Lesson number two took place three weeks after the first, two separate outbreaks of Covid causing its cancellation in the intervening weeks. Though actually the word “outbreak” is to overstate the situation; from what I understand, if any of the refugees housed in the hotel test positive, they are confined to their rooms. Which is, of course, fair enough. However, although the rest of the residents are allowed to come and go as normal, the Home Office has decreed that no-one else is allowed in to the hotel. Which includes Care 4 Calais. And me. And, presumably, anyone else who would normally be there to provide guidance, assistance, etc. It may be the result of an over-abundance of caution, but does seem to indicate a less than positive relationship.
Having undertaken the journey already, I was far more comfortable about that side of things, and I even arrived an hour later than on the previous occasion… while still giving myself plenty of time to spare. I was invited to sit in the admin office, where I was able to observe the staff in something of a state of flux, with Ali, the manager who had been so supportive, being replaced by a new man – I have no idea if there is anything behind this. But I was introduced to his successor, and he was polite and friendly, saying thank you to me (though heaven knows, I have done little as yet.) He told me he was also called Mohammed – presumably his predecessor was Mohammed Ali. Hm.
Partly because the management team was busy, I was pretty much ignored, but at ten to two, I suggested I should go to the room I had taught in before, and arriving there, discovered it completely empty, meaning I had to spend some time bringing in chairs from the vast dining room next door. And then I waited for people to arrive.
At 2 0’clock, no-one had turned up, and I was beginning to resign myself to a complete no-show. But then, ten minutes late or so, three Eritrean guys turned up. And then Balan, the Sri Lankan gentleman I had met before. And then, gradually, a few more trickled in as the session progressed. And some of them trickled out again, presumably deciding that what I was offering was not for them. Or because they had other things to do. Or were receiving a phone call. Who knows?
The lesson itself was based on basic mime techniques, involving an imaginary ball, and then a variety of drinking vessels, which lead on to creating very basic story-lines around this. I even tried out something a little more complex: the magic object, in which the (mimed) object changes as it passes from person to person. And, with a few minutes still available, I tried out a first go at “zip, zap, boing”, my favourite Drama game, which they picked up remarkably quickly.
Of course, they struggled, but this was hardly surprising. Only two had been before: Balan, and an elderly lady from Pakistan, who spoke only Urdu, whose sole contribution was to wave her hand in front of her face and say “No English.” And pretty much everyone was trying to get to terms with an alien concept, delivered in a language of which they had limited understanding. These are, however, early days, and there were three in particular of whom I have high hopes… unsurprisingly, the ones with the best English. They are Balan, a young Syrian man called Ibrahim, and a Turkish lady called (I think) Mahaini, who is, she tells me, a Drama and English teacher. If they can be persuaded to keep coming, we might get somewhere.