle of Stirling Bridge was so vivid that we could easily imagine young Wallace leading his highlanders and luring the English into a brilliant strategic trap…

Stirling Castle – the Gate to Scotland

Stirling Castle is one of the largest castles in Scotland and, probably, the most important castle from a strategic point of view, as there were times when the only bridge across the River Forth was that of the castle. All trade and travelling between Scotland and England had to go through this castle. Whoever controlled it, controlled all traffic between the two countries.

And now, off the beaten track we go, into the wilderness of the Highlands, even if we’re not going to see much of the real mountains, we can make an idea of what they’re like. Well, if all the beautiful scenery we saw in 9 hours is but a glimpse of the real Scotland, we definitely have to come again.

Nic took us to the only lake in Scotland, Lake of Mentieth, the only natural body of freshwater called a lake in Scotland.” True! All the others are called lochs.

Loch Katrine

We saw Loch Drunkie, Loch Venachar, Loch Achray and Loch Katrine. For each and every one of them, Nic had at least one story to tell, all of them interesting, a mixture of myth, reality and mystery which you tend to love although you know it’s pulling your leg.

It is worth mentioning that Nic warned us from the very beginning that forecasting the weather in Scotland is done on 5-minute intervals: “What’s the weather like today? Well, now it’s raining and it’s going to last for about 5 minutes. Then we’ll see and we’ll keep you informed!” The coach driver from London to Edinburgh had told me the same thing: “Unlike anywhere else in the world, in Scotland you don’t need to graduate from university to be able to get a job in forecasting the weather. Anyone can do it, it’s the easiest job. Just say ‘Today the weather in Scotland is sunny and wet and there’s 90% chance it will rain and 10% chance it might.’ There’s no way you can be proven wrong.

It is also worth mentioning that Nic “provided” genuine Scottish weather almost on demand, so we experienced rain, clouds, sun, warmth, clouds, rain, sun, rain etc, and every now and then patches of clear sky of the purest blue hue I have ever seen. It must have some scientific explanation, but understanding its physics would certainly spoil its magic…

The hairy coo

The hairy coo‘ is what the Scottish lovingly call this fluffy cow.

Highland cattle or kyloe are a Scottish breed of cattle with long horns and long wavy coats which are coloured black, brindled, red, yellow or dun… The breed was developed from two sets of stock, one originally black, and the other reddish.” (Wikipedia)

Very matter-of-fact-ish, isn’t it?

Truth is the hairy coos we saw have names (Fiona, Heather, Alex) which they answer to by looking in that direction or coming to you. They know they’re in for a treat, they recognise the bus and they come towards the wire fence where they’re going to get their afternoon snack. We give them slices of bread which they take directly from our hands. There are four big coos, two reddish, one brown and one black, and a white calf. The two reddish ones get jealous of any other coo being fed, so we have to make sure they are given a slice of bread each at the same time we feed any of the other coos.

Doune Castle

Doune Castle may look strangely familiar, even to those who have never visited before. It depends on your taste in films: Doune Castle is a place of pilgrimage for Monty Python fans from all over the world who come to see the place where they filmed parts of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail“. ” Follow the link at the beginning of the paragraph and you’ll find more where this came from.

6.00pm – After 9 hours, we got back to Deacon’s House Cafe, pretty tired but so full of all the beauty we had seen, all the stories we had heard, all the magic of the tour.  Getting off the bus was like stepping back into the real world. We tipped our lovely Nic, said our goodbyes and headed towards the seashore.

Along the way to the sea, among the many old buildings and sites, we took our last photos before the battery of my phone went dead. Here’s the Palace of Holyroodhouse, residence of many kings and queens in Edinburgh.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

We spent about half an hour on the beach, at sunset, kindly asking the sun to chase away the rain that was threatening to pour on us as we got there. We admired the sea, the sky, the rainbow, taking in all the beauty and peace before we left for the bus station in central Edinburgh.

Did we like Edinburgh? Aye! Did we like Scotland? Aye, aye! We fell in love with Scotland and we’ll surely go back one day.

What Olympic Games?


‘Tis my birthday today!

At the Royal Albert Hall, there will be a concert to honour me: Symphony No.9 by Beethoven, the Royal National Theatre celebrates me with a number of astonishing performances, some people – very good-looking, athletic, one might say – are running around London, carrying a torch to a stadium where they have made arrangements for a spectacular show dedicated to me and broadcast by televisions all over the world, so everyone will know it’s my birthday today… Well… no, not really, I mean, in fact, I modestly asked them to keep my exposure at a minimum and to ensure my own security, so they named this fantastic show… something… somehow… I don’t know, can’t remember. And I won’t be there anyway, ’cause tonight we’re going to Edinburgh.

***

I am almost sure that the message above is at least partially true…

Henry V


Shakespeare’s Globe production, directed by Dominic Dromgoole and starring Jamie Parker as King Henry V. See all about this production here.

Probably Shakespeare’s most patriotic play, Henry V tells the story of a king who, mastering the art of war- and peace-making, manages to make his English, Welsh and Scotish soldiers forget about their exaggerated local patriotism – which draws them into never-ending anecdotal controversies – and fight as a nation for a common goal: to defeat the French in the battle at Agincourt, 1415.

I will, again, leave the review of the play to those qualified to do it: The Independent, The Arts Desk, The Londonist, The Telegraph, The Stage, and my favourite, The Guardian.

I would like to confess that Henry V was not among my favourite Shakespearean plays… Too many monologues, too long descriptions, too much information and too little happening on stage. One word? Boring… I probably read it two or three times and was little impressed. Then I saw Kenneth Branagh’s 1989 film and… liked it, but I blamed it mainly on Branagh playing the king and directing the film and on Sir Derek Jacobi (whom I unconditionally adore!) playing the Chorus.

They were the main reason I watched the film several times and liked it more and more, so when offered the chance to see the play on stage, I surely couldn’t say ‘no‘, especially because Jamie Parker plays King Henry V. Who’s Jamie Parker? He’s one of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys – a play which made history and a film which won quite a number of awards. Here’s the trailer.

But, back to the Globe’s Henry V:

I loved the Chorus – Brid Brennan managed to make me see the things she was describing and feel the thrill of different moments in the play.

I loved Pistol – Sam Cox makes a red-nosed Pistol, cheeky in his lust for Nell, coward-ish on the battlefield, boastful when not in danger. At the end of one of his scenes, Sam Cox forgot to take a prop on his way out. So what did he do? In his character’s most natural way, he came back with an ‘Oy!’ to stop the other actors who were just entering the stage, he pointed at the prop, then at himself, took the prop and left the stage in the audience’s laughter.

I loved Princess Catherine – Olivia Ross’s French is really good and sounds genuine, which made her struggling with pronunciation in her attempts at learning English even more credible. The scene of King Henry wooing her was absolutely adorable.

I loved Captain Fluellen – Brendan O’Hea’s Welsh accent and sense of humour resulted in his stealing almost each and every scene he was in. Brilliant!

I adored King Henry V – Jamie Parker’s performance was so natural, his concerns became my concerns, and his speech before the battle – meant to enthuse his soldiers and addressed to the audience as if we were his subjects – was so heart-felt and so convincing that, when he shouted “God for Harry, England, and Saint George!” and dashed out of the stage, a large part of the audience accompanied him with a war-cry, myself including.

I was really surprised at how easy it seemed to Jamie Parker to mesmerize the audience: if he was sad or grieving, we were silent; if he was joyful and joking, we smiled and laughed; if he was worried about the English being outnumbered by the French, we  answered his speech with war-cries, reassuring him we were behind him; if he was shy and flirty while wooing Princess Katherine, we flirted with him. He had us in the palm of his hand…

Last but not least, I adored the Director – Dominic Dromgoole’s view of the play as a whole impressed me very much, with many memorable scenes. Yet, the scene that I will surely never forget is the battle scene when the king and his captains rush on stage and fight randomly with imaginary enemies. Suddenly, their moves become coordinated and simultaneous and it all turns into some kind of war-dance suggesting good organisation and strategy. And then, the rhythmic, second-beat moves turn into slow motion, probably to suggest the long hours of hard fight before the victory… Simply adored this scene!

Was it a life-altering performance? For me, it was! Shakespeare’s Globe’s cast and crew working on this play contributed to my falling in love with it… Thank you!

*****

Note:

Kenneth Branagh… has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday honours list. His inclusion in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list recognises the Oscar-nominated actor, director and screenwriter for his services to drama and to the community of Northern Ireland.” – The Telegraph, 16 June 2012

Congratulations, Sir Kenneth Branagh!


Shakespeare’s Globe is home to the Globe to Globe festival “bringing together artists from all over the globe, to enjoy speaking these plays in their own language, in our Globe, within the architecture Shakespeare wrote for. The artists will play the Globe way – telling stories through the word and the actor, complemented by costumes, music and dance – and will complete each play within two-and-a-quarter hours (we hope).” Visit the link provided and you will discover all there is to know about the festival, the plays, the dates and the booking process.

*****

As part of the Globe to Globe (which came to pass in the meantime) we watched the Israeli company Habima performing one of Shakespeare’s problem-plays, The Merchant of Venice. A controversial play which puts money and wealth above love. A play which demonstrates how witty lawyers can manipulate the law. A play about Christians mistreating and abusing a Jew, robbing him of his daughter, his fortune and, eventually, his dignity. A play heavy of tragic anti-Semitic messages, masterfully hidden among comic situations.

We chose to see this play for the same reasons we saw Macbeth in Polish: it’s Shakespeare and I know it well enough to be able to watch the performance without understanding the words spoken on stage.

The whole experience was a chain of surprises and emotions for me. The first surprise was the image outside the theatre, just before the performance.

I am sure I’ll sound dumb but I’ll confess I didn’t understand why supporters of the Palestinian cause were protesting against an Israeli company playing Shakespeare… Scattered along the bank, the Palestinian supporters carried banners, shouted slogans, gave short speeches, shouted slogans again, handed out flyers. Opposite them, some 50 yards to the left of the main entrance, Israeli supporters carried banners, shouted slogans, handed out flyers. I had no clue what it was all about, but, walking towards the entrance between the two groups, I felt they were both being unfair towards the cultural event that was about to happen.

The next surprise was the “new front of house design” which made me feel as if I were in an airport, going through security check. After having my handbag checked, I went through the metal detection gate and, when I thought we’d be going into the theatre, we were stopped again and asked to put our water bottles in the bin – security measures again, trying to prevent access with things which could be thrown at people or on stage. Fair enough.

Inside the theatre, things didn’t seem to be different than they usually are, until Dominic Dromgoole, the Artistic Director of The Globe, came on stage, welcomed the audience, made humorous remarks about the security measures, asked the audience to keep calm and not intervene in case of disruptions as these will be dealt with immediately and discreetly by the security personnel. He pointed out that what we were about to see was art, not politics, performed by artists, not policy makers. The audience agreed with him all along and gave him several rounds of applause.

And, finally, the play began. It opened with the cast in Renaissance-dress and Venetian-masks, dancing and singing and clapping their hands, immediately infecting the audience to follow. In the middle of this carnival-like atmosphere, Shylock (Jacob Cohen) enters the stage and is immediately surrounded by the Venetian Christians who start mocking him and end up beating him down to the ground, thus, in just three minutes, showing us the place the Jew holds in their eyes/the Jews hold in the Venetian Christian society.

Assuming we all know the play and we all saw different performances and interpretations by great actors – Lawrence Olivier, David Suchet, Al Pacino, Al Pacino on Broadway, Mel Gibson, I will not insist upon the plot. Instead, I intend to point out those aspects of the staging which impressed me the most.

Two chairs - Antonio’s, Bassanio’s and Portia’s houses are suggested by a chair whose back had some rope tied in the shape of a cross. Shylock’s house is suggested by another chair with rope tied in the shape of the star of David on its back. The idea of suggesting places, thus also setting the audience’s expectations of certain behaviour in those places, seemed marvelous in its simplicity. The chairs looked something like this:

The ropes - During Portia’s first scene, while we learn about her father’s will and how she is bound by the lottery set forth in her father’s will, which makes potential suitors choose between three caskets, Nerissa takes, one by one, six silky ropes attached to the back of Portia’s corset and places them in the hands of the six suitors they are discussing about.  I will confess it took me a little while to realise that the ropes were meant to emphasize her bond to her father’s whimsical will: she “may not choose none, nor refuse none“. When Bassanio makes his choice and discovers Portia’s portrait in the lead casket – in our case, a puppet head which looked ridiculously like Portia’s,  Nerissa helps her mistress get rid of the corset and the ropes: her bond to her father has come to an end, she is now free from it, although she’ll soon be bound to her new husband.

In the trial scene, the ropes are used again – a plus, they say, for the director who manages to be consistent about the use of certain props across the play. Antonio is now tied by ropes going in different directions across the theatre, tied to the stalls and columns or held by two hooded clerks. This time, the ropes suggest Antonio’s relationship with the Venetian society which, by its own laws, has made it possible for Shylock to claim “his bond“. During the trial, while the tension builds up and Shylock comes closer and closer to having his bond and cutting “a pound of flesh” from Antonio’s chest, the ropes tighten. When the young doctor turns the tables against Shylock

For, as thou urgest justice, be assured
Thou shalt have justice, more than thou desirest.“,

Antonio is freed and Shylock takes his place, the ropes now binding him to the Venetian laws… In my opinion, one of the most emotional moments in the play – the moment Shylock gives up his religion and becomes a Christian – was shadowed by the ropes and Shylock’s struggle against the Venetian law.

The bond (and other contracts…) – Starting with Launcelot’s showing Shylock the rates and continuing with all the other contracts appearing in the play, all paperwork is presented on continuous stationery which seems an endless pile. Whenever the unfolding of these documents happens, it makes the audience burst out laughing. Yet, besides mocking the interminable length of modern contracts, I think the director’s intention was to suggest that all the contracts in the play are more important than we might think, being nothing less than legal bonds which drastically limit the characters’ freedom.

When Bassanio chooses the lead casket, he finds such an endless document in it and he is so busy reading all the ‘terms and conditions’ of the contract that he overlooks Portia’s happy reaction and her expectations of receiving a kiss as immediate proof of his deep love for her. Instead, the audience is made to understand that Bassanio’s main reason for wooing Portia was her money, not love.

At the end of the trial scene, Shylock’s contract with Antonio is lying on stage and Gratiano picks it up and wraps it around Shylock’s head, thus emphasizing that he receives more justice than he had wished for. The bond he thought he was entitled to claim under the laws of Venice has, in the end, turned against him and destroyed him completely, leaving him with no daughter, no money, no religion and no dignity.

*****

I enjoyed the play very much. The actors were really good and credible and the director’s approach was interesting, so I left the theatre with the feeling I have learned new things. Over the last 2-3 weeks, I found myself thinking again and again about the performance, which is another sign that I really liked it.

Would you like to read other people’s opinions about this performance? Here’s The Guardian, David Hirsh, BBC News, Evening Standard

There are two more plays I want to write about: Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe and Julius Caesar at Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon…

The Biblical Apple


Annie: Oh, politics and politicians… I’m so frustrated not to be able to change anything.

Jane: Don’t worry, no one can.

Annie: But we should do something!

Jane: What could we possibly do?

Annie: I don’t know… Nobody knows…

Jane: Well, those who do are not in our club.

Annie: If I could discover their secrets, I would reveal them to the world.

Jane: Oh, stop it! If you wish for the Biblical Apple, you’ll be banned from ‘paradise’. And if you’re still alive when they’re done with you, you’ll end up in some hospice, thinking you’re Queen Victoria…

Annie: I’m not afraid of them!

Jane: I know, Mum… I am…

Therapy


Counselor: Face each other. Now, in turns, one of you speaks about his or her feelings while the other listens, repeats and, in the end, summarizes. Who wants to start?

Wife: I will. I am not sure how this might help, but I hope it’ll save us. (Takes a deep breath.) I am not happy with our marriage.

Husband: You’re unhappy.

Wife: I feel you don’t appreciate me and my efforts to make this work.

Husband: You feel unappreciated.

Wife: I am not comfortable with you having the guys over for a beer every night.

Husband: You hate my friends.

Counselor: Now, sir, summarize, please.

Husband: I’ll give her the divorce.

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