Thursday, May 20, 2010

Only the peacocks can be seen from the hills

This is sort of an odd thing to post here but I don't quite know what else to do with myself. Poor blog, always bearing the brunt of this or that.

A few weeks ago I was asked to contribute a brief piece of writing to a new history of my school; among the topics it was suggested I might consider touching on was the influence of particular teachers or other memorable figures from my time there. It's sometimes said that everybody has one special teacher who changed everything for them; I was lucky enough to have at least three. (You can read about one of them here.) In that light, here's the end of the piece I submitted:

. . . BGS at its best fostered a sense of connectivity and of limitlessness. Poetry and music and experimental thought poured out of the classrooms and into the way we lived together.

No one, I think, exemplified that spirit better than Mike Drew, the then Head of Mathematics, who was also the best English master I ever had. Memorably, Mike taught the very first lesson I ever attended at BGS: and in that first forty minutes, a window opened for me that has never closed since. So various and enthralling was Mike’s pedagogy that we hardly noticed we were learning the nuts and bolts of grammar, say; we felt simply that we were sharing in his personal, thrillingly grown-up enthusiasms. He would sit cross-legged on the desk and read us H. G. Wells, or show us sequences from Battleship Potemkin, or we’d act out bits of Julius Caesar, and it never felt like “doing English”. It felt like being trusted with the promise of the lives that lay ahead of us.

I'm posting this here because I just heard this morning that Mike died very recently -- his funeral, which I'd have attended if I could, but can't, is tomorrow. So this is just a way of (pretty quietly) hallooing his name to the reverberate hills. We kept in Christmas card touch, though we hadn't seen each other since I was at university. When my second book of poems came out I sent him a copy; he didn't really like it very much and that seemed to be uncomfortable for him -- whenever we were in touch after that, by letter or email, it was as if, at some point in our past, I had shouted menacingly at him, and he was always a little in fear that I'd do it again.

I loved him ever so much.

1 comment:

kier said...

i'm sorry for your loss chris. he sounds like the kind of person one would be extrememly lucky to have in one's life, at a young age particularly. x