Sunday, October 10, 2010

5. Raynes Park School

Now, where were we? Oh, yes, I remember. Well the move from Thundersley to Elm Walk, Raynes Park was a big improvement. The house had indoor plumbing and electricity. Mother was very excited because she could turn on the upstairs light from downstairs and turn it off when she got upstairs. When I was five years old it was time for me to attend Raynes Park Infants School. It was a long walk for a little girl, down Grand Drive, over the Kingston By-Pass, which is probably a busy motorway now, and towards the railway station and the school. I don’t remember mother meeting me from school, but I do remember a ginger haired, freckled faced, chubby little boy who, after school, would walk with me as far as the by-pass and kiss me goodbye.

Pictures come into my mind of Empire Days, the day when we celebrated the achievements of the great British Empire which now, like the Great Roman Empire, has faded into oblivion. One very proud girl would be chosen to be Britannia. She wore a long Grecian robe, and on her head was placed a tall helmet  which was a cross between a policeman’s helmet and one worn by the Grenadier Guards. She would be seated on a stool, which had blue material draped round the base representing the sea, holding a spear and a shield. On the front of the shield would be painted the Union Flag. It all represented “Rule Britannia, Britannia Rule the Waves. Britain’s never, never, never will be slaves!” which we sang with gusto while waving our flags, and then went home early. The fact that the British Empire was making slaves out of other people all over the world was not taken into account. You will find a picture of Britannia on the back of old English coins.

In the afternoon we would lay our heads on our desks and have a sleep, or we were supposed to, and while we were supposedly sleeping our teacher would quietly move around our desks putting a pear drop down for each of us. No other pear drops have ever tasted like them. When George the V and his wife Mary were crowned King and Queen of England, Emperor and Empress of the British Empire, we all celebrated. We danced around the maypole, trying not getting the ribbons knotted, we were each presented with a mug bearing the pictures of our new King and Queen, and were again allowed to go home early.  Maypole Dancing was performed for special occasions, especially on May Day which was a pagan celebration from ages ago.

My doll was called Annette, I have no idea why but little girls do try to think up romantic names for their dolls.  One day I was walking home from school when a man came up beside me, admired Annette and asked, “Do you like puppies?” I nodded. Then he said “If you will come with me I will show you my puppies and give you a penny”.  I wasn’t that interested in his puppies, but a penny was a penny and I did not get many of them. I followed him up a little lane and we stopped by a fence, where he opened the front of his trousers and did something to himself which I did not understand, nor find very interesting, so I just stood there, played with Annette and waited until he had finished. Then we walked back down the lane and as he turned away from me, without even saying goodbye, I asked him “Where is my penny?” He reached into his pocket, brought out a coin and handed it to me. I skipped home and showed it to my mother and could not understand why she should be so angry because the nice man had given me a penny – which would buy a golly toffee bar, a strip of liquorice, a gobstopper and a sherbet fizz!

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