It was Friday, 12 December 1941. My last holiday from the school
started earlier than that of the other boys, as I was off to join the Navy in
January. That morning I was driven to the train station by my
headmaster, Mr Foran-Stein, whose nickname was the same as that of his
predecessor, Mr Frederick Hoskin. F S gave me a sixpenny piece and
walked with me to the platform, protecting me from the falling snow
with his umbrella. While waiting for the train, F S bought me a hot drink
and insisted he see me onto the train. I told him he would be late for
assembly. He said he doubted he would be on the wrong end of the stick
for being late. F S was married and his wife was a pleasant lady, but they
did not have children. They owned a dog which was dark in colour; with
a white band of hair around its neck, named ‘Parson’, I on many
occasions took Parson the dog for extensive rambles beyond the school
boundaries with complete immunity from the school authorities, that dog
was one of the nicer beings at the school. I asked F S to say goodbye to
Parson from me, he reminded me of the time when Parson got loose and
found me among three hundred boys on the parade ground and would
not leave me and I was ordered to take him home, which resulted in me
having lunch with him and his wife; instead of going to church.
I was never rude to the headmaster who, like his predecessor, was a
person of quality. I also admired him because of his uncanny likeness to
my favourite cricketer, D.C.S Compton, whose income was
supplemented by advertising ‘Brylcreem.Also I had never received the
cane from him unlike his predecessor.’ I thanked him for his help and
generosity and told him he was not a bad bloke despite his occasional
fearful looks when angry. He replied that he had never before received a
compliment from any student in the school. F S then shook my hand and
I boarded the train. As the train pulled out, I waved. When he waved
back, he had a sad expression on his face.
travellers in my compartment informed me that it wasn’t in my best
interests to join the Navy and proceeded to tell me gory stories about
how sailors die in battle. It was somewhat frightening. At Paddington
station, I met the young woman who was a friend of Auntie Parker’
my Foster Mother in Charlham, Oxfordshire.
At eighteen plus, Emily was a very pleasant, attractive young lady.
She was not classically beautiful due to her height, but she had a very
pretty face. When she saw me, she came over and said, “John Spencer,
(not my real name) I presume. Emily Jane Courtney-Cowper.” I took Emily’s
outstretched hand, not certain what to do. Judging by her smile, the sparkle in her
eyes, and her bearing and eloquent speech, I assumed (from watching
old movies) that Emily was a lady of quality and that I was expected to
kiss her hand. This I did, saying “Pleased to meet you, Ma’am. I was
expecting to meet an old lady, not one as pretty as you.” By now, Emily
was giggling her head off. She said, “What a darling boy you are, but
come along now. We must rush, as we are attracting an audience.”
Emily told me she had learned to drive while in the ATS (Women’s
Army.) She was on two week’s leave and had borrowed ‘Daddy’s car’, as
she put it, for a fun drive to London to get me home to Charlham. Emily
was a pleasant person to talk to. She had brown eyes, light brown hair,
and was about five feet three inches tall with a trim figure. I
complimented her on the scent she was using. She told me that in the
country, foxes have scent and ladies wear perfume. I told Emily it was
pleasing to be able to talk to a pretty lady who smiled a lot, wasn’t old,
and didn’t smell of disinfectant like the old bags at the school.
When Emily stopped laughing, she said, “We must pull in here by the
trees, as I must go for a pee. The cold weather does it to me. You’d better
go, too, as we have a fair way to go yet.
End of part one. ( INTERESTED? THERE IS MUCH MORE)
Part Two soon.
Vest Daily gaggle
Very interested to hear more. What a kind headmaster, rather like we like to imagine they were before they had to become obsessed by budgets and efficiencies. You have been blogging for as long as I have. I must find some time to skim read some of you older posts, yes, indeed, when I get time.
It is lovely to hear that there were some humans at your school as well as the bullies.
Thank you both Andrew and E C. for your kind comments, Yes there were a few nicer persons at the School both friends and staff - such as those on the nautical instruction staff , Mr Spain (Fizzy) and his successor Mr Stark, (Killer Stark).
When in England on a visit 1986, My wife and I and our then 19 year old svisited the school cemetary, My son remarked 'Most of the boys buried here are under twelve" I replied "Only the hardy survived".
Hard to imagine a lady of quality would stop to pee behind a tree, but I suppose not all of the upper classes were the hoity-toity type.
Nice to know you got on so well with the headmaster at your school.
River. Travelling from London toward Oxfordshire in the 40's one would use the Old A40 road, and being wartime with rationing very few places if any to stop at for sustenance,fuel, or a tom tiddle, the rules were very primitive(and 'No looking'). The old slow A40 still exists, however, a new M40 with six lanes and many comfort stops runs nearly paralel to the old road which still has the more pleasant and down to earth scenery and memories. Thank you for your comment.
BTW When you gotta go, you gotta go.
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