As part of National Novel Writing Month, (#NaNoWriMo) I've set myself the goal of writing a 50,000 word novel (1700 words a day), consisting of short stories about my memories of primary school. Just so that you know, all names of people have been changed unless they are publically known. Each story is based on my own memory, so may not be an exact representation of events, especially since I am writing this over 40 years after things happened! But I hope you will enjoy each story all the same, and that perhaps it will spark your own memories of life at primary school.
Another time, granny and granddad took me, my three year old brother, and my mum on holiday to a farm as a way of cheering mum up after the divorce from dad. It was a very long drive, but it was a lovely adventure even though it was very boring having to sit and look out of the car window and be quiet all the time. Grandad's car was a fancy Honda, and the engine was really quiet and he always played classical music, so it wasn't long before I would fall asleep on any journey. Mum told me that her and dad would often take me on car rides as a baby because I never wanted to sleep at night, I was a natural night owl, but being in the car always did the trick.
Sometimes we would stop at a pub for lunch, or our grandparents would make us go to a really boring garden centre or shop and granny would reel off all the names of the plants in Latin, even though the plants looked the same to me and I really didn't care what they were called.
But for the most part we went to very interesting places, though granny insisted that we should always be learning and doing something educational, like reading every single description written under every museum object or painting in a gallery. That got much easier once my brother could read and because he was dyslexic granny then made him read all the time so I finally got to enjoy just looking at the objects and enjoying them and thinking up my own stories about them. Unfortunately it turned out later on that my brother, like my mum's brother and sisters was also dyslexic and he soon got fed up of granny making him read things, so mum said he didn't have to.
It was very rare that mum stood up to granny and they argued a lot about what was the best thing to do for him, but the downside was that granny once again turned her attentions to me and started making me read all the boring information leaflets and things again.
Of course granny meant well, and she was just trying to help us to get the best start in life that we could, but it seems more like a punishment when you are a child and not allowed to just play and roam around and be what grandad would call 'free range children'. Since granny and grandad were both secondary school teachers it seemed that they were always on teacher duty but over the years they did start to become less teachery, especially once they retired.
But the farm holiday was amazing. I had my own bedroom, and it had a four poster bed, wooden walls, a chandelier with huge crystals, hundreds of them, that sparkled so pretty in the light, and out of the window was a field full of sheep. The house was so quiet apart from the ticking of an old Grandfather clock in my bedroom. I felt like one of those fancy ladies living in a house from a Jane Austen novel.
The lady who owned the house was very kind too, and what's more she was like a real granny, the kind of granny that all my friends had, so we liked to spend as much time with her as we could. She never made us recite times tables or read everything she could find with words on it, instead she was smiley and kind and a lot of fun.
Best of all, her sheep on the farm were having babies, so we got to see a lamb being born, and we were allowed to help her with the babies who were orphans who had no mum to feed them, so we gave them a bottle each and cuddled them as they fed.
Mum seemed happier being on a farm too, I think it reminded her of the countryside and being a young farmer before I was born. That was always her dream, to live and work on a farm. Once she had even got her foot all smashed up, because she had been stood on the back of a tractor where the trailer attaches, and as the tractor went over a big bump, the trailer jumped and then landed, trapping her foot between the tractor and the trailer attachment. She broke lots of bones in her foot and messed up all the skin. She was very lucky she didn't lose her foot really. She must have been very brave. Granny always treated mum and talked to her like she was some kind of pushover, but she really wasn't. She was always strong, she just didn't make a fuss or shout about things and people often took that as weakness.
I already knew that mum was brave, because one day we were looking at photos of her as a child, when she lived with her mum and dad, and there was a photo of her in a wheelchair with both of her legs in plaster casts. Granny said she had been born with something wrong with her legs, so she spent a very long time in hospital as a teenager whilst the doctors tried to fix them. They had to saw off both of her legs, and then re-attach them, but the right way round. Me and my brother looked at the photos and couldn't believe she had never mentioned it to us before. She was smiling in the photo even though the doctor had sawn her legs off, you didn't get much braver than that!
We had always seen the scars underneath both of her knees, that went all the way around her legs, and we knew she had bad legs when she was younger, but we didn't know that she had been in a wheelchair and spent all that time in hospital. She had always been very active and interested in sports before her surgery, but there wasn't any physiotherapy or treatments like there are today so she had to learn to walk again and exercise was more difficult after that which is when mum started to put on weight and then it knocked her confidence a lot, and then it wasn't very long until she suddenly had me as a baby and had to give up a job that she really loved.
The only thing granny said when we looked at the photos was 'look how skinny you mum is, that was before she got fat'. Mum's eyes filled with tears, and one rolled down her face. Mum said that it was true, she had been skinny, but it was very hard to do all her favourite sports after her operation and also she had been busy looking after her brothers and sisters whilst her mum and dad were busy with work, and her sisters and brother were really mean to her. They were still mean to her now and always trying to see who could be the best at everything. I was very lucky with my little brother because from the moment he was born I decided that we weren't going to fight and fall out like other brothers and sisters, but I would always do my best to protect him and to teach him about the world. We wouldn't compete with each other, no matter how much granny compared us because that just wasn't our way.
One day when we were at the farm granny said we were going on a trip for the day and she gave me the leaflet to read. It looked like a lot of fun as there was a mine, and an underground train. It was called Morwelham Quay. Except that when I read it aloud, I read the second word as 'kway' instead of 'key' and granny laughed at me, and the grown ups thought it was terribly funny, but I didn't understand why they were laughing because they wouldn't tell me. Eventually grandad told me it was because I read the word wrong. This didn't make any sense to me at all, nor was it very funny. why not just tell me I read it wrong, instead of making all this fuss. It was spelt like it should have been pronounced 'qway', it wasn't obvious it should be more like 'key'. It seemed like very silly behaviour from grown ups and not very nice to laugh at someone learning to read who had never read that word before.
That happened to me once before, only worse because everyone always laughed but no one ever told me why.
When we moved to Dorset we would often take the ferry to Studland after school after a trip to the beach. I loved to catch the ferry, and it usually presented me and my brother with a chance to get an ice cream if we were really lucky and managed to plead with dad just enough to be cute, but not too much that he got annoyed. Especially if there was a really long queue and it was a roasting hot day as we sat in the car, music blasting on the radio, and windows rolled down full (electric car windows didn't exist back then, and everything you touched in the car just burnt you if you leant on it, including the winder for rolling down the windows).
In my ploy for ice cream, I would beg my father to let us go on the ferry, except, that I didn't know it was called a 'ferry' I thought it was called a 'fairy'. I had no idea that there were two words in existence that sounded the same, but had different meanings!
Mum and dad laughed at me so much, and I would smile but not understand what was so funny, but at least if they laughed enough, they seemed to lighten up a bit, and then we had a better chance of being treated to an ice cream, a can of Lilt, or a bite of dad's raisin and biscuit Yorkee chocolate bar before it melted in the sun. It was one of the few times and places where mum and dad always seemed to be at their happiest.