30 September 2003

Ullswater Poems 1

I sometimes wonder if these two poems helped me to choose my early life at sea. I am unable to pin point just when the initial desire to a want to travel started or indeed, even when I made up my mind.

I think the desire cumulated over time; the National Geographic magazines of Mrs. Nelson, the trophies they brought home from their trips abroad and the postcards she gave me. The John Masefield poem "Cargoes" used to send shivers down my spine, did the pictorial stamps I collected help me on my way? Who knows now? Did my desire to learn "radio" weld all my desires together and eventually to become a sea-going Radio Officer?

Anyway, here are another 2 of my favourite poems. 1st, my favouite of the two. Three verses, three different ages.


Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with salt caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rail, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by ;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sails shaking,
And the grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied ;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying.

I must go down to the sea again,to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the winds like a whetted knife ;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long tricks over.

29 September 2003

Ullswater Poems of OldEric

The Daffodils.

Almost everyone is familiar with Wordsworth's famous poem whilst at school and have nostalgic feelings for its beautiful simplistic prose. I too have those same feelings for this beautifully simple poem, but for me it has an extra special significance. For I have walked and stood in the very same spot where Wordsworth stood and walked and I've seen those the self-same short stemmed wild daffodils. We lived on the opposite shore of Lake Ullswater to Wordsworth's daffodils.

Each year when the daffodils flower they take me back in mind to beautiful Ullswater, and then my heart too, with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils. It is indeed, without doubt my favourite poem.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way.
They stretched in never ending line
Along the margin of a bay :
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee :
A poet could not be but gay
Among such jocund company !
I gazed---and gazed---but little thought
What wealth to me the show had brought ;

When oft, upon my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude ;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Wordsworth wrote many poems prior to and after penning The Daffodils, about 30 in total, I believe, but none of his other works rose to the prominence of the simple "The Daffodils".

27 September 2003

Ullswater Secondary School Mr Baines

In 1946 and 12 years old we were now in Year 8. We now had a new Form master. His name was Mr Baines and he had not been long de-mobbed from the RAF. He was a large man both in height and breadth, he had sandy, curly hair and a sandy moustache.

From the start we liked him, he was an easygoing, humorous man, his favourite party trick was when there was repeated inattention in class by someone, was to pick up the long window opening pole, walk up the row of the offending boy with the pole horizontal, each boy in the row ducking until he reached the boy in question. At that point he stopped, held the pole still and bellowed the boys name. The offending boy would swing round or looked up and his head would hit the pole with a wack. All the boys thought this was hilarious and would roar with laughter.

Unfortunately Mr Baines had a down side in class. He had a short temper. When everything was going to plan Mr Baines was fun to be with but unfortunately this was not always the case. Most of the class escaped Mr Baines's wrath but the few laggards were his problem and he would, starting with raised voice increasing progressively to a bellow, I've told you before... do I have to repeat myself, Can I not get it through your thick skull, etc., etc. "Out here Bamber, Warwick, you too and we'll have you as well Ostle". "I'm going to tell you once more" he would bellow and he would proceed to explain in detail some point or other. "Repeat what I said, Bamber" and Henry would in all probability just stand and look dumb irrespective whether or not he knew the answer. Lol wouldn't know if it was Monday or Sunday and he would just stand looking terrified.

By this time Mr Baines's face would be brick red, even his ears and with sweat on his brow, breathing heavily, he would return his enemies to their seats.

Enviably, one day everything came to a head. Mr Baines completely lost his temper. Henry was out in front of the class facing Mr Baines with his usual stubborn attitude with Mr Baines bellowing in his usual way. Mr Baines took a deep breath, opened his mouth and as though lost for words, nothing came out, he was purple in the face. Mr Baines reached forward, lifted Henry up by his shirt and jacket front and flung him into the empty corner by the classroom door. Henry, a big boy for his age just sailed through the air. Mr Baines was very large and powerful.

All during this confrontation we sat wide-eyed and completely focused on this battle of wills and its outcome. I can still see Henry flying through the air. Mr Bains stood just staring at Henry in the corner saying nothing, doing nothing. Henry just lay there. After what seemed an age, Mr Baines seemed to come to his senses and in the silence of the room spoke and asked Henry if he was alright. Henry said "yes" and slowly got up on to his feet but did not move from the corner. Mr Baines quietly told Henry to return to his seat and again asked if anything hurt and Henry retorted with a "No". Mr Baines then walked to the classroom door, opened it and walked out closing the door behind him. We all just quietly sat and no one spoke, we were each in our thoughts. We were 12 years old and I think we were in shock.

Sometime later a relief teacher came to our classroom and told us quietly to open our books and read from the last exercise, Which we did.


Mr Baines did return to our classroom after a few days but he seemed different. Gone was his humorous ways and also gone was his short temper. He taught us quietly and probably efficiently, he still asked questions of us but there was no berating of any student.

A little later we learnt Mr Baines was leaving the school and under a cloud. Whether or not he was going to another post or not, no one seemed to know.

Sometime later we were going to woodwork classes. These were held outside of the school premises about 400 yards down the road. A late student came bursting in breathlessly with the news that Mr Baines was leaving today at 3 o'clock, it was just past 2 p.m. now. Henry at a nearby bench looked up and after a moments thought looked around for the woodwork teacher and saw he was in the back inside the wood store. Henry walked to the outside door and disappeared. Half an hour later Henry reappeared , the woodwork teacher looked at him and asked where he had been. Henry said simply "to say goodbye to Mr Bains" I think most of us was stunned including the woodwork teacher, for even he had heard of the classroom problems.

Later I asked Henry why he had gone to says his good byes to his foe and Henry said "I liked Mr. Baines, it was my fault he had to leave" and he left it at that. I thought awhile about his answer, andI left it at that, too.

In the following 2 school years I knew him Henry worked much better in class and he never mentioned Mr Baines as far as I can recollect. I've thought of Henry many times since and from the beginning I've never thought it was Henry's fault even for a moment. I too liked Mr Baines.

26 September 2003

Ullswater Secondary School Discipline 2

Of all the teaching staff at Penrith Secondary Modern, I can bring only 2 names to mind, and one was the Headmaster, Mr. Peake. Of the other 2 schools I attended during my education, I can remember their names clearly.

Back to Mr. Peake, He was a short man with glasses who stood very straight; he had a short crew cut hairstyle that also stood up very straight. He expected discipline in his school and left his staff to enforce it. Which they did. We did not see too much of him except as an occasional relief teacher.

There was only 1 female teacher on the staff and her name was Miss Browne. As the History Master ruled by the cane, Miss Browne ruled by her personality. Before she arrived at the school, the grape vine went into full swing. She was 21... she was straight from training college... she was very pretty, ... would she measure up? Miss Browne arrived and was viewed by many curious boys and I think, probably staff alike.

Miss Browne was very pretty and she did look young, even to us. She was a little taller than average and slim; she had a short pageboy hairstyle that curled up at the ends.

It seemed strange to have a young female teacher before us in class. The day of the first lesson went very smoothly and, although I don't remember now I think we were probably warned to be on our best behaviour in class with Miss Browne. As the days and weeks progressed when Miss Browne taught us most if not all of us enjoyed her lesson. Everyone behaved himself and as the weeks progressed, we all were attentive in class. She never raised her voice; she didn't need to, most of the class tried and took more notice in class.

As I look backwoods I can see Miss Browne and our class and I realise now why we tried harder than usual. For everyone was in love with the earnest Miss Browne. She was so earnest, she never castigated anyone making them look foolish, boys who never raised their hands to a general question started to raise their hands, even Henry. A retort to a wrong answer was "good try, Henry, but not quite", with a smile. The threat of punishment was removed when Miss Browne taught, the cane a vague memory, lines or detention were a distant memory. She always prefaced her remarks to an answered question with a complement irrespective whether the answer was right or wrong. The boys like Lol who never answered questions, Miss Browne would address directly. Lol would look around dumbly searching for words which never seem to come and she would patiently explain to Lol dropping a little hint on the way and the answer would rise slowly to Lol's lips and the answer would pop out, much to Lol's astonishment and ours too! And, Lol would grin with pleasure when she complemented him, a red-letter day for him. How she could be so patient day after day with so many dunderheads I don't know. As I pen this piece I wonder now if she was able to maintain her earnest sunny nature as the years rolled away and as I ponder I have a suspicion she did, for I now realize Miss Browne saw the good in everyone waiting to get out.

Miss Browne will be an old lady now of circa 80 years but I still picture her as that earnest 21 year old who arrived at our school and made an impression on so many of us both teachers and boys, even Henry. If a rarity like Miss Browne comes your way consider yourself privileged

20 September 2003

Ullswater: Penrith Secondary Modern: Discipline.

Discipline at Penrith Secondary Modern was very strict, even for the 1940s. The cane was the order of the day and used frequently for both mis-endeavours' and class work mistakes. The most feared master was the History Master, he was a tall man of perhaps 45 with dark straight hair parted one side and plastered down to his scalp. He would come into class always the same, schoolbooks under one arm and his cane under the other. The moment he entered the classroom door silence reigned in class and the drop of a pin would sound loud, he would stand for a moment looking round the class and the put the schoolbooks and cane down on his desk, still not uttering a word. The whole class would sit with eyes riveted on him. He would then walk across to the wall blackboard, turn round and face the class and his first words would delegate a boy to distribute the class work books. Returning to his desk all boys still silent, with eyes still glued to the history master they sat waiting for the dreaded same words "Please open your books to the last exercise. All boys with more than 3 red marks on the last exercise......excluding the tick, come out here". Always the same words. A group of perhaps 8 to 10 boys would slowly rise and form a line, backs to the blackboard. He would silently eye each boy, whilst toying with his cane lying across the his desk. He knew how many boys should be in the line as he counted them slowly. Picking up his cane he would approach the first boy.

"How many red marks, excluding the tick, Bamber?" he would say. "5 sir" said Henry holding out his hand.
Whack, whack, whack. Still a deathly silence as Henry walked slowly back to his seat. The next boy the same and so on down the line of boys. The history Master never raised his voice or altered its tone, each word was spoken slowly and precisely, always the same words, his movements always in the same order. I would say today each boy could repeat like a litany each word and movement, it never varied. I think that was what each of us dreaded most was this never varying ritual; we knew each step of the process. I also think each boy tried and worked to his utmost, hoping to breath a sigh of relief when he opened his workbook and counting the red marks minus the tick.

Every boy in the History class had at one time or another, had felt the History Master's cane across his hand, some much more than others. Even I had felt his cane, at least twice.
The only thing I cannot remember is his name. I remember his dress, his voice, his manner, his expressions, and his slight smile as he looked directly at me sometimes when he boarded our morning bus at the outskirts Tirrell.

Reminder to me: may put in the broken cane incident later.

Ullswater: Secondary School Friends.
I soon made friends with my new classmates, we were a mixture of town boys and boys from the outlying villages surrounding Penrith. As country boys we were all strangers to one another and we were at Penrith Secondary Modern because we were 11+ failures in want of an improved education. The town boys were known to each other. We were all 11 years old and the year was 1945.

Standing , probably looking a little forlorn in the schoolyard one day during my first week, a large boy from my class standing nearby spoke to me. I soon learnt he was from Penrith and had come up through the school and I, I suppose told him my story. Anyway, from that day on we became firm friends and his name was Henry Bamber. He had 2 other friends Jeff, his cousin, and Lol, short for Laurence. As Henry was big and solid, Jeff was small, thin and weedy; Lol was short and stocky. All 4 of us got on well together.

Within a short time of arriving at Penrith Secondary Modern I began to catch up in my subjects. I revelled in all this new knowledge, which helped me to move steadily up the class levels until eventually I was topping the class with my marks. This was not such a big achievement as it seems. Enthusiasm helped of course but what helped also was the fact many students were in classes under sufferance with no interest in education and after being weeded out by the 11+ exams the previous year some were not very capable in the learning stakes either.

My 3 friends fell into this "little interest in learning" category but that didn't spoil our friendship. I don't think it bothered them at all, even if they did notice. Sticking up a hand in class in response to a question, my hand was invariably not chosen, I kept my profile low. Henry was often in trouble with his class work, he just didn't care. Jeff and Lol also but they were unable to master their subject.

Lol and Jeff were also often in trouble in the schoolyard, Jeff often argumentative with others and Lol prey for bullies. Quiet Henry would step in only if things got out of hand with either one of them. If the problem persisted it then became Henry's problem and not too many boys dared to cross Henry. Looking back now Henry had a strict sense of fair play.

Henry and I were firm friends for over 3 years until we left we moved from Ullswater to Milnthorpe in 1948. We stayed at each other’s houses at long weekends and holidays. I introduced him to the world fells, farm and lake and he in turn showed me all the delights of a town life.

19 September 2003

Ullswater Secondary School Introduction

Year 6, and my last year in Primary School was an important year. It was the year of the 11+examination, the examination that dictated the educational path we would follow in Year 7 on wards. If you passed the 11+ exams you went on to higher education at Grammar School in the nearest town and if you failed the 11+ you continued with low-level secondary education usually at your present school.

I failed the 11+ examination and it seemed I was doomed to continue on at Barton School and end up with only a barely, basic education. Through discussion with others my parents were advised to send me to the Secondary Modern School located in the nearby town of Penrith. A much better school than Barton School with numerous staff teaching the secondary students unlike Barton School with only 1 teacher to cover all the secondary students.

I now could bike to Pooley Bridge village in the mornings and then catch the bus into Penrith. My parents also learnt at this time that no one from Barton School usually passed the 11+. Pupils from Pooley Bridge usually went, when old enough at 8 or 9 to Yanwath School a few miles up the road towards Penrith, on the bus. At this time, my brother John also attending Barton School was transferred to Yanwath School and better teaching. When the time of his 11+ exams came around some 3 or 4 years later, I'm glad to say, he passed with flying colours.

A whole new world of education was opened up to me at Penrith Secondary Modern. Over the next year or two I began to realised  how much improved this new school was, in respect to Barton School. It still a lower educational standard than a Grammar school. Maths levels stopped before algebra and trigonometry. A good standard of written English was taught but the level stopped short of reading the Classics. Poetry came into English also and to a surprisingly good standard. It was here I developed a love of poetry, but that is another story for later. Bookkeeping and basic business subjects were taught. Science, Biology and Botany were all combined and taught to a reasonable standard. History and Geography were taught to what I think even now to a good level. The sole practical subject taught was Woodwork. Sport was practically non-existent, I don't know why.

Boys about to enter year 6 were streamed into 2 separate classes, those with a good chance of passing the 11+ examination and those with a lesser chance. My friend Peter Embley, a year behind me was in the "rejects". The accelerated learning class almost always got 100% pass rate in the 11+ exams and some in the "rejects” were late bloomers and scraped through the 11+.

Discipline is the next story and is worth reading.