I’ve stopped asking my students what they got up to at the weekend. One reason is that it’s like pulling teeth. They look at you like they think you might be planning to use this highly sensitive information against them at some point in the future. And to be honest, if one more student tells me they spent the weekend ‘looking for’ their children, I might call child protective services and report them – just to hammer home the difference between ‘looking after’ and ‘looking for’ once and for all.
But the main reason, is that I’m afraid they might actually answer me. You try faking ‘interested face’ as the 500th student proudly divulges the fact that they spent their weekend ‘walking in the forest picking mushrooms’. And if you can think of a better follow-up question than ‘No really…what did you do?’, I’d be delighted to hear it.
The only thing that stops me from falling asleep during this conversation is the Latvians’ astonishment that I can’t understand why they enjoy ‘walking in the forest’ so much. As it’s their national pastime, they can’t get their heads around the fact that we don’t indulge in this particular activity in Ireland – almost as if we’re abnormal because we have better things to do than trudge around a forest, picking fruit and vegetables we can quite easily buy in a shop.
Another popular pastime is making juice from beech trees. And if you think this is a euphemism for something interesting, it isn’t. You basically stick a pipe into a beech tree and then wait for approximately five years as one glass fills up drop by drop. In the interest of journalistic accuracy, I tried to Google this activity to see if there was a technical name for the process or the equipment. Google was stumped. It did offer me some lovely photos of ‘beach cocktails’ to make up for it though.
Other questions from students on the topic of pastimes include:
(Insanely dull) student: “What do you call it when you collect honey? Is there a technical term for it?”
Me: “I don’t know. I’ve never met anyone who does this before.”
(It turns out the technical term is ‘collecting honey’. Google was quick to compensate for its previous shortcomings.)
(Plain old insane) student: “Have you tried ice-fishing yet?”
Me: “Eh, no. Standing on ice that might crack at any second and plunge me into freezing water for the sake of catching fish I don’t eat is not my idea of an enjoyable way to spend a weekend.”
Student: “But it’s so much fun!”
But then, considering the main Irish pastime is drinking, who am I to judge??