Saturday, February 09, 2008


Call me MISTER Tibbs! (If you didn't see the film "In the Heat of the Night", get down to Blockbuster right away).
In my time, I have been addressed in a number of different ways. To my Libyan traiinees, I was always "Mister Jake", to my Turkish traiinees, I was, embarrassingly, Hoca (pron hodja, and really an honorific for a wise Muslim teacher), my Angolan counterparts always referred to me as O Doctor, in Tanzania, I was "Mzee" - wise tribal elder!, and so on. My first teaching job in Italy, I was "Professore", which is not quite as grand as it sounds, and a little incongruous for a beardless 21 year old..
Apart from all that, I have been variously Dad, Grandad, Grandpa and Jake Dede. But the title that means most to me at the moment is "avôzinho Jake". In Portuguese, avo is grandmother, and avô is grandfather, and the -zinho is a diminutive, ie, avôzinho is "grandpa jake".
This is how I am addressed by Bruninha, the Brazilian nanny to my three Californian grandchildren. She is with them no longer, having been booted out of the USA by the Immigration authorities. She brought sunshine into everyone's lives. She was amazing with the children. They adored her. She never raised her voice, but they always obeyed her. She did all the chores that nannies do, but she also sang and played guitar and put on concerts with the children, she was amazing.l
Well done, Immigration. Hit the easy targets and make your stats look good.
I am really and truly an old scrote, I no longer expect a lot of life, but I can tell you this: my life was enriched by knowing Bruninha, a kid, a mere 21, but as rich a human being as I have ever met. And, by chance, this evening she was on Skype and we chatted for a little while.
Me, I am proud to be her avôzinho.

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