“Do you remember – years ago – “ he said, “We met up in some bookshop. I was with my sister. She was quite impressed with you – said you had a gentleness, an air of understanding – and a lovely voice.” “ That’s nice,” I said, yet knowing as I spoke I had no memory of that day at all. It wasn’t me they’d met. The conversation ended, but he stayed, my doppelganger – kindly, gentle, calm – the kind of man I once hoped I’d become. I look for him each morning in the mirror and sometimes catch a glimpse, but then he’s gone.
In a summer garden
Piled in a blue bowl, sun
polishing their gloss;
the name’s soft consonants
springs water in your mouth.
Don’t hold it by the stem
and slice away the flesh with your front teeth.
Put one in your mouth and feel
cool roundness on your tongue,
then bite the skin, bruised flesh,
teeth touching a knot of bone
and juice, trickling like dark blood
in the corner of your mouth.
As my Granny never said.
However you slice it, we are the past. Every single molecule of us is a slightly shabby copy of what went before.So we have to make the best of what we’ve got.
” Check your six” said every wartime fighter ace – well, all the ones who didn’t get shot down. ” Who ever ignores the pasty is doomed to eat it” … maybe I’ve I’ve got a bit confused there…
And what I’ve got was given me by my teachers. My Dad was the first. He taught chemistry and enthusiasm – I was a poor chemist but I lapped up the enthusiasm. He wasn’t just a white coat who waved test tubes about, he loved stories. When I was six he read me ” The Once and Future King by T H White. It’s a lovely book full of knights in armour, hawks, ants, beautiful ladies and battles. I lapped it up. When I was nine he read Shakespeare with me-aloud- we drove my mother wild. He acted in college plays, and I loved going back stage to see him in costume and make-up.It was thrilling.
Of course, we had disagreements. My teenage rebellion was pretty wide ranging. I didn’t want to be a chemist – and I would never, ever be a teacher and follow in my father’s footsteps. I was going to be an Actor and spent all my time in am- dram , in local theatre groups and in the university drama society. I wasted three years and came out of college with a bad degree and the dawning realisation that actors are more frequently out of work than in it. I liked eating regularly, so I did a teacher training course – just to fill in time.
I was a teacher for thirty years and loved almost all of it.