Saturday, 14 July 2012
Kit - Kat
I am sitting at my desk in York Road Junior School. A visitor is explaining to us that the makers of Kit - Kat are thinking of changing the flavour and we are asked to help. We will be given two bars to eat, there and then in class, and asked which one we prefer. One bar is the old flavour; one the new - but we won't be told which is which.
This is almost too good to be true, until it comes to the test. One bar tastes so revolting that I immediately spit it back into the wrapper and lift my desk lid just enough to slip the mess out of sight.
I have posted numerous autobiographical Blogs here, but have never written about my second school, York Road County Primary School in Dartford. I attended only the Junior half of a two-site school; the Infants department was located in nearby St Alban's Road but I did not attend that. I was a Junior School pupil for the three years 1955 to 1958, passing through the classes of Mrs Clarke, Mrs Faulkner and Mr Brown (whose job it was to prepare us for the 11+). The photograph shows me in Mrs Faulkner's class of 1956 - 57 - fifth from the right in the first seated row.
I lived a short distance from the school, at the top of East Hill over my father's shop Babyland and went home at lunch times. As I got close, I would be listening out to hear if my father was shouting. My parents' marriage was dysfunctional most of the time and it began to take its toll on me: I had night sweats, palpitations, food phobias, digestive problems. At some point in my Junior School years my mother took me to the doctor. I was prescribed phenobarbitones (barbiturates), small white pills, but could not swallow them. My mother got me to eat them, crushed into the middle of a jam sandwich. Later,maybe when I was eleven or twelve, I imagined that my mother was trying to poison me.
At York Road, I had my first and only crush on a teacher, Miss Orpen - Jo Orpen (we even knew her first name!) - who may well have been a bit alternative (CND? Beatnik?) and was a student teacher and very pretty. She took an interest in our playground games (and may even have joined in). We played cigarette cards: you propped some cards (mostly from Brooke Bond tea packets) against a wall and flicked other cards at them. If you made a card fall down, you won it.
We also played conkers, marbles, chase, and piggy back fighting: at one time, I wore a thin silver chain and Star sign pendant round my neck. Someone grabbed hold of the chain during a piggy back fight. I didn't fall off but went home with a red line round my neck and a broken chain.
I wasn't Miss Orpen's favourite. That was Graham Beech, the tall handsome boy looking down in the middle of the photograph and who as a young man was killed in a motorcycle accident.
I still have my Composition book from 1957 - 58 - it was as much about writing in ink with a steel pen as about writing. The actual Compositions are a mix of imaginative and factual:
Added 25 July 2018: I have now published a memoir of my childhood, I Have Done This In Secret (degree zero 2018), freely available from Amazon, Waterstones, and other booksellers