My memory of the mid morning play time (the time when we all took a break from the serious business of..er…playing) is dominated by the presence of a boy from another class. This boy came to school every day dressed entirely as Batman (I kid you not).He had the whole outfit: mask, cape, that weird grey material over most of his body and black boots etc. At play time he would emerge from his classroom into the grass area at the back of the school with his hands on his hips in a typical superhero stance employed to the max as he walked (I say walked but in this stance he more kind of walked like you would make a set of dividers walk, pivoting on each foot in term and twisting the other half of your body forward in this artificial way) and strode confidently towards his desired play object whether it was the swing, the slide, the sandpit or wherever. It was certainly an alter ego that worked as he always got to play with what he wanted. I can remember seeing two girls gleefully exploring the social possibilities of the sandpit when his imposing shadow cast across them causing them to instantly stop chattering & gaze up in the mystery kids masked fizog.
No words were spoken but the two girls just got up, brushed sand off their dresses an walked away in an orderly fashion leaving an empty sandpit for the sole use by Bat-brat. At no time did I ever see this kid without his outfit. I often wonder from this safe distance if indeed he was actually enrolled as Batman and that the teacher would call the morning register appropriately “Kimberley?” -“here Miss”, “Jonathan?” -“present Miss” ,”Batman?” -“start the Batmobile Miss” – as it would spoil the illusion in his own class if Batman was called Kevin or something (apologies to any Kevin’s out there, it was just an example. Perhaps by chance his name was Bruce Wayne, Batman’s alter ego. Indeed I wonder what became of that kid. I like to muse that he’s out there somewhere fighting evil do-ers but life teaches me that he’s probably a bank manager or estate agent somewhere and has had his uniqueness (YES English teachers I KNOW that’s bad English) squeezed out of him.
Dinner times were where it all went somewhat pear-shaped for me and recounting it somehow makes the air around me chill slightly in the process of summoning up its memory.
Dinner time meant nursery school dinners, an unsavoury and freakish version of food I had encountered in the real world and complete with foods that I had already decided were off my lifetime menu such as Brussel sprouts which always made me gag. In nursery land I was stood over and forced to clear my plate even if I was the last person left eating as I gagged on my sprouts.I often was the last one left eating as once dinner was finished the class was banished out in the cloakroom. I would eventually join them leaving behind me the titanic battle of wills that would often end with me shutting my mouth with a force that could not be opened again especially not by a looming Brussel sprout that was being force fed me.
Once assembled ad hoc in the cloakroom which was small and narrow we were each given an apple which it was compulsory (or so it seemed) to eat. We all stood in silence bar the sound of ferocious apple munching with barely the arm room to get the apple up to our mouth meaning that we often brought our head down to meet the fruit halfway as our arms tended to be awkwardly pinned against our small bodies.
Forced To Sleep
When this exercise in healthy eating was over we were escorted back into the classroom which by then had been transformed from the makeshift dining room to a room full of single beds which we had to lie on for our regulatory afternoon nap. The small beds were made up with that kind of really irritating and bristley (is bristley a word??) grey blanket that I tend to feel is only reserved for the military and dogs.
So we had to try to sleep (which I never could) whilst a particularly stern classroom teacher would walk up and down between the beds checking to see that we all had our eyes tightly shut and that were each in the land of nod. I could hear her slow footsteps which might stop occasionally to question if I child was asleep, “Samantha?” – no reply (Samantha was either asleep or knew that the wrong thing to do would be to reply “yes Miss”). When I was sure that those same footsteps were far enough away I would sneak a peek with one eye. It is this single image that I can conjure up like a preserved still image. looking across the classroom of beds with classmates in them, a distant authority figure & the low winter sun bathing the room in rays of light.
Kodachrome Memories Ma’am
This memory, like all memories is in full Kodachrome colour (will the memories of future generations be rendered in a kind of digital photoshop with full colour saturation?).
Once this ritual was over I knew it was mostly downhill to home time which I longed for.
One final memory belongs to that repeat set piece at the end of the day where we all sit in a circle and sing nursery rhymes. On one occasion a boy sitting next to me threw up on me when it was my turn to nervously sing. My Mother watched in horror as mid-rhyme I was decorated with the most evil smelling bile mixture. I can remember the boys name as in a twist of curiously still misunderstood significance, he would be in every class I was in throughout infant, junior and High school. We were never friends and by the final year at high school he had taken to attending school dressed as Elvis in his white suited period complete with an odd greasy version of the kings hairstyle but with an appropriate weight gain to match. Such was his dedication to Mr Presley that he would adopt the same “thank you very much ma’am” style southern American accent for all communications in and out of class. In this case I do know what happened to this lad. He became a chef, I believe.
I didn’t complete my full tour of duty at the nursery school as my Mother could see how much I didn’t really enjoy the place though I think I only came out six months or so before I would have got time off for good behaviour. I can’t remember what I did in between nursery school ending and Infant school starting but I’m sure I was fully enrolled into my own little world and unaware of the school memories to come.