St. John's, Newfoundland (1973-1975)

Our new house at 117 Freshwater Road, St. John's. A recent photograph.

It was taken by Aidan on a visit to Newfoundland in 2008. The house was dark green when we lived in it.

It had 5 bedrooms, which meant that the children all had their own room. There was a lot of competition for the rooms. In the end we allocated them by seniority. Aidan had the first choice. Rona had a small room next to our bedroom. Everyone was happy though, because they wanted their own space.

It was the first time we had had a mortgage since the sale of Scarrowmanwick. We put what remained of the money into a deposit.

Gilbert's mind was alert, even though his body was often inactive. On our wanderings, he usually found a new interest. In St. John's it was Transcendental Meditation.

The founder of Transcendental Meditation was Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Gilbert enquired about his system and was put in touch with a teacher.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

All I discovered was that he had been given a word, which was to be repeated throughout the meditations. They took place twice a day for 20 minutes. It was a secret word. I was not allowed to know it.

The second meditation of the day had to take place before the evening meal. I gave him plenty of notice about when the meal was likely to be ready, but he continued to lie on his bed in a state of inertia. Before nearly every meal it was, "But I haven't done my 20 minutes yet." It put me in a constant state of irritation!

Nor did it seem to do him any good. He still had his meltdowns regularly (about once every 4 days).

Some of his colleagues recognised Gilbert's talents. He was invited to give the occasional one-off lecture. He could be very eloquent and definitely had a gift for speaking. He spoke impromptu - without notes.

Gilbert lecturing at Memorial University.

He had an amazing factual knowledge. At home he kept up a continual stream of monoloques. I wondered often where it all came from. He seemed to draw it out of the air. I had never met anyone like him. He was like a man from another planet. Aspergers syndrome?

At this time, Gilbert experienced a revival of his former interest in writing poetry. Around 170 poems have survived, written either in Newfoundland or in Cambridge, UK. Most of them mean nothing to me. I find them completely incomprehensible. They make me realise how far we were apart. To me it seemed that he had a very strange and complex mind.

I like a few of the simpler ones. Like this one.

Gilbert attached new poems to the door of his room at Memorial. It attracted attention from his students, who paused on their way to read them.

I think he would have liked to be remembered as a poet, but so far no one has discovered him.

I had explored employment opportunities at Memorial Library and I had discovered that it was heavily Unionised and that promotion was by seniority. If a job came up and someone inside wanted it, they would not consider an outside candidate, however well qualified.

I made it clear that I simply wanted library experience and would take anything. Meanwhile I continued with my university courses full-time. I began to add languages: Biblical Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Latin and German.

In 1973 I had 5 As (15 out of 15 points). Some of them were high As. My average was 85%. Someone pointed out that I should qualify for a scholarship.They were awarded to students with the highest average each semester. I applied and was awarded a Centenary of Responsible Government scholarship.

One side effect of all my studies was that both the boys, who were now teenagers, became handy in the kitchen. They grew up to be good cooks!

Gilbert had no norm in his mind about how a typical family should behave. He never disciplined the children. They simply got on with their lives and developed different interests. They tried to ignore Gilbert's meltdowns, because they had nothing to do with them.

One thing they had in common was a love of animals. We always had several cats.The climate was not suitable for guinea pigs as they were an outdoor animal.

Timmy & Jimmy
Rona holding Poss (short for Possum)

Gerald was into cars. He persuaded a friend's father to give him an old car to work on. He took the engine apart and then put it together again. He made a life-long friend of Geoff Feltham, the son of a local teacher, who was also interested in cars. Geoff was actually in Aidan's class at school, but he got to know Aidan through Gerald. Aidan and Geoff correspond to this day and they are also friends on Facebook.

A chaotic scene at the back of 117 Freshwater Road. This is where Gerald spent all his spare time. He was usually covered in grease.

Aidan became a fresher at Memorial University in the Autumn of 1974. There was no grade 12 in Newfoundland at that time. I suppose it was because there were so many small schools scattered around the Island. Instead, all those going on to university did a foundation year together at Memorial. Aidan signed up for science and maths courses. He planned to major in chemistry.

Gilbert was criticised within his department, because he had no formal qualifications in sociology. Younger staff were arriving and they publications and a Ph.D. He was very angry about this as he felt that his strength was teaching. Some very good researchers couldn't teach. They argued that university academics should be doing independent research that resulted in publications.

In Memorial, at that time, academic staff could apply for a sabbatical every 4th year. This would be the ideal time for Gilbert to rectify the situation. He was granted a sabbatical from 1975 to 1976.

Edinburgh Univrsity seemed the obvious choice. Gilbert had developed a new interest in Scottish Gaelic and Scottish emigration to the Eastern Provinces of Canada. We prepared ourselves to spend a year in Edinburgh.

Marian Foster. May 2017