My first school was in Solihull, within driving distance of Henley-in-Arden where we lived at the time. I have no recollection of the lessons learned there, except the hard lessons of life.
There was a disagreeable discipline to mealtimes: no drinks of any sort were given, but we were expected to clean up our plates regardless of likes and dislikes, and of the quality of the food. In my early days there I disliked vegetables, and had a particularly sensitive gorge to fat and gristle – who doesn’t, indeed? With nothing to wash down an offensive mouthful, I had on more than one occasion to get down from my chair and make a dash for the kitchen, hoping to keep my lips closed until a kindly cook gave me a drink to help it on its way.
I was also bullied, and have a lasting memory of being pushed into a clump of stinging nettles – (why was there such a thing in the school playground?) – and feeling outraged to see members of staff observing the scene through the french windows of the classroom, without apparently seeing any need to intervene.
As it happens, I was nettled again before long. In 1935, on the night of the Silver Jubilee of King George V, there was a bonfire on the hill behind the village, and running down the hill on the way home I managed to trip and fall into a seriously big bed of nettles. I remember a much longer-lasting agony this time, and my father attempting to sooth it with dock leaves gathered for the purpose. They are usually to be found growing not far from stinging nettles.
My only other clear memory of that school is of my parents turning up in the middle of a class to take me home, because the King had died, in January 1936. Why it was thought necessary for me to be at home I don’t know, but of course I was delighted! Maybe what they really wanted was for me to start packing, as they must by then have been planning to leave Henley-in-Arden.
To be continued ...