Tuesday, 13 December 2011
For the record
I was asked today for a photo of my mum, so I went into the albums, and here is not my mum but the first school I went to, in a village in Yorkshire. ‘Village’ romanticises it, it was really a dormitory suburb of Leeds, but it wasn’t big and this was the complete local school. That’s Miss Williams at the back, who taught everything: reading, writing, maths up to long division. The school was not a building, it was this gathering of children that took up space where space was offered. The church was welcoming, offering its adjacent hall, outside which the second picture is posed. Circa 1960. Have you ever seen so many little white cotton socks in a row? My brother is in there, on Miss W’s left, peeking from behind the girl in front. The punishment for badness was this: to have to stand in the corner, facing the wall, with a blackboard duster on your head.
I don’t remember much. Maths: a number on the doorstep, to be carried over and knock on the next door. I do remember that I wasn’t good at bowing my head at the name of Jesus, during prayers. I think (all this thinking) I was thinking about it too much, and came in a bit early or late. I had to have private lessons in the cloakroom, where everyone hung up their wet coats. (Did Miss W speak some random speech, with the name of Jesus thrown in at random?) I did try. The whole thing was not about trouble-making but about being over-conscientious, which made me physically inhibited. I was the older brother. (Later, at an appalling minor public school, I was hopeless at marching, at getting the left arm forward at the same time as the right foot, and I had to have private lessons in that too. In the end they gave up and made me a lance-corporal, so I could stand to the side and shout.)
I had left the village school by the time of the second photo, but I’m in the top one, taken a year or two earlier, when the children were fewer and Miss W is looking a little less weary. For the record: back row, left to right: Stephen Nettle, Jeremy Willis, me, Jane Kirby, Keith Wallace, Howard Cliff, Michael Yeadon. Front row: Diana Macintosh, Alastair Cliff, Richard Ginever(?), Marta Watson, Philip Sinclair.