Little Children

I talked about my move to ‘big’ school in 1974 but, other than some references to my musical and acting careers, I haven’t yet revealed much about those halcyon days twixt 1968 and 1974. During that time I spent my term-time days at Goffs Oak Junior Mixed Infant school in Millcrest Road. Later to be where Victoria Beckham got her start in educational life, it was then a relatively new school that had replaced the old village school down St James Road. By co-incidence, said village school was later lived in by some school friends (The Fairchilds) and subsequently by the Beckham family, whose daughter….well, you know the rest.

JMI 2

At Goffs Oak JMI, as we hipster kids called it, I was looked after by the formidable talents of headmaster Mr Thomas, deputy Mrs Blake, and a host of teachers including Mrs Gaze, Mrs Bishop, and Mr Rees. I missed by a year or two, the more Draconian headmistress-ship of Miss Broad. My sister caught the tail end of that. However, despite her retirement, I wasn’t totally free of her vigilance as her house lay on our route to school and she would be there, either watching out the window, or standing in her front garden on finer days. And we passed that house four times a day – well at least I did because not only did I journey to and from school but I also went home for dinner at lunchtime (If you’ll pardon the mixed nomenclature). I only had lunch at school once whilst at primary school, and that was when we were being shipped off to Wembley for the Intervarsity football match and need to leave straight after our lunch. I can’t remember the score but I do remember lunch was a slab of spam. I was not impressed given what my nan or mum would normally provide me with!

I don’t remember hating any lessons as I would once I moved to St Mary’s, though I don’t totally recall what we did learn. I do know that we were in that period where decimalisation was planned but had not yet arrived so I learned both old and new currencies. I also have memories of learning to write with an ink pen. We had these cheap blue Platignum things that you pushed a cartridge in to. With these we honed and sharpened our handwriting. It has to be said, and many reading this will concur, that in this one element of my education, Goffs Oak JMI failed me. Fifty years later, my handwriting remains as illegible as it was when I was five, and I would no more pick up a fountain pen than I would a machine gun.

Other memories of lessons include sport. In recent years there has been some sort of swimming pool on site but in those days we jumped on a coach to Waltham Abbey for our weekly swim. There was gym of sorts but also Scottish Country Dancing under the wing of Mrs Blake. And of course there was football. I was always enthusiastic if not proficient but after the day Mr Rees said I reminded him of Bobby Smith (Spurs’ leading goal scorer in their double-winning season) I played my heart out for him. A marked contrast to Mr Powell’s later tongue-lashings at St Marys.

Football also took part on the playground during breaks. That tennis ball could really hurt when you were hit in the face. Although the soccer may have come a bit later because my first playground memories are of re-enacting Marine Boy on the asphalt. You may not remember this Japanese demi-classic animation from the sixties but I certainly do. The hero was Marine Boy, who thanks to the marvellous Oxy-Gum could chew and swim underwater for hours on end. Blonde haired (like me), slim (Like me in those days), and generally good-looking (like me), I can’t remember who played him but I was Splasher the Dolphin. Not that this was such a bad thing as it meant Sarah Singelton(?), as Neptina the mermaid, used to ride on my back. Let’s move on before I get myself into trouble.

Splasher

Talking of getting into trouble; for one year, possibly my penultimate, we were in Mrs Calleljuh’s class. Forgive the spelling, she was married to a French man I think. Like most of the classrooms, there was a bucket of white glue in one corner, there for the copious amount of crafting we seemed to do. It was literally a blue bucket with no lid, filled with that cheap white glue.

In that classroom we also had a gerbil in a cage. I think you got to take it home at holidays, not that I ever remember looking after it, but for overnight and even weekends, it was left to a lump of celery and its own devices. I remember coming in one Monday to discover the gerbil was gone. It had managed to chew through something and the cage door was wide open (Unless of course the local ALF had been in but they didn’t leave any leaflets so I’m guessing not). Gerby was nowhere to be seen. A pre-assembly search of the classroom found nothing and Gerby was declared MIA. Missing that is, until the first time a group did craft in that classroom. At that point one very sticky, very white and very dead gerbil was recovered from the glue bucket. I’m sure many of my classmates acquired PTSD that day and are still working through their issues.

JMI 1hat else can I remember about those days? Well aptly given we were talking about crafting, I recall a couple of extra-curricular projects. There was to be some sort of Sponsored Fancy Dress Walk around the field so Peter Morgan and I set out to make a papier-mache Dalek. It was an ambitious project involving a wire coat-hanger frame and a lot of newspapers and wallpaper paste. It failed completely as I recall. Slightly more successful was the construction of the Titanic out of cardboard boxes that Steven Syrett and I carried out in his garage. Surprisingly well done, the project was slightly marred when Steven sliced open the web between his thumb and forefinger with a Stanley knife. This was even more gruesome than the time my dad cut off the top of one of my fingers with a pair of hedge-cutting shears (Mum ran it under a cold tap, stuck the huge flap of skin and flesh back in place with a plaster and let it be. There is a tiny white scar visible under a magnifying glass!)

There will always be accidents even in halcyon days. It didn’t spoil them. They were my last days of innocence.

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