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The Existential Compost

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2nd November 2006

Flat Cap time Primary School Part 2:- Miss Gradwell 1978-1979 @ 22:34

Current sounds: 'Angel Eyes' by 'Jimmy Scott' from 'All the Way'

Having survived the evil claws of Mrs Oakley and fully equipped with skills in ABC and 123. My educational journey took a further step forward to Miss Gradwell's class



It was 1979, the International Year of the Child, I was yet to morph into the handsome balding neurotic brute you see today. Instead I looked something like this:-






My cheeky smile would endear me to Miss Gradwell enough for her to call me the best behaved boy she had had in her classroom. Miss Gradwell had a fantastic moustache but confusingly wore a dress and requested that people call her Miss. Many years later I was to meet her niece in a club in Liverpool to be told that she was still a spinster and had retired from teaching sometime previous. Gradwell was a tall dark haired lady of questionable gender. Her love for tie dyed dresses and slim but muscular build was off set by her passion for the arts and crafts.

The best thing about Miss Gradwell's class was the art and crafts. In one year alone we had managed to make tissue stuck (as in tearing off bits of coloured tissue and sticking it to cut out shapes of card) versions of Itsy and Bitsy, create a display of tins of donated out of date foods for a harvest festival and poster painted cut outs of children from around the world. The best bit of the craft lessons was the peeling of glue paste off green plastic spatulas. Fantastic! I also learnt through the medium of the Radio 4 Schools and Colleges programme Music Time basic rhythm.

But darker stirrings were afoot, not only were some of the other boys having birthday parties involving nefarious rituals such as pass the parcel, but we were also being taught the necessary skills of addition and subtraction. I recall one particular mathematics session having a really complex equation (I think it was something like 24-4=?) and me asking the accident prone Michael Carroll what the answer might be.

"Twenteen" he replied

Twenteen? WTF? I didn't have a clue what twenteen looked like. I knew what 19 was and I was fairly sure I knew that 20 was twenty. But twenteen? Was it one of the mystical forbidden numbers? I asked the elderly classroom assistant Mrs King if she knew what twenteen was. Big mistake! I was accused of cheating and collaboration. To silence the hag I stuffed a copy of History Today into her gaping toothless mouth and hid her wrinkled corpse in the Wendy house in Mrs Oakley's classroom. Fortunately nobody saw me and as far as I know her decaying cadaver is still under the pile of rotting council milk cartons.

As I said earlier, 1979 was the international year of the child an occasion that would stick with me for many years. I still have the wallpaper covered exercise book within which I detailed (or rather copied from the blackboard) simple passages describing the illustration carefully photostated in purple ink on the opposite page. The illustrations would be of atypical children from around the world in national dress. By today's standards the images and passages alone would be classed as highly offensive and possibly even cause an international incident. Picture if you will the image of a boy in traditional German dress, indeed the child would be called Hans and he would be describing Autobahns and how he likes spicy sausages. Then consider the image of a Dutch girl called Heidi. Picture her platted hair and her arms carrying tulips. TULIPS for fuck sake. Her father, it says owns a WINDMILL and she lives by a canal. My GOD! What bollocks did they teach children? Other gems included a Japanese girl called Soo Lee dressed like a geisha and a frigging eskimo! Not Inuuit good God no...ESKIMO. I had best not describe the African boy for fear of causing racial riots.

It was also at this time that by some dark nefarious means the world suffered two Februaries. Not one, but two. February is bad enough but having to suffer two in a year was just awful. Nobody else believes me about this incident and I can find no historical or official documentation explaining the reasoning behind having two Februaries in one year. But these happy times were to dissolve with the looming threat of Mrs Kelly, the 3rd year infants teacher. She had a reputation of being a strict teacher and one who would take no nonsense. So as the warm summer of 1979 faded into distant memory and September approached, so did Mrs Kelly and her twisted schemes.

Which I will tell you about in the next instalment

Feedback still appreciated.
 
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From:think4yrself
Date:3rd November 2006 07:20 (UTC)
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Aww, bless! x
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From:stegzy
Date:3rd November 2006 08:34 (UTC)
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**blush**
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From:fj_warren
Date:3rd November 2006 07:37 (UTC)

The Happiest Days?

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I'm so into the history of your early life! It keeps bringing back echoes of my own. At the tiny village school I attended, the school assistant, aged and bordering on senility, knew all the village gossip. For some strange reason she chose me as her confidante, so I discovered at the ripe old age of seven that the headmistress was attempting to procreate. The headmistress was also a devout Catholic. This infuriated the caretaker, who, if possible, was an even more devout Methodist. "Disgusting!" she tutted to me one day, the hard curls of her grey perm quivering in anger: "On 'er knees at mass, praying fer children, an' on 'er back all night, tryin' to make 'em! An' she with a sick 'usbant! Better fit she let 'im 'ave a good night's rest!" However, when the Headmistress's prayers were answered there followed the worst time of my life. There were no teachers available to fill her post so poor old Tatey Rowe, apparently a cadaver with batteries, was brought in to fill the post. This redoubtable old spinster had been trained at the Spartan Academy for Gentlewoman and Guerrilla Operatives. My God, she was a tarter! She walked with a stick, which she brought down on your desk with a resounding thwack if you got a question wrong! There were puddles of pee all over the schoolroom that year! She had an untrimmed goatee beard, shoes you could have walked to London and back in, and a smell which was a mixture of mothballs, Vick and stale urine. She didn't smile - even if, by a miracle, you got a question right - but seemed to have an unerring ability to home in on the day-dreamers amongst us, myself included, and castigated them most cruelly! Two ESN children wet themselves every day for a week! The school assistant, however, considered her almost on a par with royalty. Why? Because she was also a Methodist, of course! The parents, for some strange reason, also adored her. It took me a long time to realize that, in one glorious year, this unbending tyrant had managed to instill in a class of village .. idiots, the ability to read, write and to do 'sums'! When she left at the end of the school year, the community threw a party for her. I can see her now, wiping puff pastry from the sausage rolls, off her beard, a watery glint in her eye as the parents applauded her efforts and all the children cheering to the rafters. True, we might have been a tad educationally challenged but the realization that the old crone was never coming back made us delirious with relief! Ah, happy days!!!!!!!!1
I hope your recollections of your schooldays will encourage you to write more, Stegzy, because you should be compiling some sort of tome you know! Don't waste your talent in - 'I-wish-I-could-land'!
The badgers are still rooting up great chunks of the lawn! Have you had words with them yet? :D
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From:stegzy
Date:3rd November 2006 08:33 (UTC)

Re: The Happiest Days?

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I hope your recollections of your schooldays will encourage you to write more, Stegzy, because you should be compiling some sort of tome you know

Working on it ;-)

The badgers are still rooting up great chunks of the lawn! Have you had words with them yet?

I've spoken to uncle Trevelyn who said it is purely down to the high quality of worms in your lawn. Your garden is like a free Waitrose to them.
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From:fj_warren
Date:3rd November 2006 08:39 (UTC)

Re: The Happiest Days?

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Glad you are working on your book. Panting with anticipation down here. If you could ask uncle Trevelyn to stop digging, it would be vastly appreciated! The squirrels and jays are using the disturbed earth to bury their chestnuts and acorns in! I shall be surrounded by a forest in a couple of years!
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From:louenn
Date:3rd November 2006 11:53 (UTC)
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*pinches cheek & ruffles hair*

You looked like a right cheeky little devil.. Best behaved boy my arse!!

Keep writing, 'tis an entertaining read. And a damn sight better than some of the so-called celeb biographies, 'cos it's about a real person.
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From:lotusmoppet
Date:7th November 2006 00:05 (UTC)
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Eee! It's widdle Stegzy!

You know, I always enjoy your writing and your stories, but these last few months have been just captivating. *delves into native Californian accents* Dude - your journal rawks, yo! *wiggles surfer fingers*
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From:aladdin_sane
Date:12th November 2006 11:19 (UTC)
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I had a Mrs Kelly. She tried killing us all. She decided that we were going to make cream cheese in the class room. I'm not sure how long the process went on but sometime later the festering gunk was deemed to be ready to eat so we all nervously tucked in. No one in my class attended school for the rest of the week as we were all down with food poisoning.

When asked about the event, Mrs Kelly's selective memory loss was always on hand to help her out.

I'm imagining David Walliams as Miss Gradwell.

English girl - giving blowjobs for chip butties on street corners. :)

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