Skip to content ↓

August 2020 - Year 22 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Remembering Paul Davis

Although from the beginning I knew

the world isn't permanent

Not a moment passes

when my sleeves are dry




If you want to remember Paul, think of this tree near St Pancras.

It was Paul’s secret and favourite place in London.

How appropriate now…

Visit it one day to remember Paul…

We are planning to plant a tree for Paul in Cambridge soon.



From the Editor

I am sure Mario Rinvolucri, Paul’s dear friend of many years if not many decades, colleague, co-author and intellectual sparring partner would have loved to be one of those who remember Paul here, in this issue of HLT. I am sure he would be able to offer precious insights, observations and anecdotes. It is understandable that under the current very sad circumstances it is not possible for Mario to do so. Perhaps one day. But one thing is certain: we will never forget this intellectually formidable duo.



Dear Hania,

Chaz informed me of the tragedy that you, on a personal front, and the wider Pilgrims family have just endured. Among all the Pilgrims trainers who have made a transformative mark on me, Paul is right at the top! He made me reassess my corporate view of professional life, by showing me that however eccentric you are, as long as you remain true to yourself, you command  the respect of others. He was the epitome of the erudite confident in his interpretation of the world and eager to exercise his mind to the full. 

I shall miss seeing him at the various ELT events. It is truly the end of an era.


With my heartfelt condolences,

Yours ever,

Till Gins



I first met Paul in 1985 when I went to Cambridge from Mexico as my father had terminal cancer and was living there (with my unhappy mother) near my sister and the hospital. I got a job at Eurocentres and quickly came to know Paul.

My first memory was of him teaching me how to get students to spell out a word by drawing it on the other person’s back. A bit tricky with bra straps but never mind. It was after that that we began to share teaching ideas which led to the formation of the Teacher Development (TD) group and collaboration with our unpublished (long story) book. (M. Rinvolucri, P. Davis, F. O’Dell, J. Rees Miller, I. Jasper, K. Plumb). We used to meet every other week after work to share ideas, have a laugh, argue and discuss before we somehow ended up at the pub. Paul was very much the soul of the group and either inspired or antagonised but whatever he did he got a reaction and we were all made to think and be critical. We also sometimes used to go to the pub at lunchtime for a quick pint and a fag (imagine that!). Various people joined the TD group and Paul made them all feel welcome and able to participate. We took turns leading the group with ideas, it was very democratic.

At work Paul made sure the management were kept on their toes and I remember the occasion when he told the Director of Studies at a staff meeting that he was not a director or had anything to do with studies, all he was was a preposition. There were many confrontations with the Eurocentre management and after a couple of years I became the union (GMB) rep. Paul helped deal with difficult cases and then took over from me.

As part of our involvement with TD Paul and I wrote several articles and then gave workshops, including one at Edinburgh IATEFL. It was there that he first developed the technique of throwing the handouts in the air and letting them fall for people to pick up (I think this was a mistake because he had tripped the first time). We did have a great time though and we met up with like-minded colleagues and had a laugh.

During those years at Eurocentre we became involved with Cambridge English Language Teachers Association and both Paul and I contributed to that.

My partner (Ian) had left Mexico after me and went straight to China for a year and a bit. When he came back to England he tried to get back together with me but I couldn’t forgive him initially for leaving me at a difficult time. The only one who took him in and gave him a chance was Paul. Ian didn’t give up and a year later we were married. Of course, Paul was Ian’s best man at our wedding in 1987. He even put on a suit! He was the only one to have a long conversation with Ian’s parents who were not the easiest of people to talk to. He was also there at the stag do with Vlad (our Russian friend) where they sampled rather a lot of vodka.

Our honeymoon was organised through the union and Paul with several other friends joined us for our trip at Xmas. We went to Moscow and then took a train to Leningrad. It was on this train that Paul was seriously reprimanded by a train guard, an older large Russian lady, who chased him back to his cabin as he was smoking in the corridor. He was terrified!

During those four years Ian and I were in Cambridge we had a great social life with people popping in to our house or us going to theirs, meals, pubs, picnics and festivals. Paul was there with us at many of these gatherings. There was also the famous incident when Paul and some of his friends returning from an evening in Grantchester stopped off to piss in Jeffrey Archer’s garden pond.

In 1989 we had a baby, Leo. Paul came to the hospital to see him (from a distance). It was that year that Ian and I left to go work for the British Council in Bilbao as Thatcher had made it impossible for us to stay with interest rates rocketing. Paul and Mario had been working for Pilgrims during the summers and a few years later Paul left Eurocentres and mainly worked for Pilgrims. He also had the Dictation book published with Mario. His reputation grew and he became a bit of a Pilgrims guru. We saw him over the next few years in the summers when we moved from Spain to Finland, coming back to Cambridge with two boys every summer. We saw 

Paul when we could but normally he was working in Canterbury in the summers so it wasn’t until we returned to live in Canterbury in 1995 that we began to see Paul regularly.

My job in 1995 was at Pilgrims Executive Centre but I also taught at the Hilltop doing teacher training courses with Paul and others. We spent many happy noisy evenings in our garden with you Paul and, of course, you Hania. I think our neighbours remember Paul, they especially found it odd when Paul told off the bell ringers at the local church for making such a racket. They must have also been shocked by our many late evenings, eating, smoking, drinking and arguing in the garden.

Paul was difficult at times, as we all know, but he was a constant loyal friend who always kept in touch and helped our son get summer work at Pilgrims. He was very caring and was there when I had a breast lump operation, helping and supporting both Ian and I.

We shared similar political views and it was such a relief to be able to talk to him about everything and anything. I especially loved his jokes and witty remarks. I shall miss him so so much.

Katie Plumb



I arrived back  in Cambridge just before Christmas 1986, I had been working for a year and a half in China.  It was a complicated time for me as I was intent on settling back in Britain but I found the country very strange after years of living outside. Paul provided me with some important points of reference.

The first evening that I met Paul we found ourselves in quite a big group of EFL teachers and language school managers eating in an Indian restaurant. Although I had never met any of these managers before, one seemed intent on causing a problem and offered me some extraordinarily sexist advice. I explained that his advice was worthless and this caused a bit of a shock around the table. At which moment Paul pointed out to everyone that he agreed with me fully. I liked Paul fiercely from that moment on, and that feeling only got stronger when a few minutes later I discovered that the manager in question was Paul’s Director of Studies. Everyone who knew Paul will agree with me that he was never afraid to say something he thought to be true, whether it was a crowd pleaser or not.

Over the years I learnt a great deal from Paul’s extraordinary and often quirky insights into political and social questions. I could not always agree with what Paul said but I learnt that his ability to see into problems and explain them was extraordinarily original, even if something less than infallible, it was most often well worth considering. It is strange to think when someone dies after being your friend for more than three decades that the one person outside of your family  who made you laugh more than anyone else has now gone.

Paul had an enormous impact on my teaching. But this was not only because he could teach teachers  new techniques or classroom activities. For me Paul’s greatest insights came from his 

iconoclasm. Paul would invite people to look at teaching and learning in new ways. Above all Paul encouraged people to look beyond what they understood about teaching and to examine what we do not understand, and why we do not understand it. Among many other reasons this is why I admired Paul and I am so pleased to have known him.. 

Ian Jasper



Policeman: What’s your name, sunshine?

Paul: PC Davis*

One of Paul’s quickest ways of winding people up; he had many.

Influences on Paul’s teaching style.

In the late seventies/early eighties Eurocentre was a generous employer where teacher training was concerned. Paul and I enjoyed several ‘junkets’, memorably to Bristol to sit at the feet of Caleb Gattegno nigh the Clifton suspension bridge. Paul was a great admirer of the bridge too and of Isambard Kingdom Brunnel as well as an early adopter of the Silent Way.

Perhaps the most memorable junket of all was to hear Barsakov, allegedly a disciple of Georgi Lozanov’s, for a weekend in a Theosophical mansion. Walking from the train station to the venue a Cambridge colleague told Paul that there would be no smoking allowed at all in the hall or in the bedrooms, only in the gardens. Paul, anxious to ensure that his nicotine level would maintain its normal high, dove into a corner shop and cleaned them out of their strongest fags, Senior Service and Capstan Full Strength. Just as well he did, the sessions were so dreadful most of us spent as much time as possible in the garden despite the seagull cries in the new age music  summoning us back to another cross-cultural disaster as Barsakov and his faithful assistant /slave Pammy, expert turner-over of flip-chart pages, persisted in telling us what we already knew. Paul was interested in Accelerated Learning/ Suggestopedia but he didn’t pick it up at that Californian weekend.

Way back then Paul and I were neighbours as well as colleagues and socialised with a bunch of friends at The Grapes on Histon Road. It was always so hard to call it a day even when we’d walked home from the pub. Paul and I were the real night owls and justified ‘one more’ at either his house or mine by watching yet again a couple of scenes from our favourite movies. So if you’re ever watching Pontecorvos’s The Battle of Algiers, Saura’s Blood Wedding, or Robinson’s Withnail and I, think of Paul. He had them all by heart.

Eryl Griffiths



The One and Only…

With Paul Davis’ passing on 13th May the Pilgrims community and the ELT world as a whole lost one of its brightest and most audacious members. Another like him, I venture, will never walk this way.

Ever the determined controversialist, Paul provoked, inspired, exasperated and delighted throughout the course of his life. Many will remember him through his books, “Dictation,” “More Grammar Games,” and “Ways of Doing,” co-authored with his lifelong friend and colleague, Mario Rinvolucri, and, more recently, “The Company Words Keep: Lexical Chunks in Language Teaching,” with his beloved partner in life, Hanna Kryszewska. I for one would include all the above on my “Desert Island Booklist.” Surely, “Dictation,” published thirty-two years ago and still going strong, is a book like no other. One which has resurrected and restored a teaching method to its rightful heights of engagement and joy, when it had previously been relegated to the realms of drudgery.

I had the pleasure of working with Paul on an array of courses over the years, including those aimed at classroom methodology along with others that focused more on language improvement and awareness of UK life and culture. We also worked on numerous CELTA courses, including a two-month stint in South Africa in 2004. It was on these CELTA courses particularly that Paul’s uncommonly refined interpersonal skills came very much to the fore. He was especially adept at enabling the weaker trainees to gain confidence and thrive. With no sense of patronisation or compromising of standards, he spoke honestly and openly about his own struggles when undertaking the CELTA course as a trainee. These disclosures resulted in a more trusting, less hierarchical relationship between trainer and trainee on a course where the former can become distant and unapproachable with their off pat seminars and know-it-all feedback. One particular anecdote that caused much hilarity and relief was when Paul told us that during teaching practice in the very early stages of his CELTA, he was so nervous that he sat on one of the language learner’s lap rather than his own chair!

I should also add that though Paul often liked to cultivate the persona of a chaotic madcap, he invariably completed the administrative demands of CELTA, of which there are many, punctually and with unfailing accuracy. He would probably kill me for telling you this!

Then there were also “The Davis Rants” when Paul was “Bad, mad and dangerous to know.” These outbursts, often occurring when too much grog had passed his lips, manifested themselves as a torrent of outrageous claims, unfounded accusations and stream-of-consciousness invective, seemingly ignited and fuelled by a well-stocked arsenal of oppositional defiance. I will never know what ultimately lay behind these eruptions. Maybe simply the effects of alcohol or maybe an escape valve for frustrations and hurts he felt unable to express in a more temperate manner?

Paul was fiercely proud of his roots. (“I’m from Birmingham and Birmingham is the best place in the world.”) , and a devoted Aston Villa fan. He claimed claiming that his accent - more monarchy than Moseley - was the result of bullying at grammar school, where, he quickly re-joined, “I was high jump champion” and “the best rugby winger ever.”

Paul’s star shone brightly during conversations across a whole host of subjects, from world cinema, the futility of pronunciation practice (“you can’t train the ear”) the non-existence of grammar (“lexis, not grammar!”, Gattegno’s Silent Way (“that bastard was always right!”), the efficacy of charcoal tablets and cycling (“I’ve never fallen off in my life”) to the intrinsic evil of cars, Directors of Studies and the Tory Party. On these topics and many others, Paul made his views abundantly loud and clear.

As a long-term resident of Cambridge, Paul was a welcoming and knowledgeable host. The grand tour, of course, involved leisure breaks at local hostelries, (“this is the pub where Crick and Watson discovered DNA,” “this is the pub where Malcom Lowry learnt to become an alcoholic,” “this is the pub with the rudest landlord in Cambridge. It’s brill!” “That is the pub that has NEVER allowed smoking. Fascists! We’re not going in there!”) In a more serious vein, Paul was a stalwart of the local branch of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a cause which was very close to his heart.

So Paul Davis, you of the red Rizla packet, the uncorked bottle of Pinotage, the dog eared book, the immaculately prepared trout, the quails egg omelette, the late liquid nights, the long morning lie ins, the never-far-away bicycle clips, the ragamuffin clothes, the Ancient of Days white hair and beard, the brilliantly idiosyncratic mind, the Dadaist wit, the trailblazing methodological ingenuity, and, above all, the very, very kindest of hearts, you have left far too soon and far too abruptly.

But that’s the way it is.

Or, as you used to say:

“Well, well, well, well, WELL!”

Simon Marshall



I remember Paul in so many ways - creative, thoughtful, alternative, questioning, and as a cook, and as surprisingly domesticated - so many things. I think Dictation is one of the really great ELT books of our time, partly because it's about everything except dictation as most people think of it. I remember visiting to a very poor school - I asked to go to a bad one where the teachers were floundering - somewhere in Tajikistan in 1997 or 1998 when the civil war was on. I asked one of the teachers what her class most disliked, and she said dictation, so I said, OK, I'll do some dictation - I could see she thought I was off it. If I hadn't known the book, of course I couldn't have done all those wonderful things that day. Two things happened as a result - I sat down with the teacher afterwards and said, You have to think about everything you do in this sort of creative, original, alterative way to bring your class to life (and I suppose it changed her); and the other thing is just guesswork, but I suppose the kids went home that day and told their parents that things really were changing after the disaster that followed the Russians leaving and taking anything worth taking with 

the - at last a native speaker from Britain had come to the classroom and even dictation had been fun! I think Paul was to be thanked for my success that day and for the change in that class's, and in many other class's lives.

I also remember telling him when he stood in for me in Durham that he should count the number of students in the class and if he found there was one fewer than there should have been, to say, Where's Zoe Hill, which he did, to electrifying effect.

I'm glad to have had the opportunity to spend time with him over coffee and cake in the Willow tea-rooms in Glasgow in 2017 - he was exactly the same person as I'd first met a very long time before in the early days of Pilgrims, and the very same person who I'd known in Durham when he stood in for me and on British Council summer schools too. We talked about art and politics - well what else? And gossiped about Pilgrims.

I'm very sorry indeed for your loss, and for ours too. In sadness.

Peter Grundy



I remember Paul through the eyes of my son that first summer I came to Pilgrims with my family: "that really nice man with the white beard" because Paul had given my little boy of about 10, a shell or rock, just for the heck of entertain a bored little boy trapped amongst adults.  I hope Paul had someone nearby to show him the same kindness he had distributed to others throughout his own life.

Teresa Ting



To me, Paul Davis was the Frank Zappa of ELT, a very warm man, incredibly generous with his art and time, bright, devilishly skilled, marvellously eclectic, impossibly eccentric, and a revolutionary if ever there was one. I always loved that he was so confrontational and quick-witted, and I always loved that Paul kept on wanting to break rules, ('timetables are fascist' is one of his famous quips), often doing or thinking exactly the opposite of what he thought it was expected of him.

 The first time I saw him in action was at an IATEFL conference. He and Mario Rinvolucri had just published their 'Dictation' and they ran a workshop together, based on the book. There must've been over 200 people in the audience, Mario kicked things off and in the midst of the first activity, Paul just vanished, nowhere to be seen. When he finally resurfaced, a good 15 minutes later, he just took over as if he'd never left and the transition was so effective! Many years later, I asked Paul if he and Mario had planned the session that way, if him just disappearing was intentional. He looked puzzled, and told me he couldn't remember, then he added 'I probably just needed a fag'. Paul's celebrated acerbic wit could rub people off the wrong way, but that was just one side of him, and doesn't define him. Deep down, Paul was a very kind soul, an iconoclast and libertarian, a humanist who would get out of his way to make others shine, in his own inimitable, bouncy sort of way. The ELT world is a much less interesting place without Paul around.

Chaz Pugliese



Paul was an unforgettable character.  Professionally, he will be remembered for his creative publications in the heady days of the 1980's and 90's.  Some classic books came out of the collaboration with Mario Rinvolucri: Dictation, Once Upon a Time, The Confidence Book,  More Grammar Games, Ways of Doing; and later with Hania Kryszewska in The Company Words Keep, as well as his own The Confidence Book.  He was endlessly questioning received opinions about teaching and materials, his mind a creative cornucopia, and he was tireless in sharing his ideas with teachers worldwide.

As a person he could be warm, charming and generous.  He was something of a maverick, however, and never missed a chance to thumb his nose at the establishment, which did not always go down well with everyone.  I shall always remember him for his quicksilver intelligence, his endlessly creative inventiveness and his iconoclastic energy.  He will be greatly missed.  

Alan Maley



I owe Paul a debt of gratitude. I came across his work at a stage in my teaching career when I thought drilling grammar and so-called communicative tasks were the only way to teach. Books which Paul co-authored with Mario such as Dictation and Vocabulary were a lifeline. They brought me the realisation that as a teacher I had been given the immense privilege of working with people in their full humanity. People no longer appeared to me as ‘students’ who were mere receptacles into which I had to force knowledge. It became apparent to me that everyone I work with has their own individual way of being, their own experience of life, their own imagination. It is owing to Paul that this richness was made available to me.

I came into contact with Paul in person when he was my trainer on the Train the Trainers course on the hilltop at Kent University. He was so distinctive as a trainer. His very intonation and phrasing were aids to learning. His lightness of being and lightness in moving around the room opened up possibilities for my way of being as a teacher. His not being worried about looking good or acting in conventional ways showed me possibilities for being liberated in my work. His description of how to give feedback has stayed with me as a guide in my subsequent teaching:

Be Genuine, Relevant, Empathetic, Congruent.

These are values not just for the teacher or trainer, they are values for life.

Thank you, Paul.

Robert Feather



(opening slide)

I would like to say a few words about a person who has sadly passed away of heart attack this week. First I met Paul Davis face to face 20 years ago in Katowice where I organised an IATEFL Poland Conference and he was one of the speakers there.

Before, I had known him as an author of ELT books. Great books. One of them especially was an eye opener for me. I mean Dictation, which Paul wrote together with Mario Rinvoulucri. I never thought I could be working with Paul Davis, a walking intelligence I secretly called him.

The time came when one summer while I was teaching teenagers at a language school in Ireland I got an offer to teach a course at Pilgrims, where Paul Davis was DOS at the time. In this way we became colleagues. I will always remember many conversations we had about teaching of English and a lot of other things, about life.

He was my guide in Canterbury showing me interesting places like Josef Conrad Korzeniowski’s grave and others fascinating nooks. His wit was exceptional or rather unique, I should say. I would like to dedicate this webinar to Paul. RIP.

Marta Bujakowska



In the days when I could drink I would often go with Paul, maybe Tim Bowen sometimes Simon Marshall for a drink (or few). For those of us who are suffering lockdown now, being on a campus after a long summer of Pilgrims courses was analogous to this at least in part, and, however joyous the courses  were, this led to a state of stir craziness where we just had to get off campus. This was one of those nights.

Simon took us to one of his “locals” in Canterbury, the New Inn, and despite its name,  an old school pub with bar billiards, real ale, dingy lighting, flaking leather seats, badly configured bar stools and a grumpy landlord. The Landlord was an Austrian called Kurt who had lived in the UK for a long time and had a mixed accent with slithers of Kent / London glottal stops lined with umlauts. There was an inner circle of locals who seemed to resent any faces they didn’t recognise. We were OK because we were with Simon who had somehow won them over. After two pints Simon made his excuses, muttering something about a run in the morning, and left.

Our conversation flowed and waxed and before we had blinked, it was last orders at the bar. After various hints, pauses, coughs, negotiations to buy a bottle of wine, the grumpy landlord wanted to go to bed. Fully aware, Paul ignored him. Eventually I could see that we might be physically removed from the pub. He was not a small man, built like a brick house.  The Landlord said something like” Its time you overopinionated drunken, pink-faced, rude, stupid gentlemen sat at the bar was leaving” Quick as a flash, with mischief in his eyes said “It is time you stopped making grammatical errors.” I can’t remember if he actually corrected him.

There was an eternity of milliseconds when I saw my life flashing before my eyes. Rather than the flurry of fists I had been expecting, the barman was disarmed, eventually laughed and we left the pub unharmed. Paul walking on his toes out like a giggling sprite.

Paul liked living on the edge, and he was also one of the kindest, fun people you could meet.

Mike Shreeve



Paul was a good friend for over forty years and I of course have many strong memories of time spent together both as colleagues and as friends.  Eryl passed on a message asking for anecdotes for Humanising ELT and I wondered if any of the below would be of any interest.

It might surprise people who met Paul relatively recently to know that he was a very early adopter of computer technology in language teaching. He used his Sinclair ZX to inspire colleagues to feel confident about working with technology in a fun and communicative way. I’m particularly grateful to him for introducing me to Storyboard, a brilliant program for language learning (produced by WIDA Software in the mid 1980s).   Paul was a key figure in the informal after-school teacher development group which sprang up in Cambridge Eurocentre in the 1980s.  He was an enthusiastic and creative teacher who was always generous in sharing his ideas. Like Mario Rinvolucri he had a wonderful way of getting you to experience unusual but highly effective activities that you’d probably have thought ‘I could never do that’ if you’d just read about them.  Paul could be provocative as well as inspiring.  My husband Vladimir, aged 36 and newly arrived from Russia was put in Paul’s class. In his first week in school, Paul threw Vlad's pen out of the classroom window because he insisted on writing new vocabulary down.  It was the end of my husband’s attempts to learn English in a formal way but, despite that, he and Paul remained good friends. Paul and my husband had in fact met in Russia before Vladimir left. I remember Paul and I were travelling with a group from Leningrad to Moscow by train. Paul was so absorbed looking at the amazing ceiling of the Moscow Station in Leningrad that he got separated from the group and missed the train, an incident that in Soviet times certainly caused a few ripples

Felicity O’Dell



When Paul was on my RSA Diploma course in Cambridge in the late 70s, my first (rather conservative) impression was that he would never make a teacher.  He was long-haired and scruffily dressed.  I remember talking to him about it before his first teaching practice observation, and asking him to consider smartening up a bit.  He looked at me patiently and indulgently, and said in his gentle and quietly spoken way.  'I'm sorry but it's just me!  The students can take it or leave it".  I can't remember my immediate reaction, but when I observed his lesson I realised that I was in the presence of a natural teacher who had his own style and presence in the classroom.  He was one of the first teachers I knew to display a genuine sense of empathy with his learners.  That he went on to make such a valuable contribution to the profession was no surprise.'

Rod Bolitho




Gracelessly graceful

Messily meticulous

Effortlessly creative

Lover of good food, wine, beer, conversation

And argument…

Gregarious and generous

Endlessly engaging

Playful yet serious


I will miss your ‘boastfully-Brummie’ voice

In this world


I first met Paul in July 1994 at Pilgrims, where I was a brand-new trainer. We quickly became friends and passed many hilarious nights, discussing everything from systemic functional linguistics, to punk rock (I remember he had a penchant for a Japanese all-girl punk band at the time). We were regular summer housemates at Park Wood, after that, but I didn’t actually get to work with him until we co-tutored on a CELTA together in Canterbury, a couple of years later. He could only spare us 2 weeks, but he made such a huge impression on the trainees that they created a shrine to him, after he left and would go and sit there ‘to try and ‘get his take on things’’, which was a little difficult for the incoming trainer!

We worked together on CELTA and on other courses for a number of years and I learned so much from these experiences.

I remember him walking into a training room with a huge pile of photocopies. He tripped up and all the papers flew this way and that, across the room. He apologised, asked the group to sort the papers out for him and left the room. I was a bit shocked and asked him why he’d not picked up the papers himself. “Ah”, he said. “I thought it’d be a good starter activity because once they’ve sorted all the papers, they’ll have a better idea of what the session’s about and then we can do something more interesting with it”. I burst out laughing. Trust Paul to turn an accident into a creative process! Did he plan that? I’ll never know.

At the end of one summer on the hilltop, he came into our kitchen and announced he was in love. He’d been doing a weekend course and met the love of his life. I’d never seen nor heard him sound so excited or romantic! He remained, of course, in love with Hania for the rest of his life.

One December, we worked together in Cape Town with Shelagh Deller, where we had many adventures; from drinking in township shebeens to appearing in an MTV dance video, visiting the winelands to spotting seals and whales along the coast and, on the last day, we had the uncomfortable but hilarious experience of watching Paul explaining the concept of tipping to a waiter in a very posh restaurant, where we ate our last meal before heading to the airport. The waiter was singularly unimpressed by our offering: the remains of our South African money (a collection of change but amounting to quite a reasonable sum). Paul felt the waiter needed educating and so took on the job!

Paul was many things; a fabulous cook, a brilliant thinker and writer, an inspirational teacher and speaker, a proud cyclist, a pugnacious arguer, an impish entertainer and a warm, generous friend.

The ELT world has lost one of its rare maverick thinkers and those who loved him are now navigating the Paul Davis-shaped hole in their lives.

Hamba Kahle, Paul

Gill Johnson



(…) I did get his Cambridge address from you at one point. I thought if the football club he supported - Aston Villa - were ever playing Cardiff here I would invite him down, but they ended in different leagues.

I had no idea that he had heart problems. I will focus on remembering the enjoyable afternoon we spent in a cafe in Sopot and his oft repeated remark about Aston Villa.

“It’s not their defeats that trouble me. It’s managing the hopes I have of their success.” I think it’s an adaptation of a line in Becket’s ‘Godot’, which Paul duly acknowledged, but the use of it was entirely his own and the sentiment an expression of an endearing personal philosophy of life. 

I do feel sad. These grey days. I, we, must cherish those we have and what we have.

Paul Jeffrey Lodge



For Paul:

TA Paul, for all I learnt from you both personally and professionally.

TA Paul, for taking care of me over almost two decades at home, in Parkwood. Your dinners were delicious only you would save far too much for me; two pasta screws, a lettuce leaf, a cherry tomato, and half a nut!

Ta Paul, for always having had the time to share your great knowledge as a trainer, for inspiring me, and for sharing unforgettable times, at home, and in the workplace.

Without you being aware you supported me as a trainer, showed me different “Ways of Doing”, a book of yours that I always carry with me, like Linus carrying his blanket. A precious mentor you were, indeed!

Simply TA, Paul!

Your South-African-Italian- friend and colleague.

Stefy Balotto



My first encounter with the name Paul Davis was seeing that name on the cover of the book Paul wrote with Mario Rinvolucri on ideas for using dictation in language classes. To say that this book was influential would be an understatement. As a teacher trainer, I have seen so many ideas from that book being implemented by teachers in many countries and, while some ideas may of course have been passed on by other teachers, the book was and remains an invaluable source of incredibly creative ideas for exploiting an aspect of teaching that many would previously have dismissed as dull and of little practical value. That book proved the opposite and a well-leafed copy still sits on my bookshelf.

I believe my first actual meeting with Paul was during a CELTA assessment of a course he was co-tutoring in Durban, South Africa. Input sessions and teaching practice were enlivened by monkeys scuttling across the roof of the classroom and peering in through the windows. While I found this quite cute, Paul’s reaction was somewhat less enthusiastic as the ‘bloody things’ kept him awake at night by repeating the performance on the roof of the tutors’ sleeping quarters.

Returning to Pilgrims after an absence of many years, I then had the experience of working with Paul as a colleague for the first time, sharing courses and sharing accommodation. This was my first real encounter with Paul’s inimitable style both inside and outside the classroom. His training sessions drew obvious admiration from the participants for their creativity and, above all, for their unpredictability. Outside the classroom, it took me a while to get used to Paul’s debating style. I think it would be fair to say that he enjoyed an argument and, indeed, being confrontational when it seemed either a good idea to be so or good fun to provoke those he was conversing with. Being aware of this made socialising with Paul very enjoyable and his in-depth knowledge of numerous subjects made conversations with him both stimulating and illuminating.

Paul will be sorely missed and while he had retired from active teacher training, his spirit will live long amongst his Pilgrims colleagues and those teachers from around the world who had the good fortune to be participants on one of his courses. I am proud to have been able to call Paul Davis a valued colleague and a good friend.

Tim Bowen



I have known Paul for over 30 years as a colleague and friend. We were both trainers on Pilgrims courses in the UK and co-ran a teacher training course in Belgium. He also did several teacher training sessions for my school in Gdańsk and it is very sad that I shall not be able to share views, or sometimes argue with him anymore. I have also known him privately as my close friend’s partner and got some insight into his personal philosophy of life. 

As I look over those years, I see  many  intensive colours from the  spectrum  of light  and strong images fill my memory : the rebellious reds that give backdrop to our past arguments, warm shades of orange which bring back the moments when, in his generosity,  Paul would  be  giving presents – like, on a New Year’s Eve  when  he  gave a rose  to my  ailing Mother , making her feel like the Queen, or  to me  when I  moved to a new flat – a smoke detector which later did go off at the right moment. Some images bring a strong scent and flavour of spices and aroma (Paul was a skilled cook) as well as wine or craft beer.

Friends of Paul were probably aware of his unfailing support of Aston Villa which he liked to bring to conversation by paraphrasing and acknowledging Becket: “It’s not their defeats that trouble me. It’s managing the hopes I have of their success.”

Paul was a person of many colours and flavours and seemed to be guided by his own star.   Sometimes our conversations were like boxing rounds with neither of us willing to throw the towel in. But despite his, on occasions, provocative manner, his main point and choice was to side with the weaker and more vulnerable. That’s how I shall remember him – a caring person with a big heart.


Małgosia Szwaj



I first met Paul in the mid-90s when he came to work in Poznań on one of the first teacher training courses I ever ran. We hit if off immediately and although we never got to repeat the experience despite various attempts to team up again professionally over the years, we remained good friends, visiting one another in Cambridge and Poland numerous times over the years.

I am sure that other contributors will talk about Paul’s fierce intellect and his penchant for mischief, both of which I also appreciated and enjoyed greatly. I was certainly fond of a little mischief making myself when we first met, though I’ve become better behaved with age – admirably, I don’t think Paul did!

Paul was also a man of great principle, and one of the qualities I admired most in him was that he was always prepared to act on his principles, both in the way he lived his everyday life and through drawing the attention of others to instances of wrong-doing or poorly thought through opinions. He walked the walk.

And yet, despite holding such strong principles, Paul was a great listener. He was curious, open to the new and very keen to hear from those who were often not heard. He had a great sense of justice and inclusion.

He was a warm, generous person who, despite all the roll-ups and wine, I thought would be around forever. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that he’s not. My life is definitely poorer without him around.

Tim Hazell



Paul and I were teaching on a residential course. I was pregnant and he had heard that prune juice was good for expectant mothers. Each day he’d bring me copious servings and insist I drink it. Somehow this has stuck in my mind as an example of his quirky, but undeniable, kindness.

Judy Baker



Paul was a friend and colleague for nearly all of my ELT career. He was well informed on most ELT and other matters, and I deeply enjoyed conversations with him, which could range from friendly tête-à-tête’s over a coffee or a pint, to sustained left wing harangues, and everything in between. These were always a delight and sometimes shocking, too. Paul was witty, wicked and wise, and no mere intellectual either because he felt what he said and said what he felt. And he felt passionately about what education could be and what it failed to be, and the unrealised potential of nearly all people.  We shared views on teaching and learning, and it was a pleasure to tackle difficult issues in conversation with him.   I probably first met Paul in Cambridge, but later we met annually at Caleb Gattegno’s workshops in Bristol during the 1980’s, and this common ground, formed in front of a truly original thinker, inspired our interactions during the many teacher training programmes on which we were both engaged over the last 25 years. I am grateful to have been a friend of one of the great iconoclasts of ELT, and I and a great many others will miss Paul dearly.

Adrian Underhil


On Hamsters, Chair Circles, and Orchids

In Memory of Paul Davis

I first met Paul almost 20 years ago, as a trainee in my very first summer course. Three days into Creative Methodology, with my notions about teaching partially taken apart, I went into this evening special about teaching grammar. Good, solid grammar, something you could rely on.

In came Paul, one trouser leg still bound with a rope from cycling, placed three chairs in the centre of the classroom and made us interview … a hamster. A dead hamster, what is more, its negligent 11 years old owner and his exasperated mother. Paul moved from chair to chair, changed his voice, answered questions that were getting increasingly ridiculous … never before had I laughed so much, certainly not in a workshop about grammar.

Fast forward a few years. As a fresh and proud Pilgrims trainer, I shared a house with Paul, Linda, Simon, Stefania … Coming back from Rutherford, the first thing I saw was often Paul, sitting on a chair outside the kitchen, smoking. Gradually, a circle of chairs would be built around him.

While thinking what to write, I was asking myself, if anyone, who shared memories about Paul would omit the statement, “he liked his discussions.” Yes, he did. Some were deeply philosophical, about religion, language, and the meaning of human existence, others, about the use of hair-driers in the morning – less so. Paul could provoke and enjoyed provoking. But in all discussion, the solid foundation behind witty questions and snippy remarks was caring. Paul cared – for people, for the squirrels in the trees around the campus, for the small, unassuming wild orchids on the narrow strip of grass opposite the dorms. He protected those orchids and their tender, brittle blossoms. A year later, the orchids were there again. Paul wasn’t. The circle of chairs outside the kitchens was never the same.

Paul cared and was kind and helpful, when you needed kindness and help.

To me, a latecomer to Pilgrims, he belonged to the “big names”, together with Mario, Simon, Sheelagh, Bonnie… When he left, his absence was felt palpably.

I cannot and will not claim that I knew Paul better than others or that he was a special friend. But I genuinely liked and respected him, and I am still grateful for that hamster-interview that made me laugh, when I really needed to laugh.

Rest in Pease, Paul, you will be remembered.

Marina Marinova



No day passes that I do not think of you and Paul. Even though I was never part of the inner circle,   Paul and I shared some lovely moments of fun, for instance when I bought a kite and flew it out on the big field on the hilltop. Paul joined me and we had great fun playing, as if we were children. I suppose it was flying that kite that inspired this haiku for him.

You left as you lived

Drifted off when no planes up

Witty vibrant Paul

Kati Somogyi-Tóth



Rest In Peace the ELT giant and my friend Paul Davis. Three books by you greatly influenced me when I first started teaching - The confidence book, More grammar games, and Dictation. Pretty boring titles all of them but wonderful, inspiring, innovative books which made me feel desperate to get into a classroom. You were an argumentative old so and so and I valued this immensely, especially for your commitment to stand up for Palestinian people. You will be sorely missed!

Nick Bilbrough



Paul Davis passed away (…). Years before I met him in person, his books were a source of inspiration, especially the one on dictation (co-authored with Mario Rinvolucri.). What an eye-opener.

Later I got to know Paul through work and found him so mischievous, anarchic, curious and creative. Many memories come back ... him helping me when he was DoS, a seafood meal with cockles in Canterbury - all the trainers round the table, drinking endless coffee with him in Cambridge. He was a generous person, too. Without his help, my son and I would have found it much harder to move back to the UK. Paul, I hope you're enjoying an excellent glass of wine and developing provocative conversations with those who have already journeyed beyond. Surely there is Valhalla for you.

Kristina Smith



In Memoriam Paul Davis

It was a shock to learn of Paul’s passing. He was a distinctive character on campus, riding his bicycle, smoking while chatting in the courtyard during coffee-breaks, or sitting outside the house with his glass of wine in the evenings. He was extremely witty and intelligent, generous and friendly, but above all kind. He wasn’t always easy to share a house with, but that didn’t stop us being friends, sharing meals and conversation. When he was Director of Studies, he was extremely concerned with our well-being, as well as that of the trainees, looking out for us and making sure we had all we needed.

An anecdote comes to mind from one of my first summers on the hilltop. I arrived at Park Wood Reception after three flights, dragging my heavy luggage, to collect the key to my room. On opening the door, I was appalled to see clothes, dirty trainers and empty drink cans strewn around – the teenage occupant of the room fortunately absent. I retreated hastily to Reception, where I was given another key. Incredibly, the same thing happened again. By this time I was indignant as well as exhausted. Paul happened to see me and came to my rescue. He took my luggage, sat me down with a glass of wine, listened to my woes, and then went with me to Reception, where he gave them a piece of his mind regarding efficiency (or lack thereof), and I finally got the right key.

Another time, I was packing to come back to Patagonia when I realised I hadn’t bought any ginger and lemon tea, which wasn’t available here at the time, to bring home. Paul gave me the whole box. I could go on with examples of friendliness.

Paul, you will be missed not only by those closest to you, but by all the extended Pilgrims family and beyond. Rest in peace. Witty, unique and a maverick! Once identified as someone who would blush and be teased by Paul Davis one’s life is never the same again.

The great kindness Paul showed me when I did my first stint at Pilgrims summer school more than 15 years ago and the delicious meals he foraged for us made a lasting friendship. A wonderfully quirky sense of humour which I will miss. Big virtual hugs dear pal xx

Linda Yael



How I met Paul:  memories from working at Pilgrims (2007-2010) and after

I can’t remember who took me to the shared house but I do remember it was the last 2 weeks of the Pilgrims summer programme. When I arrived Paul was in the kitchen and looked pleased to see me. That’s a good sign, I thought to myself!

‘Have you thought about dinner?’, asked Paul. I hadn’t ... and arriving on a Sunday everything was closed.

‘Never mind I’ll go foraging’. And with that Paul disappeared with a determined look on his face.

Later that day I was treated to a veritable feast! Paul’s foraging was into the kitchen cupboards of the now empty houses used by Pilgrim trainers and students during the summer programme. Exotic food (to me) from all over Europe, Poland, Malaysia and other places had been left and collected.

This was typical of Paul, generous, funny and very, very kind and thoughtful. But don’t ever cross him!

Over the next four years I was always in the same house as Paul, who arranges these things at Pilgrims I don’t know but I was very grateful to be included in this inner circle. The house was always full of fascinating trainers like Bonnie, Marie, Chaz and the energy was electric.

Years later I visited Cambridge for work and Paul invited me to stay at his home. Again what a feast was laid on and what a fabulous host he was. That was the last time I actually saw Paul but we kept in touch in social media. Paul regularly teased me on my postings which to an outsider might have seemed scathing but I knew the manner his comments were meant to be taken so never took offence.

Earlier this year I was able to repay some of wonderful generosity by treating him to Mindful Chef food boxes. The content reminded me so much of his foraging! A few garlic cloves here, a smattering of paprika there, a little wild garlic et voila a feast!

We also shared a love of wine, Paul’s choices were always eclectic and mine positively pedestrian (New Zealand Sauv blanc and nothing else).

So dear pal I will miss our gossip on the phone or online. You lived your life to the full and would have made a very miserable invalid. One cannot really ask for much more. You have left behind wonderful memories in the hearts and minds of those who cared for you.

Wendy Arnold



This great photo captures a side of him I remember most, amiable, engaged, furiously devoted to debate big, small, self-effacing, sharp as a roomful of tacks, & there, so there. He will be missed most by those who knew him long.

He and I in Ukraine in 2000, interminable piercing whistled trains so Zhivago, much tea from the passing samovar, cards played, talk through the night, then the euphoric sessions.

Beerfest, Cambridge, 2002, first summer after I moved UK, married six months, son on the way come December, Paul introduced me to the Eagle and a long and winding wander of the city, crystalline brilliant friendship.

A teacup with Gromit of Wallace & Gromit he gave me one Park Wood summer around that same time, when I take it down those testimonies you collected seem contained like a storm of recollection in that teacup.

That dinner we had at Sheelagh’s probably 2011 when I was DOS and Paul gave me no uncertain feedback as to my too laidback attitude to giving staff guidance, his fierce nature to give got up a lot of noses as you know, but I remember that evening as a dagger of truth.

There was a time, one of many. Ah, Paul.


                                                                                                                                    Rick Cooper


Tolstoy sits down to write War and Peace, a huge stack of blank paper looming in front of him on his desk. He takes the first sheet off the top and, after gazing out of the window for a while with an equally blank stare, dips his pen in his inkwell and begins to write: “Once upon a time ….”

Puts pen down. Sits back. Thinks: “No, that won’t do. Clichéd.” Screws paper into ball and chucks into waste paper basket. Or into corner of room. Takes second sheet off top of stack and gazes out of window ….

I suppose that’s roughly how, at one time, I used to imagine the process of writing a book.

But then .…

In 1980-odd I went to Cambridge to give a workshop for the local teachers’ association, and was billeted in Paul’s flat. I think that was probably the first time I met him, though I could be wrong. And looming out of the proliferation of clutter was a computer – big, as they were in those days, and a surprise because those days were still the days when most people – ordinary people – didn’t have computers. Paul was writing the Dictation book at the time, and explained that he tried things out in his classes and if they seemed worthwhile he came home and wrote them up, one page today, another tomorrow, maybe, or the day after. And printed them out so that, gradually, a stack of paper accumulated. A bit like Tolstoy in reverse, and definitely a much more appealing and manageable way of writing a book. And so I eventually invested in a computer and did the same.

I was also struck by the topic of the book. Dictation. After all, there are tons of grammar books, vocabulary books, reading books, writing books ….. but as far as I know there’s only one dictation book. So it’s an example of Paul being Paul and being a bit different from other folk, seeing things a bit differently, seeing things that other people don’t notice particularly, or don’t think are important. And steering away from clichés. And being, in spite of the flailing arms, the swirling unruly hair, the mislaying of belongings, the often self-repeating torrent of talk, actually very disciplined and assiduous.

In our sporadic encounters over the next 35 years, here and there, apart from language and teaching we sometimes talked about music. I think I’ve got a pretty wide taste in music, but it was generally hard to come up with anything I liked that he liked as well. Another topic we quite often talked about was beer, and here we usually managed to find more common ground. Still, on one of the last occasions when I met him, I let him have a sup of a beer I was drinking and thinking was pretty good, and he metaphorically screwed it into a ball and chucked it into the corner of the bar with a single-word verdict: “Clichéd.”

                                                                                                                           Jonathan Marks



Every time we met, Paul always reminded me that the best potatoes are from Cyprus and that even the McDonalds in UK used potatoes from Cyprus to make their fries. And he made me chuckle every time...

But more importantly...

Paul was always kind and gentle to me...

At Pilgrims, whenever our paths crossed, he always encouraged me to do more than I did at that moment because I COULD he said...

Yes, he was the brightest, the funniest, the wittiest, and the co-author of several books with our beloved Mario Rinvolucri...but for me, he was caring and always present to show interest in the potential of others. One word from him meant a lot, coupled with the bright light in his eyes; he meant what he said, his eyes truly expressed what he felt. He was a genuine soul...Thanks for having been a part of my life, too, Paul…

Sezgi Yalin



Paul was so supportive to me when I least expected it one year on the hill. It was at the end of summer and I had an English for teachers class. Three truly vindictive women gave me hell in the first three days of a course because they couldn't change to Paul's group. It was a nightmare and I finally cracked and told them how I felt. I lost that class and felt so very low because I lost my cool. Who supported me? Paul. I will never forget that when I really needed it. Thank you Paul.

Peter Dyer



Can't quite believe you're gone, Paul.  Still waiting for this quick repartee, a sharp verbal blow to par...and to laugh about later...  Can't believe we'll never see this glint in your eyes, sheer wit mixed with great kindness. Never heard a harsh word from you, co-training was always so easy and enjoyable, smooth sailing... We'll never forget the disputes you had with our  daughter, treating her very seriously even at the age of eight... Salt of the earth... whenever we use the salt pig which is a replacement for the funny pink one you gave us, we think about you. How kind and generous you were, so much fun to be with. Thank you so much for enriching our lives.

Magda, Marian and Oleńka Zamorscy



24 years of my life with Paul Davis in language chunks: precious love, deep friendship, company of colleagues and friends, Pilgrims in Canterbury, good food and wine, restaurants or sharing the cooking at home, endless chats and phone calls, travels between Sopot and Cambridge, conferences, hello’s and good-bye’s, comings and goings, walks along the Cam or the beach on the Baltic coast, social life or quiet evenings at home, candles or sometimes the fireplace you loved to play with. And so much more...

Paul, your favourite song and your favourite band… Thank you for the days……

Hania (Kryszewska)


Listen to Days a song for Paul

Thank you for the days

Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me

I'm thinking of the days

I won't forget a single day, believe me

I bless the light

I bless the light that lights on you believe me

And though you're gone

You're with me every single day, believe me

Days I'll remember all my life

Days when you can't see wrong from right

You took my life

But then I knew that very soon you'd leave me

But it's all right

Now I'm not frightened of this world, believe me

I wish today could be tomorrow

The night is dark

It just brings sorrow, let it wait

Thank you for the days

Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me

I'm thinking of the days

I won't forget a single day, believe me

Days I'll remember all my life

Days when you can't see wrong from right

You took my life

But then I knew that very soon you'd leave me

But it's all right

Now I'm not frightened of this world, believe me


Thank you for the days

Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me

I'm thinking of the days

I won't forget a single day, believe me

I bless the light

I bless the light that shines on you believe me

And though you're gone

You're with me every single day, believe me



Tagged Pilgrims News