Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Back to school

I had not set foot in the junior campus of my old school since I left - so there was much I did not recognise when I found myself there today to review some in-schools theatre - chore I perform periodically to keep abreast of the theatre-in-education programs. Where we used to walk on our hands, skip and play poison ball - the big lawn and paved areas - were no longer there. Nor was the headmistress's house. Or the corrugated iron bike shed where we used to swap scraps, eat lunch and play name games (I remember it was a big fad to list as many car names as possible). Instead, there was a massive round hall with a row of excessively decorated and jolly classrooms - a far cry from the formal rows of desks with inkwells of my time. The uniform remains the same - and the girls much the same, I suppose. Some of them seemed so tiny. But I was just four when I started there and 17 when I left for Uni. As I left the grounds, I finally recognised a building. The kindergarten building was still there. My very first classroom. A little stone building with a slate patio and a sunken lawn. We performed the Nativity Play on that patio and the parents sat on chairs on the lawn. I was a shepherd - and disappointed at such a non-role, I recall.
But most of all what the sight of that little building did was to bring surging up from somewhere deep within me a huge, primal rage. For, as I looked at the exterior, a kaleidescope of vivid memories of my experiences therein came pouring back, among them the day thar Miss Dawe, the kindie mistress, made me sit behind the piano for an entire afternoon as a punishment for not eating my lunch. I had explained to her that my tomato sandwich had gone soggy and disgusting in the lunchbox and I did not like it. It was repulsive. She insisted that I eat it. I refused. I was put behind the piano with the sandwich and told I could not join the activities until I had eaten it. So I spent the afternoon behind the piano, my falling tears adding to the soggy mess of a sandwich, as the other children played class games, had their nap, and played more. It was a baffling and mindless piece of teacher cruelty. I did not eat another tomato sandwich for many years - even now, I prefer tomato on toast. And, as I looked at the classroom today, I wanted to resurrect that horrid Miss Dawe and give her a lovely, fresh knuckle sandwich.

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