Sunday, 10 June 2018

Adrian Saunders

Dear "Sir" as we had to call you ...or should I, by now, be able to say "Dear Adrian"?

I have to write here, because I can't explain this to my loved ones. They wouldn't understand. My wife and I barely communicate properly any more. To my children, I am Daddy - not the 13 year old I suddenly feel myself to be again. Sadly I won't be seeing you again, so I can only write this message in a bottle.

It only strikes me now that I'd always hoped we'd meet again, sometime. When you were my form master for an important year (when I was 12 to 13), there was still a mood of optimism in our school (and perhaps more so in Britain in general than there is now). As if we boys thought we were set for great things. If you and I met again, you could see the successes and muddles I'd made of things. We could laugh about shared memories. You could maybe forgive me for my rudenesses in the past. Would I see your scowl or your very genuine, warm smile?

It seems that up to exactly one year ago this meeting could still have happened.

There are so many things I could write about you, and perhaps I will, in time. I'm at a loss to give any concise account of the influence you had on my life, or why I'm so struck with grief now.

As to the latter, if I find myself  moved to tears it tends to mean I'm unwell. I've been exhausted with some virus all last week, and my health hasn't always been the best. Sometimes I entertain the idea that emotions will once in a while build up and build up, and one becomes very irritable about a variety of things. I've been out of sorts all week. I did wonder fancifully if I was sensing some sad news before it reached me.

As to the former, there are simply some people whose opinion one cares about. I often wonder what my intellectually preeminent father would think of my arguments. As I write this I can only think what Mr Saunders the teacher would have made of my writing style, honesty and expression.

You were temperamental, rather crazy, and eccentric. There was your unselfconscious shouting... There will have been times when classes on the other side of the school will have been able to hear about what we'd done wrong this time. I wonder if you still did that in Turkey, where you inevitably ended up.

You were also (so I thought) deeply charismatic, as if you were advocating a lifestyle - I think the term (in Oxford?) used to be a "Young fogey" in those days. You'd get enormously excited about things of intellectual interest to you - especially in Classics - which I thought was marvellous. I wonder if the poems of Catullus ("Odi et amo") were really on the syllabus - well you had us reading those anyway..

We had somewhat open-ended "Form" lessons. You'd announce to the class "You must all go to Turkey, chaps", or have us attempting the Times Crossword - you roared "YES!" with delight when I managed to solve one of the acrostics. You'd smoke outside the classroom before a lesson - looking fed up - and then march in with your shirt-sleeves obviously rolled up under your jacket. The neon light above your desk was irritating you by flashing, so you decided to bash it with an old classics textbook, which sent the light crashing to the floor in a thousand pieces.

* * *

My memory may be playing tricks on me, but I think you liked 1 Corinthians 13, which famously deals with the subject of love ("charity" in the King James version). You occasionally talked to your students of love, and I'm afraid your search for love was not always one that society approved of. Another line from that passage also comes to mind:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

I wonder have I really "put away childish things"? But I began this message speaking as the boy I was, so I shall try to end it as a man.

Goodbye, my friend. And thank you.