Lessons With Miss G: #1, The Beginning.
About a year after qualifying I began to have lessons with Margaret Goldie. Friends who were already her pupils had spoken highly of this lady, who had her first lessons with the Alexander brothers in around 1927.
For quite some time the question of whether or not to go to her (let alone whether or not she would accept to see me) hovered in the air. In many ways I was rather comfortable with what I already knew; I was assisting on two London training courses and my work seemed to be appreciated; I was teaching at the Royal Academy of Music; I had a private practice and was a member of the STAT ‘think-tank’ that was advising Council on future policy. My new career seemed to be blooming. Nevertheless I knew in some part of myself that there was a very significant gap between what I was attempting to put into practice, for myself and for my teaching, and what Alexander had written about in his books. I didn’t know how to cross that gap. I was already familiar enough with what was going on in the other London training courses to know that, however positive and good it might be, it was not what I was looking for.
What I had learned was extremely subtle, skillful and helpful – both for myself and for others, but it was not connecting with my daily life in the way that I believed it could. I was told by a colleague from Switzerland that some of the trainees on the course where she trained had even left the school after having lessons with Goldie, claiming that what they were doing in their training course was no more than a game. For sure, part of me did not want to be challenged in a way that might expose me as a fraud. Were those fears irrational? All of this was going on at a more or less sub-conscious level until one night I dreamt that I was having a lesson with Margaret Goldie. I had no idea what she actually looked like (nothing like the woman in my dream, as it turned out), nor do I remember anything much about the ‘dream-lesson’ – except that it was definitely with Margaret Goldie and that something quite different was going on. I don’t hold much store by dreams so I did not think that this was some great message from the beyond, but I did think there must be some reason for it. In any event, it was the prompt I needed to ring her up and try to get an appointment to see her.
I half expected to find her in some sort of ‘guardian of the gate’ role when I rang, but as I was able to say that a friend, already a pupil of hers, had recommended I contact her, she readily agreed to see me. A week or so later, off I went to her premises in Soho Square.
The room was at the top of a five storey office block in one corner of the Square. The lift went up only as far as the fourth floor, which meant that you, and she, had to use the stairs for the last flight; if you were lucky, you might catch a glimpse of her seeming to float effortlessly up them– despite her eighty-odd years of age.
I had been warned not to adopt a wide ‘MacDonald’ stance in front of the chair, but even so I was immediately asked to put my feet closer together. I fell straight into the trap of moving my feet as if the end were what mattered and not the means; it was clear right from the start that everything that happened in her teaching room was grist for the mill, and that I would not get away with any ‘unconscious’ activity.
At the end of the lesson I asked what I owed her. Sitting at her little bureau she looked at me with her extraordinary blue eyes and said that I should think about what the lesson meant to me and how I valued it, then I could tell her what I wished to pay.
“I used to have a fixed fee” she said. “But some people don’t have two stones to rub together and can’t even afford the bus fare; and rich people – well, they don’t appreciate anything unless they pay through the nose for it.”
I suggested a fee which felt right to me and she said that would do fine. One couldn’t help wondering what she might have said if one had offered her an amount too little. Some years later I found out – but that story belongs elsewhere.
Thus began my twelve year journey of discoveries with Miss G.
© 2013 John S Hunter