Friday, December 14, 2007

Teacher’s Pet - Part One

Story contd

I felt so euphoric driving away for my week of freedom I was tempted to waltz the car from side to side as Yves Montand did in ‘The Wages of Fear’ just before he drove his truck over the cliff. Common sense prevailed and I reached the town where the college was situated. It was very busy. The traffic crawled and I saw an elderly man motionless on the pavement. From his colour I think he was dead. There were people standing around him and I wondered if I had been there if I would have had the courage to do mouth to mouth.

At the college I was given a schedule for the week and shown to a block which housed single rooms, a kitchen and showers. I was early and the only one there. I had brought a pile of books in case I didn’t find anyone to talk to but I was too excited to read. The first person to arrive was a middle aged woman with a delightful Irish brogue. I made us some tea and made my first friend.

Gradually more students drifted in and by supper time I had met lots of them and began to relax. We were divided into two factions; those like me who were doing a production course and the acting group. You could tell from the look of the two main lecturers who was doing what – Hugh the acting lecturer with floppy hair an aesthetic face and dressed in a beautiful shirt, sweater and cords whilst Gary the producer’s lecturer, wore old jeans and a faded blue aertex shirt which I noticed matched his eyes. He had an old ARP * canvas bag which looked as if it had been through two world wars.

During supper I learned that some were old hands and had brought with them all the requirements for a bar which they ran, very efficiently, each night throughout the week. Beside the Irish lady I had got friendly with a white American male, a black American male and a young Malaysian boy. I began to feel at home and at ease. We could see from the schedules that we were going to be busy and were working towards a production of Lady Windermere’s Fan at the end of the week.

The first evening after supper we all met up in the library to introduce ourselves and get to know each other. Gary came and stood next to me saying that he had been cramped against a book-case. I pointed out that there was lots more room at the other end and he wandered off. I don’t know why I behaved like such a klutz unless it was an innate instinct for self preservation. He told me afterwards he felt intimidated by me. Great!

Thankfully next day I was more relaxed and started to enjoy the classes. The cast of the play was chosen and the production side were divided into lighting, wardrobe, makeup, set design and stage management. We would all have time with each but had just one responsibility for the play. I was going to be in the lighting box with Gary. The casting was interesting. Charles, the black American was to play Lord Windermere – he was both thrilled and terrified.

Gary was a great teacher, sitting casually on a meccano- like structure on stage, immensely practical – the ARP bag contained bits of wire and screws and various implements which he used to adjust lights, scenery or anything that required it. He radiated amiability and everyone liked him. He had recovered from our initial brush and went out of his way to make me feel I had something valuable to contribute. There were two Cambridge graduates in our group and their knowledge of literature in general was bottomless and they could quote reams of Christopher Fry at the drop of a hat. Gary convinced me that all the knowledge in the world didn’t amount to a can of beans if one didn’t have a sense of theatre. He said I had this and wanted to see me put it in action. Men! You know what Shirley Valentine said about them?

The fellowship and camaraderie was such I was reminded of my training days in hospital. One day William and the boys called in to see me en route to Wallace and Fleur's. William said he had never seen me so relaxed and I should try to stay like that when I came home. It was lovely to see the boys and gave me a reality check; like most of the female students I was getting rather fond of Gary. At one session a group of us were sitting on a broad shelf and Gary took off his tie, before demonstrating something and draped it over my ankle. It felt such an intimate thing to do; I could feel my cheeks aflame.

There were a couple of trips to the theatre and we saw a magnificent production of ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’. Sheila, the Irish girl, knew the star Colin Blakely and took me back stage after the show. We met the wonderful Robert Stephens and then Colin, who arranged to meet us for a drink before the evening show. It was all very exciting and all the time the pressure was building as we prepared for the performance of the play. I was thankful to be working back stage and didn’t have to worry about learning lines.

Bed-time got later and later as we stayed on talking and putting the world to rights as students have done since time immemorial. One beautiful moonlit night a gang of us drove to the beach and lit a fire. We sat round it and all took turns to sing or tell a story. I sang an operatic aria in faux Italian. It was actually gibberish but I had been doing it for years with family and friends so many of them – including ‘Gary were fooled. I think the darkness and the firelight gave me courage.

A couple of the group decided to go swimming although the tide was way out. As it got later and later we decided, reluctantly it was time to return to the college and found, to our dismay the two swimmers had not returned. Suddenly the beautiful evening turned into a nightmare. We split up into search parties and combed the enormous beach. We were all silent – apart from calling the names of the two missing students and I think we were all feeling the same emotion – dread. I was walking with two others along the coast parallel to the sea and at last we found two bedraggled figures huddled in the dunes. They had had a long walk out to the sea, had swum for a while and when they came out they were completely disorientated and could see no sign of us. The current must have swept them up the coast. We hugged them and wrapped them in towels and rugs and made our way back to the college; many of us sending silent prayers of thanks that disaster had been averted

*A.R.P. Air raid precautions.

36 comments:

f:lux said...

"He told me afterwards he felt intimidated by me."

Meaning, he was attracted to you, no? ;)

sablonneuse said...

Another gripping instalment. Can't wait to find out if you see more of Gary. . . . .
sablonneuse

Bob-kat said...

This was a great read!

I used to work in the theatre and you are spot on about the sense of comaraderie!

Michele sent me over to say hello as it's been too long since my last visit!

Dara said...

As bob-kat said, nothing like the theatre to pull a bunch of unrelated people together. Fascinating read I must go back and read the provious ones! Hello from Michele :)

Zinnia Cyclamen said...

That Gary is a flirt! Can't wait to find out what happens with you and him in the lighting box...

Sam, Problem-Child-Bride said...

There is a rather nice all-in-it-together feel to this. I suspect I'd have fancied Gary too.

PI said...

f:lux: I thought he meant I frightened him. I've been told that before. Part of me quite likes the thought of being able to frighten men:)

Sablonneuse: there's time to do the second part before going away for Christmas.

bob-kat: happy days eh?

Zinnia: he was in the right business for it.

Sam: you're right - a lovely feeling of fellowship all the more emotional because of the sixties and racism and apartheid and we just seemed a big happy family.

Carmi said...

I absolutely love how you write, Pat. It just flows, and I feel as if I'm flowing along with you. Thank you for keeping the words coming.

Nea said...

Just catching up.

Getting lost is frightening, but losing people is worse. Glad you found them.

Even the lights here are blue, maybe it's global?

PI said...

Carmi: those are kind encouraging words. Thank you Carmi!

Nea: and Rashbre says they have them at Windsor Castle -even Her Maj. What's the world coming to?

Sara said...

Hello, Michele sent me to say what fun to read the next installment of your story. Looking forward to the next one!

moon said...

I have to agree with Carmi, we are there with you..we feel alot of what's going on...After all the drama...how was the production?! I look forward to knowing if everyting went off without a hitch lol.

PI said...

Hi Sara: thank you - next installment coming up next week.DV

Moon: yes the production. Well more
about the next week.

kenju said...

Whoa, that night didn't end well, did it? I'm glad they were safe.

THE BLUEST BUTTERFLY said...

I am glad the search ended well.

PI said...

Judy: big Sighs of relief all round especially from Gary.

Thank you tbb!

kenju said...

Michele sent me back, Pat.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Michele sent me, Pat. What a great adventure this was! And how I envy you the ability to get away for a few days.

PI said...

Susan: sometimes you have to make things happen.

Becky68 said...

Michele sent me to read your reminiscences, what a fascinating life you've lived, I love to come & read your adventures!

granny said...

Ex-citing - your life is getting fuller. Glad they didn't drown..

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

This gave me such a feeling of nostalgia Pat, and it got me remembering my early days as an apprentice in Summer Stock....There is nothing like being involved in a "show" on whatever level....whether it is on stage or back stage...Talk about the feeling of camraderie and co-operation! Waiting with baited breath to hear about more possible intimacies with Gary....Your description of jim draping his tie over your ankle as so intimate is PERFECT!

PI said...

Granny: me too!

Naomi: thanks Naomi. I really value your comments.

Sara said...

Hi Pat, Michele sent me back today to see how many folks have been visiting you. So, I spent a bit of time reading the comments...

Have a great week-end...

PI said...

Sara: thank you! I'm very lucky - I have some lovely commenters!

gautami tripathy said...

That sounds like some adventure. I need to escape the mad rush otherwise known as exams. I hate evalution work. You post made my day, Pat!

I couldn't have you skipped from Michele's. I could only comment on Dawn's post after three tries and that too, with only my name. No clickable links.

gautami

PI said...

Gautami: thank you. I had already been skipped and in spite of what CQ says I do find it miffing. If one can't get through it's simple and polite to say so, as we both do, and it is even ruder to just not bother.
Maybe I'm just a grumpy old git:)
Better go and get my breakfast.
I hope you get a break soon Gautami - you deserve it

Ciera said...

cool. Wanted to thank you for answering my question so well.

Uhm, no what did Shirley Valentine say about men? They vex me so much!

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Hi Pat, I try and visit both rather than finding I've skipped someone.

Michele sent me.

R. Sherman said...

Been busy, but I've popped in to keep up with the story. Still marvelous, dear.

PI said...

Jean-Luc: quite right. That's what most of us do.

BreadBox said...

I love reading these memories of yours: you write them so well, and the stories are so evocative!

Here from Michele's today,
N.

PI said...

Randall: thanks for popping in. Don't work too hard.

Cier: Pleasure. I can't remember her exact words but:-
'Aren't men a load of s--t?'
just about covers it.

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

Hello from Michelle's

Anne said...

Ah, yes, Pat, I've been here before. I remember your wonderful stories. I must come back more often, what fun reads!

Michele sent me.

Guyana-Gyal said...

How I look forward to your Friday posts. I couldn't even switch on the pooter on Friday...poor electricity...did I stew! Or what!

This was such a good piece...from bits of anxiety to fun to fright. Life / moods can switch so quickly.

I love your faux Italian. My seeeellly goose of a sister does it, and she's so convincing [and amusing].