Thursday, 15 May 2008

School Misery (6)

My Grammar (High) School held a reunion for my class, some 12 years ago. I happened to be in England on holiday, so I was able to attend.

I discovered that many in my year group had something in common. We each hated Fairfield whilst we were there, but looked back at the school with fondness!

We especially remembered the teachers. I’ll tell you about some of them in the next few days.

Our teacher of Latin was Miss. Worthington. Even then we thought that she was a bit prissy, and having discovered that her first name was Dorothy, we always (behind her back) referred to her as Dot. We thought that we were smart, as only pubescent boys can be.

We had discovered that the barrel of a ball point pen, sans the ink cartridge, made an excellent “rice shooter”, our home made version of a pea shooter. So of course we “shot” bits of uncooked rice at each other between lessons.

“Dot” called us to task on this. She wondered out loud “why our classroom floor was covered with bit of rice” (Of course she knew why!). Then she lectured us on the dangers of rice shooting!

A popular beer at that time was the brand “Worthington”. The Worthington Company had a T.V. ad. With the jingle “On Worthington, on Worthington. You’re twice the man on Worthington”. Even though my family did not have T.V. I learned the jingle with other schoolboys, and we would sing it sotto voce, thinking that we were so clever, with the naughty double-entendre.

We were expected to learn woodworking. The “shop” was in the bowels of the school, with ancient tools (none were electric). Our teacher was a Mr. Ralph Gay. We always referred to him as “Gadger”. He had a slight speech impediment which we would imitate with glee.

He had a certain amount of fame inasmuch as his brother, Canon Percival Gay, was Vicar at the somewhat avant-garde St. George’s, Brandon Hill.

Our first task was to make a “boiler stick”. We were issued with a piece of wood, maybe 4’ long, and 4” square.

From this, using old fashioned wooden planes, files, and sandpaper we were expected to make something which resembled a baseball bat. Boiler sticks were used to stir and lift sheets and towels which were being cleaned in a copper boiler. Oh those pre-wasking machine days!

My boiling stick was a laughable disaster. But I took it home, and Mum used it.

At a parent/teacher conference Gadger Gay told Mum and Dad that I was always “under his feet”, anxious to please, and quite uncertain of how to proceed.

I think of that when Adelaide and Ada rub themselves against my legs, longing for more food!

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