Thursday 2 May 2019

The Joy of the Cherry Trees

The cherry trees along the river are no longer in their April glory, but some blossoms still adhere. One of the nice side-effects of gym class ("barre" today) is that I walk home along this river. The river, whose earliest stone bridges were built by the Romans, has a population of ducks, geese and swans, and the ducks quack together cheerfully. I find this very soothing to the ear.

As I walked along today, I pondered my homeschooled students. I am apt to say things like, "When you are 25 ... " and they are apt look a bit dubious, as if turning 25 is something that happens only to other people.

I'm teaching what I call "English Composition" and what my high school called "English Writer's Craft." The children are clever, so they have grasped the structure of the "persuasive essay." We're now working on the "descriptive paragraph," and I told them that when they are 25 they will want to reminisce about their childhood home, so they should experience it in detail now for better recollection later.

That reminds me, I marched up to the apple tree yesterday and had a good snuff of the white blossoms. They have a very sweet if subtle smell, and I am thrilled.  My childhood home had a pear tree, and I don't remember the blossoms smelling like anything. They did, however, make me break out in blotches. The pears themselves were an acquired taste, and my parents made dozens of bottles of jam, of which I soon tired, and for which I would give large sums to taste today.

I had forgotten about this jam until a few years ago when I was in Gdansk--I'm pretty sure it was Gdansk--and had some pear ice-cream from a Poland-wide chain patisserie called Sowa. Suddenly I was transported to a sunny, tree-lined street in Willowdale in the 1970s, where my parents cooked jam behind a wooden baby barrier stuck in the doorway.

I must admit, though, that I was very often bored in the back garden--which naturally I then called a back yard--of our part of that sunny, tree-lined street, and spent what seems like hours swinging on the swing-set and staring at the cloudless blue sky wishing I could go to the UK.

And here I am, so that worked out well.

But to return to my charges, I hope they dig up the riches of sensory apprehension of their surroundings right from the start of their writing career. When I go through my teenage diaries, I am always sorry I did not include more detail and, therefore, more illustrations of the outfits I wore to dances. I wish very much I had thought to illustrate the outfits my friends wore to dances, and the now-amusing hairstyles.

I am also sorry that I thought I had nothing to write a novel about because just writing about my day to day life would have made at least two good ones: a teenage drama culminating in me being chucked in the drunk tank of the local police station for pro-life activism and a coming-of-age horror story involving half-starving to death in romantic downtown before returning to tense uptown. Very cheap ground beef on special at the local butcher featured.

Dear heavens, I would not be 24 again for anything. No wonder my students look confused at the thought they will be (please God) in their 20s themselves one day.

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