My Favourite Teacher - Kathy Lette
Kathy Lette is a best-selling Australian author, columnist, scriptwriter and TV humourist who lives in London and has become a household name in the UK.
She left school early to become an author, at 17 publishing the autobiographical novel Puberty Blues (co-written with a friend). It quickly gained cult status and was made into a film and later a TV series.
Her novels - including Girls' Night Out, Foetal Attraction, Dead Sexy, Mad Cows and The Boy Who Fell To Earth - have been published in seventeen languages and the latter two have also been developed for film.
She appears regularly as a guest on the BBC and Sky News in the UK.
Kathy talks to The Learning Press about her favourite teacher - and how her skills as a storyteller and raconteur might just be genetic...
“A born storyteller, Mary Grieve lived for one hundred and one years. At the time of her death her life had spanned almost half of Australia's European history. To her family she was a never-ending source of quality yarns about her adventurous past. Tales of barefooted five-mile treks to bush schools made us weep; encounters with snakes, both slithering and two-legged (they lost their dairy farm to debt collectors during the Depression) made us fume; raft trips up the shark-infested Georges River made us squirm in terror.
“As an accomplished antic-collector, no doubt these tales were all highly embellished, but they were also bum-numbingly entertaining. Young and old, we perched for hours at her feet.
“She never read but regaled her eight grandchildren with a wealth of stories. There were traditional tales, Aboriginal dreamtime mythology, folklore, legends, Bible stories, fairy stories; all told with a cackling sense of mischievous humour. ('Why are there no more fairy tales in the library?' I remember her chuckling to me. 'Because they ran out of elf space'.) From the heroics of King Arthur and his Genevieve ('Arthur, any more at home like you?') and the exploits of Sinbad the Sailor (a 'crewed business') to Zeus sending Atlas off to hold up the world ('Atlas we are alone!') From Eve eating the apple ('cores and effect, dear children') to the saga of her Norwegian father's shipwreck rounding Cape Horn, we kids sat, rapt.
“It was obvious that my grandma had grown up on a dairy as the woman could milk more pathos out of The Little Match Girl or drama from Daniel in the Lion's Den than any Shakespearean actor, 'No holes Bard' ... (Actually, she didn't say that, but she should have ... What can I say? It's genetic.)
“Grandma loved the English language and used it with grace and facility. She taught me the longest word in the dictionary: ‘antidisestablishmentarianism’ and the most useful word for an author: ‘lexiphanic', which means 'given to the use of pretentious terminology'... such as the word lexiphanic.
“A school teacher by profession, she amazed her liberated granddaughters with the fact that once married, she was forced to resign because the Married Women Teachers’ Act forbade married women to teach. Years later when she had five young children, she was called back to service during World War II. After decades of permanent teaching, she continued as a supply teacher well into her seventies. At her retirement party, many of her ex-students, now retired themselves, turned up to thank her.
“Many virtues were reflected in her life - loyalty, honesty, duty, courage, kindness, compassion - (‘We all have our foibles,' she once told me, 'Aesop was famous for his’.) But above all, she possessed a steadfast faith. Grandma was no wowser though and at our many family gatherings she was always ready with a corny joke. She once asked, 'What is pink and wrinkly and hangs out your grandfather's underpants?' We teenagers, frozen with horror that such a risque joke could emanate from our very proper grandmother, could think of only one possible, blush-inducing answer. 'Do you give up?' she twinkled. 'Your GRANDMOTHER, of course!'
“Mary Grieve, my beloved one hundred and one-year-old gran - a great storyteller, whose very best and most astounding story was her own.”