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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Mike Church

Mike Church Author of dayrealing
Mike Church is the first writer we have showcased. Mike is a regular contributer to the Night Reading forums, and we found when he kindly did an audio podcast for When Spirits Break Free, he is keen to help others.
If you google "Mike Church", you'll get anything between 50,000 and 100,000 hits, depending on the time of day, the weather in Los Angeles . . . that sort of thing.
Approximately 98.76% of those pages will be about an American chap who was born in 1962, and who went on to become a household name thanks to his "shock jock" radio show and eponymously named band.
Well, that's not me. I'm the other Mike Church who was born in 1962.
 

Prefer podcast? Click here
‘OK, folks, are we ready to hammer our grammar?’
‘Wouldn’t it be easier to smother her with a pillow?’
‘I’m sorry, Miss Tedley?’ said Colin, sensing that his Sin-free Syntax spaceship was already spiralling out of control.
‘In her sleep, dear. Using a hammer sounds very messy to me.’
‘Did any of you lot see that film last night?’
Oh God, here we go.
‘Not now, Jack.’
‘This bloke, right, can’t remember his name . . .’
Too late.
‘He lived with his gran and they was always arguing about whatever, ’cause she was a crap cook but an argumentative old sod, ’til one day they was about to sit down for lunch, when he just lost it and went for her with the bread knife. But the thing is . . .’
Jack paused for thought. It wasn’t always easy finding the right words.
‘OK, thank you, Jack,’ said Colin, looking around the room at Jack’s captive audience. Not that he felt envious; orinadequate. Jack proceeded to deliver his final blow . . .
'Well, the thing is, this geezer’s gran was a black belt in karate and, before he could even bring the knife down, she fairly clobbered him one in the goolies. That was the last time he made any rude comments about her turkey breasts.’
‘Having turkey breasts at my age is nothing to be ashamed of, young man.’
‘Miss Tedley, you ain’t understood nothing of what I just said.’
Colin seized this opportunity to try and get his class back on track. Not that it was going particularly badly by his standards. On a scale of one to ten, this was a five, maybe a six, right up there with his very best performances.
“You ain’t understood nothing”, Jack?’
‘You got a problem with that, Craphead?’
‘Raphead.’
‘Yeah, I know. I was calling you a craphead, Raphead.’
Colin could see Jack was trying to wind him up, but he was far too consummate a pro to rise to the bait. Not for nothing had he sweated his way through a 600-hour course on Emotional Intelligence.
‘Come here and say that to my face, you thick peasant.’
Jack didn’t need to be invited twice but, fortunately for everyone concerned, Nicola was quick to intervene . . .
‘Leave it, Jack. It ain’t worth it.’
As Jack meekly obeyed and returned to his seat, Colin slipped effortlessly from teaching mode to preaching mode in 0.8 seconds . .
‘Two negatives make a positive, so we should never use, for example, “not” and “nothing” in the same sentence.’
‘You just did!’
‘You know what I mean, Nicola.’
‘I ain’t got a clue what you’re on about.’
“Ain’t”, Nicola?’
‘Yeah, “ain’t”. As in, “This class ain’t going nowhere.” ’
Colin had to agree with Nicola – she had this effect on men –, but no way was he going to let her win this one. Besides, it was a question of professional duty: it was his job to teach these poor souls how to talk proper.
‘OK, can anyone improve on Nicola’s last sentence?’
“This class ain’t never going nowhere.” ’
‘I said improve, not make worse, Jack.’ Colin was warming up at last. He loved a good grammar argument, especially as this was the only kind of argument he had a hope in hell of ever winning. More than duty, it was now a question of professional pride. But Jack wasn’t beaten yet . . .
‘I ain’t no good at maths, Craphead, but I reckon if two negatives make a positive, it follows that three negatives must make a negative, don’t it?’
Jack was right. And so was Colin. But neither of them was interested in sharing the points. It was time for our hero to try another line of attack.
‘What about “ain’t”, anyone?’
‘What about it?’ said Jumping Jack Flash.
‘Well, it ain’t good grammar, Jack. That’s all.’
‘Didn’t you say the other day that your favourite song ever was Say It Ain’t So, Joe?’
‘Songs is different, Jack, ain’t it? Ain’t we been through all this before? Anyway, it ain’t my favourite no more.’
Colin’s grammar always went to pot whenever they got him onto his favourite topic: music. As Colin saw things, the world could be divided into two groups: those with musical taste; and those without. Colin was in the first group, of course. Although many of the best songs flouted every grammatical rule under the sun, this had never stopped Colin from singing along; or humming along when he couldn’t remember the words.
When he was feeling uninspired, Colin would take songs into class, together with gapped lyrics for his students to fill in as they listened. They had done Yesterday only yesterday:
Yesterday, ___ __ ________ ______ __ ___ ____
___ __ _____ __ ______ ____’__ ____ __ ____
__ _ _______ __ _________
Miss Tedley had taken to the task with relish:
Yesterday, ten or thirteen people in New York
Had no water or lights must’ve been no joke
If I grasped it correctly
‘I always knew you were a bit hard of hearing, Miss Tedley, but I didn’t realise you were that bad.’
‘Don’t you like my lyrics, dear?’
‘It’s not a question of liking or not liking, Miss Tedley.’
“Listen and fill the gaps,” you said. Well, that’s what I did. Instructions, dear. Your instructions were ambiguous.’
Seeing that Miss Tedley was the sort of person who could quite happily complete The Telegraph Crossword without reading any of the clues, Colin knew better than to pursue this conversation any further.
A short while ago, Colin had made a compilation of his 50 favourite songs of all time. They fitted nicely onto three CDs. There was a time when such a compilation would have been unthinkable, but the introduction of the 80-minute recordable CD had totally transformed Colin’s life. That said, how he had agonised over the final tracklist. Even now, he still felt occasional pangs of guilt for taking out Refugee at the last minute to make room for Sugar Baby Love. Colin’s life had been full of tough decisions, but that one had marked a watershed. He would have to live with that decision for the rest of his life. Obviously.
And then there was the question of what to call his compilation. Names were important, as Colin had discovered to his cost over the years. He was, therefore, determined to get it right on this occasion. Initially, he had toyed withColin’s Amazing Selection And Delectation, Genuinely Incredible Tracks but, fearing an unfortunate acronym, he plumped eventually for the rather less cumbersome yet eminently more sensible Colin’s Daily Inspirational CD.
He’d made several copies of his DIC for colleagues. At first, he had been disappointed by their lukewarm response to what was, after all, the gift of a lifetime. Only with time did it dawn on him that nobody gives a flying fig what music you like. Their loss, not mine, he concluded, though he knew he was deluding himself. There was simply no accounting for people’s tastes.
Colin took his DIC everywhere; he couldn’t bear to be parted from it. Just in case, he’d copied his DIC to his mp3 player; talking of which, where had that got to? He remembered taking it out of his briefcase to make room for his sandwiches, but—
‘You just used “ain’t” and a double negative in the same sentence!’
‘I’m sorry, Jack?’
‘I said you just used “ain’t” and a double negative in the same sentence!’
‘The hell I did.’
‘You said, “It ain’t my favourite no more.” ’
‘No I didn’t.’
‘Oh yes you did!’ said about 20 voices in unison.
‘Well what if I did? There ain’t nothin’ none of us can do about it now, is there?’
You couldn’t argue with that, but that wasn’t going to stop Jack trying.
‘And that was a triple negative, Craphead.’
‘Piss off, Jack.’
You couldn’t argue with that, either.
‘I ain’t learnt nothin’ this class.’
‘Or any class, Jack. So why’s that, do you think?’
‘Crap teacher, I guess.’
‘So would you rather have Simon?’ asked Colin, playing his trump card. If it came to a choice between studying language and songs with Colin or carnage and bombs with Simon, nobody in their right mind – not even Jack – would choose the latter; for everybody agreed that Simon’s classes were bloody awful.
‘I didn’t say that.’
‘I’ll tell him that you requested a change of teacher. Perhaps something can be arranged.’
Silence.
Quick! Quit while you’re winning.
‘OK, then, I think we’d better call it a day.’
‘Wednesday, isn’t it, dear?’
‘Er, yes, that’s right, Miss Tedley. What’s your point exactly?’
Or even approximately.
‘I thought you wanted to know what day it was?’
‘Oh I see. No, I said it’s time to call it a day, that’s all.’
‘Well, let’s call this one Wednesday, shall we, dear?’
‘Whatever, Miss Tedley. Look, folks, I’m sorry but I gotta dash for a slash,’ said Colin, desperately trying to put an end to proceedings, though not before adding an apocalyptic afterthought.
‘But hey! . . . Let’s be careful out there,’ said Colin, forgetting to be careful in here too, as he tripped on Jack’s thoughtfully placed rucksack and went flying face first into the corridor.
*      *      *      *

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