On diversity: Gerard Manley Hopkins

Meet Woody.

The most excellent horse in the world

Woody is not mine, sadly, but he’s the horse I ride most weeks, when the Dude and I go off to the local riding school on a Friday evening for our lesson. I’ve been riding Woody for about two and a half years now, and he is excellent. He’s a great big chunk of a horse – just under seventeen hands high – and is very good-natured, which is fortunate, given that he’s such a unit. He tries very hard and does as he’s told, and in our last lesson he managed a beautiful floaty trot, head down and concentrating. There is something lovely about going riding on a Friday after school, doing something challenging and absorbing that’s completely different to what I’ve been doing all week, and then leaving Woody munching hay in his stable, all tucked up for the night in his rug. I am lucky.

What’s the connection between Woody and Gerard Manley Hopkins? Woody is the colour that used to be known as skewbald, but is now more correctly referred to as tobiano, big bold patches of dark brown and white. If he’d been black and white, he’d have been a piebald, his coat mapped out in continents. And patches – and dapples, and freckles, and spots – form part of Hopkins’ poem ‘Pied Beauty’, a poem that I’ll be doing with Year Twelve in a few weeks’ time. It’s a brilliant poem for exploring the richness that can be offered by different critical approaches, and I approach it by examining successive layers of interpretation, starting with the words on the page, adding in relevant biographical detail and then introducing elements of queer theory. If you don’t know ‘Pied Beauty’, here it is:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

The poem is, in part, a hymn to the great variety of the natural world. I introduce it through showing a series of images, and getting students to describe what they can see: a dapple-grey horse, a speckled roan cow, a goldfinch, an aerial view of a landscape looking like a patchwork quilt, a mackerel sky at sunset. We look at how Hopkins conjures such vivid images in just a few words. ‘Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls’: isn’t that brilliant? Could there ever be a better description of conkers straight from the shell, all bright and glowing, before they lose their gorgeous sheen?

In the final line of the opening sestet, Hopkins turns to the human world. What does he seem to be saying here? It’s a statement, as clear as anything, that there is room for everyone, of all pursuits and professions. And this continues into the next line: ‘All things counter, original, spare, strange’. I remind the students that counter can mean in opposition to, as in ‘counter-argument’ and ‘counter-cultural’, coming from the same Anglo-Norman root as contrast and contrary. There’s a place for you, no matter who or what you are.

At this point, we think about the references to God. God, the poem clearly indicates, is eternal and unchanging, while on earth things are full of diversity, patched and variegated and multifaceted. But this world, and the multitudes that it contains, are all part of God’s creation. So far, so simple. Does the poem need to be more complicated than that?

Well, yes, it does. Because up until now, I haven’t told the students anything about Hopkins himself. And it’s now that I introduce them to Hopkins’ complex Jesuit faith, the sense of unworthiness that plagued him throughout his life, and the self-loathing he experienced as a result of his attraction to men. Hopkins loved the natural world, and saw it as a manifestation of the power of his God, writing in one diary entry that ‘I do not think I have ever seen anything more beautiful than the bluebell I have been looking at. I know the beauty of our Lord by it’. Yet he was also haunted by the thought that the sensory pleasure he took in the natural world clashed with the austerity and self-denial demanded by his religion. He undertook self-imposed penances, such as the ‘penance of the eyes’, which involved keeping his eyes fixed on the ground as a means of repressing his passion for nature. He fell intensely in love with a young man called Digby Dolben, who he met at Oxford, and his journals have been described as showing ‘how absorbed he was in imperfectly suppressed erotic thoughts’ of Dolben. Hopkins does not appear to have experienced any kind of physical intimacy with another person, male or female. But a number of his poems – notably ‘Felix Randal’ – focus on the muscular beauty of male bodies, and Hopkins was also drawn to physical representations of Christ on the cross. The repetitions and exclamations in his poetry have been read as a reflection of the pent-up emotion that he had to suppress elsewhere in his life. And even the form of ‘Pied Beauty’ can be seen as subversive. It’s a curtal sonnet, ten and a half lines instead of the conventional fourteen, but with enough of a nod – in its sestet and quatrain – to the rules that it should be following. Because we also study Tony Harrison, another writer of unconventional sonnets, we can look at what is signalled by playing around with this most respectable of forms. I don’t have to do what I’m supposed to, it says. I’m going to make up my own rules.

So we can see ‘Pied Beauty’ not just as a hymn of praise, but also as a celebration of diversity. And students who might not have felt much potential for connection with a man who was about to be ordained into a strict Roman Catholic sect suddenly see the possibility of shared ground. Counter, original, spare, strange … ‘Pied Beauty’ offers a space for all of us, for those who find themselves ridiculous and those who feel they’ll never fit in. I only wish Hopkins had been able to believe his own message.

King Lear: comfort, bleakness and realism

In the final chapter of her book Teaching Literature, Elaine Showalter reflects on what it is to teach literature in dark times. Showalter asks: ‘What should teachers do in the classroom in times of crisis, disaster, tragedy, sorrow, and panic? Does teaching literature, rather than economics or physics, demand that we rise to these occasions, and if so, how?’ It’s a question that’s been very much on my mind this week, a week in which terrible events have been unfolding on the other side of Europe and students have come into school jittery and afraid. Should literature be able to offer some kind of consolation? Should it even try?

Many people have argued, over the years, that this is what literature is for. It offers lessons and meanings; it teaches us how to live. Matthew Arnold famously declared, in ‘The Study of Poetry’ (1880), that we ‘will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to sustain us’. For Arnold, this was because religion was crumbling, philosophy was too abstruse, and scientific knowledge was ever-changing and therefore unstable. Poetry offered an eternal store of what he had referred to in Culture and Anarchy (1869) as ‘the best which has been thought and said’. For many reasons, though, Arnold’s premise is a shaky one. Poetry doesn’t exist as an abstract entity, free from all material ties. It’s written by real people, with real allegiances and prejudices, situated in real and very specific contexts. It interprets life in partial ways, informed by particular experiences and world-views. It shows us life through a particular set of lenses, but these lenses can be distorting, and we need to alert students to this rather than treating it as a store of eternal truths.

Bleak. Flooded Fens, by Gary Heayes, at openphoto.net

And comfort, in any case, can often be a bit rubbish. Years ago, I trained as a volunteer for a particular helpline, and one of the first things we were told was that we should never offer comfort, because it didn’t make life any better for the people who used our service. Other people would give them platitudes: what we had to do was to be prepared to go to the depths with them, to face the worst, rather than pretending that the worst didn’t exist.

Ironically, in view of what I’ve just said about Matthew Arnold, one of the most bracing things I’ve ever read is another of Arnold’s works: his poem ‘Dover Beach’. This poem is full of uncertainty. It sets the ebb and flow of the waves against the confusion of human life, and concludes that in a world beset by pain, all we can do is ‘be true to one another’. I remember teaching it to a Year Thirteen class in a previous iteration of the A level course. We spent quite a long time exploring the poem’s final stanza, and especially the lines where Arnold ultimately rejects the idea that the world is a benign, comforting place:

… the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

‘Well, that’s bloody depressing’, one student declared, and most of the rest of the class agreed. But one student didn’t. Her mother had terminal cancer, and didn’t have long to live. This particular student squared her shoulders and paused before she spoke. ‘I think it’s quite realistic, actually’, she said.

I have been thinking about all of this because Year Twelve and I have been looking at the ending of King Lear this week. We’ve been listening to Emma Smith’s fantastic podcast on the different ways in which the ending of the play has been interpreted, and I’ve been impressed by how quickly the students have grasped the various critical perspectives that Smith outlines. We started by examining the idea of catharsis, and thinking about what the ending of Macbeth provides: a sense that the balance of things has been restored, that a world rocked on its axis has been set right by the death of Macbeth and the accession of Malcolm to the throne. Then we turned to Lear. All the bad people die – Cornwall and Edmund, Goneril and Regan – but so do Gloucester and Cordelia and Lear. Cordelia doesn’t need to die: Edmund, wanting to do some good in the last moments of his life, sends Edgar to reverse the order he has issued for Cordelia to be hanged. But Edgar is too late. And there isn’t the neat ending that Macbeth offers, with the rightful ruler back in place. We don’t know who’s going to rule. Strictly speaking, it should be Albany, as the most senior character left alive. But he offers the throne to Edgar and Kent. Nobody seems to want the job. I’m not sure I can blame them.

Smith’s podcast surveys responses to the ending of King Lear from Nahum Tate in 1681 to Jonathan Dollimore in 1984, placing these responses into four broad stages. First, represented by Tate and Samuel Johnson, is the view that the ending of King Lear is too shocking to give pleasure: too cruel and appalling, the deaths of Lear and Cordelia too unnecessary. Second, represented by Schlegel and the Romantics, is the view that the suffering within the play takes place on such a huge scale that it can be seen as an example of the sublime: its very vastness inspires us with a sense of awe. Third is the Christian interpretation offered by A.C. Bradley and G. Wilson Knight: that the ending offers a vision of redemption in which Lear’s suffering will be rewarded in heaven. Finally, there is a much darker view, represented by existentialist philosophy and the Theatre of the Absurd: that the play’s ending is just as shocking and brutal as Tate and Johnson felt, but that this is simply the way life is. We are, indeed, as flies to wanton boys: there is no deeper meaning, no higher purpose, no certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain. Dover, whether it’s Arnold’s version or in the absurdist interpretation of Shakespeare, is a pretty bleak place. All you can do is square your shoulders, take a deep breath, and keep going.

And we decided that actually, it was this interpretation of Lear that we liked best. It faces the brutality of the play head-on and does not try to offer some consolatory message that isn’t there. It’s raw and astringent. It was one of those lessons that goes way beyond A level, that is far more important than any discussion of assessment objectives or essay structure.

Auden’s poem ‘September 1, 1939’ has been mentioned several times this week, for obvious reasons. In Julian Barnes’ novel A History of the World in 10½ Chapters there’s a discussion of Auden’s line ‘We must love one another or die’. Auden famously changed this line to ‘We must love one another and die’, commenting that the original was ‘a damned lie’ because ‘we must die anyway’. Barnes’ narrator is sceptical – he argues that there are more persuasive ways of reading Auden’s first version – but I’m on Auden’s side. Face the bleakness, face the inevitability, and make the most of things while you can.

Meanwhile, spring has finally come to this particular corner of the world, at a time when things are so horrific elsewhere. I am thinking of Carol Rumens’ poem ‘The Emigrée’, of white streets and blue sky and an impression of sunlight, and hoping that things will change.


My dad left school when he was fifteen. It was the summer of 1952. He was a bright lad, and had done well at school: he’d passed his 11+, and had got a place at Wigan Grammar School, distinguishing himself by way of his neat handwriting and meticulous organisation. And then his dad – a coal miner, from a family of coal miners – developed pneumoconiosis, and died, leaving a wife and two sons. He was just 44. My dad left the Grammar School, and went down the pit himself, to support his mother and ten-year-old brother.

This wasn’t the end of his education. He enrolled at Wigan Technical College and completed qualifications, in geology, surveying, mining technology. Eventually, he was transferred to the brand-new, state-of-the-art Parkside Colliery, in Newton-le-Willows, and was appointed Safety Engineer. He helped to formulate the rules that were put in place across the country to make conditions safer for the men who worked underground. He was head of the colliery’s First Aid team, which he led to victory in competitions throughout the UK.

Parkside Colliery First Aid team, 1975. My dad is third from the right. My brother is on the right, with v trendy collar and tank top

And he was a digger. Earth was his element. He gardened, grew flowers and vegetables, kept an allotment. Appropriately, for a miner and a gardener, he believed in starting at the bottom and working your way up. He wasn’t keen on the idea of university. It enabled people to skip the first few rungs on the ladder, elevating book-learning over practical, hands-on experience. Going to university delayed the process of getting a job and earning a living, the process he’d started in his mid-teens. As for studying English – well, what was the point? It took a trip into school and a meeting with my English teacher to convince him that it wouldn’t be a waste of time.

So Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Digging’, with its division not just between the generations but between talents and ways of life, is a poem that has always resonated with me. Since I’ve had my own garden, I’ve recognised how much care and skill went into what he did. Nothing fancy – I don’t think anyone had heard of butternut squash or rainbow chard back then – but potatoes and leeks, onions and cabbages and tomatoes, enough for a family of six with plenty left over. He was a great believer in an honest job that was done well. The rasping sound of spade in soil, the clean smell of earth.

Extract from an article by my dad in the Parkside Colliery newsletter, 1986

And now my son, the Dude, is a digger, too. He’s decided that college isn’t for him, for now. He’s working for a landscape gardener, wielding a spade and heaving buckets of earth. He’s coming home filthy and tired, but it’s a good tiredness. College can wait. It won’t go away.

The last few months have brought home to me how little vocational education is valued in the UK, and how difficult life is for young people who don’t want to go down an academic route post-16. The past two years have meant that opportunities for work experience have been thin on the ground. Open days, college visits, induction sessions: the mechanisms that help teenagers to make big decisions about their futures have been unable to happen. And so choices have been made based on what seems easiest, on what has the security of the familiar. School and college seem safe. It’s hard to break away and do something completely new.

I am proud of the Dude, for doing the difficult thing. My dad never got to meet him, but he’d be proud of him too. Meanwhile, I’m poised between the two, with my own squat pen and a head full of books, doing my own digging.

King Lear: the personal and the political

I don’t think it’s any secret that I love teaching A level English. I think A level – especially Year Twelve – is a really important time, when students are starting to find out who they are intellectually now that they can focus on just three subjects. There are those lovely moments when someone becomes completely hooked on a topic they’d never heard of six months previously, and you can almost see an entire career starting to take shape before your eyes. Sometimes, you’ll suggest something that they could follow up, a bit of extra reading, and they’ll take the idea and run with it. I remember this phase of my own life very vividly, and the sense that there were spaces opening up inside my head, exciting and addictive and a little bit scary. Connections are firing and interpretations being made, and sometimes – even after twenty-six years – it is so bloody brilliant that I get to the end of a lesson and can’t believe I actually get paid to do all of this.

I had one of those moments the week before last, when Year Twelve were looking at the concept of anagnorisis. I know some people are sceptical about using Aristotelian concepts to analyse tragedy, and I do think they need careful handling: it’s not enough to simply get students to learn them and apply them, because that often leads to lots of over-schematic analysis. And anagnorisis is a case in point. Aristotle defines it as a change from ignorance to knowledge, which could involve the recognition of someone’s true identity – as when Lear recognises that he has trusted the wrong daughters – or an acknowledgement of one’s own tragic error. Students often want to find one single moment that they can label, but in King Lear, anagnorisis is more of a process. The first hint of it occurs as early as Act 1 Scene 5, just after the violent scene in which Lear curses Goneril. Lear and the Fool are on stage together, and there’s a sense that the Fool is, gently, trying to encourage the emotionally spent king to think about what he has done:

FOOL: Thou canst tell why one’s nose stands i’the middle on’s face?
FOOL: Why, to keep one’s eyes of either side’s nose; that what a man cannot smell out, he may spy into.
KING LEAR: I did her wrong –
FOOL: Canst tell how an oyster makes his shell?

Lear’s ‘I did her wrong – ’ is the first sign we get that he recognises the rashness of his actions. Tantalisingly, though, it’s broken off, interrupted by the Fool. It’s not until the end of this scene that Lear returns to the subject of himself, this time with an anguished plea for sanity:

O, let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven,
Keep me in temper: I would not be mad!

Next time we see him, in Act 2 Scene 4, Lear’s grasp on sanity has become even more precarious. It is in this scene that he recognises how Goneril and Regan have manipulated him. Crucially, he is also beginning to question the values that he has lived by. His daughters are trying to persuade him that he does not need his hundred knights, and in response, Lear utters his great, agonised speech on the nature of need, recalibrating his sense of what is really necessary. And then, in the scenes on the heath in Act 3, we see Lear’s recognition of the shortsighted way in which he has governed his country, ignoring the needs of the ‘poor naked wretches’, with their ‘houseless heads’ and ‘unfed sides’, who must bear the full force of the storm:

O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this!

This is where Year Twelve come in. One of them, considering Lear’s acknowledgement of the state of his country, asked: does anagnorisis have to be about personal faults? Can characters undergo a political anagnorisis as well? And we decided that this is certainly true of Lear. His anagnorisis certainly has a personal dimension, but I’d argue that it’s Lear’s political anagnorisis that makes this such an astonishing play, lifting it out of a purely domestic realm.

‘Off, off, you lendings–Come unbutton here,’ William Sharp, 1793. (Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Kiernan Ryan’s recent book Shakespearean Tragedy explores the political dimension of King Lear in detail. Ryan makes it clear that the staging of the play – at Whitehall, in front of King James I – could itself be seen as a profoundly transgressive act, confronting the king with ‘a mighty monarch, James’s legendary precursor on the throne of Albion, [who] is robbed not just of his royalty but the roof over his head, and forced to feel the deprivation, the biting cold and the despair that the hungry, homeless outcasts of his kingdom must endure’ (Ryan, 163). For Ryan, the most remarkable moment in the play is when Lear tears off his clothes – a moment when the king realises that ‘beneath his royal robes and a mad beggar’s rags shivers the same “poor, bare, forked animal”’ (194). As Lear strips himself of his ‘lendings’, he ‘enacts the understanding that the monarchy itself, and the unequal distribution of property, wealth and power it preserves, have no foundation in nature’ (195). This moment is made all the more remarkable by the fact that it would have been witnessed by King James itself, and that it took place at a time when the clothes that people were allowed to wear were governed by the sumptuary laws, meaning that one’s clothing gave a clear visual sign of one’s place in the social hierarchy. Ryan goes on to point out that this stripping-away of garments reveals not just the ‘physiological kinship’ of people of different ranks and classes, but also ‘the potential they share with their fellow human beings to be someone quite different from the person they became and believe themselves to be’ (196).

There are, of course, so many connections that can be drawn between Lear’s anagnorisis – his recognition of the corrupting power of wealth and status, of the different rules that apply to rich and poor – and our current political situation. Plate sin with Lulu Lytle wallpaper, and the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks … Pomp, as Lear urges, should ‘take physic’, and expose itself ‘to feel what wretches feel’. We are enjoying finding the parallels, whilst hoping that hubris will meet its inevitable counterpart. I’m not sure Shakespeare has ever seemed so relevant.

King Lear: Examining Albany

We’re now exploring Act 5, and one of the characters we’ve looked at recently is Albany. He’s a character I find interesting, because of the way he grows in stature during the play, and he’s also a useful character to use as the basis for an exploration of how the OpenSourceShakespeare website can be used to develop students’ understanding.

If you’ve never used OpenSourceShakespeare before, it’s brilliant. You can search Shakespeare’s whole canon for individual words – there are 307 references to horses in Shakespeare’s works, but no donkeys – or use the Advanced Search to look for particular words in one play. Thus you can find out that the word ‘nothing’ appears 34 times in King Lear, and that Lear himself uses it more than anyone else, 10 times in total. You can also search for all the speeches by a particular character, and that’s really useful if you want a quick way of looking at something like how a character’s lines are distributed throughout the play, or how many soliloquies are spoken by a particular character. It enables you to check hunches. You can even come up with some surprising observations, such as the fact that Goneril and Edmund only actually speak to each other in one scene, Act 4 Scene 2, where Edmund declares himself ‘Yours in the ranks of death’. Give it a go! But be prepared to waste hours of your time.

Costume design for the Duke of Albany, John Seymour Lucas, C19th. (Source: Creative Commons)

So, Albany. He’s a bit of an odd character, isn’t he? If you do an image search for ‘King Lear Albany’, you’ll get a real mess of characters, but none of them recognisably Albany. Nobody gets famous for playing Albany, in the way they get famous for playing Gloucester or Edmund or even the vile eye-gouging Cornwall. I doubt Albany’s a role that actors aspire to play. What does Albany actually do? For the first half of the play, he’s barely there, such an unsubstantial presence that it’s not surprising that Goneril treats him with such contempt. But he’s one of only three characters to survive at the end of the play, and in one version – the 1608 quarto – he speaks the final lines. How does he get there?

We first meet Albany in Act One Scene One, where he is mentioned in the very first line, ‘I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall.’ James Shapiro points out that this line would have had a deeply contemporary resonance for Shakespeare’s audience: King James’s older son, Henry, was the current Duke of Cornwall, and his younger son, Charles, was Duke of Albany. But there’s no clear reason for Lear to favour Albany, whose role in this scene is essentially to be his wife’s silent partner. In production, he’s often presented as nervous, on edge. Richard Clothier, in Sam Mendes’ 2014 production for the National Theatre, plays him as hesitant and solicitous, gazing up at Goneril as she delivers her speech to Lear. Albany only speaks twelve lines altogether in Act 1, and none of his speeches is longer than two lines. His first two lines are ‘Dear sir, forbear!’ and ‘Pray, sir, be patient’, urging Lear to think more carefully as he denounces first Cordelia and then Goneril. In general, in this first act, he’s a bit bewildered, constantly wanting to know what’s happening and what’s wrong. He wants people to calm down and not get quite so worked up. It’s quite telling, I think, that he makes no comment whatsoever about Lear’s riotous knights. You’d think he’d be a bit hacked off.

It’s even more striking that Albany doesn’t appear at all during Acts 2 and 3. He is entirely absent from the scenes of conflict at Gloucester’s castle, including Act 2 Scene 4, when Goneril and Regan carry out their callous reduction of Lear’s right to his hundred knights, and when Cornwall – who has already put the disguised Kent in the stocks – insists on barring the gates of the castle, shutting Lear out in the storm. He doesn’t appear again, in fact, until Act 4 Scene 2, but when he does return, it’s with a line that is one of my favourite insults in the whole world:

O Goneril,
You are not worth the dust which the rude wind
Blows in your face.

Isn’t it brilliant? And he continues in the same vein. He might have been absent, but he knows exactly what’s been going on. There are two emotions that dominate his lines: contempt, and an appalled, visceral horror:

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile;
Filths savour but themselves. What have you done?
Tigers, not daughters, what have you perform’d?

Goneril, now, is ‘most barbarous, most degenerate’, a ‘devil’, a ‘fiend’. Her actions against her father are such that if the heavens do not rain down punishment upon her, then there is surely no hope:

Humanity must perforce prey on itself,
Like monsters of the deep.

Goneril dismisses him as a ‘milk-liver’d man’, a ‘vain fool’, but by now, we’re firmly on Albany’s side. And when a gentleman arrives with the news of Cornwall’s death, Albany himself takes heart that the heavens are on his side too: ‘This shows that you are above, / You justicers.’

In Act 5, we see Albany increasingly acting like a statesman, rather than shuffling his feet on the sidelines. You can get students to track this as they read the play, but it’s interesting to get them to confirm it by looking at Albany’s lines on OpenSourceShakespeare. He is respectful, but assertive. He arrests Edmund on a charge of capital treason, orders the sick Regan to be taken to his tent, and takes charge when Edgar, in disguise, presents himself to challenge his brother. His scorn for Goneril continues to be abundantly clear: her refers to her as a ‘gilded serpent’, and orders her to ‘shut [her] mouth’. As the play reaches its end, he vows to resign his powers to Lear ‘during the life of this old Majesty’, ensuring that the frail and grief-stricken king receives a measure of the dignity to which he is entitled.

Then there are those last lines, speaking of sadness, honesty, and lessons hard learned. In the Quarto version, they’re spoken by Albany. In the Folio, they’re spoken by Edgar. Arguably, it’s more appropriate to give them to Albany, as the highest-ranking survivor. He’s grown enormously during the course of the play. Would we ever have expected it, from his behaviour in Act 1? Probably not.

An interesting observation. Apart from Act 1 Scene 1, Albany and Cornwall are never on stage together. Have they ever got along, these sons-in-law? Some productions cast actors who differ markedly in appearance and physique, playing on the difference between the characters. In the 2014 National Theatre production, Albany is neat and grey-suited, Cornwall broad-shouldered in a maroon shirt and flashy striped tie. You can imagine them at an awkward family party, Cornwall insisting on taking over the barbecue, Albany sipping wine and wanting to make an early getaway.

And an enormous irony. The real-life Duke of Albany, just six years old when King Lear was first performed, would later become Charles I. We’ll never know what he was doing on Boxing Day 1606, when his dramatic equivalent was finding his feet, standing up to his wife, and witnessing the death of his king. I’m imagining him watching through the banisters, wondering what was going on, with no idea of what the future had in store.

Trisha Yates, feminist icon

Oh, Trisha Yates. Trisha Yates, with your magnificent hair, the product of endless hours with curling tongs and Elnette hairspray. Trisha Yates, who could wither spotty schoolboys with a single glare. I am currently working my way through the first few series of Grange Hill on Britbox, the perfect nostalgia-fest while I’m cooking or ironing, and it’s reminding me not only of what a fabulous series this was, but why we need characters like Trisha Yates in our lives.

The hair. (Photo: grangehillfandom.com)

When Grange Hill first started, in February 1978, I was only five years old. It was something that people’s big brothers and sisters watched, rather than something children my age watched, and therefore I first became aware of it as a Bad Influence, with a boy called Tucker Jenkins and lots of moral panic about loutish behaviour. My friend Emma wasn’t allowed to watch it, because her mum disapproved. We played Grange Hill in the playground when we’d had enough of playing School or House or Horses, and while all the boys wanted to be Tucker, all the girls wanted to be this mysterious being called Trisha Yates. And when I eventually started watching Grange Hill, when I was about seven, I could see why. Trisha was a force of nature. She knew her own mind and didn’t let anyone push her around. It was heady stuff.

Watching Grange Hill now, over forty years (forty years!) since its launch, has been an interesting experience. I’d been expecting controversy – rioting schoolchildren, pulling hair and eating dirt – but there’s actually a deep underlying morality to the series that makes it feel rather like a succession of public information films. Here’s what you do if you’re being bullied. Here’s how you should act if a classmate is having problems. Bad behaviour leads to clear consequences, and doing the right thing (telling a teacher, helping someone who is worse off than you) is praised. True, there is mischief, but there are also serious nasties – in the first series, it’s Jackie Heron and her sidekicks – and it’s clear that they are not to be admired.

And then there’s Trisha. She’s a first-year in 1978, with a big sister called Carol and a mum who also played Kath Brownlow in Crossroads. The famous hair is only in its infancy, but the rebelliousness is there. Trisha rails against having to wear school uniform and not being allowed to wear earrings or nail varnish. She gets detention for wearing stripy socks and bunks off school as a result. But she’s steered back by the wise counsel of her form tutor, Mr Mitchell, and learns to channel her stroppiness more constructively.

Trisha, Year 7 version.

If you go looking for articles about Grange Hill, you’ll often see Trisha described as the ‘bad girl’. But there’s a good deal of tone-policing going on here, because actually, she’s not a bad girl at all. Trisha kicks against authority, but as the series develops, she actually does a great deal of good. She joins the school council and spearheads numerous campaigns – to abolish school uniform, to get a common room for lower school pupils to use at lunchtime. She speaks out about the fact that girls aren’t allowed to do technical drawing. Whenever there’s an injustice, she squares her shoulders, sets her jaw, and does whatever she can to combat it. If that’s what being a ‘bad girl’ is, then there’s a whole lot that’s wrong with how we judge teenage behaviour, and especially the behaviour of teenage girls. Trisha won’t blindly obey orders or put up with things for the sake of keeping the peace. She’s a one-person embodiment of The Style Council’s message in ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’: You don’t have to take this crap! You don’t have to sit back and relax! You can actually try changing it! That’s admirable, not bad.

There’s something deeply independent about Trisha’s character. Unlike her friend Cathy, she resists peer pressure, and refuses to get involved with the real bad girl Madelin Tanner, who gets Cathy mixed up in shoplifting. She goes out very briefly with Cathy’s older brother Gary, but ditches him when it’s clear that he’s not happy with her having other male friends. I remember teenage magazines of this era – my older sisters’ weekly copy of Jackie, with its photo stories and advice about flirting and make-up – being all about making yourself attractive and getting a boyfriend, but Trisha’s having none of it. She doesn’t seem bothered.

Trisha bows out at the end of Series 5, in 1982. I remember her appearing in the final episode of the Grange Hill spin-off Tucker’s Luck, when we find that she’s working for the DHSS. Michelle Herbert, who played her, now lives in Dundee, runs a double-glazing business with her husband, and campaigns to raise awareness of the lesser-known symptoms of breast cancer. I don’t know what Trisha is doing now, but I’d like to think that she is also campaigning somewhere, being feisty and determined and showing us how to be.


I knew it would happen. There’s Boris Johnson, presiding over a culture in 10 Downing Street where people were clearly allowed to believe that the rules didn’t apply to them. And there was Angela Rayner, being interviewed for Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning, discussing Johnson’s bluffing and obfuscation. ‘The Prime Minister could quite simply have answered the question: Was you there, was you not?’ British culture being what it is, it was inevitable that for some people, Rayner’s non-standard verb forms would be far more appalling than anything Johnson did or didn’t do. Twist the rules, lie to the public, spaff taxpayers’ money up the wall: just make sure you do it in RP.

A level English Language students are always fascinated by different perceptions of accents and dialects. One of the pieces of research we look at in Year 12 is Dixon, Mahoney and Cox’s 2002 matched guise study, which examined the effect of regional accent on perceptions of guilt. Participants were asked to listen to recordings of scripted interviews between a police inspector and a suspect, the latter played by a student who used a Birmingham accent in one set of interviews and an RP accent in another. The suspect was far more likely to be judged to be guilty when he spoke with a Birmingham accent – even though the words he spoke were exactly the same.

Students are frequently – and quite rightly – outraged by this, seeing it as an example of the ways in which people with strong regional accents are discriminated against. But there is, of course, another side to the experiment. You’re more likely to be considered guilty if you speak with a regional accent, but equally, you’re more likely to be considered not guilty if you speak RP. And this is one academic study, but how many people, over the decades, have managed to hide behind the smooth veneer of an accent so inextricably linked to wealth, power and the Establishment?

‘We apologise to viewers in the North. It must be awful for you.’ Susie Blake, as Victoria Wood’s continuity announcer

There are a number of poems that play around with issues of accent and prejudice. One of my favourites is Tony Harrison’s ‘Them & [uz]’, a pair of caudal sonnets based on the poet’s experience of being a pupil from a working-class background at the decidedly middle-class Leeds Grammar School. It uses phonemic symbols to distinguish between the younger Harrison’s accent – with its rounded [uz] – and that of his ‘nicely spoken’ teacher, with his RP [Ʌs]. In the first of the sonnets, Harrison is castigated for his accent and made to feel inferior, a ‘barbarian’. The poem is full of images of awkwardness – ‘gob full of pebbles’, ‘great lumps to hawk up and spit out’ – and ultimately, the teacher reduces Harrison to silence:

‘We say [Λs] not [uz], T.W.!’ That shut my trap.

The second sonnet shows Harrison fighting back. Gaining a defiant energy from somewhere, he vows ‘So right, ye buggers, then! We’ll occupy / Your lousy leasehold Poetry.’ He takes charge, drops ‘the initials I’d been harried as’ and uses ‘my name and own voice: [uz] [uz] [uz].’ It’s an immense two fingers to the authority of RP. The icing on the cake is Harrison’s decision to make the sonnet form his own, adapting it for his own purposes by adding those extra two lines. It’s audacious, disobedient, a refusal to conform. I love it.

I first encountered ‘Them & [uz]’ when I was a sixth former, at my comprehensive school in Newton-le-Willows, the same school that Andy Burnham attended, in the middle of the northern no-man’s-land between Manchester and Liverpool. I was preparing for my Oxford entrance exam and desperately self-conscious about sounding Northern. I next encountered it in my second year at university, in a tutorial for a unit called ‘The History, Use and Theory of the English Language’, a compulsory part of the course that nobody really wanted to do. We’d been farmed out to another college and our new tutor had given us the poem as a way of opening up a discussion about accents and prejudice. As the only Northerner in the group, I was asked to demonstrate a Northern [uz]. It didn’t do wonders for my self-esteem. But I was the only one in the group who’d seen the poem before, and could therefore explain exactly what it was that Harrison was saying.

So even though I could predict what one set of reactions to Angela Rayner’s interview would be, I was also cheering her on, a Northern-accented woman holding an RP-speaking man to account. And let’s hope that this is the beginning of the end for the accent of privilege.

We need to talk about The Woman in Black

She’s scary, that woman. Look at her, standing there at the back of the church without a prayer book, or in the abandoned graveyard. Or, rather – don’t look at her. You never know what you might unleash. Keep your head down, keep walking, and carry on as if you never saw her in the first place.

If you’ve ever taught Susan Hill’s 1983 novel The Woman in Black, ever seen the stage play or the Daniel Radcliffe film or the 1989 ITV adaptation, you’ll know just how frightening Jennet Humfrye, the Woman in Black, actually is. Jennet, with her wasted face and malevolent gaze, haunts the lonely churchyard and marshes of the isolated town of Crythin Gifford, and casts an eerie spell over Arthur Kipps, the young solicitor who has been sent from London to sort out the papers of the mysterious Mrs Drablow after her death. Her fleeting appearances in the stage play have audience members shrieking in their seats.  In the television adaptation, scripted by Nigel Kneale of Quatermass fame, she swoops down like a grinning harpy over Kipps as he lies in his bed, and screeches in his face.

Me, confronted with another set of adoption stereotypes

The Woman in Black is incredibly popular in schools. It’s a set text for OCR and Eduqas at GCSE, and it’s also used widely in Key Stage 3, partly because it’s a brilliant introduction to the Gothic, but also because it’s a cracking novel in its own right. We do it at the beginning of Year Nine, and students enjoy it: they rise to the challenge of what is a relatively ‘adult’ novel, and are intrigued by the way Hill controls tension and builds atmosphere. Living as we do on the edge of the Fens, they also find Hill’s descriptions of misty, marshy landscapes extremely evocative. We spend time looking at the way she conveys the delicacy of the light, the weak winter sun and the calls of distant birds. Last year, one of my students showed me a photograph he’d taken during his journey to school one foggy morning. ‘Look, Miss’, he said, ‘it’s just like that bit we read where he’s on his way to Eel Marsh House.’ And it was.

But The Woman in Black is also problematic. Like Blood Brothers, which I wrote about last year, it’s a text whose plot turns on an adoption, and therefore, it has the potential to unleash some extremely complex feelings in students who are adopted or in care. It’s also a text whose representation of adoption – in particular, of the birth mother Jennet Humfrye – needs careful handling.

When she first appears, at the funeral of the reclusive widow Alice Drablow, Jennet Humfrye is a mysterious, brooding presence, dressed in black and bearing the traces of ‘some terrible wasting disease’. Arthur’s first impulse is to feel sorry for her. He wonders whether there’s anything he can do to help. As the novel unfolds, we discover that Jennet and Alice were sisters. We learn that Jennet had a relationship with a young man, became pregnant, and was coerced by her family into giving up her son Nathaniel so that he could be adopted by her sister and brought up in a ‘respectable’ household.

As such, Jennet can be read as an example of the Victorian ‘fallen woman’, and as a representative of the many thousands of women who have been coerced into relinquishing their children because of the stigma of illegitimacy. Arthur suspects that part of her fate is due to the fact that she is a ‘daughter of genteel parentage’: if she had been a servant, she ‘might perhaps have fared better’. As it is, she has been ‘coldly rejected’, her feelings ‘totally left out of the count’, in order to preserve her family’s reputation. Hill makes the agony of Jennet’s situation abundantly clear:

I felt sorry for J, as I read her short, emotional letters over again. Her passionate love for her child and her isolation with it, her anger and the way she at first fought bitterly against and, finally, gave despairingly in to the course proposed to her, filled me with sadness and sympathy.

The Woman in Black, p. 176

In class, Jennet’s plight can be used to open up multiple conversations about the treatment of women and children and the injustices that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘morality’ and ‘respectability’. Students are often horrified that Jennet’s relatives were allowed to do what they did, and even more horrified when they find that even nowadays, women are being coerced into giving up their babies so that they can be given a life that is supposedly better than the one they might have had otherwise. These experiences have been highlighted by the ongoing campaign for an official apology to the thousands of British women forced to hand over their newborn babies for adoption. It might be instructive to read The Woman in Black alongside some of their testimonies: accounts of being slapped, refused pain relief, forbidden to say goodbye. Jennet’s story belongs to living memory, not the distant past.

But. Here’s the difficult thing. Jennet, as everyone who has read or watched The Woman in Black will know, is not allowed to remain as the recipient of sympathy. She’s an avenging spirit who terrifies those who see her. Her loss has fuelled not just sadness, but a destructive rage, a ‘pent-up hatred and desire for revenge’ that leads her to ‘take away other women’s children because she had lost her own’. After the death of her son in a tragic accident, she goes ‘mad with grief and mad with anger’, roaming the streets of the small town of Crythin Gifford ‘like a walking skeleton – a living spectre’. In death, she haunts the isolated Eel Marsh House and the landscape around it. The sight of her reduces Mr Jerome to a state of abject terror. We learn that soon after she appears, a child will inevitably die, in ‘some violent or dreadful circumstance’. She’s an abomination, a monstrous Other, a bogeywoman. And that’s the problem.

It’s a problem for two significant reasons. The first is because if you have any adopted children in your class, their feelings about their birth parents will – inevitably – be incredibly complex ones. Some might have vivid and possibly traumatic memories of living with their birth parents. Some might have ongoing contact. Others will have had to rely on their adoptive parents for information about their birth families, and while all adoptive parents are taught, in their preparation, about how important it is for children to know their life stories, it’s clear that not all adoptive parents are assiduous in having these conversations. (‘Why do you talk to him about that stuff?’ one acquaintance asked me, about the Dude. ‘Does he really need to know?’ Yes, he does. Shut up.) There’ll be a tangle of emotions that – depending on circumstances – might include anger and fear and guilt but will also include grief and love. And having the figure of a birth mother presented as an object of terror could be extremely damaging.

And what about if you don’t have any adopted children in your class? The other reason why Jennet Humfrye is such a troubling figure is because she feeds into the general hoard of myths and stereotypes that exist around adoption. If you don’t have any experience of adoption in real life – and let’s face it, many people don’t – you will rely on fiction and the media to build your mental model. There are hundreds of examples of adopted and care-experienced people in fiction, and therefore also hundreds of examples of fictional birth parents, adoptive parents and foster carers. And many of these examples are hugely problematic.

What might be useful, then, if you’re teaching The Woman in Black, is to consider why it is that the figure of a birth mother – the victim of a terrible injustice – has been treated in this way. Whose interests does it serve, to demonise a woman who has already suffered? In what ways could we see Jennet Humfrye as part of the culture that would still prefer to forget that birth parents exist, to write them out of adopted children’s stories and see them as objects of a profound, atavistic fear?

Last year, I talked to Al Coates of The Adoption and Fostering Podcast about the ways in which adoption is represented in fiction and popular culture. One thing Al said was that what adoption needs is its own version of Cathy Come Home, a story that presents the reality: not the unicorns-and-rainbows fairytale of adoption recruitment campaigns, not the superhero wonder children and not the demons. Too many stories rely on adoption as an easy source of tropes and plot twists. The Woman in Black can open up some conversations about adoption, and can help to shed light on some of the injustices that have taken place. But the way it treats Jennet Humfrye should also make us feel profoundly uncomfortable, and if we’re teaching this novel, then we need to be aware of its flaws.  

Learwife, A Thousand Acres, and creative criticality

I spent the last few days of the Christmas holidays engrossed in J.R. Thorp’s debut novel, Learwife. As its title suggests, it offers an answer to the question students ask every year: what happened to King Lear’s wife? In Thorp’s novel, Lear’s wife has spent the past fifteen years in a convent. She has just heard that her husband and all three of her daughters have died, and is determined to go to Dover to find their bodies, to mourn them properly. We don’t know, initially, why she has ended up in the convent, but it’s clear that it wasn’t her choice. This enclosed world is evoked in detail – the rivalries between the nuns, the privations of winter, the upheaval caused by an outbreak of illness – and Lear’s wife observes all of this from a vantage point that is not entirely neutral: there’s a sly enjoyment in the way she notices other people’s disappointments, their reactions to slights.

What’s most interesting to me, as a confirmed King Lear fan, is Thorp’s depiction of Lear’s daughters, and their place in Lear’s world. In Thorp’s version, there’s a fifteen-year age gap between Cordelia and her older sisters. Goneril and Regan, two years apart, bicker and compete. Their relationship with each other is marked by petty vanities and minor displays of spite. Attempts to assert themselves – borrowing their mother’s combs, refusing to obey orders, wearing foreign gowns that show their arms – are met with slaps and rage and coldness. There are pinches and scratches, dozens of minor cruelties. Regan marries first. Cornwall, a vain peacock, is offended by Lear’s refusal to let Regan leave the royal household: they must stay there, Lear says, in the house of Regan’s birth, rather than setting up court elsewhere. Goneril, who wants to become a nun, is married off to Albany against her will: he is an older man, gentle and calm. At their wedding-feast, she turned away from him and ‘laughed indecorously with companions, passing musicians, any other person’.

All the time, what Lear is waiting for is a son. His wife has several miscarriages. There are discussions: should a baby boy be adopted, secretly? Might a holy relic help? Then Cordelia is born, sickly, not expected to survive. And three months later, her mother is taken one night, with just one servant, to the convent where she will spend the next fifteen years. We don’t know, at this stage, why this has happened, but her grief is palpable. She is still producing milk, still aching.

Lear’s wife is barely mentioned in the play itself, so her personality, and her story, are entirely open to interpretation. The only hint we get is in Act 2 Scene 4, when Lear, in an increasing rage at the way his daughters are treating him, refers to their ‘mother’s tomb’ as ‘sepulchring an adultress’. (In Learwife, we find out, eventually, where these suspicions of adultery come from). But Goneril and Regan are much more prominent, and so any fictional interpretation of them needs to ring true. Thorp’s does. You can see entirely, reading about the sisters in childhood and adolescence, how they become the characters they do as adults: where Regan’s malice comes from and why Goneril is so detached from Albany.

“King Lear,” Act I, Scene I, by Edwin Austen Abbey, Metropolitan Museum of New York (public domain)

The other great fictional adaptation of King Lear that I know of is Jane Smiley’s Pulitzer prizewinning novel A Thousand Acres, published in 1991. Smiley transplants the story of Lear and his three daughters to present-day Iowa, to a farm that is the elderly Larry Cook’s pride and joy, nurtured by him single-mindedly over decades. He wants to divide it between his three daughters, Ginny, Rose and Caroline. Ginny and Rose, whose husbands work on the farm, are startled, but accept. Caroline, a lawyer who has moved away to Des Moines, refuses. For this she is cut out. What follows is an exploration of the tensions within the family, the shifting patterns of loyalty and rancour and the things that aren’t mentioned in order to keep the peace. One of these is the fact – revealed by from Caroline – that Ginny and Rose had been sexually abused by Larry. Some might call this far-fetched, but a number of recent productions do build a sense of the complexity of the daughters’ relationships with their father. In the 2016 RSC production, Nia Gwynne’s Goneril cringes at Lear’s cruelty: there’s a sense that she has had to screw her courage to the sticking-place in order to deny him what he wants.

Writing back to Shakespeare, exploiting what Emma Smith describes as ‘the sheer, permissive gappiness’ of his plays and opening these gaps up to explore them, takes skill and sensitivity. It’s something, however, that students aren’t able to do within current GCSE and A level specifications, and that’s a real shame. Writing that blends the creative and the critical, and that also makes use of the affordances of different genres, allows students to find their own ways into Shakespeare. In a chapter for Pamela Bickley and Jenny Stevens’ forthcoming book Shakespeare, Education and Pedagogy: Representations, Interactions and Adaptations, I’ve written about getting my Year Elevens to consider Lady Macbeth’s social media habits as a way of building their confidence and re-engaging them with the character after the first lockdown of 2020. It enabled them to articulate some very subtle observations about character and motivation, drawing on their almost instinctive knowledge of how people behave on social media to manage and manipulate appearances and present a ‘false face’ to the world. Such work is much fresher than any over-scaffolded extract analysis.

The absence of creative rewriting from any of the current specifications is particularly ironic given that creative rewriting is, after all, what Shakespeare himself was doing. Whether it was Holinshed’s Chronicles, Plutarch’s Lives, the Gesta Danorum or Cinthio’s Gli Hecatommithi, Shakespeare himself was taking stories and finding in them spaces that could be opened up and characters who could be rendered more complex. There’s a wonderful moment early in Kiernan Ryan’s recent book Shakespearean Tragedy where Ryan describes Henry VI sitting on a molehill while the Battle of Towton rages, reflecting on his situation. As Ryan comments, ‘The soliloquy owes nothing to Shakespeare’s sources and everything to his fellow-feeling for this stranded royal misfit’. Imagination, sympathy, considering life from the perspective of someone who is not you: all these things might well be difficult to examine, but in the long run, they are far more valuable than any number of drilled paragraphs.

So: read Learwife, and read A Thousand Acres. And let’s push, if we can, for creativity to play a far bigger role in the literature curriculum than it currently does.

28 years later

True story. It’s 23 December 1993, a Thursday. One of those grey midwinter days that never really seem to get light, when the world is shushed back to sleep almost as soon as it’s started to wake up. You’re 21, and kicking your heels. You’ve taken a year out of your degree course, for various non-specific, angsty, finding-yourself kind of reasons, and you’re doing voluntary work at a community centre in Liverpool, helping out on adult cookery courses and after-school clubs while you work out what you’re going to do next. Except today, you’re not at work, because it’s nearly Christmas. Your friend Dermot has suggested you meet up and go into Manchester, so that’s what you do. There’s a rail replacement bus from Eccles, and it threads its way through drizzly streets until it gets to Piccadilly, all Christmas lights and last-minute shoppers. The bus driver has his radio on, and the news is all about the death of Stefan Kiszko, wrongly convicted in 1976 of the murder of 11-year old Lesley Molseed. You think, in the abstract, of how awful it would be for something like that to happen so close to Christmas, but it’s the sort of thing that happens to other people, not to you.

Rain drops: winter dusk in Manchester, by Josh Graciano (licensed under Creative Commons 2.0)

The two of you want to avoid the crowds, so you head to Waterstones, which in 1993 is still just a bookshop, with none of the toys and gifts and jigsaws it becomes crammed with later. You spend a lot of your time in bookshops, in 1993, waiting in between trains or just killing time: News from Nowhere on Bold Street in Liverpool, the radical bookshop run by a workers’ co-operative; Bookland in Warrington, where you spent most of your pocket money as a sixth-former; Sherratt and Hughes on St Ann’s Square. You’re trying to keep up with your reading for university, and so today you buy Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, Ann Radcliffe’s A Sicilian Romance, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Political Writings. You wander back to the station, and head for home.

Your dad is grumpy. Your boots (cherry-red Doc Martens, eight holes) are muddy and he complains. Most of the things you do seem to annoy your dad, from reading too many books to spending too much time in your room. Your sister will be arriving any minute, with your nephews – one six, one nearly four – and you know you’ll be pressed into entertaining them. Your mum’s cooking. You can’t remember, now, what it is that she’s making, and wish you could.

An hour later. Your sister’s arrived, and you’re watching television with your nephews, who want to see the final advent candle being lit on Blue Peter. Your dad’s not feeling well – flu, your mum reckons – so your brother-in-law is going to take him to the GP to see if he can get a last-minute appointment. He’s gone into the front room to find his shoes, but he’s been gone for a while, and so your sister goes to see if she can help. That’s when there’s a shout – Christ, get an ambulance – and your life rattles over the points onto a different track entirely.

It was a massive heart attack, the post-mortem said. Chances are he wouldn’t have known anything about it. Not the worst way to go, by any means, except that he was only 57, six years into retirement and with lots of things still to look forward to. You are all silent, stunned, not knowing what to do. You know, now, that bad things can happen to anyone, even to you, and not just to other people. You remember that the last thing that he said was that he hoped you’d wiped your feet.

You change. How could you not? For a while, you feel at a distance from the rest of your life, from your friends, none of whom have experienced anything like this. You develop a steeliness, a core, a low tolerance for self-indulgence and excuses. You go back to university and intimidate people with how disciplined and focused you are. You work and work and are always a little bit scared of what might come from nowhere to throw life off balance again. You are not the person you would have become if this hadn’t happened to you, at 21.

You’ve spent longer without a father now – twenty-eight years – than you ever did with, but you are his daughter in more ways than he ever knew you’d be. You wonder, often, what he’d think of you if he could see you now, if you could have just one day.