(600 words) I was a schoolboy at St Paul’s when the incident I’m about to relate occurred. I was one of a small number of boarders – my parents were ‘swingers’ (as we’d now call them). Not that I knew that at the time, of course. They just said they had ‘business to attend to,’ so I was packed off to St Pauls for months at a time. Anyway, it was a quiet Saturday in May, and I’d gone down to the kitchens to fetch some milk for a pot of tea I’d just made. There was Sally, the kitchen maid, with her arms up to her plump elbows in a sink full of washing up. “Hello, Sally, what’s that smell?” I asked. There was an unpleasant odour, not unlike the dreaded boiled cabbage, cooked to death, served up four times a week.
(850 words) With a heavy heart, I’ve decided to set down here an event from my distant youth, one that’s been troubling me for many a year. I’m now five years short of my century, not long for this Earthly plane and I need to get it off my chest. Well, it would have been back in about 1933, those inter-war years I so fondly remember, when hope burned in all our breasts, and optimism exuded from every pore. We’d gone on a school trip to South Wales and were staying in a youth hostel, a converted lifeboat house.
(700 words) Persistence was wearing us down. “Hey, guys, let me come fishing with you, I promise I won’t muck about again.” Jeff must have said that twenty times. Martin and I exchanged glances. Jeff had come on an early morning trip to Hertford Canal with us once. We’d cycled along empty lanes, the sun sparkling in the green canopy overhanging the road, past the infamous Clibbon’s post, marking a highwayman’s grave, and down to the deserted canal, where mist rose, steaming and ethereal. After an hour of catching nothing more substantial than minnows, Jeff had spent his time throwing stones at ducks and carving his name into a memorial bench. Never again! we’d agreed.
(1000 words) It was in my eighth year, shortly before my birthday, that my mother took me to live with her mother, Françoise, in Woodhall Spa. In my perception, we were one moment walking along the beach in Skegness, past huge black rocks like giant Tourmaline tumblestones, that I later learned were to stop the sand from being eroded, and the next, we were beside my grandmother’s swimming pool, the clear water azure and alluring. At that time, I did not recognise we had crossed a border between worlds. I was soon enrolled at St. Cuthbert’s, a private school for girls, situated within acres of green lawns, cricket and football pitches and its own private woodland, where small-leaved limes rubbed shoulders with the wild service tree and where a little wooden pergola displayed a plaque dedicated to the school’s founder. “Christiana, you and Anne are to share a tent.” So said Brother Joseph, a teacher I disliked on account of his yellow eyes and spots, like boils, that seemed to cover his cheeks. I was ten years old now, aware of changes in my body that I didn’t completely understand. We were camping in the school arboretum over the weekend. It was June and it seemed like summer would never end. I looked over to Anne and we both smiled. “OK.”
(400 words) There’s snow on the steeple, and frost on the ground, Sweets for a penny and crackers for a pound. And a long woollen stocking at the foot of the sheets, Waiting for Santa to fill it with treats. Downstairs, there’s milk and mince pies on the table, For Santa to eat, whenever he’s able. Then sleepy eyes close, an end to resolve, The conundrum of Santa, the mystery to solve.
(900 words) Resemblance to a schoolmaster gone for the moment, Dad would appear, jaunty, as if holding a big secret, which in a way I suppose he was. “Listen, children” – he never called us ‘kids,’ they were for goats, apparently. “We’re going to grandma’s next week.” My sister, Helen, brother Steven, and I would … Continue reading Learning the Alphabet: A Memoir
Harry Wharton looked at the letter in disbelief. His hopes for Christmas had been shattered.
My dear Harry, we most deeply regret to inform you that we are currently undergoing extensive renovations at Wharton Lodge, and that they will not be completed in time for Christmas. So, your dear mother and I shall have to spend Christmas on a cruise to the tropics. Alas, funds do not allow for you to accompany us, dear boy, so, unfortunately you will have to spend Christmas at Greyfriars School.
Mr. Quelch has kindly agreed to stay on over the holidays to look after you and give you extra Latin tuition, very good of him, I’m sure you’ll agree.
It’s my birthday! I am ten. Mummy and daddy say they have a speshal surprise for me. But I have to wait until next week! Today they gave me a Lego set. It is a very big one, so I don’t mind waiting. I will make a model of the Houses of Parliment and a space rocket.
School was boring. Denis Lavin got punched in the mouth by a boy in year six. He lost a tooth and his face was all bloody. The boy who punched him was laughing but he got caned. Then he wasn’t laughing.
“Well, did you hear about Gary?” Nadine’s face was flushed, as if drunk.
“He’s just beaten the telesales record for the year and he’s only been here a month!”
It was July. “What?!”
“Well, Malcolm just posted the sales on the board. Go and look!” She laughed. “Speak of the Devil!”
Gary appeared, grinning from ear to ear. He was a ‘ginger,’ and sported a neat beard. A fan of Prince Harry perhaps? “It’s true folks, I’m the number one salesman, sorry, sales person!”
- (600 words) - “The Bible?” “No.” “Grimm's Fairy Tales?” “No” “I give up, it could be anything.” Natalie and I were back in the Black Swan. She’d been upset after the death of her boss in a bizarre accident and I figured she might need someone to talk to. I was drinking Vicar’s Venom … Continue reading Lost Memories
Persistence was wearing us down. “Hey, guys, let me come fishing with you, I promise I won’t muck about again.” Jeff must have said that twenty times. Martin and I exchanged glances. Jeff had come on an early morning trip to Hertford Canal with us once. We’d cycled along empty lanes, the sun sparkling in the green canopy overhanging the road, past the infamous Clibbon’s post, marking a highwayman’s grave, and down to the deserted canal, where mist rose, steaming and ethereal.
Memories, long forgotten, surface as my fingers caress a small blue cap I find in my storage unit. Above the peak is a large ‘H’ and the motto ‘Carpe Diem.' I hold it up and smile. Howlands School, 1967. Did that really fit me then?