God Save the Queen
My formal education began in 1956 in public school in the Village of Eriswell in the United Kingdom. The school day began with readings from the Book of Common Prayer; my copy was pocket sized and had a red cover. I could be wrong about this, but I believe the last page of the book included the words to the song God Save The Queen, which concluded our morning devotional. All the students, perhaps 40 or 50, stood in what amounted to the Great Hall for this programme.
So, while my contemporaries in the US were learning the Pledge of Allegiance, which was just becoming popular, I was learning God Save the Queen.
The school had two departments; I don’t know what they were called, I’ll just call them younger and older; I started with the young children (I was 4) with Mrs. Rigsby. My older sister Alice Adele started with Mrs. Donnan. This school is where I learned to write – block printing using a pencil, and later with a quill pen dipped in an inkwell. Each day before lunch we all went outside to use the outhouse (a very large structure with multiple seats over the pit) and lined up on the way back inside to wash our hands at a sink with cold running water. Lunch was provided by the school and was served at long wooden tables with benches. On my first day I learned how to properly use a fork, English style, on the insistence of Mrs Donnan. I don’t remember much about the meals except Christmas Pudding, which was a real treat, and a cake covered in treacle.
On the playground I learned to play rounders (like baseball) and had a shot at cricket. You couldn’t climb on the jungle gym unless you had a pair of rubber soled shoes called plimpsoles. I wore shorts every day and carried my papers and books in a leather satchel. From time to time we walked down the lane to the church, a distance of perhaps 200 yards, where we would sing in the choir loft with the accompaniment of the organ. The church was very old and was reputed to have a ghost, which had been seen playing the organ by Mrs Donnan, who was married to the pastor and lived in the parsonage next door. Reverend Donnan, who became a friend of my Dad’s, had been a prisoner of war of the Japanese in Burma on the infamous Death Railway. Years ago I read the non-fiction account of that experience in Through the Valley of the Kwai, and actually visited a piece of it at Kanchanaburi, in Thailand, with my Dad when we lived in Bangkok during the Vietnam War.
My best friend was Trevor Dodds, who lived in the village in a very old house with a thatched roof. Somewhere I have a photo of my 7th birthday party, which we had at the Eriswell Town Hall, around a birthday cake my mother made which resembled a train with several sections.
So, when I wonder how I got to be who I am, this is a piece of the picture, and a part of the stories I write. Like me, your story – and you- are unique, one of a kind.