Being with Erika: #05, Melbourne 1991 – Jean Jacques by the Sea
There were two training courses in Melbourne in 1991: Vivien Mackie’s school at Melbourne Trinity College and Duncan Woodcock’s Melbourne Alexander Teacher Training School. Although both of these courses were from a different “line” or “tradition” to mine, the work seemed somehow familiar and I enjoyed my visits. What was it, though, that was different about Erika? And for that matter about Margaret Goldie? I could not really put my finger on it, but I wanted to find out.
At the end of my first week in Melbourne Diana came back. I had plenty of time still before I was due to start teaching in Sydney, and so I was pleased to accept her invitation to stay longer. I had the chance then to catch up with Valerie and David Rich, whom I had also known in London and, of course, spend more time with Erika.
I invited Erika, Diana and Jacqui to lunch at a well known Melbourne landmark, Jean Jacques by the Sea; a characterful restaurant in a refurbished bathing house. The conversation was alternately light and serious and everyone was having a grand old time. Erika’s stories were, as with all octogenarians, somewhat repetitive, but she was always alert, poised and full of life.
We were sitting at a window table and outside was a patio area with more tables. There seemed to be quite a lot going on at the one just the other side of the window, where a family was sitting. At one point I made a comment about something I had noticed. Erika then told me everything about that family: there were three children; the eldest was very serious and the middle one liked to joke around; Mum was trying to get the youngest one to eat something and Dad was beginning to think it was getting late; and so on and so forth. Erika had taken all that in without noticeably seeming even to look at them at all.
Her attention danced, while at the same time she kept her inner state collected. If ever one wanted a lesson in how to apply the Alexander Technique in life, the solution was to spend a few hours in Erika’s company.
Through our conversations I was beginning to realise that Erika had a very different perspective on what had happened in Ashley Place in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s; and in particular during the first teacher-training course which began in 1931. Over the next ten years pieces of this fascinating jigsaw began to fall into place.
I left Melbourne and flew to Alice Springs. I was treated to a rare phenomenon at Uluru; a setting sun, a full moon and then a lightning storm. Little waterfalls appeared overnight on the rock, and all the desert plants had the dust washed off them, so they appeared greener than green against the darkened red sand.
Then I was off to Sydney and back to my twin roles as “teacher” and “chairman”. Little did I know what a political minefield awaited me there.
© 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
#06, Back in Melbourne, 1992
#07, “Where did you train?”, London, 1993
#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
Tips4Pupils – Means-whereby
When I need to undertake a task of some sort there is an inner activity and an outer activity. The sequence, according to Alexander’s ideas, of “inner events” is something like this:
- say “no”!
- consider my options
- make a decision
- organise myself (head, neck & back etc.)
- work out my “means-whereby” (the best way to do it)
- reconsider (I can still change my decision)
- let my head go forward and up and get on with it
Is it not the case, though, that there is often an assumption that as long as my neck is free (etc.) I am “using” myself well?
Think of any task involving a number of necessary actions. For example, decorating a room: I might need to move all the furniture into the centre of the room or even out of the room all together.
Where am I going to put everything? Which items should I move first? Should I empty drawers or bookshelves before trying to move heavy furniture? Where might I store the contents ? Etc, etc……That’s before I even start preparing the surfaces to be painted.
Unless I work out my means-whereby before I start, I am likely to have to do a lot more work than necessary.
If I start moving a sideboard around with no idea where to put it because I filled the only large enough space with piles of books, BUT….. I keep a free neck – does that mean I have “good use”?
Compare this with the practical man or woman – amateur or professional decorator – who, before starting, thinks things through and works out the optimum sequence of events, BUT….. stiffens or collapses somewhat while doing the practical work.
Whose “use” is better?
Taking a moment or two to consider the means-whereby we are going to carry out an activity (the best way to do it) can bring a new dimension to our understanding of the use of the self.
© 2013 John S Hunter