A Knight’s Tale (22: But A Little Boy)

Some time after arriving back home, I was to experience my first day at school. There was, of course, no such thing as pre-school in those days.

This was probably my greatest horror.  My grandfather had taken me to school, and, cock-a-hoop, I strode in, waving him goodbye.  I had a new set of clothes and was embarking upon a new adventure.  Then I turned the corner into the playground…………….  It was full of screaming children, including girls, and most of them were much bigger than me…….. I got home to Raynes Park before Grandpa.  There are no words to describe the absolute terror represented by these dotted lines.  I was off like a shot.  I suppose I must have ridden on the bus, but I really don’t remember.  The next image I have is of bashing on the front door until Mum came down to me.

Naturally Mum calmed me down and returned me to the torture chamber.  She may have fed me, may have accompanied me on the bus.  It’s all a blank, not even a blur.

I was presented to Miss Mulvaney.  Miss Mulvaney smiled, took my hand, and led me into her classroom.  ‘We are having plasticine this afternoon, and here is Maureen Potter to look after you’, she said.  I was flabbergasted.  There, beaming in her half of our joint desk, sat the most angelic creature I had ever seen.  She had a lovely round face, the image of which I cannot conjure up, but the impression of which has remained deep in my heart.  As this motherly child took my hand my stomach leapt.  Not for the first time that day, but this time it was a wholly different sensation.  I was in love for the very first time.  Miss Mulvaney knew what she was about.

We enjoyed the plasticine too.  Why is it, incidentally, that however bright the original colours are, this material always turns brown?

This photograph portrays the school with extensions, as it was in 2012. Note the traffic calming additions on the road. Nick-named ‘sleeping policemen’ they were unheard of in the 1940s.

There is a modern main entrance, above which lies a bas-relief in memory of Father Rankin S.J. who was, in my day, an influential Jesuit and possibly Auntie Gwen’s favourite priest.

The schoolroom in The Priest’s House Museum in Wimbourne which we visited on November 23rd 2013 reinforced my memory of that first day of my formal education.

As we will see in good time, the cane hanging over the blackboard was an authentic touch.  The previous day’s date, in fine copper plate handwriting, was inscribed on the blackboard.  The plastic pencil container on the teacher’s desk was perhaps an aberration.  What fascinated me was the pairs of desks, which enthralled two small children who, having visited earlier in the week, had brought their parents back for a second visit.  Their eyes opened wide when I told them I had sat beside a lovely little girl in one of those very same desks when I had been but a little boy.