Schooldays Long Ago

When I was little I loved school.
I loved it so much that by half past eight every morning I was standing by the front door, waiting for Mum to let me go.
She used to get quite cross.
After all, the Infant School was only five minutes' gallop away, down the steep hill.

Above all, I loved to read.
In those days everyone had the same reader, and we would read round the class, one sentence each.
I would count the people before me and look for my sentence, quite seriously praying for a big word, squirrel or bicycle or anything long.
As there were about 40 in each class, reading was mostly spent waiting for a turn, and I could read the whole book before I got a go, so it wasnt very fulfilling, but I made the most of it.

When it was your birthday you were called out to the front and everyone sang "Happy Birthday."
Then the teacher gave you one sweet for every year of your life so far.
I can remember the sweets.
They were called 'cherry pips,' and were small round boiled sweets in two colours, deep red and custard yellow.
I can remember counting six cherry pips and thinking I had to wait a whole year before I would get seven!

There were a few things I didnt like.
All the 'proper'stuff, reading and writing and learning poems and making up stories, was absolutely easy; sums were necessary, but not likeable; but crafty things were tedious and I did not really try.

We used to make raffia mats, for teapots to stand on I think.
They took weeks and weeks to make, nearly a lifetime it seemed.
They were woven in and out on a cardboard base.
All my craft projects looked ancient before they were finished, because of unpickings and sweaty hands.

We did needlework, which took even longer.
I spent three terms sewing 'run and fell' seams on a dolls dress which had to be unpicked so many times the teacher gave up, and told me to finish it at home.
It was put into mums hanky drawer, and looked like a crumpled grey duster, so when Dad found it he used it to clean the Kitchen windows.

He was so sorry when he found it had been my needlework for the year that I got pennies to spend!
Although secretly delighted, I'm ashamed to say I put on a sad face and enjoyed the sweets!

We had milk at breaktime, and I loved milk, but I wasnt able to pay the twopence halfpenny because Dad said I had enough milk at home, so I was milk monitor instead(there is an article on the website about it).

In the baby class we had had green canvas beds to lie on in the afternoon, and had to SLEEP for half an hour in the hall.
I absolutely hated this.
What a waste of school time, and in daylight too!

We had Scripture lessons and Geography lessons, and there were great big maps and Bible pictures made of shiny American cloth, which were unrolled and hung from the ceiling.

We wrote our News in a little green-covered exercise book, and a lady played the tinny piano for us when we had singing.
We learned poems by heart, and I still remember some of them:

'Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon:
This way and that she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees.'

'At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows,
And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those
Apples are deepsea apples of green...'

'In winter I get up at night,
And dress by yellow candlelight'....

The poetry I learnt as a child has kept me company all my life.
I have verses and verses still in my old head, and Mum loved to hear me recite.
The nearest I ever got to knowing her was when I told her the latest poem.

We had slates and a wet cloth to clean the chalk off with.
And best of all, we drew pictures.
We were always told what we had to draw, which was a bit limiting, but we could use pastels to colour with.

Every day before we went home we had to kneel up on our chairs, lean against the backs, shut our eyes, put our hands together and sing:

"Now the day is over,
Night is drawing nigh,
Shadows of the evening
Steal across the sky.

Now the darkness gathers,
Stars begin to peep,
Birds and beasts and flowers
Soon will be asleep.

When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise,
Pure and fresh and sinless
In Thy holy eyes."

There were more verses, I think, but I cant remember them.
I used to think the hymn was sad and beautiful, a safe ending to my day.

When Christmas came we cut snowflakes out of paper squares, and stuck them on the windows.

Sometimes we took pictures home to show.

I loved school, and was very happy there.
Looking back, I think I must have been easily pleased.
Primary Schools today offer choice I could not have dreamed of, and freedom of movement and self-expression.
We sat in fixed desks all day,and seldom spoke or were individually spoken to.
Nevertheless, I was very happy in my early school days.
I gobbled up information like a baby bird.

I was not so happy with school when I grew older.
Later I met with many things I did not enjoy -- Sports mistresses, Wallbars, Swimming, Hockey, Dissection, picking teams, Chemical Equations, Algebra...

I shall write an article soon about the Dark Side of School...

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