Postcard from Durham: Wharraye geein,then? Ancient Greek, man, says a classics lecturer

Dear all

Here I am, teaching ancient Greek to schoolchildren in the north-east of England, in the summer holidays.

Honest. It's the first-ever Newcastle Greek and Latin one-week residential summer school. All comers welcome, all linguistic levels catered for, from beginners to A-level; some adults, mostly sixth-formers (age range 16-78, gathered in from Jersey to Northumberland), three intensive one-hour small-group teaching sessions a day; preparation in between; and an evening lecture (everything from a demonstration of Hiero's steam engine to the miracles of Indo-European philology). And not a press-gang in sight.

Are they mad, you ask? All too sane. The 78-year-old learning Greek, asked the obvious question by the local TV, replied that she'd heard ancient Greek was paradise, and wanted a taste of it before it was too late. Another adult told me a businessmen's 'communication skills' day seminar cost pounds 375 plus VAT ('Learn to speak with forked lunch'), but he was learning far more here about communication skills, at pounds 30 a day all-in.

Knackering, though. Today is a free afternoon, so while the students visit Hadrian's Wall, I'm slumped on a bench under a tree with my equally exhausted Newcastle colleague David West (advanced Latin), but a very sprightly Brigid Ackerley, head of classics at Newcastle Central High (beginners' Greek). The excellent Durham School (where we reside) has a county-standard cricket pitch, and we're trying to recover by watching Durham vs Leicester (2nd XI). The young men race about, but will we ever move again?

It can't be what I'm teaching (Homer Odyssey 9, Odysseus and the Cyclops. Paradise will have little to offer me). It can't be my class: seven bright and brilliant sixth formers, keen as horseradish sauce, with the scent of Newcastle University in their nostrils (or was it Oxford? Absurd idea). We'll blind Cyclops and rescue Odysseus and his men from the cave quite easily in our eight sessions - quicker than they've ever read any Greek in all their lives.

And I suspect they haven't had a night's sleep since they arrived. While I crawl home, they frolic around till the small hours.

If we dons flag, the teachers burst with life. Brigid Ackerley points out the joyful difference from school: pure, unadulterated teaching without any other interference, and everyone there for love. I feel very feeble.

This morning one of the class (from Bristol) begins translating at the wrong point. 'Hoy man, wharraye deein?' I exclaim, dropping into the vernacular. 'Is that Greek?' she asks tentatively, misled by the 'hoy'. The two Geordies in the class collapse. 'How about a Geordie Summer School next year?' someone suggests. 'No way,' says another. 'Greek's much easier. Come on, where are we? Line 347: Kuklvy, th, pie oinon. 'Cyclops, here, drink the wine.' '

Paradise indeed.

Peter Jones

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
people
News
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
news
Life and Style
love + sex
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

    Recruitment Genius: General Processor

    £7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

    Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

    £18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

    Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

    £14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot