The translucent-pink rims of a pair of National Health glasses occasionally bobbed up to make an appearance, before sinking back down behind the orange wall that separated them from me. Next to that orange wall, stood another orange wall, this one sporting rims of translucent blue. When the pink sank down, the blue bobbed up.
I was fascinated.
What was so special about these orange walls? What and who lurked behind them?
The pink who turned out to be a girl of six years old, with a very straight blonde fringe and a ponytail held together with large orange bobbles. And the blue what, a boy of the same age, with a similarly straight blonde fringe and no bobbles. Twins?
None of this was at all fair. I wanted to be a twin. And I wanted an orange wall. I could just imagine the two of us, my twin and I, bobbing and dipping our carrot tops behind our orange defence barriers, perfectly camouflaged and perfectly safe.
Perfectly safe from the enemy! The enemy, of course, being the teacher!
This enemy, the teacher, had just ordered me to sit in my present position, at a long-narrow table, just across from the highly-enticing table of orange walls, and at some distance from the rest of my classmates. Not that any of them could really be called my mates, as this was only my third day at my new school, and I didn’t know a single sausage.
I was new, friendless and, already, I had been assigned to the naughty table of Coventry. Except that I wasn’t in Coventry; I was in Fleetwood, Lancashire. And in view of the fact that Coventry was not on the coast, I was unlikely ever to live there. And yet here I was, in a made-up Coventry, in the middle of a classroom, in the middle of a port known as Fleetwood.
And the teacher?
The teacher was evil!
The teacher, like the special kids, sported a pair of translucent-rimmed glasses. Only the teacher’s glasses were tinted brown and had the most humungous round rims. Rims so large that it was difficult to make out whether the face behind it had any particular distinguishing features, other than that, like the glasses, it too was round. Very round and very evil.
Evil, because the noise that emanated from the non-descript mouth beneath the dinner-plate glasses, had just told me that I was lazy. Lazy and very likely none-too-bright – the outburst having been triggered by my recent lack of written output.
I didn’t get it. I could write. I had learnt to read and write quite fluently prior to this housemove; thanks, I suspect, not to my previous schools in Grimsby and Aberdeen, but to the efforts of my of my nursery teacher in back in Wem. And I wasn’t lazy. It was just that I hadn’t seen the point of writing any of it down.
The any of it, being a Bible story, read to us by the evil teacher during carpet time. The story of the nativity! I was the child of a missionary. Why did I need to write down a story I had listened to hundreds, if not thousands of times before. I knew it in my head. in fact, I knew it in my head so well that rather than listening to the evil teacher, I had spent my time on the carpet listening to other things – better things – listening to the voices of my imagination! How was I to know, then, that I would be required to write down a story that had already been written down by God?
Because had I been able to predict this requirement, then perhaps, just maybe, I might have listened! And, had I listened, then perhaps I would have been able to write the story down. Yes, I’d heard the same story lots of times before, but what if the teacher’s version of the story had been told differently? And what if the story she had told hadn’t been the tale of the nativity at all?
Such was my dilemma. Hence, my page had remained blank. My page, in spite of the time I had spent on my own in Coventry, still remained blank. What do to? Nothing. The children behind the orange walls seemed to be busy at something. Had they been listening? Did they know what to write? Did they know how to write?
They didn’t. Know how to write. They were special kids with special orange walls. Seeing that I still had a blank page in front of me, the evil teacher sighed, and with the sigh she brought over a special orange wall to show me. The special walls contained little shelves full of special words. The words could be taken off the shelves and reordered into a sentence that I could copy out. This was a threat, not a help. If I didn’t start writing something down, the evil teacher would send me to the special table to work with the Breakthrough kids.
I hadn’t listened to the nativity story, but I was listening now; listening to the sniggers of the other kids, the not-so-special kids, and somehow …. Somehow it dawned upon me that to sit behind an orange wall with the Breakthrough kids was not such a special thing to do after all.
Pointless as I knew it all was, to retell a story already told, I picked up my pencil and began to write.
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, October 2019
P.S. I would like to be able to relay to you the name of this school in Fleetwood, but the only name I recall is Blackberry School, which somehow I suspect to have existed in my imagination only!
Further related reading:
Jay Cool returns to her childhood town of Wem.
Historical fiction set in Lancashire.