Sunday, 19 October 2008



I first attended school sometime before my sixth birthday. It disappoints me that I cannot recall that first momentous day. It’s quite a milestone in one’s life, on a par with falling in love, or receiving your first pay packet; yet it eludes me completely.
My earliest school memories are of a small warm classroom bathed in electric light. The air filled with the sweet smell of almonds that came from the glue we were using to stick scraps of paper together. Sitting cross-legged on the floor of the hall and singing at the top of my voice about a green dragon is another early infant recollection. Do you know I still remember that song!
Throughout my entire school life, I never managed to acquire a taste for school milk. After the first mouthful my throat would become slimy and, try as I might, I just couldn’t stomach a second mouthful. The milk was delivered in individual bottles that held a gill of milk, and was, for some reason that I never questioned, consumed in the cloakroom. Each bottle would be sealed with a waxed cardboard disc snapped into the bottleneck. In the centre of the lid was a small circular cut out that could easily be pushed in by a small finger or a straw. Unfortunately, childish fervour during this procedure often resulted in the drinker, and his or her near companions, being showered with milk.
Constant house moving on the part of my parents meant that I went to many, many, different schools. I once totalled up those that I could remember, and reckon that between the ages of six and fourteen I attended at least ten schools. Probably worth an entry in the Guinness book of Records!
In spite of the number of schools I graced with my presence, the only subject that seemed to suffer and give me nightmares was Maths. I could never keep up. Just as I was getting the hang of long division, I would find myself in a new school and a new class who were halfway through learning fractions, and I didn’t stand a chance of understanding what was going on. It didn’t matter, because soon I would be thrown into the depths of decimals or algebra with another teacher, probably on the other side of London. Although I have managed to master the rudiments of arithmetic, it still fills me with dread, and anyone who chooses a career in this subject is an enigma to me.
Many of my teachers’ faces and names are still engraved in my memory. Miss Wright who taught us PE. That poor lady never knew that sitting on the floor, knees bent, arms raised, the entire class could see right up the leg of her shorts, and sometimes her knickers!
Miss Jewell, a neat little lady who seemed always to wear a navy, crepe dress sprinkled with tiny white flowers, and a sparkling white lace collar at her throat. She wore her faded, red hair that was tinged with grey gathered into a tight little bun in the nape of her neck. My mind’s eye can clearly see her standing there before the blackboard, a picture in navy and white: a duster in one hand and a stick of chalk delicately held between the finger and thumb of the other. Her slender delicate fingers were always coated in white chalk dust. Her periwinkle blue eyes shone behind horn-rimmed spectacles containing thick lenses. Sadly, I later heard that she had become blind.
On the other side of the road was the school Tuck Shop where we could buy four sweets for one old penny. A farthing (there were four to a penny) would give us many choices including, a strawberry chew, a liquorice blackjack, sweet cigarettes or a gob stopper. Sherbet dips and lemonade powder were also great favourites and, when the lemonade powder craze was upon us, the school would be full of pupils sporting bright yellow tongues and forefingers. During the war years when sweets were rationed, the tuck shop sold their own homemade crisps. They tasted like wafer thin slices of potatoes baked in the oven until they were as hard as iron, which is probably what they were! They tasted pretty awful, but were better than nothing.
Lastly, as a sign of the times, I give you the following. I passed by our old Tuck shop many years later, when I was a mother myself. The shop was still there, but someone had climbed up and altered the ‘T’ of Tuck into an ‘F’. My poor old headmaster would have turned in his grave.


Babs (Beetle) said...

It certainly is a sign of the times. Sad really, but at least we have all the memories of those innocent days.

I don't remember my very first school day, at least I don't think so. I do remember snippets from my first year though :O)

Lynne Chapman said...

I remember that almond glue smell too - lovely, but pretty lumpy for sticking.

My memory of school milk wasn't good either - it always seemed too rich (probably full fat I suppose)and the boys used to belch. It's their horrible milky belch breath I recall best!!

GoldAnne said...


weechuff said...

I can remember my first day at school. I wasn't at all bothered about being left there because the classroom had many toys that I had never seen before, and all we did was play with them, including sand and water! My one memory of school milk was that in the winter it used to be propped up on the huge iron radiators to get warm, and there was an overriding smell of vomit in the classroom once they had all been opened. I hated it!!

granny grimble said...


What did you think of school milk? I assume you weren't allergic to it then :0)


Wasn't the glue called GLOY' or am I getting mixed up? I think a lot of people hated school milk, but none wore than I.


I've heard mothers talk about children who thought it was a 'one off' day at school, but never met one. Were you pleased or broken hearted at having to go back the next day, and the next? How could you love school milk? :0)


I wish I remembered my first day. Like Babs, I just have flashes of odd days and occasions. Better than nothing I suppose, but I would love to be able to remember it all.