|© Copyright 1990 - G.M. Clark & E. Dixon; reproduced here by kind permission|
As these games and rhymes are recalled, other pleasant memories begin to surface. We all remember the sunny days of our childhood, the smell of freshly laid tarmac, the characteristic smell of raindrops falling like pennies on a hot pavement as the thunderstorm breaks.
Bury Field, as it was always called in the Thirties, was the centre of much activity. We often picnicked there after school and rolled down the hills afterwards. Beyond the bunkers were the bushes where we picked the blackberries in late summer. I'm afraid the bushes were removed during WW2 to help in the nation's food effort and have never been replaced.
I have always felt we were very fortunate to have so many fields and streams around us. We could fish for tiddlers or caddis worms, paddle or swim, make camps or bird watch - the fields were ours. Laurie Lee caught the mood and the lifestyle of the country child in 'Cider with Rosie'. Our pleasures were simple but we were never bored,
It would be remiss of me not to mention the splendid teachers who taught at NP school in my childhood. Led by Miss E.M.P.Smith, they were wonderful women. Miss smith had a fiery temper but her English lessons were a joy. She would sit on a front desk with her knitting, and talk to us about poets and writers. She introduced us to Chaucer, Mallory, Milton, the Cavalier poets, Lyric and Romantic poets; writers like George Eliot, Dickens, Mansfield, Kipling and De La Mare. Many times we were given several verses to learn by heart before being dismissed at teatime. 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' was one of Miss Smith's favourite pieces.
Two other teachers I recall being of great significance in our school lives were Miss Attlee and Miss Hersee.
History lessons were a source of great delight. Again, Miss Attlee would sit at the front desk - an intimate style of communication and talk of the Sun King and Versailles, or Marlborough's campaigns and the thrill when the news of Blenheim reached England. Miss Attlee was also able to explain difficult mathematical problems. A lovely personality.
Miss Hersee came as a young teacher to our school. She introduced different games and a wide range of Country Dancing - complemented by Miss Attlee, who taught Morris Dancing. Needlework took on a new dimension with Miss Hersee. From making pillowslips we advanced to garments to wear and thence to embroidery. In summertime, Miss Hersee took us on nature walks, to this day I can not see wild flowers without remembering her enthusiasm to show us some hidden miracle of nature.
I know the current idea is that we sat passively in rows. We did not. Admittedly, we had to work quietly but in Scripture lessons we dramatised biblical incidents. In music, we had percussion and played works like the Toy Symphony. At the end of the term we produced plays, and in summer dance festivals and district sports. Visits were made to the parish church, the parchment works and the Cowper Museum at Olney.
During some needlework lessons a good reader would be chosen to read from a story while the rest plied their needles. The windows open and the smells of summer wafting in - what more could be more restful and soothing. recommend it to teachers of today.
Finally, Friday. A special day. In the afternoon we took our small Oxo tins of polish (Mansion or Ronuk) and two pieces of rag. After play, we cleaned our desks of rubbish and then polished them ready for the next week. Likewise, the teacher's desk. When desk and floor were clear we sat waiting to hear which block would go home ten minutes early. The block with the best attendance was awarded the banner which hung on the wall behind them for the following week. To looks of envy from the rest of the class, the block trooped out ten minutes before the usual dismissal time.
One of my enduring memories of the infant school is 'hometime'. We used to put our chairs on the table and stand behind them. Our teacher would say, 'Hands together and close your eyes' and we then sang together the much-loved benediction,
Hands together, softly so,
It was a quiet and comfortable ending to a sometimes trying day.