Thursday, 8 October 2009

Close encounter of a personal kind, two

It was a barbecue in north west London, a Sunday afternoon at a friend’s, with beer and baked meats and cakes. Sunny and relaxed in a lovely garden and a beautiful Victorian house.

Fortunately, I was more prepared for what happened than the person I encountered. The host was a psychoanalyst and — I knew — a friend to at least one of the tutors on my course. One in particular.

I saw this particular tutor as soon as I walked in. She recognised me, of course. But she took a few moments to work out who I was. Context is all. This was a kind of category error, an eruption of one part of her life into another. It made her feel awkward, I could see. So I moved on to the beer and baked meats.

A little later, I found myself sitting opposite her. She talked about the course, about the strains of Saturday morning seminars, of how the money wasn’t great. Mostly, though, she talked about the students. She was interested in them and concerned for them — or rather, us — in a way that was hard for a non-teacher like myself to imagine. She cared in a way I never would.

Then she asked me why I hadn’t turned up to several of her Saturday morning seminars. I think she said I missed two. Or that I’d only turned up to two. I’m not sure which. I can’t remember my answer. I do know, though, that I didn’t tell the truth.

Then her husband rescued me. ‘What is she like as a teacher?’ he asked. At this moment, of course, the whole patio fell silent and looked to me and my answer. My brain raced and raced and raced. A breath or two passed, maybe. ‘Charismatic,’ I said, telling a truth.

He was pleased. She was pleased. My wife was impressed at my unusual of deployment of tact.

Next up What happened next


Lo Jardinier said...

Distant encounter of an improbable kind.
Luckily I happened to be listening to the Today programme this morning on the laptop when you were on. I enjoyed your sparring with Humphreys - as I am sure he did - and I noticed how they followed your spot with a nice calming Thought for the Day about nature rambles, just in case any listener got overexcited.
Great to hear you.

Paul Maher Jr. said...

Pete, how do I contact you to obtain permission to reprint your interview with Tom Waits? My email is

Great Interview!

best wishes, Paul