Breugel Children Playing Detail

Dear Frankie

Carl Spitzweg
The Old Librarian

Carl Spitzweg, The Old Librarian

Jean Paul Lemieux
Nineteen Ten Remembered

Jean Paul Lemieux, Nineteen Ten Remembered

Thou saw the fields laid
  bare an' waste,
An' weary winter comin'
An' cozie here, beneath the
Thou thought to dwell ...
  Robert Burns
      To A Mouse


Spring Cleaning at McGill's Redpath Museum

A New Life?

– or Continuation of the Old?

Part 1D


Dear Da —
Thanks for the stamps. The great white shark's the best. Maybe the best you've ever sent. Ma says she'll buy me a new album, when this one's full.

Frankie runs his hands lovingly over the leather cover of his stamp album, begins to turn the pages.   On the cover opposite the last page is a wedding photo of Lizzie with the groom cut out of the photo.   He takes an envelope, allows stamps to slide onto the album page.

Meanwhile Nell is reading aloud with great displeasure from the obituary page of a newspaper while behind her Lizzie unpacks kitchen items and places them in a cupboard:—

That doesn't even rhyme. They're supposed to rhyme. Just you make sure mine rhymes. Oh, don't bother. I'll write it myself.
— It's wishful thinking, you know,
Lizzie points out. You won't find his name in there.
Well, he's got to die sometime,
Nell replies unanswerably.

Did you know something, Da. Did you know a great white can jump right out of the water, and knock over a boat? Not your boat, though. Your boat's ginormous. And guess what else, Da. Guess what? From my window, I can see the sea.

Frankie folds his letter, puts it into an envelope addressed to Petty Officer Davey Morrison care of the Accra.  He is reading over the address when Lizzie comes into the room;  she fishes the hearing aid out of his pocket.


Next day we see some of the ways that Lizzie has learned to use Scotland's network of public institutions in order to ensure a happy life for her son.

First the classroom where the children have obviously been informed by their teacher, Miss MacIntosh, that a hearing-impaired boy is coming to join their class. Lizzie and older female Supervisor are outside the classroom as Frankie and other children are seen through the glass window/wall. Frankie has been placed next to class clown Ricky Munroe.

I don't want him treated any different.
Well, let's give it a couple of weeks. If he's struggling, we'll let you know.
He won't struggle. There's nothing wrong with his brain. Is there, Frankie? Through the glass window Frankie is reading his mother's lips, waggles his fingers in his ears to show that there is nothing wrong with his brain.
A word to the wise. Watch what you say in front of him. He's a champion lip reader.

  Later in the school courtyard Frankie is looking overwhelmed until Catriona signs hello. Frankie signs hello back, but unfortunately that's the extent of Catriona's mastery of sign language.   Still, he brightens at her obvious friendliness.

We do geography at school, Da. It's my favourite subject. I know every single country in the whole world. Miss Mackenzie gave me Well Done.

From the beginning we realize that Ricky Munroe is going to be Frankie's bête noir in this new life, this new school.   Disgusted by Frankie's mastery of geography class, Ricky leans forward to write 'DEF BOY' on Frankie's desk.   Frankie does have his weapons:— smiling serenely he adds the missing letter A.

I've made a friend. His name's Ricky Munroe. And he's rubbish at geography.

Next the post office, where we see Lizzie give her name and box number at a wicket window, and a Clerk disappear and return with an envelope.   And then another shop, where a friendly sympathetic stamp dealer has put aside a special stamp awaiting Lizzie's eventual return.

And lastly we see her in a large common room, possibly a library, where she begins to write a letter that begins, Dear Frankie.  Lizzie's words as she speaks aloud are soon superceded by a man's distinctive deep voice speaking with an attractive soft Scots accent.   It's The Stranger, of course.   And when it is pointed out in previous webpage 1B Benevolent Impersonation, that The Stranger is perfect for the role, he is, obviously, even if we haven't seen him yet:—

So we're sailing down towards the Cape now. The sky here is the most beautiful shade of blue I've ever seen. It's like the stone in your ma's engagement ring. Ask her to show you it. Then you'll know exactly what I mean.

We deduce that Lizzie also takes time to buy a newspaper, which she drops on the table in front of her mother.

Next it's Frankie's turn, entering the public library and making for the Marine section, obviously already well-acquainted with the wonders of the Dewey library notation system.   Unfortunately he has sailed past the reception desk without even noticing the Librarian, who trots after him, nattering away at what seems a heedless and highly disrespectful client.

Cheeky wee devil, you ... Frankie stops, having reached his objective, at which point the Librarian touches him on the arm. He turns to face her, smiles sweetly, takes the hearing aid from his pocket and puts it on his ear, thereby disconcerting her exceedingly. Oh, I ... I didn't realize. I, uh ... I'm so sorry, I didn't know you were ... And she mouths the word 'deaf'.

And then, overcome by the inadequacy of her response, the Librarian draws herself up to her full height, aware that she has one means at her disposal to equalize the odds for one small person in this unfair world:—

Aw, never you mind, son. You ... You pick a book. Pick any book. And if we don't have it here, then I will move mountains to get it for you.

Frankie is next seen leaving the Library with a contented smile and a substantial pile of expensive reference books.

[June 2006 text only]
    [WebPage last amended March 25th, 2012]


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