25 January 2003

Ainstable Starting School

OldEric says :-) In February 1939 I reached the ripe old age of five years old and it was time to start school. In those days Kindergarten’s did not exist, at least certainly not in the country areas and I suspect town areas either. The word kinder garden's was still a German word in the form of Kindergarten and as far as I know it did not exist in its English form.

Ainstable School was about two kilometres from our home at Barugh Cottages; I was too young to go by bicycle so I walked to school on my own. Up the hill from our home, along the top flat and down the hill to the entrance of the village where to my good fortune the school stood.

Next door to us lived another boy called Aubrey, he was old, and big and all of nearly fourteen. He was given the task of looking out for me at school which he did, making sure I had my sandwiches at lunchtime and lining up for the morning roll those first few days and other things. I liked Aubrey. I'm not sure how he got to school I think he probably biked.

One lunchtime some of the older boys broke through from the playground into the hayfield next door and a good half of the school went through the fence and trampled down the standing hay flattening the grass. The children were seen, the farmer informed and he complained to the school. We were all dragged out into the playground and all those who went into the field were told to go over "there". The rest were each interviewed and just before my turn came I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice said, "say no when your turn comes". I looked up and I saw Aubrey. He knew the ropes; those who said yes got detention.

It was at this school at the age of five I got into my first spell of trouble. We were told that we were due again for a visit from the district nurse for our heads to be checked for lice and nits. The teacher had left the classroom for a while and I started to look in the girl’s hair in the desk in front of me for nits. I saw something black and I piped up and said out loud "she's got nits". The girl started crying, her older brother in the same classroom got nasty, the teacher hurried back and I was dragged out of my seat. I was told that what I said was untrue and I must say sorry. I refused to apologies maintaining I had seen something. Again I was told to apologies, I refused. I was threatened with the coalhole. I dug in my heels. The teacher dragged me down the corridor across to the coalhouse where the winter coal was stored, the door was opened, I was asked again to apologies and I refused. Into the coalhole I was pushed. It was pitch black in there. I was scared but very angry and I refused to cry. After what seemed a long time I was let out and marched back to the classroom and I was told to sit at my desk.

Dinnertime came... in those days we called Lunchtime Dinner, I decided I had enough of school; I collected my school bag and headed home up the hill. As I reached almost to the top of the hill I heard running steps behind me and a voice calling my name. It was Aubrey; he had been given the task of returning me to school by the Headmistress. Apparently I had been seen leaving the schoolyard and word quickly spread through the school and to the teachers. My classroom teacher was waiting at the school gate and I remember walking across the schoolyard with her through a long corridor of silent children lining our path on either side to the school door.

The headmistress collected me, took me into the empty senior's classroom and sat me down and I remember she sat down beside me talked quietly to me for what seemed a long time and instead of sending me outside into the playground full of curious children, she took me into my own classroom and told me to sit there and eat my sandwiches.

I must have made an impression on the headmistress; I have unfortunately forgot her name now. An old family friend from Ainstable, Grace Proud told me years later that on various occasions she would meet the then headmistress of Ainstable school and the headmistress would invariably enquire after me and be most interested in my progress over the years. Even though she lived to a ripe old age of well into her nineties she would still enquire. I'm not at all sure why she did this. Grace would periodically mention this in her letters when she wrote to me here in NZ.

As I write this I again wonder was the headmistress's enquires a good omen or a bad one?

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