This was the first poem I ever memorised and recited. I don’t remember exactly how old I was. Six? Seven? I think it was for my first ever AMEB Speech and Drama exam.
Saying these words again took me right back to the lounge room of my teacher’s house…
I remember exactly where I would stand to recite. The door to the hallway on my right. The table at the other end of the room. The kitchen to the left. The special pen I think my Mum must have given me to take to class that had a clock in its barrel. How I would stand with the heel of my right foot near the arch of my left – striking it out at an angle. The breathing exercises and how clever I thought I was to know about intercostal muscles and diphthongs. And that it was always much easier for me to learn the poems or pieces of text I needed to memorise by recording myself speaking them and then listening to them.
I also remember that it was usually my Grandfather that would take me to class (as it must have been that classes were scheduled just after school while my parents were still working). So perhaps I was much younger actually, when I first started what was initially elocution lessons (or electrocution lessons as I, of course, called it – not that there was anything remotely painful about it).
We would usually be a little early and we’d sit in the car and there would always, always be the same man walking up and down the same short stretch of the footpath. Over and over. I don’t know that we ever speculated why. We may not even have discussed it. My recollection of my Grandfather is that he wasn’t really one for a lot of talking. Most often the time we spent together was quiet. ‘Watching the world go by’ he used to say. We’d sit on the fence to watch the world. Or we’d drive somewhere to watch the sheep. I liked watching them and trying to pick the moment when the flock would start to move. And who the one to start the move was going to be. Or he’d just sit with me while I read some comic or Famous Five or Secret Seven novel he’d bought me.
Was I an easy kid? That I was just happy to sit and watch or read? Maybe. Or maybe something about him calmed me and encouraged that patience and contentment.
I am lucky to have such good memories and have had such good experiences in my young childhood. I miss him. He died when I was around eight I think. But I still miss him. I’m sad that I didn’t get the opportunity to know him as an adult. Or even a teenager. Some age when it might have occurred to me to ask him some questions. But perhaps that wouldn’t have been his way anyway.