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Teachers.

Posted October 22nd, 2010 by Ben

There is a feeling I have come to recognise as grief. It is a stir in my guts and a leadenness in my eyes. Most of all it is restlessness in my mind. I always want to spell that word “wrestless” because in truth I don’t just feel merely without rest, I feel wrapped and wound in an unending wrestle with a nameless opposition. It is this wrestlessness that fills my mind and stops me thinking straight. As anyone who talked to me last night at the after party for my friends’ excellent looking film “Gin and Dry” will attest, I am currently quite dull witted because every thought is hard won, like a limb pulled free from somewhere deep in the crush.

Even writing a reply to a debate on Shooters takes me ages. Didn’t stop me though. The usual argument about the value of scriptwriting gurus has flared up on the Shooting People Screenwriter’s Network. It’s never an especially edifying debate and I feel partially responsible for some comments which seem to have helped set off snide remarks like “those who can do, those who can’t, teach.”

This bitter little aphorism always saddens me because it seems to imply that teaching is not in itself a form of doing. Teaching is a skill separate from and as important as the skill or knowledge being taught and I’d far rather spend time with a great teacher than a great practitioner.

All of which is on my mind at the moment because last week I attended the funeral of someone who once taught me very well. Indeed if you look back over this blog you’ll find occasional comments from her correcting my grammar. Still, if I publish a blog and then find a mistake, I hear her only half joking cough of dismay.

Naturally her funeral acted as a tragic, impromptu reunion with old friends and old teachers. It is probably a sign of the quality of the teaching we received that so many of my class mates are now teachers themselves. At times such as this though, reminiscence always turn to Mr.Brown, a wonderful and widely adored teacher who died quite unexpectedly five years ago. In trying to root through the thoughts that Fran’s and other recent deaths have provoked in me, I came across a letter I wrote to Mr.Brown when I heard he was ill. It was mainly just a list of things that had happened and how people he taught had turned out. However I wanted to quote the end of it to honour not only him and Fran but all the great teachers I’ve been lucky enough to know.

I mention all of these people because I still see them, most are still my amongst closest friends. I was incredibly lucky to meet these people at school and we were all incredibly lucky to be taught by you. Whenever we meet and drink turns our conversation back ten years, yours is the first name mentioned and always with an unstinting admiration and respect.
It’s hard to measure the impact that someone like you can have. You’ve not invaded anywhere, or discovered an island or a subatomic particle or a special type of shrimp or bacteria. But you changed my life when you read me The Go-Between and you were one of the best role models any one could hope for.
You changed all our lives. Some hugely, some subtly, all for the good. As I said at the start, I feel tremendously lucky for what has happened to me after school. Really though it’s all a product of what happened to me when I was growing up there – and you are a huge part of that immense good fortune. I simply cannot thank you enough.
There, I’m done now. I hear that you have recently married – I hope more than anything that this is true and I wish the pair of you all happiness forever. And I’m not a scientist, I’m a writer and a filmmaker so I can do the concept of forever, OK?

Sorry if this rambles or gets maudlin. And sorry that I have to send this now when really I would much rather any other circumstance had lead me to explain my deep gratitude for knowing you.

  1. Ben Blaine

    “still my amongst closest friends” ahem. I think I get a “see me” for that…

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