Chapter Six – On the way to School

English Country Estate

Its the weekend…at last! It has become my Saturday morning routine to sit down and post a chapter of my story so here is chapter six. I really like this chapter.  This is very much how it was when I was seven.  I didn’t have to change much at all so it was fun to write.  This photo is NOT the house my mum used to work in, but it is similar.  It was a beautiful homely house, full of cooking smells, family, dogs, antiques and parties.  When you came in through the back door, there was a tack room so you immediately got the aroma of leather and horses. The memories come flooding back. I hope you enjoy reading this story and for those of you who know me, just imagine me when I was seven.  This was my life and although this wasn’t my house, I did get to share in the atmosphere and meet lots of exciting people. Maybe it helped make me who I am!  Happy Reading!

CHAPTER SIX         

            I woke up the following morning to the sound of my name being called.  This meant it was seven o clock. I got up right away, I had slept well and felt refreshed, the birds were singing, the sun was shining, and I couldn’t wait to get to school and tell all my friends about my holiday in Blackpool, and give them their rock. I slept in my own little bedroom when my brother wasn’t there. It became his bedroom when he was home, and I shared with my mum.  Bobby wasn’t there most of the time though, because he was twenty-three and worked away from home.  It was a small bedroom, but big enough for two single beds and chest of drawers.  We had no carpet in the room, just linoleum on the floor, or ‘oilcloth’ as they called it back then.  I looked out of the window across the garden and out to the woods. It was a little breezy.  Who was that standing by the fence in the little quarter acre field by the beck? I rubbed my eyes and looked again, must have been a trick of light, it looked like a little girl was standing there.  I put my slippers on and went downstairs, my mum was making porridge for breakfast, “good you are up” she said as I walked past her and out of the kitchen door.  I needed my morning toilet visit, and as we didn’t have one inside I had to walk across the yard. You got used to it, and in the winter, we had to use a pail and empty it before we left the house for the day.  Bodily functions taken care of, I ran back upstairs and got washed, brushed my teeth and dressed myself ready for school.  I sat down with my mum and ate my porridge, washed down with a cup of tea, it was good.  Sometimes my mum was so broke we only had hot water to drink in the morning, and Mrs. Hodges leftover stale bread, which my mum toasted to make it taste better.  Times had been hard for us, and mum really struggled. She popped my school ‘dinner money’ on the table next to me, knowing I always got a good meal at school.  Mr. Robinson, my teacher and the school headmaster, had told her she didn’t need to pay dinner money because she didn’t earn enough, but mum didn’t want to fill out any forms because she didn’t want to admit she was poor, so she managed to give my two shillings and sixpence for my school dinners every single week.  They were good meals too, maybe not as good as pizza and mussels, but good enough for me!  I liked it best when we had liver and onions with mashed potato and thick gravy, followed by lemon curd tart.  I hoped that’s what we were having today.

            My mum was chatting happily while we ate breakfast, not so much to me, just generally chattering.  “I think I will have a lot of work to do today” she said “as those girls just hide the dirty washing under their beds, and none of it will be done.  The floors will be a mess, no one will have skimmed the cream off the milk and made cheese” My mum’s job at the farm-house (manor house I called it) was hard, but it was nice for both of us.  Mrs. Hodges treated her as an equal, not a housekeeper.  The house was a long building, pained yellow on the outside.  It was very pretty and had a huge orchard and flower garden at one side and a big gravel driveway.  It had a stone wall all the way around it.  I loved that house.  I thought about it as I ate my breakfast.  My favorite room was the breakfast room and the kitchen.  The breakfast room had a Raeburn fire at one end, with big chairs at either side of it.  There was a big breakfast table with about eight chairs around it. A big cabinet held pretty colored plates and cups, (the breakfast china) and there was a big filing cabinet where the farm workers employment files were kept. This was also Mrs. Hodges office.  She let me sit there to do my homework sometimes too, as my mum used to go back in the evenings to clean up after their supper.  I would go along and take my homework with me. The kitchen was huge!  It had an aga that ran all the way along one wall.  As well as using this for cooking, there was one big oven that they kept as a warming oven.  In the spring, when the lambs were born too early, they would put them in the warming oven to take the chill away, they would lie there, wrapped in old jumpers, with the door open.  I used to help feed them with a babies bottle and they quickly learned to suck from it. I loved the lambs in the spring. The kitchen was a big light room which overlooked the orchard. I think it was bigger than our whole house. When we went to Mrs. Hodges we usually went in through the side door, which took us into a long corridor.  To the left the corridor extended a long way with  five doors coming off.  One door was a dining room, with a huge polished table in it and lots of heavy furniture which housed fancy plates and glasses.  This was the posh eating room for Christmas dinner and special occasions. Right next to the dining room was the ‘larder’, I loved the larder.  It had stone floors and walls, and you walked down steps to get into it.  It was cold in there.  There were huge stone tables and shelves on which stood different cuts of meat, and big dishes of milk which were left to stand and skimmed for cream or to make butter. There were cakes and dried fruit in there.  Most things were covered with big glass domes or linen.  There was a big fridge in there and as we never had a fridge so I liked to open it and put my hand in to see how cold it was.  There was also huge freezer which held some of their lambs and bulls after they had been slaughtered.  I didn’t look in the freezer very often because it made me sad and made me wonder if one of the lambs I had fed in the kitchen had found its way in there. Only one room came off to the right hand side of the corridor, and that was the sitting room.  It was a lovely room, very big and airy, with French doors opening onto the garden. There was a big stone fireplace centered on one wall with stone shelves and alcoves at either side.  This was the room they put the Christmas tree in every year, it was a lovely tree and I always helped the two girls decorate it. I couldn’t reach the top, but I decorated the lower branches.  It was fun.  At the very end of the hallway another door opened up to a grand stair case and a fancy reception area with a big front door.  The carpet in this room and up the stairs was deep blue, with big white and pink flowers on it.  It looked Royal and like the queen should live there.  At the bottom of the stairs was one last doorway, it lead into the most fancy room in the house.  I think they called it the lounge.  It had the same posh carpet in, and blue velvet chairs and settee’s. There were lots of white-painted shelves in there, set in alcoves with pretty blue china on them.  My mum said it was Wedgwood and was very expensive.  There was a little white-painted fireplace in there.  This was the formal room and wasn’t used very often.  I used to peek in there when my mum was cleaning it. It was a very quiet room, and I daren’t go in there, just in case I made it messy or broke something.  My mum beckoned me in there sometimes, but I wouldn’t go past the doorway.  The only person I ever saw in there was Mrs. Hodges and her friend, Mr. Johnston, when he came courting. I pulled myself back out of my daydream when my mum stopped talking.  “Where were you?” she said. “Right here of course” and I pinched myself “see I am here not a dream” She laughed and wacked my playfully on the head. She took my empty plate and cup and put them in the sink. “Come on time to go” she said.  I picked up my satchel and stuffed my dinner money in my pocket and followed my mum out of the back door.  She didn’t need to walk me to the bus shelter across the road, but she did anyway.  A couple of older people were there already, waiting for the bus into Darlington to take them to work.  She gave me a big smacking kiss on my cheek (which I rubbed off right away) and then went back across the road and around the side of Mrs. Hodges big yellow house and disappeared into the side door.  Her day was about to begin. 

            My friend, a much older girl than me, came and stood beside me.  She didn’t go to my school any more, but still got on this bus, she took it to the road ends, where she got off and waited for another bus to take her to the High School. The two other girls who went to my school, came running down just as the bus arrived.  I didn’t like either of them much, but as there were only three of us, we had to ‘get along’. One was very spoiled, and the other was just plain mean. We all sat on the bus together. I looked in my satchel, to where my candy rock was and counted ten sticks.  Maurice had been kind to me, they were only little, but you could suck on those all day.  I took out one each for Sonia, Judy, and Dorothy. They were all very happy, and opened them immediately.  Candy rock for breakfast, what a treat! Dorothy got off the bus at the road ends we all waved at her as the bus pulled away again. It was only another five minutes until the bus stopped at the end of the road that led to my school Denford C.E. School. C.E. stood for Church of England. Judy, Sonia and I all got off the bus and started walking to school.  It was a nice morning, a little cool, but good walking weather for our first day back at school.  Sonia was a little older than me and Judy a little younger.  They both had a mum and a dad, and fairly big families.  Sonia had an older sister who was engaged.  Her sister used to wear her hair in a huge bee hive.  It looked more like a bird’s nest than a bee hive, but she was happy with it. She was pretty and very fashionable. Sonia wasn’t so pretty and she was mean, she used to call me names.  She once called me a bastard.  I didn’t know what it was and my mum wouldn’t tell me. Instead she went and talked to Sonia’s mum.  Sonia didn’t apologize, but she told me I wasn’t a bastard because my mum and dad were married when I was born, instead she told me I was pathetic, which she explained wasn’t quite so bad. She said my mum had ‘fancy men’ now though so one day I might be the sister of a bastard.  I had no idea what she was talking about so I just ignored her.  I wanted to tell her she was ugly, but that would make me mean too!  She was ugly though, inside and out.  Judy wasn’t mean like Sonia, she was just very spoiled, and cried a lot.  Her dad looked like that man from ‘Gone with the Wind’, Clark Gable I think you called him.  He grew prize leeks.  That made me laugh, they all just got eaten in the end, no matter how many prizes you won.  Judy was always dressed in beautiful clothes that her mum and grandma bought her. Sonia was too fat to wear beautiful clothes! Sonia had almost finished her stick of rock, and had pink all around her mouth. She asked me for another one and I said no because I was saving them for someone else.  She asked me who bought them because she knew my mum never had enough money for things like this.  I told her about Maurice and our holiday and Tim and the fancy restaurant.  Her eyes got bigger and bigger, Judy wasn’t paying any attention, just skipping along sucking her candy rock. Then Sonia stopped and screeched “Your mum was in Blackpool with her fancy man, and you were there too. Your mum is just an old tart”. Now I did know what that meant and I didn’t like it one bit so I took my bag of Blackpool rock and whacked her as hard as I could.  It caught her just below her left ear and knocked her out cold! She sank to the ground and lay there like a beached whale.

            Judy looked at me with big blue eyes, half laughing. “OOPS!”  She said.  I was half laughing too, because I had never hit anyone before. We just looked at each other and then back down at Sonia, who never budged.  We heard a car coming and looked up.  It was a Morris Minor, so we knew it was the infant class teacher, Mrs. Ball. Oh no we were in so much trouble!  She pulled up right beside Sonia, who was actually stirring a little now.  “What happened” asked Mrs. Ball. Without even thinking I said “She got struck by lightning”. I could hear Judy giggling quietly and I kicked her.  As if on cue, thunder rumbled overhead.  Judy and I looked at each other in amazement. Mrs. Ball looked at us both, “no she would be dead if she were struck by lightning” It probably hit the ground close to her and made her fall” “Yes I think I saw it” Judy said.  Mrs. Ball helped Sonia sit up. She was clearly disoriented and asked what happened. “Lightning” I said, muffling a laugh.  The amazing thing is, she seemed to believe me.

            Sonia looked very groggy.  Mrs. Ball was talking to her softly and Judy and I just stood looking at her, until she threw up that was! She just turned her head to one side and let go with a gush of pink puke.  Even Mrs. Bell stood back.  Yuk!  We helped Sonia up to her feet and she lurched forward to take a swing at me.  Mrs. Ball grabbed her and Sonia just gave me a look of utter hatred.  “She hit me!” She said.  Mrs. Ball looked at Judy and I and we looked back innocently as though we had no idea what was going on.  I think we probably over reacted on the innocent look because we got that ‘Look’ that only teachers can give.  She then turned to Sonia and told her she was going to take her home because she may have a concussion. I scrutinized Sonia’s face as best I could, but didn’t see any sign of a bruise appearing, hopefully I hit her where her long thick hair covered here head. Mrs. Ball helped Sonia into her car, and told us to get on our way to school and let Mr. Robinson know where she was.  We watched the car pull away and then continued to school.  “You are in trouble” Judy said to me “So are you, because you lied too” I answered. “Oh yes” she said.  I gave her another stick of rock, but held on to one end until she promised to back up my lightning story, she did and we  both laughed and skipped as we walked along the road.  I was relieved the other sticks of rock (the ones I had hit Sonia with) had not broken.  I didn’t want to give out broken rock.  I didn’t feel the least big guilty about whacking Sonia, I had wanted to do that for a long time. It actually felt pretty good.




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