Fifteen years since Bernie Hartley died? It seems impossible. Many times I’ve been asked about our writing partnership. The 2002 obituary doesn’t do it. So … I guess this is my autobiography on the area. Like all autobiographical pieces, it is entirely biased and from my viewpoint. And yes, it is warts and all.
We met around 1974. Bernie was recruited to Anglo-Continental Elementary Department by my then boss, John Curtin. I was Deputy Head. Everyone knew Bernie as a great teacher trainer, Robert O’Neil’s co-trainer on Eurocentre courses. Getting Bernie to ACSE was a coup. I was one of the few who didn’t know him … I didn’t go to the local teacher’s pub, The Richmond Hotel, and all my own friends were musicians outside the school. The first couple of weeks, he really annoyed me, in that he had urgent phone calls from his Swiss girlfriend mid-lesson, and I had to go and get him out of class then teach until he returned.
John Curtin left to go to ACSE London in 1975, and I became Head of Elementary level. I had to appoint a deputy. I’d seen Bernie do two teacher’s seminars (one on teaching Arabs) and though I barely knew him, I knew his reputation. I suggested Bernie … a choice that made me enemies among everyone else applying … Bernie had not applied. So, a few weeks later we were sharing an office. Bernie was seven years older than me.
At this point, the department were using all my material (including Willy The Kid, I hasten to add). ACSE had a Research & Development Department. I had been working with them on and off for two years, and had developed three parallel courses (classes saw three teachers) in ring binders for teachers. Students had illustrated handouts, kept in hanging files. We had recorded dialogues in ACSE’s own studio (as we did with Streamline in its pilot version). Some lessons were only Teacher’s Notes with no handouts at all. The focus was on oral work! I was also working on Survival English with John Curtin for ACSE London. (SEE BELOW FOR THAT TALE)
At that time, students at ACSE had four classroom lessons a day and two “lectures.” Bernie and I decided to switch this around at elementary level, and actually TEACH during the “lectures.” We introduced the BBC “On We Go” film series twice a week, and Bernie added “Everyday Conversation” acted out in pairs, (later to become part of Streamline). I added “English Teaching Songs” on Fridays. These were full audience-participation with 150 students. We did choral drills, we did pair work, all with 150 to 200 people.
Flushed with our success in improving our departmental work, we turned our attention to the summer courses, when we had less experienced teachers. Streamline with its “foolproof” teacher notes evolved. We diid it as a direct replacement for my materials, with lessons issued as handouts, one at a time. The recordings were elaborate with sound effects, mainly done by Karen with Guy Wellman.
It had been taught with hundreds if not thousands of students before we approached publishers. We approached eight of them in 1977, simultaneously. You’re not supposed to do that, but given slow response speeds it was do it OUR way or wait months and years.
Longman rejected it very quickly, on the grounds that they had three beginner courses due in 1978, but offered us both a job writing for the Arab World instead. I thought they behaved very well, wasting no time and being clear about their other plans.
Evans and Cambridge offered us contracts. Cambridge said it was to be called “The Cambridge English Course” (a title they re-used for Swan & Walters) and cover six levels. Just as we were about to sign with Cambridge, Oxford (OUP) phoned. It was Keith Rose. He had never seen our submission but wanted to pick our brains on the UK market in general. We declined, as OUP had never acknowledged our submission. Keith said he was new, and he’d find it. He phoned back and we told him not to bother, as we were signing the Cambridge contract. Keith said, ‘Wait. Don’t sign yet … I’ll be down tomorrow.’ He offered us lunch. We chose the most expensive Italian restaurant we knew as a test. He saw the menu, and blanched. He asked why we were waiting to sign with Cambridge. Bernie said “We want colour, not black and white. Give us colour and we’ll switch to Oxford.” Keith asked us to come and meet his boss, Simon Murison-Bowie, in Oxford. We did. Bernie repeated his demand for colour. Simon said, ‘You really don’ t know what you’re being offered. A major OUP course.” Bernie said, “We don’t care. We’re happy where we are. We don’t need OUP. Colour or forget it.” We got it. The rest is ELT history. I owe Bernie for that. He had checked out by going to Brighton the week before and asking Robert O’Neil, “Oxford or Cambridge?’ Robert told him, “No choice. Go with Oxford.”
We were still working at ACSE, who were incredibly supportive and generous. We started doing foreign promotion tours. The original Streamline was 120 units, so it was Departures plus half of Connections. OUP wanted two x 80 unit courses. So we had already finished nearly all of what became Connections for internal use. But as OUP said, we needed four transition / revision / introduction units fast for Connections. Bernie was promoting in Argentina, and I co-wrote the first four units with Karen. When Bernie came back we adjusted them a bit, but Karen was still clearly the co-author. Two other units were totally “hers” in Connections (Yes / No Contest and At The Races unit). Bernie refused point blank to acknowledge her contribution, saying it was like Lennon-McCartney, a brand name. People reading later Paul McCartney interviews have said they can’t understand why he meticulously lists who wrote which song and which section of shared songs. In retrospect, I find it totally understandable. And Willy The Kid was 100% mine.
Early 1980. OUP wanted Workbooks for Departures and Connections. Now. They also wanted a Level 3 fast. Karen was pregnant with our second child. The three of us met. Karen sealed it by saying “Go for it.” Bernie and I resigned. We had our second child on March 5th 1980, and left ACSE on March 30th. Karen and I borrowed from NatWest bank to live for the next year … we were not offered an advance by OUP, and would not have accepted one if they had offered it. We’d both thrown up jobs at Higher Education level-tied salaries plus overtime added much more. We had been very well paid.
We worked in Bernie’s flat for the Workbooks, then rented an office to start Destinations. It was over a condom wholesaler and very cheap because we had to walk in under their sign every day. After three months, we got an office in Post Office Road, Bournemouth (prestige postcode BH1 1AA … it was next to the Central Post Office). It was between a sandwich shop below and a dressmaker with a parrot above. It was a triangular room. Bernie, smoking at least sixty a day, had the point of the triangle, I had the long side with the window permanently open however cold it was. At his funeral, Bernie had left a note to be read out: “I know smoking killed me. But I enjoyed every single cigarette.” Then we had Edith Piaf with “No Regrets.”
Back to that office, the parrot was incredibly noisy and irritating, and the odour of cooking meat from below was disgusting. We soldiered on with Destinations. Our morning coffee was in Fortes, Westover Road with an almond Danish each. Our lunch was haddock and chips in British Home Stores.
We also completed Speechwork a unique, underrated and sadly now outdated Language Laboratory accompaniment to Streamline, as well as our books for the Arab world on writing (for Nelson) and reading (for OUP).
As at Anglo, we did not split tasks. We both worked across the desk on the context, the exercises, the Teachers Notes, the Workbook … a way Karen and I continued later. We always wrote the Teacher’s Book notes for a unit with the Student Book unit, never later. It was a whole concept. We ignored OUP’s request to do the Student Book first, and the Teacher’s Book later. It’s a method I only broke away from very briefly, for Streamline Directions and Survival English.
We started to fall out over hours. Bernie wanted to start at 8.30 (as at ACSE). I wanted to get the older child to nursery, and arrive at 9.15. I wanted a 30 minute lunch and finish at 4, Bernie wanted a 90 minute leisurely lunch and finish at 5. On these things, joint work founders. I felt much of our time in the office was spent vaguely chatting, reading the paper, going out for a wander. I would talk through scenarios with Karen after dinner and come in the next morning with a unit half done. Bernie compartmentalized, and would never do that, and I found I was deliberately keeping units half done to avoid offence … which a fully-formed idea always did . Our formula of always writing everything together was breaking down. It was inevitable. I had three small children by January 1982. Bernie was a bachelor who spent most evenings in the pub. I wouldn’t describe us as “friends” yet Bernie had been one of the two witnesses at our wedding in 1977.
We often did UK talks together. That was useful, and fun, as we took it in turns on the way to role play the audience and ask nasty and aggressive questions for practice. Not necessary? All co-authors should do it. Once I was asked to speak at a university. I was having a drink with Brian Abbs at a conference and mentioned my forthcoming talk. Brian told me that when he had spoken there, the lecturer, who was also a rival author, had spent two hours in advance working on aggressive detailed questioning with the group. He said he felt he had been set up. I said, ‘I’m speaking there next week. What should I do?’ Brian said, ‘It’s easy. Go in, and before you start say you were talking to me, and tell them what I told you.’ It worked like a dream. It was one of many useful pieces of advice Brian gave me over the years … the first was “Join the Society of Authors.’ Another was, ‘Never, never knock rival publications.’
It collapsed over Streamline Destinations Workbooks. We were both booked for solid tours. Bernie was off to Latin America for nearly three weeks, then I was off to Japan for two weeks soon after he returned. We also both took holiday / recovery / preparation time, so it was a case of a month apart for each trip. While Bernie was in Latin America, I switched to working at home, doing much more productive work in the mornings and evenings and devoting afternoons and early evening to family life. I finished Destinations Workbook A single-handed in the month. It was around 90% of the finished book. We had time to go over it together (we added an authentic text or two) then I was off to Japan. The idea was that Bernie could do Workbook B – as we hadn’t split tasks on the first two levels, we were confident in each other’s ability to do it all … context, exercises, picture brief. When I got back, Bernie had about four pages of scribbled notes, and an extract from Truman Capote, a very nice one which we used. He had spent most of the time reading, looking for extracts. Not a single unit done. We sat down to write Workbook B together. I was feeling resentful.
Things fell apart over Streamline Directions. We slogged away, very slowly. Neither of us felt very inspired, and Bernie spent much time looking for literary extracts. It seemed daft to sit in a rented office, just reading books. We were also on the thankless task of negotiating text over American Streamline.
The last straw for Bernie was a ludicrously strenuous Latin American trip which involved from memory Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico. OUP were trying to economize far too much on air fare and making what should have been two or three trips into one. It ended badly. OUP had advised Bernie that he should obtain a US visa, because on the return trip he would be changing planes in Miami. Bernie disagreed, saying it was a two hour transit change and it wasn’t worth the effort. Of course the Mexico City-Miami flight was delayed three hours, and he missed his connection to London. He had no US visa. He was handcuffed, and driven for an hour in the back a windowless truck to a suburban building where a private company incarcerated him overnight without his shoes and belt. He was put on the flight home … his passport was only returned when the plane was in the air. The last thing US immigration said to him, “You will now find it difficult to ever re-enter the USA.” Bernie replied, ‘So why do you think I’d ever want to?’ He never did.
But he also never wanted to do promotional tours again, a major loss to us, as he was a charismatic promoter. Interestingly, the OUP rep for France, Switzerland, Netherlands and Belgium, told me frankly that he preferred Bernie’s positive “This is the right way to do it” for France, but that he found my less-rigid talks more successful in Holland, Belgium and Switzerland. Bernie was fluent enough in French to crack jokes at speed too as asides, and a couple of times gave the whole talk in French. I soon found myself taking over the French and Spanish promotions, which Bernie had done before. It meant we could only do half as much, of course.
After a meeting with OUP in Brighton, he announced that he didn’t want to do Directions. He got 25% of our royalty for his share of the Streamline name, plus the six units we’d already finished. I did the other 54 units. I got 75% of our royalty. Actually, I was far prouder of Streamline Direction Workbooks than I was of the Student Book. I created a consistent lexical strand that ran independently throughout.
Bernie worked with me on the wordlist for Streamline Graded Readers and edited submissions, but declined to write any … to my great surprise. He was a marvellous storyteller. With Departures and Connections in Reading, I did 100% of the work but got 90% of the royalty share, because of the Streamline tie in. The same when Karen and I wrote A Weekend Away and A Week By The Sea.
We were both getting fed up of 10% of our work going to Bernie, who had retired in all but name. Bernie was terrified teachers locally would think he had any money. He retained his one bedroom flat and ageing Ford Fiesta. We heard from several teachers that people compared our house and car to his, and Bernie told one we had won the football pools, and another that Karen’s dad had left us money. Unfortunately for him, the teacher he told knew Karen’s dad.
We were also getting fed up of criticism as we entered “This is the course to knock” phase of Streamline.
We wanted to do a new course with integrated video, built-in extensive reading, proper listening materials and started Grapevine. We were still in partnership with Bernie for accounting purposes. The first accountant we had gone to when we went freelance had put us into a legal partnership, which Karen joined when we started on video. Until the early 80s, an office Christmas party was an allowable tax deductible expense, and the three of us had lunch in the Steak and Trat in Bournemouth for a couple of Christmas parties!
We saw him regularly and kept him informed of what we were doing. He waited until the video was filmed, and level one of the Grapevine course was complete, and threatened OUP with an injunction to stop publication. He wanted one third of our proceeds from Grapevine. This was on the grounds that (a) we were legal partners (b) it competed with the partnership work, Streamline. OUP (cravenly) delayed publication, losing us a massive planned sales campaign in Spain that autumn, OUP’s biggest market. We went to a local Bournemouth solicitor who said “Offer him 10%. He’s used to that. Settle on 15%.” Then immediately slapped us with a massive bill.
We both said, “No way. We’re tired of paying 10% of all our new material to Bernie.” I asked a rock musician friend, and he sent us straight to his music business lawyer in London. The London lawyer had handled major stars, and turned out not only way better, but also way cheaper than the Bastard in Bournemouth. He charged 2nd class day return train fare for a meeting in Oxford, wiped the floor with Bernie’s lawyer and OUP, and simply said “My client has two words for you. The second word is “off.” They will scrap the course entirely before they pay a penny.” Most interestingly, OUP’s lawyers kept reading out bits of the 1880s partnership laws. He said, ‘There are two kinds of lawyers. The first follows legal precedent regardless of fairness. The second kind creates precedents for the future. You’re the first type. I’m the second type.’
And that’s how it was. We won. We didn’t pay a penny. In all fairness, we showed Bernie a proof copy of Grapevine and said, ‘There. Is it a clone of Streamline?’ He agreed that it wasn’t … and that he had wrongly assumed it would be.
To be honest, we never forgave him. He hugely dented Grapevine’s launch in Spain, though it turned out to be the best-seller in Mexico, Poland and Hungary, and did very well in France. That’s why I’m always pleased when teachers say “I learned English from your book. It made me want to be a teacher”. Mildly pleased when it’s “Streamline” but absolutely thrilled when it’s “Grapevine.”
Things did calm down. We had never mixed socially outside work … Bernie had said quite correctly that we were seeing each other all day anyway, so it was a good idea to avoid socializing otherwise. We had also done many road or rail trips to Oxford together, and often stopped for a meal on the way home. We’d heard each other’s life stories, anecdotes and so on, many times over. I knew all about Bernie and his education at the hands of the Irish Christian Brothers, working in Geneva and in Saudi Arabia. He in turn heard all about my days as a road manager.
In the mid 90s, OUP proposed a new edition of American Streamline. Bernie and I had hardly spoken in four years. We travelled separately, and met OUP in Oxford. OUP had their new building, and were ahead of the generality on smoking. We went into a conference room, and Bernie took out his cigarettes and lighter. It was his first visit to their offices in ten years, apart from the legal meeting. They explained it was a No Smoking area. Bernie asked where the smoking area was, assuming there’d be a place. They said “outside”. Bernie looked out of the window, ‘It’s pouring with rain.’ He then said, ‘Streamline paid for a large bit of this (expletive deleted) building. If I can’t smoke in here, I can’t do it.’
I did it on my own for Departures and Connections. They brought in co-authors for a fee for Destinations. We ended up shifting our split to 60% of the royalty to me, 40% to Bernie. As OUP explained, even an extra 10% on American Streamline was a good payday. In fact it was more compared to the first edition. When we had written American Streamline, Jacqui Flamm was our co-author. We were told by OUP New York circa 1981 that she would get 33% of the royalty. We agreed. Years late, I met Jacqui at TESOL. Our previous meeting had been in Bournemouth with the editor present. Jacqui told me she had gotten a flat fee and not a very good one either. So OUP had taken the extra third We said we would only do New American Streamline if we got that third back. There was no problem … the new NYC management were much more transparent (and honest).
In many ways, I felt success hadn’t made Bernie particularly happy. He became paranoid about relationships, fearing women would be after his money. He wanted to relax with fellow teachers, but felt money was a barrier. He felt if he bought the drinks too often, people would think him patronizing … Bernie was always the first to stand a round or offer to pay for coffee. He told me when we spoke in his last couple of years that he’d love to get an apartment with a sea view. I pointed out that he could afford to. “But what would people think?” he said. He loved teaching, but felt in some way he’d be taking a job he no longer needed if he went back to it.
Bernie reckoned Streamline was perfection. Karen and I felt it could be bettered. Bernie also had his views on material and teaching set in concrete. I had one foot set in concrete and the other free of it. Karen was totally unencumbered by concrete. An example. Whenever we looked carefully at other beginner courses, Bernie (and to an extent me) could tell you everything that was wrong with it. Karen would look through and say, “Here’s a good idea … and this works, look.”
You have to believe that the next book will be better than the last to keep writing. We both believe our last course, IN English, was easily the best of the three full courses.
The last word on our collaboration was one of the last times I saw Bernie. I was in Westover Road in Bournemouth with my younger son, Joshua, then just starting university. We bumped into him, chatted and Bernie invited us to go for coffee. He talked mainly to Josh, asking him questions, pulling out more information in reply than I’d ever heard Josh give. We were there about an hour. When we left, Josh said, ‘I’ve never spoken to anyone like that. He must be the most incredible teacher!’
And indeed he was.
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Mary Glasgow edition 1978. They called “Student Books” by the title “Workbooks” but then they knew very little about anything.
Another salutary tale. This was done for ACSE London initially as a situational business-lite course. It was John Curtin’s idea circa 1975. The R&D department wanted me involved to impose some sort of syllabus movement from simple to complex, and I ended up writing half the units. There was no collaboration whatsoever. I was just given a list of ones to write. Mary Glasgow Publications published it, and it had been written long before Streamline. Mary Glasgow can be summed up by my meeting with the editor in Bournemouth, where we went to lunch, it turned out he had no money, and I had to pay. He said he’d give me a cheque later, and eventually did.
I forgot about it … it earned very little in royalties. Then MGP scrapped their ELT list. I met Michael Boyd on an OUP trip. He was an editor in a different OUP department (Business English) but we were at the same Spanish conference and had dinner together. I chatted about Survival. Michael moved to Heinemann soon afterwards, and he loved the title (most of all) and the concept, but said frankly, much of the material was very weak. I agreed. I knew which bits too. John felt that business oriented students might enjoy a unit on stationery items: staplers and pencil sharpeners.
Heinemann edition 1994
Heinemann commissioned a new edition … basically we kept the title, and the concept of a situational course. Period. We would also switch it completely to American English. As John Curtin was in Brazil, it was agreed that I would write the Student Book on my own (keeping a few bits), and John would then write the Teacher’s Book and Workbook. For which we would be on a 50 / 50 royalty split. I was not happy – John’s 50% was for stuff that is very often commissioned for a fee. But Michael was a great managing editor (one of the best) and the superb editor was Valerie Gossage, who is Canadian. I really enjoyed working with them both, and the Student’s Book was fun to do.
Then John sent in the most bizarre teacher’s notes I have ever seen. One explained how to do a completely different lesson with puppets. Another was a long role-play. Anther a guessing game. Few of them seemed related to structure, situation of function in the Student Book. Michael had a very unpleasant meeting with him in Brazil when Michael explained that none of his submissions were usable. He asked him to try again, and exactly the same text was re-submitted, but the last line was added, “Then exploit the Student Book.” They were all like that … the reference to the Student Book was always just that one line “Then exploit the Student Book” at the end. Anne Watson, in France, was commissioned to do the Teacher’s Book and Workbook. John did nothing, but retained his 50% share on the Student Book.
When they asked me to write Basic Survival, I said “No John involvement whatsoever.” I took 100% of the Student Book, Anne took 80% of the Teacher’s Book and Workbooks, with me on 20% (for title, original unit). Anne was a collaboration at a distance that worked extremely well.
I think the salt in the wound on this one was meeting John on a visit to IATEFL in England, with several other people present. John said Survival English was “potatoes and pasta with no meat.” He added that I had “distorted the concept” by adding my own structural progression and “Lowest Common Denominator Streamline style.” (As if that was a very bad thing indeed). I asked if he disliked the book that much, why he felt happy cashing the cheques for 50% of the royalty.
Macmillan edition 2004: accurate credits at last
When we did the New Survival edition after Macmillan took over Heinemann, we eradicated every last trace of the original MGP. I very much like the Macmillan editions.
John, like Bernie, was a charismatic teacher of rare talent. Unlike Bernie, he didn’t communicate what he did or how to do it successfully to others.