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This article is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

From the Classroom Catherine Altpere
Thursday was the best day at St Chris. Spaghetti, Top of the Pops and The Man from U.N.C.L.E, viewed in the standing-room-only hut which doubled during the day as our English classroom. I can’t be sure, but I like to think that the joy of Thursday evenings was augmented by a daytime English lesson, presided over by Peter, perched on his desk, one leg dangling as he peeled open the petals of English literature in general and poetry in particular.

During these lessons we were beguiled by his unassuming rapport with us. We respected him because he was a teacher (a respect not universally bestowed) and because he treated us exactly as what we were: nearly adults waiting only to be shown how to find and absorb knowledge. The flow of discussion was two-way; he seemed genuinely interested in hearing our thoughts as well as imparting his own.

Cornily, I could say that Peter opened doors, showed us what lay behind them, and then left us to decide whether or not to pass through to the other side. I certainly walked through the Thomas Hardy door: I can still feel the tingle of reading his poems, gently prised apart by Peter. That is perhaps why I felt a shock of recognition when, in maturity, I came across the poems of R. S. Thomas, which plucked the same chords within me. And of course Blake we will never forget.

I was only at St Chris for two years. I have few anecdotes to recall. I do remember acutely ...


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