Throughout the early hours of the morning, a south-westerly wind blows strongly, and a solitude of rain permeates the garden. My attention flickers between the sound of the external elements and Irina Tweedie’s Daughter of Fire. At the conclusion of Chapter 73, The Test of Hunger, I place the book aside and recollect my last Alexander Technique lesson with Miss Margaret Goldie.
I arrived early at Richmond on Thames by train, and walked up the stairs and out the main station exit to wander around for a while. Just to the left of the entrance there is a small flower shop, and there on display in the late afternoon was an exquisite bouquet of flowers. I admired them and felt clearly that this was a gift for Miss Goldie; however even by today’s standards it was expensive, priced at £25.00.
I had £50 in my pocket, £25 to pay for my lesson and £25 to buy food for the week. I stood in the shop, torn between whether to buy or not to buy. Reluctantly, I left and went back into the station and out through the back entrance and trod my way towards her house. However, the call to go back and purchase the flowers grew stronger with each step, although the conditioning of my stomach was a close rival to what was in my heart. I would have no food for the next few days and would have to fast, which I was reluctant to do at that time.
The realization that it would be a gift for a remarkable woman who had been a light in my life held sway; I returned to the shop and made the purchase that the ‘heart’ required.
When I arrived at her door, I presented her with the bouquet, saying nothing, of course, of the dilemma I’d just been through. She was delighted with the flowers and immediately placed them in a vase of water. After a little conversation, the outer lesson began, and the quietness that was in the room deepened into beauty, a given beauty of silence that I had come to recognise in the latter years of my work with her. Her guiding hands, not by any means the only channel for her teaching, were gentle and light, with a clarity of direction and support that allows for the opening up to vulnerability.
Through the window the colours of the winter evening faded, and the room gradually drifted into the shades and shadows of encroaching darkness; she elected, this particular day not to turn on the lamp. We worked on together in a placement that had hints of the timeless.
There came a moment when Miss Goldie glided soundlessly in front of me, and there silhouetted by the window she asked, “How do receive your pupils?” “Through word of mouth”, I replied. She smiled and said, “Whatever that means.” I shared in the wonder of her observation. She went on to say, “Even if you have only one pupil, even if you have none, go on working on yourself.”
When our time together eventually came to a close, I took out £25 and offered it to her. She returned the money, saying, “You have already paid for the lesson, my dear.”