Sunday, 26 December 2010

The Zoo Keeper - Part 3

We have arrived in front of the school. Let's step in...


The Zoo Keeper
Part 3 of 10
By Amanda Sington-Williams

Inside the school, the walls were covered in tiles. Red and green, like a sunset on a northern sea, they shimmered in the half-light of the shuttered room. The school director was pleasant enough, a Catalan woman with dyed blonde hair, protruding teeth and a strong belief that the entire Spanish population should become conversant in English so that the works of Shakespeare and Chaucer could be fully understood. Her love of language was derived from her father’s defiance during the Franco years, his insistence that she learn Catalan and study the great Catalan poets. She had travelled in England and visited Kipling’s house; after my interview for the teaching job, she’d exulted over the illustrations for his Jungle Book. And so, as I stood on the threshold of the school, adjusting my eyes to the cool interior, I thought she would be just the person to ask about the zoo in the park. But she was too busy to be bothered with the cause of my interrupted sleep. She rushed from filing cupboard to telephone, from the photocopier or computer to grasp each student as they came into the school, taking their hands in both of hers, and securing a kiss on each cheek.


I was introduced to my students: a class of eight year old children; beginners.

‘I am Rosalind,’ I said and they all repeated my name rolling the r as if mimicking the call of a tropical bird.

The school book had drawings of elephants, tigers, lions, parrots, zebras, cats and dogs.

I pointed. ‘It’s an elephant.’

They all repeated the sentence, their round eyes watching, their bodies leaning forward in their chairs. I pointed to each picture of the animal and they repeated the names in loud voices.

They learnt quickly and soon the lesson was finished. They crowded round me, pushing each other to get closer to me, to be the first to ask me a question about myself. One girl’s mane of curly hair was tickling my cheek.

I decided to aim my question at her. ‘Do you know,’ I asked, feeling my face flush. ‘Is there a zoo in the city park?’

What do you think the answer is going to be? Check back on Wednesday...

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