What a busy week. Work, concerts, theatre, you name it I have done it, and I have also been reading books.
I don’t have the feeling that I was reading these books, though. I feel like I was right inside the books, that I was living a different life. A life that I would love to be part of now. It is a life similar to what I was working in, over twenty-five years ago.
It is difficult to describe
When it comes to reading I am a late starter, an opsimath, like Alan Bennett’s Queen in An Uncommon Reader. I didn’t read an awful lot until I was eighteen years old, when A-level English was over and I did not have to read any more.
Our house was full of books, but I didn’t read more than two or three of them, the same two over and over again: The Folk of the Far-away Tree and Shadow the Sheepdog, both Enid Bylton classics. My sister read books to me, my Mum read books to me, I read the Beano, usually while sitting up a tree!
Then I left home and then I got a new pair of glasses. Only then did I start consuming books like someone who hadn’t eaten for months.
I read books on anything and everything. In my first year as an art student my twenty-five-pounds-a-term student grant was spent on paper, paints and books: oh yes, plus a flying jacket to keep me warm while outside drawing.
I collected books on trees, books on painters, classic novels, books on art therapy, lots of poetry books and many more.
Now I am collecting books on and around Conductive Education!
I am slowing getting through the reading that I missed when I was at the PAI training to be a conductor.
Now I receive copies of papers from some of the NICE conductors, things that they had given them in their training, and recommended reading from several sources.
This week I have finished reading all three volumes of The Road to Life (An Epic of Education) by A.S.Makarenko, in a lovely 1951 Soviet English translation. I read the first volume over a year ago and I have just tracked down the second two through Abe Books. They were actually sent to me from a disused church in my home town, Norwich. All three volumes are in quite good condition and smell delicious, good enough to eat!
I was hooked after the first volume and I had been imptient to read on, to discover more about Makarenko's work and life so, as I spied the small parcel on the stairs one morning earlier this month, I unpacked it with glee.
I have been reading Makarenko to and from work all week, in my lunch hours, and even on the tram to the theatre. I would have read in the interval of Joan Baez if there had been one. Now I am hooked on his writings and I feel myself a Makarenkoist through and though
Tears, not sad ones
A. S. Mararenko makes me cry.
I cried often while reading these three volumes. Not because of the desperate state of affairs that he describes, bcause he makes even the accounts of all the work to be done full of optimism and somehow a wonderful thing. The need to move onwards, developing and creating, going through new hardships, all this doesn’t make me cry either.
He makes me cry mostly because I realise as I read further, that I have been right all the time. Right to enthuse over every tiny thing that a child says, or does, or sees, or is excited about. It is what my Mum did and what my Dad did and still does with me. My life changed when I left that environment at eighteen, I missed it very much, but I took this skill with me. I incororated my parents' ability to enjoy and enthuse over the little things in life, to be thrilled by every change in development, and to encourage further interest and adventure. The ability to take time. I believe too that I share their ability in transferring this enthusiasm to others.
Time doesn't tick by, it stands still
I realised while reading A. S. M. that I have been right all these years to delight in all that children and adults do. I discovered that I am right not to have been deterred when someone asked me to hurry up when I listened to the detailed explanation given to me by children or by adult clients of something that they had experienced. Where else will someone find the time to listen and try to understand, if not in my group?
I realise that I am right to value how, in my work as a conductor, time itselfseems to stand still. Time allows me to enthuse, to be delighted and thrilled by the small things in life, time allows me to notice these things. Just as it did when I was a child, poking under leaves looking at frogs with my Dad. (Oh no, I forgot that happened last Easter!)
In Road to Life A. S. M talks about making healthy human beings, creating healthy souls and bodies. That is what I always wanted to be involved in. I suppose that is what I have always been involved in.
Please sir, I want some more
I have finished the books now and I want more of the same. Maybe I will go on to the Lectures for Parents, maybe I will watch the 1953 Soviet film The Road to Life.
I felt that it was so important for me to write about, to enthuse about and to share my excitement about what I have been reading, but I really don’t know at this stage what more to say.
Doubtless I will return to A. S. M., but this is all for now.
Road to Life (An Epic of Education) volumes I, II, II., Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow 1951.
Alan Bennett -
The Uncommon reader, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, ISBN 13:978-0-374, ISBN 10: 374-28096-7
Please Sir, I want some more -