Helen and Teacher

Helen and Teacher
The Story of my Life

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Barbara Pym News

The Barbara Pym Society Afternoon Tea and a Pym Trivia Quiz Saturday 5 November 2011
3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The Church of the Advent
Mt. Vernon and Brimmer Streets
Beacon Hill – Boston, MA
Parking available nearby at the Boston Common Garage
MBTA Red Line to Charles/MGH or Green Line to Arlington
$5 per person if you bring a suitable tea cake, sandwich, or pastry to share, $15 per person otherwise
If you plan to attend, please reply by 30 October 2011 by e-mail to SSShaffer@verizon.net or by phone to Sarah Saville Shaffer at 617-325-9342
 ‘A cup of tea always helps,’ said Mrs. Mayhew in a rather high, fluty voice. ‘It can never come amiss.’ – Barbara Pym, Jane and Prudence
requests the pleasure of your company for

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I feel I must say something to commemorate the day, that I call "the worst day ever." We were not near any of the places hit; I was in class, teaching my college kids literature, when the latecomers came running in with the story of a plane hitting the World Trade Center.  We went on a few minutes, and then the second sotry came of the second plane, and we sent to the student lounge.  We are a samll school; I was the academic dean, and only I and a couple of teachers and the school psychologist were there.  At least five kids went running for their phones; someone in their families worked at the Pentagon, or were near Ground Zero. The girl next to me was shaking uncontrollably; her husband was supposed to be near Ground Zero for a conference.  She couldn't reach him by phone. That afternoon, she discovered he hadn't gone to the conferenc that day, and had rented a car to drive home.
The brother of one of my colleagues we learned later, died in one of the towers.  My cousin by marriage, a day trader, was talking to colleagues and friends in Cantor Fitzgerald  when the phone died.  Many of them apparently did not come out. And, the girl who owns my favorite yarn shop across the street from work was a survivor; she had worked in the towers.
I thought of my Dad, who had been there late in 1976.  He wanted to take me there to see the Towers; he said there were stores full of dolls from many countries.  I thought of an ad I had seen the week before; there was a photo of the towers, with the caption "something will happen on September 11th."  They meant they were introducing a new computer software.  Little did they, and we know.
As soon as I could, I did what I always did in times of crisis; I called my mother.  I had called her in 1993 when the first attack on the twin towers took place, when the Challenger exploded, when Oklahoma City was bombed, and during  the Columbine disaster.  I wanted to call her today; I can't.  She died three years ago.  That first Christmas, we joined others and bought RWB ornaments, and little fire fighter and police dolls.  At the stores, others were buying them, too, and they said, as we chose what to buy, " we have to buy them; someone has to do something."
Today, may we think on those who lost their lives, and on those who have died since in the wars that have ensued.  Bless them and their families and friends who have survived.  There is no closure for grief; only memories, only rembrance.  That, we will always have.  May God Bless all of us who live in this world, even those who sadly see this as a day of celebration.  Little do they know.  Maybe someone can forgive them, for they know not what they do, either.  Above all, God Bless the Union, and God Bless the United States.  Have a thoughtful, safe, and careful day today, September 11, 2011.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pym Conference and A Very Private Eye

Barbara Pym, often hailed as The Modern Jane Austen, was terrific at writing memori, diaries, and archiving her old letters.  Were she alive, she would be a great blogger.  The Latest   Pym News below:


The Barbara Pym Society's annual fall tea in Boston will be held on Saturday, 5 November (Guy Fawkes Day) from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. at the Church of the Advent on Beacon Hill in Boston.  The cost is $5 per person if you bring a suitable tea cake, sandwich, or pastry to share,  or $15 per person otherwise. Newcomers and guests are most welcome to join us.  Along with tea and congenial company we'll have a Pym trivia contest;  RSVP details will be forthcoming.

The Annual General Meeting in Oxford was splendid as always; you will get all the details in the fall issue of Green Leaves.  It was agreed at the AGM that starting in 2012 we will offer full-time students the same discounted membership rate as Seniors.  We also agreed to publish a separate membership directory for the North American chapter because of privacy and permission concerns in the U.K.  I will be preparing a membership list giving names, city and state/province, and e-mail addresses which will be sent by e-mail whenever possible; I hope that this will encourage more small regional gatherings in coming years.

Finally, a reminder that the 2012 North American conference will be held at Harvard on 16-18 March, and will focus on Jane and Prudence.  The organizing committee is now soliciting proposals for talks to be presented at the conference; if you are interested, please send a 100-150 word proposal to barbarapymsociety@gmail.com by 20 November.  I also encourage you to spread the word to non-member academics and Eng Lit students who have an interest in Pym.  We cannot reimburse travel and lodging expenses but do pay the speakers' registration and meals fees and provide a $250 honorarium.

Best wishes,

Tom Sopko, North American Organizer
The Barbara Pym Society

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

From Deeper than Dead; Mothers and Daughters, Gender-Free, and The Error World

For all who have lost a beloved parent, see below. Not quite a memoir, but it should be:

Deeper than Dead, by Tami Hoag:

"Her mother had always been her sounding board, her voice of reason, her best friend.  . . " (26).  She goes on to say her her father put her mother on a pedestal in public,and belittled her in private.  The whole passage reminded me of Sylvia Plath, and other things. 

For those who love collecting, especially stamps, I recommend Simon Garfield's memoir, The Error World; An Affair with Stamps. I've had a collection since I was ten, and my dad and uncle had one before me that I inherited.  I've kept it up, and traded and made friends, but I guess I'm more casual in the lives of people as hard core as Mr. Garfield.  This is also a memoir of passion and obsession; the use of "affair" is no accident.  His prose and story are riveting, and fascinate you, even if you don't collect a thing.

An interesting review in the NY Times Review of books, Sept. 4, is a review of Justin Vivian  Bond's memoir Gender Free, about a transichild growing up during teh AIDS crises.