Being with Erika: #07, “Where did you train?”, London, 1993

Erika’s first stay with me in West London in the late Autumn of 1993 was a very busy two weeks; there were teachers’ groups most days, numerous visitors for lessons, friends for tea and chat, and a talk to the recently formed STAT Student’s Network at the Westminster Friends Meeting House in London WC2, where I had recently set up a practice.

About forty students came to the event. I was by now getting used to the fact that nobody imagined the woman with such a youthful bearing could be someone who had lessons from FM in the 1920’s. A typical example was when I went to let a STAT student into the Friends Meeting House just as Erika was coming out of an adjacent door from the ladies restroom.

The student, seeing Erika, asked if she was “… here for the talk”.

“Yes I am” replied Erika.

“Are you a student or a teacher?” came the next question.

“I’m a teacher”.

And then that almost compulsory ‘tribal’ question in the Alexander world “Where did you train?”

“I trained at Ashley Place” said Erika.

“Oh really! When”

“I started in 1931.”

The student’s jaw dropped several inches.

A similar incident comes to mind. A small group of teachers were expected at my home for an afternoon workshop. One of them arrived early and Erika went to let him in. After the class Erika, being a great mimic, recounted to me what had happened. The teacher evidently thought Erika was another participant at the workshop, possibly even a student but certainly not a “teacher of note” as he did not recognise her.

“Oh yes” impersonated Erika with her nose slightly in the air, “I’m so and so and I’m here to see Erika Whittaker. I teach at such and such institution and I’m on such and such STAT committee, don’t you know… And you are….?”

“I’m Erika Whittaker!”, at which point his tone changed dramatically.

© 2013 John S Hunter

Other Posts on Being with Erika:

#01, London 1985 – Annual Memorial Lecture
#02, Brighton 1988 – Key Note Address
#03, Melbourne 1991 – “Come for lunch!”
#04, Melbourne 1991 – Tea Ceremony
#05, Melbourne 1991 – Jean Jacques by the Sea
#06, Back in Melbourne, 1992
#08, “It’s all the same”, London, 1993
#09, “Making the Link”, London, 1993
#10,  A Lesson in Stopping, London, 1993
#11, Hands, London 1994
#12, “Yes, but you’re worrying!”, London, 1993
#13, “Nothing special”, London, 1994

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