My teacher Walter Carrington died August 7th.
I met Walter during the summer, 2000 when I attended a 'Teachers' Refresher Course' at the Constructive Teaching Centre in Holland Park, London. I had been warned that he would not be teaching this course as he had done a long year's work, taught the refresher course the week before, was 85 years old and deserved a rest.
He showed up every day.
What a marvelous and unexpected treat. Walter welcomed everyone, taught many private lessons and each day gave a 'turn' to every attendee and teacher on the course. I was captivated as he brought life and energy to Alexander's writings. The atmosphere was one of grace and respect - for the work, for Walter, for the staff teachers and for each other.
The experience of the refresher course gave me a big boost; I came away feeling validated about my teaching, believing I was heading in the right direction. Frequently, seminars or courses leave me a bit skeptical, questioning the value of my time and effort. Not at CTC. Every day was exciting, compelling and full of dignity and good humor.
I have returned often to Lansdowne Road both as a visiting teacher and as a student participating a second time in a refresher course. Every journey has included at least one private lesson and many in-class 'turns' with Walter. Through the years I've gotten to know him a bit and value his kindness and gentleness. Although our separations were sometimes many months, he recalled precisely where we had left off.
Most recently in July of this year, I returned to CTC as the director of my own training course. I had scheduled a lesson with Walter as did my wife Sally (this was to be her first with him), and was disappointed to learn for health reasons he might need to cancel one or both. Fortunately, he pulled through, was teaching as usual and made time available for both of us. Sally's scheduled lesson was Thursday, July 21st, the day of the failed terrorist attacks. She was delayed on the tube and risked being disappointed, missing this long awaited opportunity. When I mentioned to Walter that Sally was late, he assured me not to worry and everyone pulled together to make sure she got her lesson.
When I received the news that Walter had died, I was sad but not shocked. He was 90, had had a bad fall the previous week and the prognosis was not good.
Walter and the people associated with him have meant a great deal to me and to my career since we first met five years ago. His work, his presence will continue to be a part of my life and his talks are required study in the curriculum of my training course. Anyone who has attended the training or refresher courses at Lansdowne Road may think of Walter as he enters the main room at noon, sits in the straight backed wooden chair by the door, and brings us with him as he journeys through Alexander's work. When I read his talks, when we chat about them in my training course class, I am transported to that room. I hear his voice and marvel at the understanding, elegance and humor with which he approaches this work.
On a very personal note for Sally and me - our reflections on our final lessons with Walter will remain a shared powerful and at the same time sad experience. He was only a number of days from death and his work was clear, compelling and inspiring.
I have been most fortunate in my career in the Alexander Technique to have met, worked with, learned from and gotten to know a few of the great teachers and inspirations of my profession. Two are now gone - Troup Matthews and Walter Carrington, and they leave a legacy which will be a challenge to sustain. I will be forever grateful to have known them.