Monthly Archives: February 2011

A Fond Memory

I love how the fragments of memories return to bring huge smiles. Even though 20 years have passed since my Nan died, I often think of her and while those thoughts are tinged with sadness, there is something so comforting in the many great memories I have of her.

I was at work recently and about to make a cup of tea, when I started to sing Buddy Holly songs. Now before you start to think, “God it sounds like he’s about to re-enact a scene from Glee”, I’ve always been known to sing when I’m in a comfortable environment. Singing in front of a crowd, however has never been comfortable. I’ve had my moments though. I can remember singing in Runcorn, managing to get an encore singing Beatles songs at Karaoke. I wasn’t a willing party.. to start anyway. Back in those days I used to drink Snakebite and Black, which is lager, cider and blackcurrant in a purple concoction of pure potency. I was enjoying a pint or, well several pints, when I began to notice a funny tinge to my drink. It was until I’d got up and sung my first Beatles song, that my friends admitted to spiking my drinks, for several rounds with vodka. Anyway, as always I digress.

I began to sing, in near silence the Buddy Holly song “Everyday” and this morphed into “What Till the Sunshines Nellie”. This song has always had great significance, not only since I discovered it in my Nan’s record player (which I think was actually my cousin Cathy’s single, with the initials EM), but also Nellie was my Nan’s nickname to her friends. Her full name was Ellen Elizabeth Meeks. My twin daughters also inherited her names. Sarah has Elizabeth as her middle name and Lucy has Ellen. although they never got to meet and hug their Great Nan, they will always have my memories of her and their names.

Anyway I love that song and it always makes me feel like Nan is right there with me. I hope I always have that feeling and I hope I can somehow pass that feeling on to my kids. I loved and indeed still love my Nan with all my heart. She’s always with me, always a big part of who I am. Just wish she was here to embrace her great grand children who would have loved her to bits, as does their Daddy.

My time at Moorfields Primary School

I’ve been away from the UK, living in Canada nearly 10 years. This absence has over the last few years, made me think more of my growing up and the places and friends I left behind. I was fortunate enough a couple of years ago, to get back, and spend an afternoon going around the places I remembered well as a kid, primary school, secondary school and the little nooks and crannies we used to play around as kids. I took quite a few pictures on that afternoon, but several pictures would prove more poignant than I could have possible known at the time.

HPIM0166I was fortunate for schooling to always be within walking distance. I started at Moorfields Primary School in 1972. The first year was Nursery, which had a distinctly different feel to the rest of the school, almost like it was annexed off, well that’s how I remember it anyway. Nursery school, is where I made some pretty firm friends, Stephen Kerr, Steven Forsdyke and Lee MacDonald to name a few. I also vaguely remember having a run in with a girl, who’s name was something like ‘Eva’. I remember us fighting a few times, over the huge colour building blocks, and when I say huge, imagine Lego, but where each brick is bigger than a mans foot. It’s funny they could have been much smaller, but that’s the size they were in my imagination. Nursery also had it’s own little play area, which was separate from the rest of the infants. At play times, we were marshalled like little prisoners of war. I remember there being a fairly hefty see-saw in this area. I remember it particularly well, as a few years later, I was playing with some friends and slipped off, when the see-saw was down, and it came up with a whack, straight on my chin. I had lock jaw for a few days after that, which was not very pleasant.

Nursery, is intended as an introduction, to ease children into school life, consequently at around 12:30 I think it was, we had nap time. I seem to remember we had fold up, camp like beds, but I also think we may have slept on the floor, maybe on foam tiles or mats. I think Mrs Simms was the main teacher in Nursery, but she was also ably assisted by some other school helpers, who also worked around the rest of the school. If I remember correctly they were:

Mrs Burke – A rather tall woman I think, with short bright red hair. I heard she died of lunch cancer back in the 80′s

Mrs Costa – I seem to remember hearing she had a heart attack while taking the children to St. Lukes library

Mrs Piper (who was also Ronnie Piper’s Mum, but he was a few years ahead of me)

Mr Wills was the school caretaker and there was a gardener who’s name may have been Matthew or Mr Matthews. I spent a lot of time gardening, back then and loved it, so it’s funny now that I hate it.

From around my era, I seem to remember 2 heads of the school, although I think Mrs Edward may have also been a head in the past. The two other heads were Mr Weatherly, who was a very gentle, tall man, who handled conflicts very well. I seem to remember going there on a few occasions and ending up playing draughts. I also think I remember him having some kind of sweet jar on his desk, that either had hard candies or lollipops in it. Mr Blunden, was a fairly imposing figure, with his flaming red hair and mustache to match. If he’s reading this I would like to remind him that he still has my copy of Roald Dahl’s, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”.

And the teachers that I remember were:

Nursery – Mrs Simms
Class 2 – Mrs Edwards
Class 3 – Miss Worrell
Class 4 – Mr Maw
Class 5 – Miss Hewstone
Class 6 – I seem to remember a teacher for the better part of the year and then she disappeared. Think we had a few substitute teachers here, including the very colourful Mr Deshmuk
Class 7 – Mrs Belasko
Class 8 – Mr Maw (again) but I could be mistaken

So Nursery is covered. Please remember that all of this is from memories I haven’t thought much about in over 30 years, so some of the names and teachers may be in the wrong order, but I’m happy to make changes, if someone wants to point out any errors or omissions.

Class 2, is fairly sketchy. I remember Mrs Edwards as very stern and proper, dressed always very soberly. She also had a very plasticy prosthetic hand, which I’m sure was the norm back then, but I remember it as almost mannequin like. Rightly or wrongly, my thoughts of her are as a scary, almost matron like figure.

Class 3, I remember more for the teacher than the time itself. Now let me say, that any of the descriptions for the teachers, are not intended to insult, I’m just trying to recall the image that is easiest to envisage. I remember Mrs Worrell as having fairly long, slightly curly brown hair and protruding teeth. Her husband was blind, and this I remember as she brought in a braille typewriter and we all got the chance to type out a short letter. I also think she told us many stories, but again this year is very sketchy.

Mr Maw, Mrs Hewstone and
a mystery student

Class 4, was the first time around that we had Mr Maw. For me, Mr Maw was the turning point, from blissfully unaware child, to knowledge hungry, music mad child. I can remember a particular instance of the class singing the Beach Boys Song, “Sloop John B”. I was harmonizing and Mr Maw seemed amazed. Now I don’t pretend to be some kind of child prodigy, I probably just heard the song on the radio, but that particular instance gave me some thing I was good at, and has pretty much stayed with me all my life. We sang so many songs like “Football Crazy” and “You’ll never get to Heaven”. It wasn’t all fun and games, he sure did have a darker side, but I can’t say I remember it flaring that often, once or twice at most. This was the last year of infants and the last year that we would play in the infants playground, which was on the same level as the main buildings of the school. I also have the vaguest of memories, of a crush. Alan Welsh had a sister. Linda I think her name was, who I think was in Class 8, which shared a windowed wall with our playground. I remember acting all smitten like with her and her giving me a handmade badge. I think I was walking on cloud 9 for a few days after.

Class 5, saw the transition from infants to juniors. My memories of Mrs Hewstone, which are the memories of someone looking back, were that of a rock chick, something akin to Suzy Quattro. Long blond hair, wide lapels, flared jeans and rock chick boots. The playground for the juniors was sub level. You came out of our side of the building and walk across to the other side of the Juniors, where there was a staircase going down. There was also a slope on the far side of the juniors, where we spent most of the Summer of ’76. There was also paved stairs along the building leading down. I remember in the juniors being introduced to rounders, the English version of baseball. It was here we discovered that if that ball goes over the wall, into the adjacent graveyard (Bunhill Row), we’d have to get it. Consequently from that point on, we tried to get whatever ball, quoit or toy we could, over the wall. Bunhill Row cemetery is a quite wonderful slice of tranquility in the heart of the city. It is also the final burial place of several famous people, including Danial Defoe, John Wesley, William Blake and John Bunyan, to name a few.

Class 6, was a funny year. I seem to remember we started the year with a teacher who was with us for a while. I can’t for the life of my remember her name, but she did introduce us to pen pals. I had two pen pals whose names I remember to this date, David Holborn and Justin Swilt. They lived in High Wycome, which back then was like the other end of the country. I also seem to remember having a crush on her, but then again, how big can a 8 year olds crush be. I also remember one of many substitute teachers in particular, Mr Deshmuk. Has was a large Indian man, who always had a smile on his face. His happiness was infectious and I think he kept us busy with lots of crafty projects.

Class 7 was with Mrs Belasko, whom I seem to remember being a bit of a hippie chick, with long wavy dark reddish hair and always seemingly in long flowing skirts and dresses. I think that was the year I caught chicken pox, as I remember being found in the toilets at that end of the building, with tears in my eyes, scratching furiously. Class 7 was also the our introduction to the big school trip. The trip was mostly for Class 8, but I remember there were always a few places filled by students from Class 7. I never managed to do whatever was required to be picked. That year I think the trip was to Bristol somewhere (Clifton maybe). I also recollect that the kids got to go there on the new Intercity 125 trains, which as you can probably guess, travelled at 125 miles per hour. Another memory from this time, has haunted me ever since it happened. I can remember it at around Christmas time. The class was busy making our own Christmas decorations. Lee MacDonald was playing around with the thing I was making and broke it. Well to say I went ballistic is probably a bit of an understatement, considering I was so mad, I threw a pair of scissors at his head. I can remember them leaving my hand and watching them speed towards his head in slow motion. I think those around, collectively exhaled a sign of relief when the scissors stuck in the wall above Lee’s head, I think my relief was a little more pronounced than those around.

Class 8, we again had Mr Maw. This was also our final year before entering secondary school. There is something decidedly different about being in your final year anywhere. There is a great sense of achievement and pride at being the oldest kids in the school, but also an underlying fear of the unknown, what is to come in the big school, where we become little fishes in a big pond. This was the year that we got to go on the big school trip, which this year was to Sayers Croft in Ewhurst, Surrey. I think we were there for a week, but it could have been 5 days. There are a couple of things that standout from that trip, one of them is part of the soundtrack to my life back then. Jilted John was at, or had been Number 1 in the charts and Boney M were singing “Brown Girl in the Ring”. Those two songs still bring back fond memories and my kids are particularly amused when I fire up Jilted John on the stereo. Sayers Croft was a magical time. There were a few schools in residence at the same time. The boys and girls had their own dormitory, which was very alien to us as kids. The boys would often sneak out to the girls dorm, and try to scare the living daylights out of them. I seem to remember running through their dorm a few times, with torches in our mouths, making ghostly noises. Yeah I know, pathetic but we were 10 or 11. The education aspect of Sayers Croft, which after all was the reason we were there, was also fascinating. I still remember discovering “Whirligigs” in pond water. I had a camera and took at least a couple of rolls of film, these rolls never got developed, as they disappeared somewhere, but I’m sure they would have been grainy and blurry, very similar to pics I have seen from around that time. Another major feat of being at Sayers Croft was the 12 mile walk we went on, that encompassed Leith Hill, Pitch Hill and Holmbury hill. Yes I did say 12 miles, which took us most of the day. It was a magical day and even though we were totally knackered, still managed to sprint back to our dorms.

Class 8 was also the year of the big school play. That year we did “Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”. I so wanted to be Joseph, but alas Andrew Snow got that part. I did manage to snag another fairly big part, that of the Pharaoh. This was particularly cool, as I got to sing like Elvis, dressed in my West Ham track suit. I recorded the whole performance onto cassette tape, but never got to hear it. I lent the tape to Andrew Snow and never saw it again, damn shame.

Although my brother, Alan went to the same school, I don’t seem to have any memories of him, other than the git robbing me of half of my dinner money. Admittedly he was three years older than me, but I only have the slightest of recollection of him in the later years, strange that.

So that was Moorfields. I’ve only really glanced at my times back them, but remember them with fondness. It’s funny, early on at Moorfields, I was a real jack the lad, and incurable flirt with the girls. I got my self into various situations, involving amongst other things, coat racks, popper fastening skirts and anoraks, but we won’t delve any deeper there. It seems like the older I got, the less I played kiss chase and the less the girls wanted to do with me. I think some of this is only natural, as the girls grow up a lot faster than boys at that age. With all the testosterone beginning to surge around my body, it didn’t help much going to an all boys school. I certainly won’t be doing that to my kids. I wonder if the girls that left Moorfields, going to all girls school had similar feelings.

So reason for this nostalgic look back at Moorfields. They’re knocking it down. Not satisfied with knocking the school down, they even had to rename it before hand. When I went back a couple of years ago, instead of finding my familiar Moorfields school. I found it had been renamed to Prior Western. Ah the indignity of it all. I know it’s only an old building. A school I left all of 30 years ago, but I always kinds of hoped to be able to show my children where their Daddy grew up and the schools he went to. Now that’s not going to happen. So goodbye Moorfields. I have so many great memories.

One last tidbit of information. There’s a block of flats opposite Moorfields, called Braithwaite House, which had a claim to fame in 1968, coincidently the year I was born. This is where the Kray Twins, the East London gang heads were apprehended. “Not a lotta people know that”.

Before I sign off, though I’ll leave you with an, as accurate as I can remember, recital of the class register. I’ll be interested to know of any errors.

Can you spot me?

Grant Allen (Grunt)
Marvin Barry
Scott Boniface
Matthew Capper (Formerly Walker)
Margaret Cillia
Shelley Davies
Mandy Davis
Lorraine Driscoll
Steven Forsdyke (Spud)
Michael Gartland
Martina Gough
Joanne Jayes
Yasmin Karim
Stephen Kerr (Kirby)
Michelle Leather
Debbie Lucas
Lee Macdonald
Colin McDonald (Macky, Biscuit)
Colin Meeks (Meeksy)
Claire Mills
Chico Mullane (Duracell)
Karen Peck
Hazel Philpott
Nicola Robinson
Samantha Singh Hulass
Tommy Smith (Smiffy)
Andrew Snow (Snowy)
Ian Taberman (Tadsy)
Mark Vaughan
David Watkins (Weeble)

Kids that came and went
Alan Parker
Vincent Carabot (Although there is some dispute that this should be Paragot, it’s not what I remember though.
Alan Welsh (Welshy)
Zacar Hussain (Stink Bomb)