It was hot in London the first week in July. This is complicated by the fact that the British do not subscribe to constant creature comfort as we Americans do, and therefore have no air conditioning. The Brits make due and stiffen their upper lips, while at the same time moaning and comparing their temperatures to Mexico City and finding that London was hotter. It gave a great deal of conversational topic to a great many people, as weather is wont to do on either side of the pond, and brought out the most lovely of summer dresses on the young women I saw around Bloomsbury. Where did they get all those light airy bits of dress they floated around in? And why would they be able to purchase these dresses in London, whose temps in the summer are moderate at best and downright drizzly at worst. Then it hit me; Spain was only about 6 hours by train, or a couple of hours by air. Turkey, Croatia, Morocco were just a four day holiday outing. Places that to me were exotic and far away, were, to the Brits, as close as it is for me to go to Canada; which is neither far away or exotic (sorry Canada, but you are comfy and close).
I was in London for a week long summer school at the University of London on T.S. Eliot. It was the first ever Eliot summer school and I felt privileged to be a part of something so ground breaking and at the same time, so nerdy. A room, nay, an auditorium full of people madly in love with Eliot's poetry was a chance that this T.S. groupie could not miss. I think I was the only one there that was not connected to either a university, or was in process of doing their PhD. I was the layman, the everyman (er in my case woman) that just loved Eliot because, well, he wrote damn good poetry. But it is was bit more for me. I had come this close to being warden, along with my husband, of Ferrar House in Little Gidding. I had gone there because of Eliot and the poem, and had become entrenched there, falling in love with everyone and everything about the place.
But, we didn't become wardens and sitting in the lectures I realized how much I felt on the outside of it all, looking longingly in. Every day, I would peel myself off my bed, and I say peel because it was so hot in my room, that it made Dante's Hell seem like would would need to bring a sweater, and go to the morning lecture and then to the afternoon class with Dr. Donoghue. And everyday I found how energized I felt during the discussions, and how my brain, which had almost melted away in the heat, would come alive, squeaking and clunking thoughts that would eventually enter and leave my mouth. I spoke up in class, I couldn't help myself, my brain kept firing off ideas and like Horshack in Welcome back Kotter, I would sit with my arm waving in the air almost saying "oh...oh...oh!" It was euphoric and terrifying at the same time. I never knew if I would say something that revealed my lack of academic credentials or if I would actually say something brilliant. I did both. And I swore after each class, as I scuffled out, that I would defiantly zip it next time. But I didn't. I just went right on becoming excited and bouncing on my seat.
The last day of class, I got the courage to actually go up and speak to Dr. Donoghue. I wanted to ask him if he could suggested a good university to go for Eliot study. He was more than gracious and spent some time answering my question. We ended up walking out of the university and down the street together chatting. We must have looked a strange pair; he, this very tall elderly Irish man and me, this short plump American woman, but I didn't care. To me this was wonderful, this was the life-a lovely chat with someone about something you are both passionate about. Little did I know my husband was stealthily following us and after we had parted company, he came up behind me and scared the beejeebies out of me. He thought it was sweet and so he didn't want to interfere with our conversation.
When the week ended, I wanted more, I wanted to stop feeling like I was on the outside and be apart of this academic world. I loved every stimulating, nerdy thing about it. Sure I felt inadequate but it stirred in me that sense of awe and wonder, that feeling that there is so much more than just plain existing; there is thought, and process and creativity. And there is a world of possibilities that flutter by like those summer dresses destined for exotic places. So, onward and upward; leaving the comfort of Canada for the hot, sticky climate of London. If I can, I will be there next year for the second annual T.S. Eliot school. But in the interim I am gong to get my Masters degree, I am going to get those little gray cells moving again, plumping them up with ideas.