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Accounts from an old Ledger

G. P. S.
As our life span increases (it was 47 years on average in 1910, it is
approaching 80 a hundred years later, in 2010) and as our scientists are conquering a
multitude of mid-life human-killer diseases, man is coming face to face with the limits
of resilience of all his organs and especially his brain. Alzheimer is the contemporary
haunting specter of our advancing old age. We are advised to keep our brain active.
Games (cards, chess and electronic), crossword and sudoku puzzles, even toss-
juggling with three balls or clubs and learning to play a musical instrument, all are
supposed help. The physiological deterioration is unavoidable and evident. We try to
forestall it. Each seeks to exercise his mind in his own manner, abilities and
preferences. I delve into the past to exercise mine because I no longer have a future. I
only have a past and I say this not as a lament but as a fact. I follow the trend in my
own way and defend my mental health incidentally, in a way that gives me pleasure
and immense satisfaction: by writing. The need to write is both a blessing and a
bondage. I would have liked to write a novel, just now, or a longish short story, as is
my style, but since I have zero inspiration at the moment, I fall back on a memoir
where some of the facts are still iridescent in the thickening mists of long-ago,
awaiting to be plucked, for a few more years of reminiscence, before they are
forgotten totally for all eternity. They may be trivial and of no consequence except
they touch us and bring to us a bittersweet happiness, a satisfaction that we have lived
that life and time that is gone for good. We feel enriched and privileged.
I am writing this memoir for my friend Samia who has many fond memories
of the Gezira Preparatory School. It is my way of thanking her for her encouragement,
the kind words, and short but incisive comments she unfailingly sends me every time
she receives a manila envelope with colorful Greek stamps and my short stories. I do
not know how this memoir will develop and whether it will interest anyone else. It
will be enough for me if a smile will flicker on Samia’s luminous and adorable face.
The G.P.S., a British Council school, was on the main street in Zamalek with
its entrance on a side street. The building itself must have been constructed
specifically to house a school. It could not have been the villa of a wealthy family or a
small hotel. As one went up the imposing marble stairs to the main entrance and
entered the building, to the left was the office of the headmistress and, opposite, the
administrative office. Just beyond was the large assembly hall with a platform at the
far end of it where the headmistress stood every morning to address the pupils and
where performances of sketches and plays were performed from time to time. To the
left and right were classrooms and above the hall, on the three sides, was a walkway
with a solid wooden banister looking onto the hall. There were classrooms on two of
the sides of the walkway and the infirmary, an office and a common room for the
teachers above the headmistress’s office. A well polished wooden staircase, to the
right as one walked into the hall, led to the floor above and to a similar area below
which was the dining room with long tables and benches and more classrooms on one
side and the kitchens on the other. The lower floor was a few steps below street level.
A year earlier, our parents sent us, my sister Nafsika and me, to the
kindergarten of the Manor House. We cried bitterly for two days in class and were
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