Monday, June 6, 2011
Hard to forget that June 6 was DDay in Europe. But, without triggering a lot of PTSD among those of us who were there during that war, it reminded me of when I was teaching French, as a student teacher in Madison, Wisconsin high school. The textbook was up to teaching how to express dates in French, including June 6, July 14, and so on.
Since my students were only in their second year, not very fluent yet, I broke into English, breaking my own rule, to explain the significance of the dates in the exercise, because I thought it was too important, in French history, for them to miss the facts if I explained in French. Whereupon, my supervising teacher, their regular classroom teacher, began to scribble furiously in her notebook, and I thought, oh heck, there goes my grade. She doesn't like me to drop into English.
Then, after class she said, you know what, I never ever knew the significance of those dates! DDay! I should have known that, and who knew when Napoleon escaped from Elba? and so on. I'm planning to sit in the rest of your classes with this group and take notes. Oh. This was a midwesterner, never been in Europe in her life, studied French at a midwestern college, very keen student, but clearly they hadn't had the total immersion that was the rule for the degree I took at my brit university. So that was okay, glad to oblige.
Duncan and I have been reading oddly appropriate stuff, and listening to appropriate music, without realizing it, too. Currently the Big Book I'm carting around when I need to rest my hands from knitting, weaving, mopping and mowing, is Katherine the Queen by Linda Porter, who is a true historian, interesting but doesn't insert her own opinions of what probably transpired where there is no record. This is the bio of Katherine Parr, Henry VIII's last wife and his survivor.
Turns out she had a lot of northern English connections and many of the places mentioned are ones I knew from Yorkshire. Great explanations of how the northern part of the country was feared by the southern rulers and how they were repressed in their attempts to maintain their religion in the face of big political changes. A lot of what's happening in the Middle East right now is very very similar to that period in England.
And blogistas will remember how I got all carried away by the movie The King's Speech, and was wanting to find the DVD so that HP could see it. Then lovely CarolQ lent me her copy, without even being asked about it, yay, and we were able to see it. HP was unable to follow a lot of it, but liked the parts he could follow, and I loved it again. And this time had the wit to find out exactly which bit of Beethoven was the wonderful music under the actual declaration of war speech. Allegretto from the Seventh Symphony. So I was able to borrow a CD of it and listen again. Great recording by the Vienna Philharmonic, conductor Carlos Kleiber.
It's about triumph over struggle, and hope and great bravery, and altogether good both to illustrate that particular person's struggle over his disability and his circumstances, as well as reflect the hope at that time that the brits would also retain their freedom. Very moving to folks like me.
And it reminded me of another subliminal thing going on at that time, since victory was the word of the day for years on end, to keep up people's spirits while Europe was falling bit by bit, and at home there was rationing, a polite word for semi starvation, lack of fuel, freezing houses, harsh winters, enough misery to go around.
But underneath the announcement of the BBC evening news at 9 o'clock each evening, the significant broadcast of the day, was a drumbeat dit dit dit daaaah, the last beat a fourth higher than the three short ones. The morse code for V for Victory.
And, turned the other way up and in a different key, you hear the opening four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.
Similarly, the war speech used a wonderful piece of Beethoven, great German composer, to convey the emotion of the time. One of those endless conundrums of war. Not to take this too far, but there are connections to be found all over the place if you look. No black helicopters!