Why an Arts, Crafts and Literature blog

Canterbury English Teachers’ Arts, Crafts and Literature Blog on Madrid & Spain

Why an Arts, Crafts and Literature blog on Madrid & Spain for Canterbury English Teachers?

We would like to tell a little story that some people might be able to identify with, if with not the details, perhaps with the message.

We all hear about the mid-life crisis syndrome and if you haven’t had it, you might wonder what it’s all about. I would say that in a nutshell, if you have a vocation and you get paid for it, then you probably won’t have a mid-life crisis. But for the rest of the people who do something for money to pay the bills, because it’s not vocational, there comes a time when the soul has a meltdown. Many people avoid the midlife crisis, because they do something for money

which is not vocational, but they make up for this by doing something vocational in their spare time, as a kind of a hobby. This avoids reaching the soul meltdown point.

So here’s a story about what happened to Richard Clarke (who’s pen name is Anthony Walstorm), which explains the reason behind the Arts, Crafts and Literature blog.

After graduating from college with a B/A in economics and French literature, the founder of Canterbury English (a Libran, always trying to balance two opposites) was in a quandary about whether to pursue a career as an artist or a career in business. It was a tossup between life as a bohemian writer and life in the corporate jungle, but in the end, the more practical left brain won out over the creative soul. And the score was one-zero to the reality team.

Fortunately for the romantic soul, although the first job was in the financial business controlling division of a multinational, it was in the Suchard-Toblerone chocolate factory overlooking the Swiss lake of French speaking Neuchatel. He got to work on a ten speed bicycle, speeding down an incredibly steep hill from a mountain chalet, past the factory where he could see the workers making chocolate through the big window panes and into his office overlooking the Suchard family cemetery. This was definitely better than slogging it through monumental traffic jams on the way to an office block in downtown LA.

Then after six months, he was transferred to Paris and although now it was two-zero, the creative soul team was distracted by living in Paris. It took another six months, and an intensive 70 hour a week project (a comparative study of the balance sheets of the major competitors in the French chocolate market) for a rebellion to simmer and then to boil over. The poet had been bottled up, ignored and forgotten for far too long and suddenly after a few warning earthquakes, the volcano went into eruption.

The result was that the offer to take over Dad’s real estate company in Pasadena, California went unheeded, and the job in the chocolate company in France went into meltdown. He blew it all off and went with a Swiss banking friend on vacation to Club Med in Morocco. But he couldn’t handle all the preppies in the resort and felt much better sitting with the Berbers on the golf course, helping them with the date harvest. And this gave rise to one of his first poems, Golfing in Marrakesh.

On the way back to Europe from Morocco, he dropped in on Julie, a friend from UCSB. She was living in Madrid on a study abroad program. And after a few weeks of living in a cheap pension behind the Puerta del Sol, he realized that Madrid was the place to live. It was the perfect excuse to properly discover Spain (and not just on a three day Run with the Bulls, sleepless binge in Pamplona), because romantic Spain seemed like the ideal place to become a penniless bohemian poet, exposed to all the emotions the human soul could offer. And at that point in his life, at the adventurous age of twenty five, anything was better than becoming comfortably numb in LA.

So he began an amazing life in the capital city, going out all night, making friends, travelling every weekend, hanging out with artists and writers, going to museums, expositions, premiers, and at the same time learning Spanish. He stayed far away from an office and even further away from a financial balance sheet. His soul was being bombarded with new sensations and he felt really alive again. After a few months, he soon fell completely and head over heels in love with Madrid and Spain.

However ominous clouds were to appear on the horizon, because soon the Swiss bank account ran dry, and the checks and care packages from home started to become sparse and distanced. Ma and Pa wanted their eldest son back in LA, and the only way to do it was to starve him out of Europe. The dream of becoming a penniless poet had finally materialized, but he suddenly realized that the penniless part came with an empty, rumbling belly and hunger pains weren’t as romantic as they were made out to be.

So the dream of living as an American ex-pat writer in Europe, similar to his hero, Ernest Hemingway, like a mirage in the desert, was about to vanish. While he was packing his bags for home, tears were rolling down his cheeks onto all those half finished notebooks that would never see the light of day. There was only one path left, to go back, like a dog with its tail between his legs, or like the Bible story about the return of the prodigal son.

But suddenly the hand of fate intervened and someone walked into his room and asked him what was wrong. After telling him the heart-felt story of a dream that had ended up on the rocks, the English guy put an arm on his shoulders and kindly said, “Why don’t you try your hand at English teaching and that way you don’t have to give up your dream”. The response was, “What teaching?” Or better said, “Teaching what?”  The English teacher realized that the down and out, teary cheeked Californian hadn’t a clue that the profession of teaching English as a Second Language to foreigners even existed. So he sat down and patiently explained that you didn’t have to work in a multinational to live in Madrid, and that the Spanish were mad about learning English and anybody can do it. All you have to do is learn a bit of grammar and jump into the game. He made it clear that the best way to stay in Madrid was to teach English. You could be financially independent and be a writer, without being penniless.

And a week later, Richard was teaching in various academies, as well as teaching his own private classes. A miracle had happened. He had found a way to remain in his now beloved Madrid, to pay the bills, as well as keeping the poet inside himself happy.

Later on, the practical business man also rebelled, and Richard created his own English school and TEFL Training program and works long hours in the office. But there is a compensation for it. In four hours by bus, he’s on the Camino de Santiago (Saint James’s Way), two and a half hours on the train in Seville, and three hours at his parent’s beach house (that was their plan B!) in Peñiscola on the Mediterranean Sea. And he lives and works slap bang in the center of Madrid, where he can be a business man during the week, but he can be a bohemian poet on the weekends. Yes, a weekend warrior, it’s true, but not many poets, if any, have managed to support themselves by selling their poetry. There’s no doubt about it, combining the two vocations in Spain is definitely a heck of a lot better than in Los Angeles. To be honest, in his opinion, living in a big American city doesn’t provide much inspiration for a poet to write about. But living in Spain provides a wealth of material and endless inspiration.

The way that Richard keeps the poet inside him happy is by simply writing. But to create, an artist or a writer needs inspiration. And because Spain is made of eighteen provinces and each province of Spain is completely different, almost like a different country, all it takes to break the weekly work routine is to travel to a different Spanish province and gain inspiration by taking in the sights, the sounds, the culture, the people and the local color of that place. By intense observation, a heavy dose of imagination and a connection to the Greek muse of poetry, he can gain the inspiration necessary to write new poems.

And he thinks that maybe there are other people, who like him, have an artist inside them and need to share it. Because precisely sharing the artwork keeps the motivation and enthusiasm for creating new material fresh and alive.  And the idea is to create a blog for Canterbury English teachers, so that they too can share their talents and creative work, because, in Richard’s view, deep down inside, we all need to be creative in some way or other. So this is an opportunity to keep the midlife crisis at bay and share with others what our creative souls are able to fashion.

And the focus of the blog is Madrid and Spain, because that’s where we live and work.

These are the roots and the motivations for the blog. Although the blog is a new idea, the seed for the blog was sewn a while ago. If you are a Canterbury English teacher and an artist, please help us by participating with any of your works on Madrid or Spain! Just send them to infotefl@canterburyenglish.com ­­­­­