Meeting Mr. Callan in his home in Grantchester
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Robin Callan more than once.
The first time was in 2000. I had just discovered the Callan Method and instantly changed to it. I opened my Vevey school in 1996 and spent 4 years searching for a method I liked.
When I heard about the Callan Method, went to their website and I just knew I had found what I was looking for.
I sent a letter to Mr. Callan and included some Swiss chocolates as I was so relieved to have found a different way to teach English that was based on oral repetition and correction of pronunciation.
I went to Mr. Callan’s London school to check out the method in action and at the same time I had asked Mr. Callan if I could meet him in Grantchester, which is a small town near Cambridge. He responded positively.
When I went to the London school and mentioned that I would go to Grantchester to meet Mr. Callan they were all shocked. They said no one meets him. He is a recluse that refuses to meet with people. He hadn’t stepped foot in the school in more than 10 years, and that few of the people working there, even for years, had ever met him.
I wasn’t worried about meeting him, but after all this info I wasn’t so sure.
I went there with my small suitcase, and I hadn’t reserved a hotel room, as I didn’t know if I would already simply go back to London after our brief meeting.
I met up with him in the early afternoon at The Orchard – which was a tea garden set out in an apple orchard on the property that Mr. Callan had purchased to preserve it as it has quite a history.
We talked and talked and talked about everything. Hours flew by and all of a sudden, we both realized we hadn’t had a drink, nor a bite to eat in hours, and we were in a tea garden!
He invited me to have a meal and then asked where I was staying. I told him I hadn’t made reservations and he immediately invited me to stay in his home as recently one employee who was living there left, so there was a spare bedroom.
Mr. Callan informed me that I was staying in the bedroom that the poet Rupert Brooke had stayed in.
I had a pamphlet explaining the Orchard, but I didn’t have time to read it because we were talking so much. That evening I read it and it was magical. Included in the brochure was a famous poem by Rupert Brooke. Imagine reading the poem knowing I was in the exact room where he stayed and where he was imaging to be when he wrote this beautiful poem. (See poem below)
And yes, the lilac was in bloom! And I was in his room!
I don’t remember exactly but I had a weird experience during the night, when I told Mr. Callan he said it was probably the ghost of Rupert.
I woke up at the break of dawn and decided to go to the river near the house and I jumped in. I didn’t have a swimsuit with me, so I skinny dipped. I swam down the river and there were cows in the fields and at the other end was an old mill. Steam was coming off the grass fields and it was a very special experience.
After breakfast I went back to London refreshed and so happy. The picture you see is from that day in the Orchard.
The History of the Method as I Recall
Mr. Callan told me how he was in Italy teaching and was surprised that smart students who were taking English classes couldn’t speak. He decided there must be a better way to learn and began to write a new method and to test it on his students. He carried a notebook in his pocket and constantly jotted down ideas. It took him years to finish the method.
When it was done, he tried to find a school that would agree to take it. No one would even try. At this point he thought he would just pack it away with a note to humanity saying, this is an English course that will teach English in a quarter of the time, but no one is interested.
He then came up with Plan B, which was to open his school and did exactly that. The Callan School on Oxford Street in London was the largest private school of English for years. It had many classrooms and students from all over the world.
Unfortunately, shortly after Mr. Callan’s death it was closed. The method, although it is still based on Mr. Callan’s original method, has gone through quite a few politically correct changes. It still works as the basis of the method continues to be the same. Unfortunately, the voice of Mr. Callan cannot be heard in the method anymore.
I am grateful and visited Mr. Callan several more times, and every Christmas sent chocolates. The last visit was with my daughter, shortly before his death. He had Parkinson’s and was shaking. At moments he would stop and be very clear-headed, and then the shaking would start again, and he didn’t make much sense. He insisted we go on a walk with him, which we did. It was cold outside. And Mr. Callan had a coat, only because the nurse insisted, and my daughter and I had to run after him as he walked so fast and determined. He had his coat open; his sweater unzipped and had a fresh look about him.
I will never forget him and am still as grateful for his method as I was the first time, I discovered it.
My schools have never used anything but.
Founder of the first Callan School in Switzerland
The Old Vicarage, Grantchester
by Rupert Brooke
The Old Vicarage, Grantchester
(Cafe des Westens, Berlin, May 1912)
Just now the lilac is in bloom,
All before my little room;
And in my flower-beds, I think,
Smile the carnation and the pink;
And down the borders, well I know,
The poppy and the pansy blow . . .
Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through,
Beside the river make for you
A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep
Deeply above; and green and deep
The stream mysterious glides beneath,
Green as a dream and deep as death.
— Oh, damn! I know it! and I know
How the May fields all golden show,
And when the day is young and sweet,
Gild gloriously the bare feet
That run to bathe . . .
‘Du lieber Gott!’
Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot,
And there the shadowed waters fresh
Lean up to embrace the naked flesh.
Temperamentvoll German Jews
Drink beer around; — and THERE the dews
Are soft beneath a morn of gold.
Here tulips bloom as they are told;
Unkempt about those hedges blows
An English unofficial rose;
And there the unregulated sun
Slopes down to rest when day is done,
And wakes a vague unpunctual star,
A slippered Hesper; and there are
Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton
Where das Betreten’s not verboten.
. . . would I were
In Grantchester, in Grantchester! —
Some, it may be, can get in touch
With Nature there, or Earth, or such.
And clever modern men have seen
A Faun a-peeping through the green,
And felt the Classics were not dead,
To glimpse a Naiad’s reedy head,
Or hear the Goat-foot piping low: . . .
But these are things I do not know.
I only know that you may lie
Day long and watch the Cambridge sky,
And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass,
Hear the cool lapse of hours pass,
Until the centuries blend and blur
In Grantchester, in Grantchester. . . .
Still in the dawnlit waters cool
His ghostly Lordship swims his pool,
And tries the strokes, essays the tricks,
Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx.
Dan Chaucer hears his river still
Chatter beneath a phantom mill.
Tennyson notes, with studious eye,
How Cambridge waters hurry by . . .
And in that garden, black and white,
Creep whispers through the grass all night;
And spectral dance, before the dawn,
A hundred Vicars down the lawn;
Curates, long dust, will come and go
On lissom, clerical, printless toe;
And oft between the boughs is seen
The sly shade of a Rural Dean . . .
Till, at a shiver in the skies,
Vanishing with Satanic cries,
The prim ecclesiastic rout
Leaves but a startled sleeper-out,
Grey heavens, the first bird’s drowsy calls,
The falling house that never falls.
God! I will pack, and take a train,
And get me to England once again!
For England’s the one land, I know,
Where men with Splendid Hearts may go;
And Cambridgeshire, of all England,
The shire for Men who Understand;
And of THAT district I prefer
The lovely hamlet Grantchester.
For Cambridge people rarely smile,
Being urban, squat, and packed with guile;
And Royston men in the far South
Are black and fierce and strange of mouth;
At Over they fling oaths at one,
And worse than oaths at Trumpington,
And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
And there’s none in Harston under thirty,
And folks in Shelford and those parts
Have twisted lips and twisted hearts,
And Barton men make Cockney rhymes,
And Coton’s full of nameless crimes,
And things are done you’d not believe
At Madingley on Christmas Eve.
Strong men have run for miles and miles,
When one from Cherry Hinton smiles;
Strong men have blanched, and shot their wives,
Rather than send them to St. Ives;
Strong men have cried like babes, bydam,
To hear what happened at Babraham.
But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
There’s peace and holy quiet there,
Great clouds along pacific skies,
And men and women with straight eyes,
Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream,
And little kindly winds that creep
Round twilight corners, half asleep.
In Grantchester their skins are white;
They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
The women there do all they ought;
The men observe the Rules of Thought.
They love the Good; they worship Truth;
They laugh uproariously in youth;
(And when they get to feeling old,
They up and shoot themselves, I’m told) . . .
Ah God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand
Still guardians of that holy land?
The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream,
The yet unacademic stream?
Is dawn a secret shy and cold
And sunset still a golden sea
From Haslingfield to Madingley?
And after, ere the night is born,
Do hares come out about the corn?
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? . . . oh! yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?