Saturday, 27 October 2007

Back to school





A couple of weeks ago I found out that Father Christmas wasn’t real, but Mr Ellis, the school inspector. Where did this definitive proof come from? It was in the written records of the village school that I attended from the age of five. On reaching its 100th year, this venerable establishment threw open its doors to all old pupils. Some seemed very old indeed.


The staff and governors kindly opened the school on a Saturday. The children had made colourful displays, record books dating back for 100 years were available to peruse and even a traditional lunch provided. Not the dreaded mince followed by blancmange that looked pink and tasted pinker, but a tasty shepherds pie and butterscotch tart. Yum!


I stood in my old, shrunken classroom and read the school records with much pleasure. My Dad was mentioned several times. As the local forester he delivered the tree for our Christmas carol concert. I can remember being very proud when he arrived in the National Trust Landrover, a huge Norway spruce poking out of the back.


My big sister found an entry that stirred guilty feelings. Her best friend had been punished for, “Extreme rudeness to a teacher…”, Over 50 years later she still cringes. On Valentine’s day she’d dared her best friend to ask their young male teacher for a kiss. No kiss was offered but the friend got two strokes of the cane instead. It seems incredible now.


Neither of us were ever caned in school but we were both smacked with a ruler. Surprisingly, I don’t remember being troubled by physical punishment. It was a fact of school life and infinitely preferable to writing lines or having to stay in at playtime. In our rural school, surrounded on three sides by beautiful countryside, I remember sitting in class watching kestrels hover over the downs and longing to be free like them. I hated being indoors.


There were a few people we remembered at the reunion. Some very different, some hardly changed. Often I recognised a smile or laugh rather than a face. It was and still is, a very happy school. Though I’m puzzled by the smartly dressed middle aged gent who greeted both of us fondly. When we obviously didn’t recognise him he looked wistful and said, “Oh I remember you both so well. You’re the M..… girls. You lived in the woods.”


I left that school at the age of eleven with a greater knowledge of tree and plant names than I did of maths. I’d read Jane Eyre and Treasure Island and had a sketchy knowledge of British geography. I knew that Sussex was named after the South Saxons and Dorking after the Dorks. I’d also picked up that girls didn’t need careers, only husbands . It took a few years and some hard knocks before I realised they don’t teach you everything in school.

17 comments:

mountainear said...

That sounds very much like my primary school. Very rural and only 2 classes, the infants and the juniors. both were heated in winter by open fires. Unbelievable by today's standards. The most senior girls made the teachers hot drinks at playtime - boiling milk over an electric ring. Again, inconceivable today.

Your blog has brought back a lot of memories - mostly good. Thank you!

Elizabethd said...

Lovely to go back. I went also to a very small primary school, with 2 classes and 2 teachers. We had the old Tortoise stove, and the cornish pasties brought for lunch were warmed on it!
Our Headmistress was a great one for punishment by ruler....smack!

bodran... said...

I got the cane ouchhh! and didnt tell my parents incase i got smacked by them too. Times have changed.
I've been doing a catchup and i'm glad the fair went well, sometimes they are soooo dissapointing.
Scalan looks fabulous, Thanks for taking me along...xx

Casdok said...

Yes many memories!
Thank you

Pondside said...

Quite a different school experience from mine, so I enjoyed reading about it. The times were the same though, and I was whacked with the ruler over the fingers more than once - as though hitting my fingers would help to make my handwriting more legible!

Blossomcottage said...

Never got the cane, but I got lines by the thousands, and interviews with the Headmistress, who would raise her vast bossom and say
"WEll !!!!!!!!!!"
Oh dear never mind seem to have managed to get to near my pension without too much bother!

Faith said...

Oh that's so interesting, and such a lovely blog. Reminds me of my mother telling me how the teacher got the ruler to give her sister (both in same class, but 2 years difference in age)a smack on the hand and she jumped up and grabbed the ruler and said' Don't you dare hit my sister' - Goodness knows what happened then!

Cowgirl said...

How lovely to go to a school reunion - I missed ours as I was living o/seas. Loved your blog, and my Ally Cat and your Garden Tiger could be siblings!!!

bradan said...

How lovely to go back. Brought back a few memories for me too.

Wooly Works said...

I got a strap for throwing a baseball through the principal's office window. My parents laughed out loud when they found out from my sister. Then I got the strap from them as well. Such is life in a rural. It sound like they were the same back then the world over.

toady said...

I too have fond memories of Infants and Junior schools - both in the east end of London but I learned lots about nature at both. I remember at Infants being bundled back into coats and hats to go out into the tiny patch of garden to see the spiders webs all covered in dew one frosty autumn morning.

Suffolkmum said...

How great to go back to school for a day (sorry about Father Christmas though!!) I went to an urban primary, quite large, though interestingly my children now attend a tiny rural school with 3 classes. Thankfully they don't get caned though!

Exmoorjane said...

I went past my old school last year - but not inside.... We weren't caned although one teacher used to throw chalk at naughty children. Gosh, memories.... Lovely blog, thank you. jx

Exmoorjane said...

Oh heck, is WOman in Black THAT scary at the end?? Eeek.....I am prone to nightmares at the best of times... scared to read on now....jxxxx

Inthemud said...

How fascinating to be able to go back to your old school and read the records, loved the bit about finding out that father christmas isn't real!

My primary school is no longer a school , it closed down in 1982, but is now used as an adult art centre which is nice as it keeps it going in an educational way.

Re my ghost story, i too have always been a sceptic and never have seen anything myself but am surrounded by people who have and our cottage has plenty of spirits according to those with the sixth sense and see these things!
Middle daughter was constantly seeing a little girl in her room, but oldest who saw grandma has never seen another thing.

elizabethm said...

How interesting. I would love to go back. your school sounds very like mine but I was a good little girl (grew out of it eventually) and never got caned. Others did quite regularly, seems amazing now.
Also wanted to say, having seen your comment on SM's blog, that here is another person who has read the Adam Nicholson book, which I loved!

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