British Studies Web Pages



On a Sticky Wicket to be in a very difficult situation
The Secret Diary of Mrs A.

What do you do if you are a mother of two maturing teenagers (Julka and Maciek), a wife to a husband who is still his mother's little boy (the Spouse), and a teacher of English to increasingly demanding students who think they know more than you just because they've heard the latest single from The Red Hot Chilli Peppers? Well, if you want to stay sane, you talk to yourself, and what better way to do that than by keeping a diary (in English, of course).

So welcome to the Secret diary of Mrs. A. As you will see, the language Mrs A. uses is particularly influenced by the sporting theme of this edition. If you need any help understanding the sporting idioms in her diary, just place the mouse over the purple ball following an underlined word or phrase. You can try it out with 'sticky wicket' in the heading above as the first example. After that, it should be plain sailingeasy, without problems!

23rd August, Monday

Summer holidays coming to an end. School again soon. Alina phoned. Wants me to join an aerobics class. It's for the middle-aged and elderly. Alina says I'm perfect for it. She says giving up smoking was an achievement, but I shouldn't rest on my laurelsto be satisfied with what you already achieved. Kick-offto start something the new term with a new goal. Says if I don't, I'll soon look like Michael Jackson over 60. What could she mean? To tell the truth, I wouldn't mind, as long as he keeps having plastic surgery at the present rate. And as for his figure, I'd change places right now.

24th August, Tuesday

Postcard from Julka. The trip to Augustów was a disaster from the start. First, Pani Ania, their form teacher, caught the boys smoking. Julka was there too. Pani Ania completely lost her temper. The whole group will have to report to the Head when they get back. They're sure to be for the high jumpto be in serious trouble. I'd told Julka to steer clearto keep away from of those boys; obviously she didn't listen. I'm afraid poor Pani Ania is still learning the ropesto find out how to do something as a form teacher.

25th August, Wednesday.

The Head phoned. He wants my class to prepare a performance for the 1st September - the opening of the school year. A big fish from the Kuratorium is coming. Talk about being thrown into the new term at the deep endto face a difficult situation without any preparation! Of course the Head doesn't see it that way. He says that with my track recordall one's achievements and failures of the past as a form teacher, this should be plain sailingeasy, without problems. He expects something solemn yet cheerful, not too short yet not too long, both patriotic and humorous, an optimistic opening for the year's work ahead of us all, and a serious contemplation of the anniversary of the outbreak of WWII. Apart from that, he has given me free reinto give someone freedom to act. He says if we do it well, there'll be extra money for the class trip in June. I've really been boxed into a cornerto limit somebody's freedom to move or act! And only a week to prepare it. How about some rap versions of Broniewski and Konopnicka with disco-polo in the background?

26th August, Thursday

The Spouse phoned. His annual week with the in-laws is adding colour to his otherwise monotonous existence. Oh excuse me, dear diary, some explanation is needed: "the in-laws" means "his beloved parents" and "monotonous existence" is the one he leads with us (where his real home is). The presents he'd brought them (and which I'd chosen) didn't meet with approval. His mum's comment about the silk scarf was: "And where am I supposed to wear something that posh? Does your wife think I've got my wardrobe stuffed with designer wear?" That was below the beltunfair. Next time I'll get her something from the market.

27th August, Friday

Rehearsal day. My kids, summoned by phone, duly arrived carrying their instruments. We had a violin, 2 flutes, an accordion and a harmonica. I told them we had only three days for rehearsals. Even so, we were rather slow off the markto be slow at starting something. First they held a contest comparing their "holiday trophies". Daria and Kajtek were neck-and-neckequal position, the first one sportingto wear a seventh earring in her left lobe, the latter boasting a stud in his right nostril. The runner-up was Dominik with a tattoo on his left forearm. But when Tomek hitched up his T-shirt to reveal a brand new appendicitis scar, Sylwia said that this was not the same, and he was now moving the goalpoststo change the rules to your own advantage. Just when I'd turned everyone's attention back to the performance, who should turn up but the Head. He said I should incorporate some folk dances into the programme. Typical of him to stick his oar into interfere where it's not wanted. The kids agreed to meet again on Monday.

28th August, Saturday

A day of surprises. First Alina phoned announcing that she was going to visit in the afternoon. She said we're going to celebrate and what do I want - cheesecake or meringue? I know that when it comes to baking she's way out of her depthnot to be skilful enough at something, so I told her just to bring a couple of beers. She took the hint, but said I always took the wind out of her sailsto make someone feel less confident. I wonder what we're celebrating?

At lunch time Maciek phoned (reverse charges). He's been robbed. " Mum, I need you to send me some money so that I can get home." The joys of parenthood.

At five Alina appeared in a new outfit - very low neck - carrying two bottles of French wine and some videos. "Well?" she said, smoothing her short skirt, "What do you think?" She was fishing for complimentsto try to get compliments. "You look great" I said thinking to myself: "Why must every woman who has just lost half a kilo think she looks as if she'd lost five?" "What are we celebrating?" "Wait", she said, "first, for real women - some real men in action". I got rather alarmed. But it was only Mel Gibson in a couple of oldies. Just then the Spouse phoned. He's bringing Dad home and could I please make something nice for dinner. Have I suddenly learnt to cook in his absence? He must have heard Alina's giggling in the background, which rather pleased me. Let him think what he will. When we were well into the second bottle Alina revealed her secret: she has a new boyfriend, an unemployed actor who is twenty years younger than her. She's really skating on thin iceto do something risky or dangerous this time, but it's her life not mine.

30th August, Monday

The first hour of rehearsals was a complete disaster, but I refused to throw in the towelto accept defeat. It turned into a real marathonvery long session, and somehow we managed to finish up the day with something which might be OK. Well, we'll give it our best shotto try your best and only Wednesday will tell!

(P.S. My dear diary I owe you an explanation. When I say "form teacher" I mean "wychowawca" and obviously "performance" means "część artystyczna". It's not my fault that certain languages don't develop, is it?)


Click to see the complete list of idioms taken from the diary of Mrs. A. Try to match them with the sport they are derived from in the table below. The first two have been done as an example for you. In the examples, the key or link words were: 'wicket' (the most important part of the field of play in cricket), and 'sailing'.


on a sticky wicket,


plain sailing,













horse riding/racing


other sports


For the completed table with answers click here.

Follow-up Tasks

  1. Can you think of any Polish equivalents for these expressions?
  2. Can you think of other expressions in Polish which use sporting images or words?

Produced in Poland by British Council © 2003. The United Kingdom's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.