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Monday, 23 May 2011

Mike Church

Mike Church

I travelled out to Spain by Easyjet from Stanstead. Good old cheepo flight. - Well the plane had wings, engine and landing gear, (what more can you ask apart from safe arrival) Oh, and a couple of those men that sit at the front in that large domed window bit were quite useful. Easyjet special dontcha know and who's gonna complain at a tenner for the return. (Oh yes it was and I snapped it up quick.)
Mike picked me up from Loiu (Bilbao airport) and took me to his home in Aretxabaleta It's a 45-minute drive through beautiful hilly countryside, but as we got nearer, there were more factories, as it's quite an industrial area - a real mix of the incredibly beautiful and the incredibly ugly in his opinion. It’s a small town of 6000 inhabitants in the heart of the Basque Country (Northern Spain). The nearest city is about 20 miles away: Vitoria - whose cathedral provided the inspiration for Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth.

This scene of the Basque Country was captured by Mike about five years ago whilst out taking a walk. It’s about an hour from his home. In the middle-to-top-right of the photo you can see his town, Aretxabaleta. Apparently he hasn’t counted the sheep…. Yet. On the way Mike told me a little bit about Aretxabaleta. It’s a bilingual community apparently - most people speak Basque, and everybody speaks Spanish. Mikes’ Spanish is near-native but then it should be after so many years I guess, though apparently he still has that horrible English accent. His Basque is rudimentary, but he tries evidently. His kids speak English, Basque and Spanish fluently of course.

Personally I speak English and rubbish with a smattering of Spanish. I was doing an Open University course in Spanish but when I sent my homework in I had somehow converted most of it into Italian. Can I say for the record I have never been to Italy and have no idea about the language. My tutor requested my homework done again, but she also gave me 10/10 for my Italian. She was a linguist. lol.
Mike, his wife Begona, his daughter Lorea and son Joseba live in a third floor flat with a balcony that looks out over magnificent scenery.
Having eaten a wonderful repast and with the table cleared (as you can see here)
We settled down with copius amounts of the red stuff between us and I started to quiz Mike about his background.
So where do you come from in England then Mike ?
I'm from High Wycombe Tee, and I went to RGS High Wycombe (74-80), then to University of Warwick (80-84), where I did French. After that, I trained in London to be an English teacher, got my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) qualification, and went to Paris to look for work (my dream was to live and work in Paris). Nobody wanted to hire me - their loss! - so I came home, bought the Guardian and applied for a teaching post in Mondragón Lingua (just down the road from Aretxabaleta). I got the job, met my wife shortly afterwards, got married, had kids, etc. And I'm still here, 27 years later. I became director of studies about 12 years ago, which means, in addition to teaching English, I have to offer support to our teaching staff, run training sessions, recruit, interview, etc. Plus, deal with complaints from customers, students, colleagues, bosses, .... And loads of meetings. It's a terribly time-consuming job, I regularly work 10-12-14-hour days (on a good day, I work "just" 8 hours), and it's very frustrating not being able to find the time to write. More about that below... The best part of the job by a long way is the teaching, the contact with my students and colleagues, as opposed to the paperwork and meetings.
Mike topped up our glasses with a lovely Rioja. He knows how to get round me …......
Yes I can now see how DAYREALING came about Mike.
Sipping my wine in major glug fulls (when in Spain and all that) I ventured to get my now slightly numb tongue around the next question.
So what about Mike hobbies ?  Er no! that didn’t come out quite right but you know what I mean - we haven’t touched on them, hobbies that is.
Well Tee no time for much unfortunately except for the obvious: writing (of course!), reading (when I can - but that means I'm not writing), walking and going out with friends and Begoña. Love travelling too, and hope to spend my retirement travelling around the world and writing. We'll see. I also enjoy cooking when I have time. I'm not very good, but I think I'm getting better. My Anglo-Basque Spanish omelette is legendary. Well, it should be.
When I was 10-11, I was High Wycombe junior chess champion (the only thing I've ever won, I think). I still love chess, but had to give it up to be with the family (once the kids arrived). I also taught myself to play the guitar, but gave that up too as family and work took over. Am proud, however, to have taught my son how to play Every Breath You Take last weekend. He already plays it far better than I ever did.
My real passion is music, but I only have time to listen when I'm driving. Nearly everything I write is inspired by music one way or another. My kids would never admit to liking my music, but more and more of my CDs seem to end up in their bedrooms. Strange.
I also have a stack of comedy DVDs waiting to be watched - Only Fools and Horses, Rising Damp, Black Adder, Yes Minister ... - I've been buying up loads recently from Amazon as they are being offered at bargain prices - the complete Rising Damp for just 12 pounds!!! -, even though I doubt I'll ever get round to watching them all. But before that, I have to finish watching the complete Hill Street Blues - I'm on episode 80; another 66 to go. Just love that series, but I saw it first dubbed in Spanish when I came out here in 1984. And am now backtracking.
You’re right Tee this is a nice drop of stuff and strong too. I think it's 14%.
Mmm  Hill Street Blues - wasn’t that Don Johnson? Oh no hang on he was in Miami Vice (Very yummy though - smacks lips)
So where do you write then Mitch er … er, mickey (gets the giggles, and insists he stops laughing at me)
Well that’s a real dilemma Tee. At present I'm writing very little. I get up these days at 5, Post a few silly messages on NightReading, Facebook, etc. Occasionally I update my blog (crapheads corner on "The Other Mike Church"), but it's hard to get much done as I have to post, go off to work by 6.45-7.00 at the latest. I have classes out in the sticks that start at 7.30. I drew the short straw.
To write dayrealing, I got up every morning at 3 o'clock every weekday and wrote until 6.00 / 6.30. At weekends I had a "lie-in" and got up at 4, then wrote until 8.00 / 8.30. I did this for 10 months (from Jan to Oct 2009). Absolutely knackering, and I couldn't cope with that again. I expect most of my colleagues on Night have experienced similar frustrations. My dream - again like most colleagues on Night, I suppose - is to be a full-time writer, but I couldn't possibly afford that right now.
The writing bug is in my family. My father (now 80) has kept a diary since he was 14, and has published a few books of local interest - eg. a History of Chiltern Methodism. Brian, my junior, and far less attractive, brother scored quite a hit with his Learn Greek in 25 Years, especially among the British expats living in Greece. My mother and sisters can't write for toffee. I can say that because they won't read this even if they do click on the link.
I was about to make a joke about his brother being less attractive but instead I slide gracefully onto the floor with not a drop spilt. Mike joined me but propped himself up against another soft chair opposite me. This was to my advantage as I could only see two of him now instead of three.
Hows and Lighs then Minnie?
If you mean Highs and Lows (Smiles) - mainly lows if we're talking about writing? - one failure after another. Loads of rejections from agents. I was particularly depressed after my miserable experience on authonomy. Anyway, best not to dwell on the lows. All's well that ends well.
Highs: first joining Night, meeting such wonderful people, not being ignored on the forums. That was definitely a high - nobody had ever paid me the slightest bit of attention until this year.
If you were to get published Minnie any thoughts on what book cover you would use?
Yes Pluto how about this one …………
D'ya wanna drop in some more web bloggy thingys Brian? It ish Brian innit? (Opps starting to slur words. Drinks more wine to give the impression of normality.)
Yes please Minnie. Here’s one I made earlier ………….
If you'd like to know more about Mike and his work, visit his website:
If you couldn't give a monkey's about Mike and his work, but would still like a good laugh, to read his blog:
So what about …….?
Sliding gracefully into the prone position with her empty glass held firmly in hand, very loud snores emit from Tee which can be heard echoing around the flat.
Whilst Tee is having a snooze I’ll just slip this review in here that she did earlier for me as I’m not sure if you have all seen it.
I have just come back from a parallel universe starring the laugh out loud Colin Rapper aka 'Crapper' as he is known by his students. Here's why ................
..........DAYREALING BY MIKE CHURCH.........
Colin Rapper commonly known as ‘Crapper’ works as an English teacher in the zany world of Looniversal Learning. If you have a sense of humour and can ‘back chat’ you fit in nicely there.
It’s inhabited by students of at least the forty plus age group, who’s main objective in life is to make Colins’ life as disruptive as possible. Among the many varied subjects nestles ‘Cooking the books for crooks’.
Colin is very fond of making lists which he either can’t find when needed, or they turn up instead of reports he should be presenting to Miss Snapper commonly known as ‘Miss Slapper’.
The beign of Colins’ life appear to be the dithering, treacherous, tone deaf - when it suits her - Miss Tedley and Jack. Their main aim in life to wind him up on a regular basis. Miss Tedley and her friends also cause mayhem when they attend the gereatrics arobics class. ‘determined to get down and with it’
Scott is the brains of the bunch. When he takes to the school roof to hurtle himself into oblivion no one worries too much as he has paid his course fees up front. As he hurtles through the roof onto the unsuspecting Colin totally flooring him, Colin is heard to remark ....... “Look Scott if it’s about that hyphen usage …….”
A typical quote from the book ….
“Why did you send Samantha home?”
“Because your Samantha set fire to the library”
“Nobody ever uses that bloody library. Why is it such a big deal?
“Because Miss Tedley was in there having forty winks at the time”
I never did work out what the mad cap Miss Tedley was doing in any class apart from causing major disruption.
From the first page to the last I never stopped giggling and at times even laughing out loud.
Quite often I felt I had slipped into a parallel universe or the twilight zone.
So if your planning to take a long walk off of a short pier (so to speak) I recommend you take along the zany humour of Mike Churchs’ Dayrealing. I can guarantee, you will be clutching at thin air trying to get a firm hold, thus enabling you to finish this mad romp in Looniversal University.
Thoroughly recommended with 5 stars for 'best effort.'
ã Teresa Geering 07/05/2011
Thinks ..... I’ll just leave Tee here with a coverlet. ……..
Creeps over to switch off lamps and sneaks out closing door quietly behind him.
Loud snores follow him down the passage way……..

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