first memories- part 3

August 25, 2006

At some point I discovered that I had been adopted by a middle aged spinster who was headmistress of a nursery school in a provincial city in England which time and the main railway line had passed by and which figured on maps only thanks to its splendid cathedral. So I abandoned my idyllically anarchic life in Scotland to go and live in another hastily constructed prefab and attend a normal primary school. It must have been nighttime when I was first taken to the house as I can remember the dim light in the hall out of which emerged a menacing black and white drawing of a windmill overshadowed by menacing trees which was to give me nightmares for months. For some reason, one of my earliest memories is playing with a small wooden bus which I was trying to push over some rough paving stones. At the time I had a feeling that nothing was safe or certain any more, anything could change at a moment’s notice. Why the image of me and the little wooden bus should be so strong, I don’t know. I shared the prefab with my guardian and an another adoptee, an older girl whose mother was rumoured to be of dubious morals and had recently been committed to a mental asylum. I was only occasionally aware of my sister- from time to time I would tease her by pulling her pigtails or dropping itching powder down her blouse but I never went as far as poisoning her. Most the time, in fact, I ignored her as none of my favourite occupations- mixing things to make chemical explosions, plying cricket, roaming the woods, were of any interest to her. Whether because of or in spite of my unconventional early schooling I don’t know, but I immediately shone in the local Primary school. At the age of six I wrote a ‘racy’ story about a witch (when I should have been multiplying 5 by 7) that was passed admiringly but surreptitiously  throughout  the teaching profession of East Anglia, wrapped furtively in brown paper as it made copious use of a four-letter word (‘Gosh’). I was an overnight literary sensation, much to the displeasure of my guardian who suspected that its success was due more to the touchingly naive use of expletives than any literary merit. My subsequent literary efforts have never been afforded anything like the same recognition. My guardian’s shame was compounded when, returning home from school, I announced that while lying on the playground I had been able to look up the skirt of one of the teachers and had observed that she was not wearing knickers. Instead of this being accepted as a legitimate scientific observation, I was given to understand in no uncertain terms that it was not an appropriate activity for a six year old boy and was immediately given every encouragement to collect things- butterflies, birds’ eggs, wild flowers, conkers, cigarette packet cards, matchboxes, anything that would keep my attention away from teachers’ undergarments.
At school I formed a discussion group with fellow six year olds which met under a tree far from the playground. When asked by a teacher what we were discussing I replied “Life and international politics”. I remember being very annoyed when another teacher asked us what radio programs we listened to and I said ‘the Critics’. “We’ve already mentioned cricket”, she said. I must have been an insufferable infant, and I knew how to stick up for myself. When a teacher was trying to persuade us to go easy on one of our more objectionable classmates on the grounds that he was not responsible for his objectionableness since he was an orphan, I put my hand up and said ‘I’m an orphan too so that’s got nothing to do with it.” On another occasion a teacher commented that I ‘had the face of an angel but in fact was a little devil’. I can’t remember what piece of mischief on my part had driven her to this conclusion but I find the remark was probably more perceptive than she imagined. Apart from writing risque stories about pirates and explorers, my classroom activity consisted mainly in pulling the pigtails of the girl in the row in front. On Saturday mornings we would go shopping, usually to a cavernous store as dark as a Spanish cathedral, where cash was carried around in a container on an elaborate system of overhead wires. I loved the whirring sound as the container came speeding down the wire coming to rest with a crash above the cashier’s head. Even more exciting, though was the winter of 1947 when the streets were under several feet of water and I was carried out of the house by strange men to be ferried to and from school in a rowing boat. My guardian’s sexual explanations were rather rudimentary. On one occasion when I emerged from my bath she pointed to my penis, told me that rude boys called it a ‘cock’ and that I was never to use the word under any circumstances. I was grateful to her for adding to my vocabulary in this way and I made sure I used the word whenever I was out of earshot of an adult. On another occasion she answered my genuinely academic enquiry as to the nature of childbirth by explaining  that babies emerged from ladies’ bottoms. For some reason I never did ask from which lady’s bottom I had emerged.

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2 Responses to “first memories- part 3”

  1. Rakesh Says:

    I am eagerly waiting for the part IV of this series.

  2. tomeemayeepa Says:

    it will come-sometime in the next few days


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