Homeward Bound

(wrapping up our occasional series on my year in London after dropping out of university, which began back in story #63 ...)

As spring moved toward summer that year, my thoughts began to turn to the idea of a return to Canada. I don't mean that I was ready to give up on London; I was very much enjoying myself, and although I wasn't actually moving forward very well on the flute career, there was so much going on in that environment that you couldn't help but have the feeling that you would get 'the break' at any moment. And actually, with the concerto chance that I had already been offered, not to mention meetings and friendships with top level flutists, I had already proved that 'this was the place to be'.

So no, I wasn't thinking of calling it all off. What I intended to do was return to Canada for a short period in the summer to attend a music camp that I had taken part in a couple of times while I was a school student. That camp had been the place that I had really 'caught fire' as a beginner flutist. The 24 hour a day exposure to other enthusiastic students - not to mention plenty of personal attention from professional orchestral players - had really given me a wonderful boost back then.

The first summer I had been just a student, but the second year I had acted as 'dorm mother' to a group of the youngest students, in exchange for a discount on my own tuition fee. Now, from London, I remembered those days, and wanting very much to attend again, I wrote to the managers offering myself as a flute instructor. The reply came back that they had already contracted with a professional orchestra flutist to handle the job, but that I would be welcome as an assistant instructor, in exchange for room and board. They were not able to pay anything above that.

I needed no further encouragement. I wrote back accepting their offer, and booked my flight (which was actually the return leg of the original outbound trip from Canada on a one-year open ticket).

And so we reach the final few weeks of my stay in London. I still have any number of memories though, that could be turned into little stories: it was while I was living there that the IRA began a violent bombing campaign, by setting off an explosion at the Old Bailey, which I was close enough to hear; I also remember meeting conductor André Previn one evening, as he walked along a hallway in the backstage area of the Festival Hall, baton in hand, and although he of course hadn't the slightest idea of who I was, or what I was doing there, he was still polite enough to nod a greeting. Or the day spent at flutist William Bennett's second home, laying turf in the back garden. Or the 'give me a ticket to anywhere' trips that I made from each of London's famous great train stations in turn, making day trips out to random destinations in the countryside ...

Truly, that year in London - and this is not just nostalgic hyperbole - was one of the most treasured times in my life. Every day brought a new adventure of one sort or another, there was always something interesting around every corner, and - as I have mentioned - the very air was full of the expectation that great things were about to happen.

But if that is true, then why is this all in the past tense? Why did I not return to England after the summer camp job was finished?

Well, you can probably guess. It was not just in London that 'great things could happen'. At the camp that year, I happened to meet someone. And as interesting as London was, to a young man of twenty-one, there are other things that can provide a greater attraction!


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