There wasn’t much response to “The first bit” ; a comment of possible (but doubtful) disappointment from disperser, and a shot across the bows from my sister, commenting under the pseudonym, cazz1844; which I think is a plug for those living in Melbourne, to go see her at the Capt. Cook Cottage, situated in the Fitzroy Gardens. where she is dressed up as Mrs Cook, Jim’s neglected wife, and showing people around the house that Lizzie Cook never visited and never saw.
It’s always seemed odd to me, setting Cooks Cottage up in Melbourne; after all, he never went near nor bye, what was to become Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne, would have been just as odd setting it up in Sydney too, he never entered what became Pt Jackson / Sydney Harbour, and Sydney.
Not only that, he actually showed no interest in this land, found it, charted the east coast and off he went never to return. No! Matthew Flinders was the man!
What has all this to do with “The first bit” or this bit? Nothing whatsoever! Just being a wee bit obtuse. So here we go on:
Bit number two.
Back to 1946, I was packed off to the Park Modern Secondary School, after the long summer holiday, to nearly four years of boredom.
As is usual the first day, was spent assigning the new boys to their class, and classroom. I was placed in Class 1A, and the master in charge was Mr W.J (Bill).Stockwell.
Class 1A was fortunate in that it was assigned a proper classroom, with proper desks, 1B & 1C were not so lucky, 1B got assigned to the science room/laboratory, under the guidance of ‘Bertie’ Bright, the Science Master and Deputy Headmaster; and 1C got the woodwork room , under I don’t recall who, neither room had proper desks. For my Australian followers Year 1 in secondary schools in England equated to Year 9, back in the good ol’ days!
The boys had to make do with the big tables in the lab, and the woodwork bench’s in the you know where!
My exalted position in 1A, was due to my passing the 11 plus and declining The Abbey, in preference for the Park.
On entering our assigned classroom for the first time, I selected the desk in the back left hand corner of the room, it had a window overlooking the small quad.
Unlike in the ‘Infants’ & ‘Junior’ schools, we were to move from classroom to classroom, for each subject. I think you all y/all know what I mean. However, this first day was to be confined to our ‘Form Room’ .
I really don’t recall what went on during the day, except that ‘Bill’ gave us a homework task. He was the English Master, (nice old bloke, had to be 60 if he was a day) and he wanted us to write a ‘composition’ (essay, but we didn’t know that word then). We were to write our story. I had no idea what he was talking about!
When I arrived home after the first day, my mother asked how it had gone, I had a moan and told her I had homework to do. She asked what it was, and when I told her, she said “I’ll write it for you and you can copy it”. Of course I agreed.
Next morning I presented my homework, I had no idea what it said, I’d just copied it, without bothering to read, or understand it. After Bill read mine, I was instructed to read it aloud to the rest of the class, to show them how it was done.
Which I did. I received a 10/10 for my mothers work, which pleased her enormously for some reason.
Henceforth I became Bills ‘favourite’; and duly christianed, “Bri- Bri” .
I let it be known, that any class member, or any person ever caught using, or uttering, that term did so at their own peril. At the same time I made it known that in each classroom, the back left corner desk was mine! I thought it best to let everyone know from the outset, so that there would be no misunderstanding.
And so it was or the next four years. They were not particularly happy years.
The “Park” was not what would, or could, be called a great seat of learning; anything but. It had what might be termed a pompous motto; “Learning & Light”, whatever that meant, there wasn’t a great deal of learning going on, and the only light came from the light globes/bulbs.
As I said earlier, my first “Class Master” Bill was a pretty old bloke, hair as white as driven snow, pretty tall and built like Edward VII, which was pretty unusual in 1946. What I recall most about Bill though was his hand. He had the most beautiful handwriting I’d ever seen. I’d watch spellbound as he’d write on the blackboard, (which was actually green) and his hand would simply flow.
I decided that I wanted to write like he did, so instead of paying attention to what he’d be saying, I’d be practicing ‘running writing’ tucked away in my corner. When I noticed hands go up, after he’d ask a question, I’d raise mine too, safe in the knowledge that he wouldn’t point to me for an answer. It hadn’t taken me long to cotton onto that little lurk; he seemed to like those who didn’t know the answer, so that he could show us how smart he was! He probably thought I was keen and taking notes.
Little did he know that I never take notes; ever; I was just practicing my writing; and working on a signature!
As for chums, I didn’t have many, I can only recall four boys out of a total of some 400 who attended the “Park” at any one time, and I really only had one who’s company I actually sought; John Turner.
The other three, Gerald (Jed or Jedda) Smith, he lived at the other end of Langley Crescent, Billy Blunden, he didn’t have bike, he had a tandem. When a bike ride to Southend came up, he conned me on taking the back seat, still it was a great day out. Billy was mad about locks & keys, he carried a great key ring around with him, which had probably a hundred keys or more.
He could open any locked door in the school, and if anyone lost their key, and couldn’t unlock the chain on their bikes, Billy to the rescue. Never beaten. 🙂 He either finished up a rich locksmith or in jail. I’ll never know which. 🙄
Last and least was another Billy, Billy Brown, not the nicest boy in school, I might illuminate that later! 👿
Three things I did learn at the “Park”, how to play ‘Rugger’ (Rugby); the joy of classical music; and how to sing hymns! 😈 Yes that’s what I said ‘how to sing hymns’; hard to believe, ain’t it! 👿
And the last bit, is the inspiration, for want of a better word, for this post. Now that’s probably rocked/knocked you so when you’ve picked yourself up dusted…….. you know the rest; you can either carry on reading this, or go watch POTUS on television; he’s bound to be there, somewhere, gumming up the works!
But first the Rugby; like it or lump it we had to play. Fortunately we were the only school that played Rugby, every other school played Association Football, sometimes called soccer. The reason being, when the ‘Park’ was established, the first headmaster of the school, had played Rugby for Wales, (reputedly in a team that had beaten the All Blacks pre-war).,and he considered it a “mans game”.
On our first day at the school, besides being assigned the usual stuff, we were assigned a “House”, as I had a brother up there in the Third Year, I was posted to the same house, keep it all in the family; so into ‘Red’ I went, the other 3 were ‘Blue’ ‘Green’ and you guessed it.
In year two, the system was changed slightly, the ‘Houses’ were given names and a ‘Shield” ‘Red’ became ‘Sheffield’ our shield was emblazoned with a Viking ship, with the sail furled. Don’t ask me what the other three were named, I have know idea.
Our House Master was Mr Bertie Bright 🙂 , two pennyha’pennys worth tall, he wielded the meanest looking cane of all the teachers, very thin and it would whistle through the air. Bertie was never known to use it! He was also an avid lover of Rugby, I don’t know why, he’d have been too small for a hooker, even amongst ten year olds; and he expected all the boys in his house, to perform valiantly, at all times, on the ‘Field of Mars’! I loathed it!
Didn’t make any difference, I still had to don my togs, and play. He started me in off as hooker, at which I was useless, I couldn’t stand getting my ears belted around, and on fire. He gave me a spell on the wing, but I was too slow so he shoved me in as full back, and there I stayed for the rest of my time at the ‘Park’, I was the last line of defence and did not approve of anyone trying to get past me, but hate it I did.
Classical music was brought to us every term in the guise of “The Quintet”! The word would spread that ‘The Quintet’ was coming amongst cursing and groans from those above we first year boys, nearly said students. ‘The Quintet’ was just what you can imagine, 5 musicians. Two violins, one viola, one cellist and a pianist, and I never knew what to expect. I was gobsmacked!
Loved it, never having heard anything so beautiful before. I have no idea what was played, we were told I suppose, but it never registered . I imagine there was some Hadyn, Mozart and Beethoven thrown at we heathens, and only two boys enjoyed it, Turner and me! Turner played classical clarinet and also piano. He was the only boy allowed to play the schools Blüthner full grand piano.
I recall one afternoon, he was practicing on the piano, and I was standing beside watching, and he started playing a sweet little piece of music, when I told him how much I liked it, he taught me how to play the first few ‘bars’, I never knew what it was called and did not hear it again until the 1960’s, would you believe,
Finally the hymn singing bit! 👿
Like it or lump it, every Monday morning, the ensuing weeks schooling, for want of a better word, started with an ‘Assembly’. The school being segregated, the girls had the use of the only school hall week about with the boys. Fraternizing was not permitted. The off week, the gymnasiums substituted. Catholics were excused attending. The head conducted the proceedings/service, and we sang a couple of hymns. In the gym we sang without accompaniment, in the hall we got the piano.
I don’t know what the girls sang, but we boys always had big loud hymns to sing, which we did with much gusto! And this set me on a downhill slide. I started going to church! 😈
The how, when or why it started, I can’t recall precisely, I know I enjoyed belting out the hymns at school, which might well have been the catalyst that almost changed my life when I became very interested in religion.
Each Sunday morning I’d get up quite early, rain, snow hail or blow; have a wash, (Saturday night was bath night) get dressed complete with collar and tie; make myself a cup of tea and take a cuppa to my mother and father in bed, and toddle off to St Albans Church which was just around the corner from where we lived. I did this during my years at the ‘Park Modern Secondary School for Boys’.
It was thought that I had now found my vocation, and was destined for a life in the church.
This condition lasted right up until I left school, and started work, in April 1950.
Less than 12 months later, February 1951, it was Eastward Ho, bound for Port Phillip Bay. Somehow that doesn’t have the same ring to it as Westward Ho, and bound for Botany Bay. 🙄
On my settling in Melbourne in 1951 I became very involved with Catholics, I suppose that was because I was surrounded by them, and I even toyed with the idea of converting, some may recall a few of posts on the subject, that I did a couple of years or more ago. I don’t think they are available, they’ve disappeared into cyberspace.
And so it was until the late 60’s/ early 70’s, when I did a 540 degree spin and went from a right wing Tory loving, capital punishment advocate to a left wing, socialist real life, human being; ( if that doesn’t get you know who, wound up nothing will!).
So what about the other boy from Barking? George.
George got started on the religious bit, six or seven years after my little foray when he was 17, and whilst he was doing his service in the RAF decided he’d dive head first into the church and get himself ordained. Now this was a bloke who’d failed his 11 plus. He studied hard and long and got himself ordained as a priest in the Church of England. And it didn’t stop there.
I finished up writing and posting on the Internet under the pseudonym LordBeariOfBow. com and George?
He wrote and published lots of stuff on religion and finished up as the Archbishop of Canterbury; The Lord Carey of Clifton,
Don’t you think he should thank his lucky starts that I saw the light? 😈 😀 👿