Embarking On Schooldays

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First thing this morning, Jackie drove me to New Milton for me to do some banking. After this she continued with planting and repairing storm damage in the garden where I carried out minimal tidying and dead-heading.

This afternoon I worked on the next section of ‘A Knight’s Tale’.

This involved editing and re-ordering much of my post ‘Maureen Potter And Plasticine’,

and inserting these two photographs.

I also used extracts from ‘Yesterday’s Bread’, with this illustration;

and from ‘Miss Downs’, adding these two, not included in the post,

and this photograph from ‘Auntie Gwen’

The Smugglers Inn

This evening we dined at The Smugglers Inn in Milford on Sea.

Having made the mistake of ordering two belly-busting courses last time we were here, we  each just had one tonight. Jackie enjoyed ginormous lemon chicken, chips, and salad.

Sirloin steak meal

My choice was superb sizzling sirloin steak served on a bed of onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes set on a steaming dish alongside the plentiful chips, onion rings, and salad on another enormous plate. I drank Doom Bar and Jackie drank Amstel. This time we consumed everything except a few of Jackie’s chips. The lady behind the steam thought this an artistic portrait.

 

 

The Triangle

I spent the morning clearing the garage. First I finished removing the IKEA wardrobes; then garden tools went to the orange shed; Garden showing orang shedthen various other items went into the house. There are still a few tidy boxes of items from which younger homemakers may wish to take their pick.

Garage libraryOtherwise the room is ready for the books to be unpacked from storage boxes and settled on the IKEA Billy bookshelves. Probably about another dozen should suffice.Skip pile 1Skip pile 2

We now have two piles of debris for a skip.

This afternoon Jackie drove us to Milford on Sea. The haze leant an atmospheric quality to the beach. Flo was unaware of the black-headed gull which I had panned as it flew towards her. She raised her head, across which blew her hair at the most opportune moment.

This evening all seemed right with the world. Jackie plucked up the courage to produce a full meal on the Neff hobs. This was her spaghetti bolognese, except for spaghetti read linguine. It was of her usual superb standard, and followed by microwaved  lemon drizzle pudding courtesy of Waitrose, served with Jackie’s own custard. I finished the Isla Negra.Flo & gullFlo among the rocks

During the past fortnight I have learned a new meaning for the word ‘triangle’. Martin Taylor had observed that there was no triangle in the kitchen. Jackie had concurred, and has, at moments of stress since, mentioned the fact in her usual calm, collected, way.

I was a little bemused at this, for to me a triangle belonged in a primary school band. This was the instrument entrusted to me at St Mary’s on some auspicious occasion in my early years, possibly because it was considered I could do least damage to the performance with it, and they didn’t want me to suffer the ignominy of being left out. I remember being rather puzzled when I was told to bash it with a metal rod thingy at certain regular intervals. I’m not sure my sense of timing was particularly unerring.

Surely there was no place for one in a kitchen?

I was, of course on the wrong track altogether. The triangle in a kitchen, you see, is composed of lines linking cooker, cupboards, and sink. You are meant to be able to stand in the middle and reach any one of these easily from the same spot. In our kitchen, by swivelling at will, you can just about reach cooker or hobs and a selection of cupboards rather too low for the elderly. Water is, however, a problem. To get to that from either of the other two sides of the triangle you must walk around the island. Jackie doesn’t appreciate the exercise. And refers to the fact. Quite often.

 

 

Maureen Potter And Plasticine

This morning I took the Kindor Gardens route to South Wimbledon, turned left into Kingston Road, right into Russell Road, left into the Broadway, and back to Links Avenue by the Mostyn Road route.

From a balcony in a block of flats in Morden Road, a pair of foxes and their cubs were surveying the  traffic.  A little further on I passed Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant.

In Russell Road I paused outside St. Mary’s Primary School and pondered over my early years of education.  It being half-term, I was unable to gain access, which was a disappointment.  The school I knew, of much smaller proportions, of course, than I remembered it, has been extended and altered.  The playground area, scene of the greatest horror; the greatest deviousness; and the greatest triumph of my primary school years, was now a block of rooms.  To the right the main building had been extended and there was a new structure alongside it.  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.

My greatest primary school shame occured after Mrs Chapman’s lesson at the end of the day.  There had been a spate of lost coats.  These were suspected to have been stolen.  I went to my peg and found my coat missing.  Full of trepidation, I reported this to the rather frightening teacher.  I was told to sit down at my desk and wait.  Off she strode to fetch the caretaker..  Together they scoured the buildings for my clothing.  Whilst they were gone, and it was growing gloomy in the otherwise empty classroom, I had a terrifying thought that set me aquivering.  The clouds were darkening in Mrs Chapman’s face as she returned without the coat.  What I said next brought on the thunder.  Bottom lip trembling, ‘Please Miss’, I blurted.  All female teachers, married or not, were ‘Miss’ in those days, and Ms had not been coined.  ‘Please Miss’, I repeated, ‘I’ve just remembered.  I didn’t bring my coat today’……………  The calm after the storm was deadly.  Mrs. Chapman never bothered to send you to Miss Bryant for the cane, she administered a few hearty slaps herself.  At least they were on the palms of your hands.  Perhaps it hurt her more than it hurt me.  Then I had to go home and explain to my Mum why I was late.

Mr. Hyde, on the other hand; actually both of them; wouldn’t hurt himself with his method.  He used the flat of a ruler on the backs of your fingers, whilst clasping them to keep them still.  With his dark hair and visage; his hairy nostrils and digits; and his fearsome eyes enlarged by thick lenses, he looked every bit the alter ego of Dr. Jekyll.

Miss Flaxman favoured a barrage of energetic open-handed blows on the backs of your legs.  A large red-haired amazon, I don’t think she ever took her coat off, for it always seemed to flap about when she stung your calves.  She had to bend down to reach small legs, which meant her head was a bit close so you had to try not to fart.  The strange thing about these latter two is that they would steam into you until they were exhausted.  His nostrils would flare and flare, and she would become redder and redder in the face.  Their breathing would reach a crescendo and eventually quieten, when they would stop.  Rumour had it that they were what we now call an item.  Perhaps these performances reflected a certain amount of sexual frustration.  They were Catholics, after all.

Corporal punishment takes me to my greatest deviousness.  Mrs. Braniff, unusually for her, had decided to send me to Miss Bryant to be caned.  Perhaps she had dished out her own quota for the day.  Well, I didn’t fancy the cane, so I nipped round into a corner of the playground and hid for what seemed a reasonable length of time, after which I returned to the classroom hugging my hands to my sides.  I suppose I thought that if I was sussed I’d only get the cane anyway.  Actually, I got away with it.  In the words of the the song, ‘I disremember what’ my misdemeanour had been.

I don’t want to give the impression that all my teachers were vicious beasts.  Miss Downs deserved her own post on 25th May.

My greatest triumph was the heroic fight recorded on 10th July.

Now to my greatest horror.  This was my first day.  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 got 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?

After a massive Sainsbury’s North Cheam shop in preparation for the Thompson family Firs weekend, Jackie and I returned to Morden and had Moby Dicks at the Morden Superfish.  We couldn’t eat a sweet, Jackie in particular thinking that the Spotted Dick on offer would be one dick too many.  I drank a glass of Pinot Grigio and Jackie a Carlsberg.

Miss Downs

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather I walked up to Wimbledon common just before midday with a couple of books and sat reading by the pond in which I’d sailed my boat as a child.  The bench I had chosen was inscribed IN MEMORY OF DOUGLAS WARD CAMPBELL.

As always when passing Wimbledon Library, situated adjacent to St. Mark’s Place, where Jack (see post of 13th. May) stood awaiting his next charge, my thoughts turn to Miss Downs.  Miss Downs was a teacher at St. Mary’s Russell Rd. Roman Catholic school which I and all my siblings attended.  Miss Downs was adamant that we should read three books a week.  Consequently, dutifully, if not religiously, Mum took us on a regular weekly trip to the library where these treasure troves were to be found.  Was anyone else out there nurtured on Patricia Lynch’s Brogeen stories?

Every Sunday morning my brother Chris and I would attend Mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart on Edge Hill and go on for breakfast at Auntie Gwen’s in Latimer Road.  Auntie Gwen was my godmother, not the proprietor of yet another greasy spoon.  Mum was not a Catholic and Dad, at that time, was not practising.  In our case ‘attend Mass’ was a loose description.  When we discovered that it was only if you missed the crucial parts of the ceremony each Sabbath that you were condemned to Hell, we started stretching it a bit.  We would sneak in just before the Gospel and slide out just after Communion.  What we didn’t know was that Miss Downs was part of the congregation.  It was therefore something of a shock when we were summoned to her room at school to be asked to explain our behaviour and to be given what for.  This seemed pretty bad luck to us, and a bit out of order.  The long arm of the school was everywhere.

So…… for a lifetime’s pleasure from reading, Miss Downs and Mum, I thank you.  I still read every day.  For a sharp lesson in the wisdom of sussing out every possible drawback when contemplating manipulating the rules, Miss Downs, I, er, thank you.

I took the 93 bus back today, walking the long way round from Morden Station and stopping for an excellent shish kebab with a first rate salad at Morden Best Kebabs on London Road.  I have not been able to eat a doner since Becky told me what went into them.

This evening Jackie and I ate at the Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant on Morden Road.  Presumably it gets its name from the fact that, if you feel so inclined, you can watch the team of chefs performing behind a long window.  The food is wonderful, especially for me as hot comes as standard.  The staff are all very friendly young men, one of whom plays cricket.  The atmosphere is of a family gathering.  Alomost all the other customers are Sri Lankan families, the women wearing gorgeous saris, especially if there is, as often, a party going on; and really very small children running about.  The fathers are very hands-on Dads.  Waiters are adept at weaving in and out of darting infants whilst balancing plates of food.  You are not expected to order your ‘mains’ until you have eaten your starters, and you are never approached with the bill.  As far as they are concerned you are there for the evening.  We are indebted to my sister Jacqueline for the introduction to this establishment.