School memories

I leave from work early today. The mandatory paediatric life support course doesn’t take as long as I anticipated it to be. The temperature was in the low twenties. The sun was bright and it was another gorgeous day. I decide to drive down to Epping to see the little one.

The thunderstorm from two days ago was just what the countryside needed to cool it down from the high temperatures we’ve been experiencing. Everything looked lush and not a parched grass in sight. The flowers were in full bloom and even the wild flowers looked pretty in a dazzling array of pink, white and yellow set against the backdrop of the greenery.

As I listened to a story being narrated on radio 4, I wondered whether I could ever write a story let alone a book. Imagination, something I lack. I wrack my brains to see if I can conjure up some fairytale. Nothing, nothing at all. Then my clock ticks back and I get transported back in time. I’m back in my primary school, the sun is out and it is break time. School in those days started around 8 and finished at lunchtime and so around 10 we had a snack break. We used to take bread with honey or an apple, which my mother used to peel and coat in salt to prevent it from getting discoloured. We showed off our prowess on the monkey bars, practiced our balancing acts playing hopscotch or just chatted with friends.

Once in a while the mothers would be asked to cook something and bring it to school. The proceeds from the sales went to some charity. My mother would bake a cake. She was not supposed to show favouritism, but we would hide under her table pulling the tablecloth around us and eat our share of the cake without having to pay for it.

Afternoons were for other activities. Girl guides, swimming and cookery lessons. Some afternoons we were treated to films. Films like ‘Gigi’, ‘Pollyanna’ and Disney classics were projected on to the stage screen as we sat entranced on the wooden floor. The school was just walking distance from home but some days, especially in the afternoons, we had a yellow lorry which doubled up as a school bus to take us home. It still disturbs me when I think about how we scrambled onto it and tried to hold on as we sat on the belt-less bench like seats on the back of the lorry. I have this frightening thought of the lorry swaying and that I was about to fall off. I’m sure it wasn’t as dramatic as that.

Most days we walked back home following the afternoon activities. I remember the leisurely strolls with my friends and sometimes on my own. One day my bag fell in the water and I had to fish it out of this low stream by the roadside. I can’t remember how it ended up in the water. I still remember how my wet bag looked like and my worry if any of the schoolwork got damaged.

I also recall the emptiness of the streets and the vast expansive wilderness. It was a very quiet place with hardly any traffic. I can’t even remember seeing any bikes on the roads. I suppose it was too much of a hassle to buy and transport bikes to our place and as most areas were accessible on foot, no one bothered, I think. It is a pity as when I look back, this is something I regret not learning. A skill best mastered in childhood. As an adult, I once tried to learn to ride a bike but apart from giving the spectators something to laugh about I couldn’t even stay on it for more than a couple of seconds.

There are some skills I’m waiting for retirement to practice and then there are some skills I’m leaving for my next life and this is definitely one of them.

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