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Long live all maidens

easy and beautiful !

Long live mature women also,

Tender and loveable and full of good labor. 

Gaudeamus Igitur

Our lives became intertwined the day we began to slide clandestine notes back and forth during a writing course. Consequently, once the course ended, we embarked on a series of emails and surprisingly, an epistolary adventure unravelled. In these exchanges we bare our souls about love and life … things are never quite what they seem.

While we want to be courageous in our re-telling, we ask you to keep in mind the words of John Irving – please remember that all memoir is fiction.

Adria and Sarah

Sunday
Sep132009

The Beginning of the End

Hi Adria, 

I already miss our bizarre little writing group! And our eccentric (hugely eccentric) teacher! And her weird assignments! Maybe we should start looking for another course.  

 Giving up the freedom of summer is always hard for me, but going back to school during this perfect weather is painful. And leaving the garden is downright torture. The roses are about to bloom and my arrogant hibiscus is bursting with huge orangey flowers. When I’m sitting having my early morning (mournful) coffee, they seem to stare into the kitchen mocking me. 

 I may have told you that I am thinking of leaving teaching at the end of this year, thus my cavalier subject/title. And the first day reinforced my desire to do so. 

 I’ve already had one incident. As soon as the student walked into the class, her body language put me on Alert Mode. She didn’t look at anyone, she didn’t answer when I said good morning and she didn’t stop texting when I pointed to the sign that reads, No Texting in Class.  Over the next two days, she complained about this and that and got angry when someone sat in her seat, although it is free seating.  By Friday, her complaints grew louder, although we did chat about it being her birthday and about her personality (sic) style etc.  Then I heard her talking into her cell. This assignment is stupid.  I remained calm – after all it was only Day Three. Still calm, I said that that was why the 3U class was more challenging than the 3C.  I’m too smart for College classes, she added, slamming her book shut. I went on. They can be demanding also, but less than the U classes, with less analysis, so you might prefer ... She now mumbled that’s insulting into her phone. This time I pointed to the sign that reads, No Cell Phone Use in Class.  She stood up.  I knew what was coming.  She stomped out of the room, slamming the door behind her.  

I’m sure it was staged. The rest of the students looked at me in surprise. Most of them did not understand how this could happen in an Adult School.  But it does happen and often. All I could do was shrug.  Here we go, I thought.  

So, Adria, as we’ve discussed, even though we have good pensions and benefits, and the itinerants in Private Schools do not, I really don’t think you’d be happy in the Public System.  But let’s keep on chatting about it. 

Have you been practicing lately?  Such luxuries, but still work in a way.  Are you looking forward to getting back to your teaching schedule?

 Have a lovely Sunday.

 Sarah

Monday
Sep142009

Don't be jealous!

Hi Sarah,

Yes, irony indeed! That is absolutely crazy, this sun and warmth and now it's back to work. 

So wow! Such belligerence and it's just your first week. I can't say that I have personally experienced this kind of behaviour. I know that at my private school any sort of incident is handled immediately and in the senior school it can even mean expulsion.

 At this point in my life I've adopted the attitude of going along with whatever it is the administration wants. I know my place, which is to wait for regular academic classes to be established before we, the annually contracted, itinerant, instrumental music teachers are called in for the first meeting of the year. At that point we will be handed the names of those students who want to study with us, in my case, piano students. Sometimes that pile of applications is thinner for some teachers than for others, and quick, imperceptible glances at each other’s pile occurs on cue, every year. Armed with printouts of each student's unique timetable, we then set off to put together our weekly teaching schedules, organized into half hour slots. I always keep my fingers crossed that any conflict with extra curricular activities such as field trips, track meets, ballet or mandarin clubs will be minimal. 

Just thinking about this weeklong ordeal gives me a bonking headache. The calling of each parent to get this set in stone is like a game of chess.

But I’m ready! Enough stewing. When I visited the school last week, I passed my favourite plane tree. It’s still there (you never know these days, with the constantly changing landscape of the grounds). I noticed the proliferation of new ivy growth that drapes itself between the stained glass windows along the chapel walls. In the reception area, always the picture of class and substance. First impressions are important. 

The receptionist was holding two phones to her ears and sat in her niche adorned by the perennial rose garden of the courtyard quadrangle just beyond her. This orderly oasis is my view as well, as my studio window looks out onto this bit of English country charm. Needless to say, such a calming view is a comforting escape when dealing with the frustrations of poor note readers. But the parents always have high hopes that their sweeties will be able to play at least a song or two by Happy Holiday season.

I tried to be nonchalant, carefully signed in, slapped on the required ID sticker, manoeuvred the drop sheets (lots of cosmetic work going on before the actual arrival of students) and made my way from the front hall to the music office on the second floor. 

I felt like an interloper (the teachers were focused on computer screens, backs rounded like beetles) and had to break the spell by asking my questions about possibly borrowing music books, the times of our meeting and other (to them) trivia. I sensed a slight bit of envy. After all, I was feeling exuberant (still) and not hunched over a computer besieged by an administrative shitload. They have chosen pensions (they hope) and their dose of seven am band and choir rehearsals, foregoing even their lunch at times, to catch an impromptu meeting.

As always, my visit reinforced my complete love of that place with all the memories that take me back to the earliest years when I could blush at just being spoken to by executive fathers and high society mothers. The only disheartening thing that I found difficult to stomach this time was that feeling of being at the bottom of the pile.

Yes, I've been practising after a well-deserved temporary lull and was really excited to get a feel for some of the new repertoire. I found Sakura in one of the early grade books-- so wistful and exotic -- you have to picture geishas in their colourful kimonos, covering their faces with opened fans. Echoes of November is a little more advanced and in the challenging key of D flat major, deeply romantic and reminiscent of a movie score. I'm standing on a cliff somewhere with my little harp, the waves lapping against granite.

Choir was great. I love it! It's my personal meditation time where I lose myself once a week. Warmed up in the car, the lip trills, the glissandos (turned up my windows at intersections so pedestrians wouldn't hear me) Brahms Requiem lifted my spirits. That is entirely a different realm. Ahh!

Let's have a beer at our usual place and must tell you about my precocious student who had a lesson with me last week in her home. Clue word: phlox.

Hope week two will be more positive. We'll support each other along the way.

Adria.  

Wednesday
Sep162009

Peking Duck

Hi Sarah,

Second week of school and still no sign of starting up. It's taking a while for them to get their act together I guess. Ok with me. More time for all the other things.

Of course $$ is important and I continue to teach privately in the homes of students. That 'phlox' word referred to Candy’s fairy tale home that just bowled me over. Surrounded entirely by phlox. Imagine the fragrance. 

Candy greeted me at the door in her white cotton muslin dress -- all flared and splashed with colourful fruit appliqués. Overeager after the summer's lull we reviewed five-finger warm-ups; arms out like the wings of a bird. Repeat, repeat. Play from the knuckle! Drill is such a huge part of what I do. I’m trying to build up strength in those spindly brown slivers of fingers. She whistled along with her playing, all in pitch. Time flew. I got up (had to make it to choir downtown) and saw my reflection in a mirror patterned after some medieval chapel artefact where a Madonna would have been hidden from view until you opened the wooden doors. Candy took a close look at the tiny metal plaque. Hmm ... this says 1843, she tells me.

The talk at the door always adds minutes to the lesson but you learn a lot about the families. The son goes to the ballet school. He plays a red electric guitar. His stare is intense. Her other children (maybe from a second marriage) study at prestigious institutes in Europe. Canadian school holidays are too long she says.

Ok. So, Peking Duck. That was the pièce de résistance of a thank you dinner hosted at Yin's by the Wang family for my work with their daughter, Marjorie, an excellent student who has completed her final concert levels in the conservatory system, the Associate of the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto (ARCT). My family loved it, an experience in true Chinese dining: a slice of duck is placed on a thin round of wrap, then a dab of hoysin sauce, a sliver of green onion and cucumber are added and voila! Just pop it in your mouth. Lots of other dishes too: hollowed out pineapple halves with sweet and sour chicken (not so traditional), taro bowls (edible) of steaming broccoli, pork bits, tofu, and mushrooms. Absolutely mouth watering. Red bean soup, sweet to the taste, with a platter of anti-oxidant, gelatinous miniature hearts for dessert.

Mr. Wang shares my disdain for the three pm crowd that daily occupies the circular school driveway at pick-up time, the vying for parking spots and the risk of being mowed down by aggressive types in armoured SUV's who always seem to win out. He won't have to ever do it again and is thankful his daughter is now going to university. Their praise for twelve years of work with Marjorie and her recent success was lavish. I wish I'd written down what they said.

I didn't realize I’d built up such a relationship with this family. It just evolved. Twelve years and a little girl became a young woman focusing on sciences at university. Will she still play the piano? Perhaps. A bit. Maybe once she’s married and wants to teach her own children. Such a chunk of life that just swam by. Teaching piano does that. It gives me perspective. I think I love it for that reason, seeing what I can add to each girl's life from week to week.

It's all about perspective, right? 

Waiting for your insights. Sunshine again today. What a glorious month this is!

Adria

Saturday
Sep192009

Week 2 

Hi Adria.

Hope by now you have heard from the school and have an idea of your schedule.  It’s frustrating in a way, as you say, but oh, all that time to pursue other activities.

Such appreciative parents!  I’m sure their gratitude makes all your hard work worthwhile.  You must remember some of what they said to you. You also wrote that you didn’t realize you had built up such a relationship, but they were invited to your daughter’s wedding, right? So they are certainly more than casual acquaintances.  

Oh yes, Peking duck. When I lived in Hong Kong and went out with my Chinese friends, it was all about eating. Whatever activity we were taking part in, food was involved at some point. I love eating with chopsticks as one can only pick up morsels. It seems more civilized than watching people stack as much food on a fork as possible and then shovelling it all in. Westerners seem to have a hard time with the concept of sharing food though.  We seem to be afraid of not getting our fair share. It is never like that when eating with Chinese friends. They make sure the guest has plenty and there is always more than enough for everyone. And no one mentions money after the meal, right? The bill appears. It’s paid with someone’s credit card and before leaving the restaurant everyone has paid back his/her share. My friends could not understand our habit of dividing up the bill (in open view of other patrons), and passing money around.

The ‘Phlox House’ really does seem inhabited by wealthy eccentrics in a fairy tale.  Your whole description was fascinating – a surreal canvas: The Mother, standing at the door, The Child, an ephemeral character in white, The Brother, almost sinister with his intense stare and The Madonna, hiding from view. Such a different reality from many of my ‘clients’ who live on the streets in downtown Toronto or in group homes.  Interesting dichotomy.

I have to say that my classes are quite good – a grade ten with several ESL students who are clever and learn quickly.  But most of them need to work to support themselves and help out the family, so absenteeism is an increasing problem.  One of the boys, one of the luckier ones, came here from Mexico last year, with both parents.  He was telling me that they arrived in the fall and his mother photographed almost every tree she saw.  He said there was no stopping her; she was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the changing colours.

At the end of the day, I was in the office and one of the students, a boy whom I had chastised earlier about missing so many classes so early in the term (who just kept saying sorry) asked if he could help by carrying the box of books I was holding.  He proceeded to take it from me and bring it all the way to the portable.  How sweet is that?

My bag is full of tests to correct. Ugh. The bane of English teachers.  As the kids say don’t give us so much work and then you won’t have so much to correct.  Good thinking. 

It is unfortunate about next weekend, Adria.  As I said, I may have to go to Montreal because my Aunt, the smaller of the two small women you met when we had breakfast together at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, is now in long-term care and will probably never return to her apartment. Isn’t that sad? I now have no one left in Montreal with whom to stay when I visit.  It is truly the end of an era and very difficult to take it all in.

Blue Sarah



Sunday
Sep202009

Culture Shock  

Hi,

Spent Saturday morning touring the Lakeshore by bike. Best shopping in Oakville! I told Carlo what good it did me (going into Tocca Finita…the Posh Shoppe… mostly looking of course) as my exposure to some of the "types" I deal with during the school year had diminished over the summer and, really, it's always culture shock when I go back. One September I was so hyped up that I ran smack into a new glass door that had not been there prior to the holidays. I even assured my student who was with me when it happened that I was just fine thank you, although I did think my nose had been disfigured by the impact. It's about desperately saving face. 

I feel this tension begin to possess me as I get closer to starting lessons. It has everything to do with making sure I deal properly with this set of people: be smart, dress smart, talk fast, act breezy, be in the know and still retain the warm and wise ways that would be age appropriate for me. I’m telling you, Sarah, this has to be the greatest balancing act! 

Do you ever feel like you’re acting with your students? How often would you have to deal with the parents? When I saw these kids yesterday being catered to at Delice de France (normally just go to Cobbs) I thought get used to it: the indulgence, the spoiling, the pampering. In Whole Foods I had a woman blocking the entire grape bin with her latest model of stroller/sleigh while she indulgently picked away at choosing green grapes. I stood quietly for several minutes beginning to feel irritated and did she say Oh …sorry? No she did not. Of course, I did what I will have to be doing a lot and what I've become very good at… asserting myself. So, excuse me but I need to get at those red grapes. She moved to let me squeeze by and immediately lit nasally into her toddler about green grapes and how mommy was getting something or other for supper and did he like that? Deflecting of course. The stupidity.

Finally some directives! A meeting for us by mid- week. Private lessons won’t really start till the last week of September. That school is buzzing already. According to one mother (this is where you and I are opposites, as I talk constantly with parents) her daughter volunteered for House Head and is already attending seven am meetings. These girls learn at a very early age to sell themselves body and soul to the cause.

Your grade 11 boy (young man, really) sounds so genuine. Very sweet of him to carry that box of books for you. These are the things that help make your day! Your mission seems clear, Sarah, not just the English teaching but to prepare these individuals for life.  Challenging in every way.

My afternoon was lazy and I indulged. No leaf blowers. No building projects. No BBQ's (everyone takes off for cottage country on these still summer-like weekends) The air in my garden was so very still, the perfect setting for writing .

Will check the dates and times for the Rubens exhibit. Hoping it won't conflict with your Montreal trip. Love our cultural outings. Want to discuss the POV in Damon Galgud's The Lover and The Guardian (both from the Paris Review). Not straightforward.

Hope all the tests are corrected and that you're out there doing something fun! I have work too and am ploughing through the Grade 10 RCM repertoire.

Adria

Saturday
Sep262009

Steinways and Marmots  

Hi Sarah, 

I do love being back among the girls! Little clusters of them, feeling their way around the school. Sort of like geese keeping each other warm, and somewhere in the group, a mother goose to lead them.

Finally had our meeting last Wed. and such accommodating gestures on the part of admin. Time slotting for lessons has never been easier. With the new individual student profile sheets I can see a student’s timetable at a glance. But that doesn’t eliminate the calls and emails to parents, the back and forth business of making it work. Will they do RCM exams? Pop? Jazz? How long for each lesson? What do I require from them re. practice input. A confident, authoritative tone is good. It motivates, says we're getting started here.

I managed to reach one family by texting the father in New York. One mother I reached on her cell as she was standing at her sister’s bedside at St. Joseph’s Hospital where her sister has just lost one breast. And I'm talking piano to her. She tells me her medical troubles. I say call me later. I'm so sorry. She tells me it’s been three years of hell. Franca, her daughter, is a vulnerable 13 year old. She’s in with the wrong group at St.Hildegarde Academy. The lead bully reduces her daily to tears. They smoke, experiment with guys from Appleby. Franca plays Dussek sonatinas and resembles a Renaissance Madonna with Mona Lisa eyes.  Can you help her? Her mother asks.

I talk to the Tuchties, Dubois and Bertollis, the Harringtons, Chisholms and Changs. When parents answer the phone their voices echo in hollow mansions. We settle lesson times and dates and I get directions to their ravine and waterfront residences, mostly in Old Oakville. I remember getting lost once in one of these spectacular homes after a trip to the bathroom.

Some of the little ones are so precious. Like the one who stopped playing her Steinway mid-phrase in a mood piece about the sky and asked if I was afraid of rodents. No. Are you?

No. She shakes her head. I want to introduce you to my marmot later. On my way out she did cartwheels on the black and white chequered floor of the foyer.

Ok gotta go. More calls to make. But will be telling you all about my first week back. By the way, those Rubens nudes we'll be seeing soon at the AGO are not unlike what you will see when you come to visit Hildegarde. The halls are full of sculptured tits and bosoms not to mention cool representations of backsides. Early exposure!

See you.   

Adria

Monday
Sep282009

Suffer the Little Children

Hi Adria, 

Sorry I’ve been out of touch this week.  I’m happy to hear that you are back in the swing of things and that your meeting was upbeat and fruitful and motivating!

This has been a week of meetings for me also: Whole Staff Meeting, Individual Campus Meeting, Department Heads Meeting, and Board Meeting - with similar Agendas for each.  So by the time I attended The Department Heads Meeting, and received a package of handouts about two inches high, most of which I already had, I was ready to scream.  I guess with four administrators (leading a group of fifteen Department Heads) each has to have his/her own agenda – figuratively and literally.  Most of the business at these meetings covers Ministry and School Board initiatives.  Ironically, the real work of teaching the curriculum seems secondary.  I don’t think that in all my years of teaching, any administrator has ever asked me – so what novel are you doing this year? How’s it going? Have you ever read…? Those in leadership positions have so little to offer. 

Why is this?

It seems that, on the surface anyway, the families you deal with have not been touched by the recession.  The houses all sound right out of Homes and Gardens.  Such very privileged lives (or so it seems) your little girls lead. 

Speaking of houses, one of my students, a smart girl (chronic absenteeism) came in this week looking very upset.  Now at my school that simply puts us on guard, because many of our students play the game well when they know they are in trouble. She proceeds to tell me that her Grandmother is in the hospital and she has to be there and continues to say that her father has left the family. Without his money, she says, they cannot pay the mortgage and the bank has reclaimed the house.  So technically, she and her mother have no place to live.  

I am in the middle of the day’s lesson when all this is going on. My first instinct is not to believe her.  Most of these students have been in many schools throughout the system. Therefore, they have had counselling from numerous Guidance Counsellors, have had tons of advice and help from most principals and vice-principals they have come in contact with, as well, they have access to Child and Youth Care Workers and Social Workers.  

I was about to tell her (as one of my colleagues says) my job is to teach. Go and speak with someone else (meaning any one of the above) about your problems.  But the girl in front of me is sweating, although I have to say she is dressed more for clubbing than for school: heavy gold jewellery, midriff showing with stone in her navel, long false nails, hair quite beautifully dyed and face very well made up.  I’m thinking how does one who is so distressed find time to get all dolled up like this?  But then, who am I to judge?  Maybe she needs this exterior façade.  I have to believe.  And so I sign all the permission forms for her to go and speak with those who can help.  She returns near the end of class. She has been advised to take co-op and earn two fast credits and the Social Worker will help with her housing crisis.  She doesn’t want to drop my class  ...  and thank you, Miss. Thanks. 

And so another week ends at Franklin School and I can’t help believing that life is truly stranger than fiction.  Oh yeah!  I take my time walking home on Friday, stopping in at the ROM to buy a birthday gift for a friend.  Then I walk down Philosopher’s Walk to Hoskins, and find a little bit of peace and sanity in a mad, mad, world. 

Take care,

Hopeful Sarah

Monday
Sep282009

Aunts, Dutch Women, and School Girls

Hi Adria,

I forgot to mention that I will be going to Montreal for Thanksgiving, and I’m happy to report that my Aunt is doing much better.  She is back to her splenetic self says her sister, but not well enough to return home. I still don’t understand that.  But then who knows for sure what goes on in the mind of someone who has experienced severe shock, as she did when she fell.  Once I visit, I’ll know more.
 
So, Oct. 3rd is perfect for the AGO. I am interested in both collections – 17th Century Painting in the Netherlands and Women in 17th century Netherlands.  Is this just one exhibit or two separate exhibits? And yes, meet at one for lunch and a chat.  I’d like to know how you are progressing on your Dutch Family research.  Sounds so interesting.  

I did not go to Word on The Street this year.  I boycotted the whole thing. (I’m sure I was really missed!!) Still trying to find an agent/ publisher, so I’m just suffering from a bad case of sour grapes really.  But it is amazing the number of people who only read books that are short-listed or have won awards.  Don’t they tire of Atwood and Munro? Whatever happened to individual preferences when choosing a book: starting with Author A and working your way through the alphabet to Author Z  (if you live to be 100) or reading all the books one writer has written? 

I tend to often choose Setting as one of my criteria. Anything set in the Far East has my attention first.  I just read a great line in Jane Gardam’s book God on The Rocks. (I know you enjoyed her book – FILTH – Failed in London, Try Hong Kong)  One of the characters says: I always feel of course that one has never really lived unless one has been to The Far East … You’re never the same … It spoils one … everywhere else feels a little bit of a comedown.  Oh my god! Those lines – I have said them and thought them ever since returning from Hong Kong.  Oops, I’d better not start being melancholic.  

So, yes, let’s set a date when I can go and visit your prestigious elite school (with tits and backsides on the walls.) When you visit Franklin, you’ll see the real thing; you’ll see lots of cleavage and low-riding pants with cute little tattoos sticking out.

So, you finally begin teaching this week.   Good luck, Adria.

Melancholic Sarah

Friday
Oct022009

What is this buzz?

Hi Sarah,

Now that I'm back in the swing of things I'm amazed at how one week can fly. I’m sitting at my computer with a hot chocolate to keep me warm. Only last week the bees were buzzing around my mint tea on the patio. I'm bursting to tell you my week's observations as each year the changes seem imperceptible but are so definitive.

What I see outside the school:

So spiky hair is in for women over 50 and if you use your mp3 player when you're speed walking you are A-ok. Dog walkers with Lhasa Apsos, Chow Chows, Shih Tzus, Siberian Huskies.  Breeders must be busy.

What I see inside the school:

Teachers as well as parents wear leggings and knee length woollen sweater coats. Saw a pair of bright blue lace tights yesterday on a mother picking up her child at 3:30. Visual overload: Crazy Sports Day featured gold lamé pants, cerise lamé tights, capes, fake ears, red circles painted on cheeks. Parents sat on midget chairs in the JK room for after school mini interviews: mommies with blond hair tied back, daddies in pinstriped suits.

I now have a ten-year-old prodigy who studied previously with a teacher from Shanghai. She oozes musicality. Everyone came to the studio with crisp new piano books, ready for the task. I launched right in with the RCM’s daunting, new technical requirements (after their recent overhaul we should be on a par with our European and Asian counterparts) and went full speed ahead with few breaks in my day. Needed Black China tea (my favourite) by 2 pm to re-energize. All day I was soothed or not soothed by Gluck's Dance of the Blessed Spirits among other popular classical hits, coming from the flute studio, or Chopin's Etude Op. 10 no.3, for piano, from yet another room. Its crashing diminished sevenths filled the spaces of the long music corridor, and resounded throughout the entire school. 

Franca, my Grade 9 student, has taken to playing Bach like a duck takes to water. She brought a slice of chocolate banana loaf (made by her nanny) to her lesson for me. We just might have a few near geniuses this year. My task is to be a constant motivator, to remain fresh in my approach at all times, incorporate humour and ... to produce. I can do all of the above. There is only the unavoidable side effect of a buzzy head at the end of the day. Worth it to me.

I cannot comprehend the whole nursing home scenario of which you wrote. How that happens to smart, fashionable ladies like your aunts. I sound arrogant if I spout off about the should have's and could have's. They are, simply, at that point in their lives. Don't think that I'm not obsessed with these facts myself. Even as I balance on the Bosu ball at the gym I secretly hope to arm myself with anti-falling techniques for the future. My mother-in-law is patiently waiting for a new hip these days. Talking on the telephone with her I ask, so what are you doing? Oh swingin' back and forth she says (of herself in her rocker by the phone). Little else to do. 

Candy of phlox house chatters too much, reams of words without censure. Focuses totally on her piano pieces though. Ariana spouts technicalities about her newly fitted braces: she grins for me so I can see each tooth graced with a shiny turquoise brilliant.  Lots of hugs this first week: kids bolting down the halls doing a running leap into my arms. I now know for a fact that I am The Familiar Piano Teacher at my school.

By the way, some of our nudes exhibit has been replaced with excellent multi media art, equally fascinating, some Dali-like, some more Goth. It should be educational for me to visit Franklin and see the "real thing" as you say. We'll make arrangements tomorrow.

Adria

Saturday
Oct032009

The Great Themes

Hi Adria, 

I know I’ll be seeing you in just a few hours, but since a few others are joining us, it’s best if I respond to your last email now.

Your first week sounds exhilarating! Fascinating! Inspiring! No wonder you love it. You are privileged to be in the presence of these little prodigies and geniuses.  What a world to inhabit.  I can’t wait to visit. I hope it doesn’t depress me with its splendour. I have always, secretly wanted to be Miss Brodie (before her downfall) and part of that whole wonderful romantic world of the private girls’ school: devoted students, tweed suits, and of course, illicit love affairs.  A more modern version is Mona Lisa with Julia Roberts, no match for Maggie Smith, but same idea: beautiful talented girls, handsome men, female teachers who are idolized.  Of course, we know these perfect worlds have a darker side, but still.  Teaching in Hong Kong was a short foray into that world.  And I loved every minute of it. 

The past week was filled with, to put a literary slant on it, the intermingling of the Great Themes: Birth and Death.  The week began with a call from a friend in Hong Kong who informed me of the death of a man (James Dickson) we had both worked with. In fact, he had been my son’s principal at the Canada School when we lived in Hong Kong in the 90’s and he was principal (beloved) of the Canadian School for the Arts for the past 15 years.  A most charming man: a bon vivant, a very proud Canadian, handsome, wealthy, well travelled, lover of opera and well known (at least among the women) for his sartorial splendour.  Above all though, he was an Educator, a decent, fair man who loved children.   The tributes to him on Face Book and on the School Web Page and in The South China Morning Post as well as papers here, take a few hours to read.  The school was in total mourning for the week.   He died within a few days of entering the hospital with pneumonia and H1N1, although I did hear that he had other health issues.  He was 55.

 So this made me think – it begs the question, I wrote to my son – do we live every moment to its fullest because we never know or do we say fuck it because we never know.  I fluctuate between the two theories. 

But then on Thursday, I celebrated my friend’s 50th birthday (we debated the word celebrate). I think you met her once, at one of your concerts, Maggie Ester. She is an artist and a teacher/librarian for our Board and in the past few years has fulfilled her dream of learning to ride, and has bought a horse and is now taking on-line Equine courses (this doesn’t sound right). We talked about the conflicting societal trend that, 50 is the new 40 etc. and yet so many writers (fiction and media in general) refer to anyone over 50 as old and over 60 as elderly. We both agreed that no matter how much we love the writer or the book that if we came across that description, we’d put the book down forever. As for me, I probably would never read the writer again.
 
And the cycle continued ... a late night phone call from my brother-in- law. My niece had just given birth to an 81/2 lb baby girl! Congratulations Grandpa! But I knew we were both thinking of my sister-in-law, his wife, who died a few years ago of cancer at 51.   She would have loved being a grandmother.  Congratulations, Grandma!!

It’s just been such a week and I never even got to mention school.  Maybe later.  Right now, I’d better go and do a few housewifely chores.

 Oh! And my dear hibiscus popped another huge red flower this week. I’m sure it was in honour of women of all ages and beautiful baby girls!
 

A bientot, 

Feminine Sarah