diamond geezer

 Monday, November 04, 2019

It's 50 years ago today since my very first day at school. Not nursery school, because I'd been going up the road to play in the sandpit for a couple of years before that. But proper big school where all the old kids went, some of them even six or seven years old.

To start with I was only invited to go into school for a couple of afternoons a week. The nation's pre-infants weren't enlisted en masse into full time education in those days, oh no, we were generally left free to toddle about in the garden and go down the shops with our mums. But I was permitted admission a few months earlier than most because I was a precocious little thing, and going to school meant I could ask lots and lots of questions to somebody who was actually paid to answer them.

It wasn't far to walk, just a minute up the road and a couple of minutes down. Obviously on that first day I was taken by a parent, but before long I'd be allowed to walk home at lunchtime all by myself. You allow a four year-old boy in shorts to do that today and social workers would be down on you like a tabloid headline writer.

The young woman with long blond hair standing under the porch was to be my first class teacher. Her name was Carol, although at the time I only ever knew her as "Miss". She welcomed me to the school and led me past the coathooks out of sight of my anxious parent. Had I realised what my mum was thinking I'd have turned round and said "Don't worry, I'm not planning on bursting into tears the minute you've gone, although obviously I still love you very much", but I didn't.

My new classroom was big and broad and tall, with high windows it was impossible to see out of when you're only three foot something. The Victorians had built it a century earlier, but I hadn't learned about them yet. Within five years the building would be replaced by something much more modern, but I was to get the full draughty space and outside toilet experience.

Around the edge of the room were paintings my new classmates had created and brief bursts of handwriting, single-mounted, stuck with small silver stars. Below the boards were numerous plastic drawers, some for scrap paper, some for scissors, and one of which was destined to be mine. I was a bit miffed that Miss had already written my name on it in chunky bold marker pen when I was perfectly capable of writing my own name unaided. Precocious, yeah.

I was taken over to sit next to a girl called Marianne. Such a very 1960s sort of a name, not that I realised this at the time because I was into nursery rhymes and not waspish folk singers. I wasn't initially very chatty with my new friend, sitting there in her polyester blouse and grey skirt, but within a year she'd be inviting me to her birthday party. We spent much of the afternoon bonding over a jigsaw. It wasn't the most academic start to my formal education but, despite this early setback, I still managed to knuckle down and gain a place at university several years later.

Everyone else had had lunch, because they'd been here all day. School lunches were served in a separate building, just down the hill, watched over by the chief cook and her army of pink-pinnied dinner ladies. She'd bang her ladle on the table before saying grace, then dish out plates laden with potato dollops and diced beetroot, but as yet I knew nothing of these culinary treats because I had a better chef at home.

My teacher didn't attempt to teach me phonics, or assess my nascent ability against centrally prescribed Early Learning Goals. However, I was given my very first maths exercise book, which was slim and yellow and ruled with chunky squares inside. Miss personalised everybody's book by writing a selection of digits and symbols on the front cover. I remember being distinctly unimpressed by her choice of numerals, and insisted that she give me an out-of-curriculum 'zero' as well. I think she smiled as she drew it, but that may have been a fixed grin.

I later made acquaintance with the class guinea pig, or at least the straw-filled cage in which it supposedly lived. We didn't do pets in my house, what with my dad being allergic to all things furry, so this close encounter was quite a revelation. Several months later I'd make the mistake of convincing my teacher to let me take the cage home for the weekend, which would lead to an impromptu domestic science lesson when an entirely predictable itchy rash broke out.

I don't remember meeting the headmistress on Day One. You only got sent to her if you did something particularly good (which might merit a special butterfly sticker) or particularly naughty (but I never did so I can't speak from experience). Her office could be glimpsed from the foot of the staircase up to the television room, where we'd sometimes sit crosslegged and wait for the musical clock to tick down.

During afternoon break I learned from my new classmates that there was to be a very special Guy Fawkes treat the following day. Every child in the school was to be given a sparkler, a whole entire sparkler of their very own, and then allowed to wave it around in the lower playground as it flashed and spluttered and fizzed. In those days no nannying health & safety risk assessments intervened, teachers simply handed us a lethal weapon and let us get on with wielding it. I was extremely excited, until I remembered that tomorrow was a Wednesday and I didn't yet come to school on Wednesdays. This was undoubtedly the day's low point.

I'm sure I pestered my mum about the sparkler situation when hometime came around, but was told point blank that I definitely couldn't come back until Thursday. If only the teachers had told me back then how rare a day off would be in the future, I doubt I'd have complained quite so much. But my first day at school had achieved its intended goal and I was already aching to come back. It wouldn't all be jigsaws and guinea pigs on the thousands of schooldays that followed, but I wouldn't be where I am today without the education that Miss and her talented successors provided.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream