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.
Before we moved to Dorset, I spent a lot of time in the swimming pool with my childminder and her family, at least as far as I know, and though I never had any formal swimming lessons to this point, I just loved the water and was always somehow able to swim, or at least to stay afloat. This was probably just as well, because I spent a lot of my time in, on, or around water over the years, especially with dad, who happened to have a passion for sailing, and also for growing special flowers called orchids especially once we moved to Dorset. This meant that we spent a lot of late nights visiting growers of orchids, and walking around their greenhouses, all hot and humid and smelling like those little clay balls that you find in stagnant, green water below plant pots.
We didn't have vases of flowers or daffodils or tulips in our house like regular people, instead we had orchid plants and heated cupboards under the stairs, made from glass, the plan was that we would one day have butterflies in there too, since dad had an extensive collection of dead butterflies pinned to boards that he had collected since he was a child, and he dreamt that one day he would have live ones flying around his orchids and flowers in a special temperature controlled environment inside the living room.
On one of these occasions visiting orchid growers around Britain, mum and dad were talking to an elderly couple about plants - boring stuff for me, but I was instead busy having my own adventures with the naughty mice, who dared me to grab a hold of the edge of a shelf where plants were on benches, and to swing over the large pool of water beneath.
All was going well, until I upped my game, and decided to see if I could do it one handed. I did it and felt like a hero, and wondered if I could now let go and then grab on again with my lightning speed reactions. But I wasn't quick enough, and was very embarrassed to find myself now immersed in very deep, lukewarm, green water underneath one of these plant benches. The water seeped through my once dry clothes, and spilled into my shoes, to the point where I now knew there was no going back as even my socks and underpants were soaked.
My first concern was not about drowning or being in the water, but of how much trouble I was going to be in, and how could I possibly pretend like nothing had happened. I couldn't blame the imaginary mice for this one! The grown ups would know by the state of me that I had been messing around, even after they told me not to, and I'd fallen into a pool of water that was so deep my feet didn't even reach the bottom. I hadn't thought about how I would get out of this square pool, with no steps and nothing to hold on to.
The greenhouse was huge, what if I was lost down here, under this bench forever? Should I shout for help? Or just wait and see if they missed me? Boy was I going to be in trouble now! What would the punishment be for something on this scale on naughtiness?
Maybe if I pretended like everything was just normal, 'nothing to see here' they wouldn't notice??? So I just stayed there, calm and quiet, treading water, and wishing the water would swallow me up so I wouldn't have to deal with the wrath that I was sure to receive next!
Luckily for me, the grownups turned around after hearing a large splash, and just as my father was raising a serious 'I'm going to kill you' large, dark, caterpillar sized eyebrow, the old man whose greenhouse it was came to my rescue, without realising it, and made a huge fuss about how scared I must have been and how lucky I was not to drown or be eaten by the crocodiles he said lived in the pit.
Before I knew it I was sat on a wooden stool in front of a portable heater in their mobile home, drinking tea, and eating pink wafer biscuits (best invention ever!!), whilst my clothes dried over a clothes horse and my icicle feet began to defrost as I got them as close to the flame as I could without them catching fire.
Dad got to spend more time talking about his beloved orchids with a renowned expert and I was getting kisses from a very kind elderly lady with a prickly beard, after my 'near death' experience, made all the cooler by their stories that I was lucky the crocodiles in those water pits didn't get me.
It was only when we were on our way back home, that I got a slight but stern talking to from mum and dad, but it was nothing compared to the great adventure I'd had, and the warmth in my happy belly, from the lovely tea and discovery of pink wafer biscuits and kindness of the old lady and her husband.