Luke Martin-Jones

I first ‘met’ Luke when he published a post in our school group on Facebook. He was asking for short-stories or photos about Fareham Park School for a book that he was writing. At first, I was thinking whether I or my mum had any old school photos from junior school. Soon after, I wondered if I could share some events that I could remember at school.

The next day, I reached out to Luke to see what kind of stories he wanted and what kind of style he was looking for. He was very magnanimous with his time and said I could get a feel for what he was looking for on his blog where he had written a few articles on his childhood.

 

 

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Later in the day, I went on his blog and read a couple of his related articles. My mind kicked into action and I started thinking. (Which is really dangerous!). My penchant for perfectionism swung in and I had to read Luke’s blog from the beginning. It took me a couple of weeks. Luke’s bravery and courage, his honesty and love for writing hit me square in the face. Luke, through his writing, gifted me with the daring to write again.

Luke has encouraged me the past few months to write for his blog, Roaming Brit. As I started to write, I started to think. It has been a very long time since I have really thought. I usually keep myself really busy so I don’t have time to think. Now my thoughts are racing and writing has become therapeutic and a passion. I am so grateful to Luke for this gift.

Since Luke has been so generous in asking me to be a regular guest blogger on his site, I now look forward to featuring his articles here. Please find his first article for Once Upon A Wren before this one.

Welcome Luke! It’s great to have you onboard!

All Things Crafty

One of my favourite lessons in Miss Trill’s class at Fareham Park Junior School was sewing! I do not recall if Miss Trill taught the lessons or another teacher came in to help with the activity. I remember cutting out the green material for the rabbit and doing the embroidery for its face. I remember sewing it up by hand. I don’t remember what I stuffed it with, but I do remember the great feeling of satisfaction I felt when it was finished. I also got to make a lion. Looking back I’m surprised that I could sew. It was as if I always could.

My mum keeps these two hand made toys on her bed. She has had them for over forty-five years! I don’t remember what the other children in my class made. I think this may be due to being so engrossed in this project.

From this experience at school, I have developed a great love for making things with yarn and thread. My friend’s mother taught her how to crochet. I remember her teaching me to do a crochet stitch. One day my friend and I sat in the Wendy house that my Dad made at the bottom of my garden and we crocheted. I was so fascinated by it that I saved up my pocket money and bought a crochet book and some wool. I must have been about ten years old. From this crochet book, I taught myself how to crochet. I made a little cardigan out of crochet motifs for our neighbour who had a baby girl. I made blankets – saving up my pocket money for wool. At the bottom of Fareham Park Road, there was a little wool shop. I remember the shop being very small and cramped, but I loved to go into it and look at the colours of the wool and imagined what I was going to do with it. I have missed this shop so much. It was taken over by a grocer for many years. Now I can’t really tell which shop it was. Last time I went home, things had changed so much at the bottom of Fareham Park Road. The Post Office that stood on the corner is now someone’s house and the pub opposite has been demolished. The other shops are all different businesses and the launderette is now a dry cleaners. I spent many hours on Thursdays at the launderette doing the family’s washing. Everything up Fareham Park Road to Coppice Way seems so built up now with new housing taking the place of bungalows and land. It seems very cramped and claustrophobic.

My grandmother was a seamstress. To help the family budget, she would make people clothes and do alterations. She would also knit. She would give me her left-over wool which would go into my blankets or I would make dolls clothes with them. My grandchildren now play with those dolls clothes. My grandmother lived into her 90’s. When she felt too tired to do any more knitting or crochet, she gave me her needles which I still have. When she moved out of her house in Highfield, Southampton, she gave me her old Singer sewing machine. It is a treadmill sewing machine in a cabinet. This sewing machine has sat in my homes in Telford in Shropshire, England; California, Arizona, Minnesota and now in Utah. One day it will be passed on to my daughter and her daughters.

In senior school, a friend’s mother came in after school and ran an embroidery club. I remember that I had quite a conflict when this opportunity came as I had also been approached by Mr. Mullins to learn how to sail after school. Both after school activities were on the same night. The pull to go and sew was greater than the pull to go yachting. This was probably because I was worried that I would get seasick. One time we went on board the Ark Royal when my Dad was returning home from a trip at sea. We went out on a smaller boat, boarded the Ark Royal, and then sailed back into port. Unfortunately I spent most of my time on deck. We had been in the mess below, but I had become quite queasy and had to go up on deck to get some fresh air. It has always been a standard joke in my family that I can get seasick even when the engines are not running. When traveling across the English Channel in future years, I usually fell asleep for the whole trip after taking some Dramamine!

When I travelled to University on the train from Fareham to York, I taught myself to knit. I got quite a lot done on that journey. As a young mum, I took up cross stitch. I had done this a little bit in embroidery class. Now I go to any of these activities in my spare time especially when I need to relax or ponder. They are my therapy! I think it is amazing how an activity in junior school had such an huge impact on my life.

(First published in Spanish Views on 25th March, 2018)

The Easter Hat

Mrs Trill’s fourth year juniors at Fareham Park School were invited to take part in a class Easter bonnet parade. We were all very excited – probably the girls were more excited than the boys. I didn’t know if I would be able to make an Easter bonnet to participate – that would be up to my mum.

Mum wasn’t really into sewing although she could sew. She wasn’t into cooking unless it was the usual meals that she prepared – they were simple and delicious. She made maths cards for the pupils in her class and she liked to do the display boards. Mum was artistic but not really into making things especially Easter bonnets.

My luck was in! My Dad was home from sea for a long weekend and he was volunteered to help me make the Easter bonnet! Dad and I are pretty much alike. We love to help others, we like to be creative, but we aren’t very good at creating with others. We like to do our own thing. So Dad made my Easter bonnet. I remember him measuring my head to cut out the circle on a piece of cardboard. I would have loved to have helped him stick on crumpled up tissue paper but it was late and I had to go to bed.

I was very excited when I woke up the next morning to see my Easter bonnet. The parade was that day. I dreamed of looking really pretty in this Easter bonnet and maybe even winning the prize. I got washed and dressed and ran downstairs for breakfast searching for the Easter bonnet as I went. Maybe Dad had it out in the garage. I did see an orange triangular prism shaped object on the dining room table. It had brick-like lines on it and looked like the roof of a house.

Mum was super organized and had put out the breakfast cereal, bowls and spoons the night before. My sister and I ate out in the kitchen. We had some nice orange bar stools with backs on them that fit comfortably under the counter in the kitchen. Whilst eating my breakfast, my Dad came downstairs. Mum was in the bathroom getting ready for work.

“Did you see your hat?” He asked. He seemed so happy that he had been able to help me with my Easter bonnet.

“No,” I replied. “Where is it?”

“It’s on the dining room table”.

I don’t know if he saw my perplexed look. I didn’t remember seeing an Easter bonnet on the dining room table.

“I made you a roof. I thought that would be a pretty good Easter hat”, my Dad said. “I just figured out how to put the chimney on it. As soon as you have finished breakfast, try it on. It should be finished with it by then”.

I gulped. A flood of emotions came over me. I was so disappointed that I didn’t have a pretty flowered Easter bonnet to wear. I was so thankful that my Dad had made me a hat. I was worried how others would react to my unique hat. I was so happy that my Dad was happy and excited about helping me make a hat.

The hat fit my head well and I was able to balance it on my head. Dad had put some orange ribbons on it so that it would stay on. Due to it’s large size I had to hold my head just so, so that it didn’t topple off my head or shift its position. Dad said that he would give me a lift to school in the car as the hat was probably a little bulky to carry to school. I grabbed my satchel and put on my coat and shoes and we were off to school.

School was just up the road. It took me about ten to fifteen minutes to walk to school depending on how fast I walked. Today, I was there in five minutes. I struggled out of the car with my satchel and reached in to grab my Easter bonnet. “Thanks so much, Dad!” I called out as I shut the door.

“My roof – my Easter bonnet – was kind of awkward to carry. The bell rang and we lined up in our classes. As our class walked in to school and to our classroom, I avoided my classmates eyes. We put our Easter bonnets on the top of the bottom cabinets, went to our desks and proceeded with our day.

The day dragged on by. I wished I was back at home and enjoying the weekend and that the Easter bonnet parade was over. Then all too soon, lunch was over, the final playtime was over and it was time to put on our Easter bonnets and parade in front of our class. I took a big gulp and decided I would wear my hat proudly. My sweet Dad had made my hat and I was proud of my Dad and his love and effort for me.

I wore the hat perfectly. It didn’t slip to one side and it didn’t fall off. Dad’s hat won a special place in my heart. Maybe others laughed and mocked but they did not know that my hat symbolized my Dad’s love for me. What better way to remember Easter and all it stood for. A gift from my father.

(First published on Spanish Views on 20th March 2018)

A Very Clear Choice

E43AEED0-3C3A-4948-8D96-AC45DC31E674I began attending Fareham Park School half way through my first year as a junior in January 1969. Those months were a blur with the only thing of significance that shone through was reading about the Griffins. I loved these books and they grabbed my attention. I believe I started a game on the playground as I got bored at playtime. One had to travel only on the painted netball lines and could only change directions at a junction. When I played this with friends, then one would have to try and catch the other person.

I was in Mrs Harts’ class for the second year of junior school and have only two memories …. the blue National Health Glasses I had to wear to correct my stigmatism and the boy who sat next to me who always seemed to step into dogs muck and then scrap it on the bar under the desk. It smelt foul and it was very unpleasant not just for me but for the rest of the class. I remember Mrs Hart getting very upset about the smell. We were told to own up to who had stepped in the dogs muck again. No-one put their hand up. So then there was the search at the end of the day. Mrs Hart went around table by table, searching and letting the table go. We were always the last table. The boy would get yelled at. Maybe she wanted him to own up at the beginning for surely after repeated performances of this, she would know who had done it? I would sweat it out, hoping that she wouldn’t think that I had done it (although I think I did do it once by accident). Funny how I would think that I would be in trouble for something I hadn’t done. Maybe I got into trouble at home a lot for things that I was supposed to have done? I do remember the boy’s name but I wouldn’t like to hurt his feelings.

Life in Mr. Hebron’s class in the third year of junior school was going along well bar the milk that we had to drink before going out to play. Oh that milk was so foul. It may have been cold when it arrived, but by the time we had to drink it, it was warm and oh it made me gag! I think it was the result of a National Programme to ensure good nutrition for all children. I was fortunate in that my parents were able to provide good food for my sister and I and that was one of their priorities. Other children were less fortunate; their parents had other values and the paycheck was spent down the pub before the bills were paid and the family was provided for. The idea to help provide some of children’s nutritional needs in school with the Milk Programme and free school dinners is admirable. I advocate the community helping each other and not deserting the people in times of need.

Playtime was fun. With the other girls in my class we played two ball on the walls of the school; continued to play the ‘line’ game on the painted netball courts on the playground; and learned how to clap our hands in different ways with each other at the same time as singing small songs such as:

“A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,
To see what he could see, see, see.
But all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.”

This one ditty was pretty apt as we lived in community where a lot of the men were in the Navy. We were used to our dads going off to sea or being deployed in Scotland or Plymouth for periods of time.

Then half way through the year, things changed. They changed because I made a choice. A choice that I would not change if I had the opportunity over again. A new girl came to school – half way through the year – just like I had in my first year at junior school. She and her family had moved into the area. Others seemed uncomfortable around her. She wore glasses. She was socially awkward at the time. She sat at our table. I think I was conscious of how other people felt around her, but I did not feel that way. Something inside of me knew that something was going to change if I continued to be friendly to her and become her friend. However, I felt like it was the right thing to do.

So one day we suffered at our table trying to down that warm, off-tasting milk, chatting, and then went out to the playground together. As we walked out, the girls that I had always played with me, hindered our path and confirmed my gut feeling that things were not going to be the same ever again. But you know, I have never regretted that decision to make friends with the ‘unpopular’ girl. She was an excellent friend whilst we lived in Fareham and then went our separate ways after college. My only regret is having lost contact with her when I moved out to the States. I moved and then moved again and she was moving at the same time and we lost each other’s address. I wish she had written to me at my mum’s address as Mum still lives in the same home we moved into in 1969. Her parents had moved away from their home and I didn’t know where they had moved to.

My friend and I hung out together even when we weren’t in the same class. I went around to her house often. We would type on our typewriters writing story after story together and then reading them to each other. I was fascinated by the organ in her house. She lived near Blackbrook Park which was a decent walk from my house. It was safe enough in those days that I could walk to her house by myself at a young age. There is no way I would ever have let my children do that same walk on their own at the age that I was doing it. My friend had two older sisters that were twins. They were about twenty years older than my friend. Both her sisters and her mum were very eccentric and flamboyant. Her dad was a quiet man. It was quite intriguing to me to watch them interact and a little intimidating as I was not used to the behaviours and didn’t really know how to respond to them.

One of the things that I remember doing at school with my friend was sitting on the field in the summer near Fareham Park Infant School and eating our packed lunch. She always had two or three packets of crisps with her and she was always generous enough to share with me. My mum only bought plain crisps then; sometimes cheese and onion crisps or salt and vinegar but mostly plain crisps. I have recently realized that my mum actually likes plain, lightly salted crisps the best as that what she buys as a treat for herself when she comes out to stay with us. Now that I have twigged that they are her favourite, I get them in for her. My school friend though introduced me to smokey bacon crisps, prawn cocktail crisps and Bovril crisps. It was very exciting to me to try these. Crisps are one of the things that I miss very much in the States. The chips out here don’t have the same texture or flavour.

I remember sitting on the grass in the playing field eating Bovril crisps with her the day after my mum had had the birds and the bees chat with me the night before. I was ten years old. I remember feeling quite bewildered and unfocused that day staring at others playing on the field but not really seeing them, thinking that what my mother had told me was quite bizarre and could it possibly be true? I think my mum had had to have the ‘chat’ with me because that year, we had several movies at school ranging in subjects from accident prevention, germs, and having babies. Actually the films were really good and I wish my children had seen them. I still am conscious of not leaving things on the stairs in case someone falls over them going up or down and all the germs that one can leave on a dish cloth!

My final year at Fareham Park Junior school saw me in Miss Trill’s class as a fourth year. Miss Trill, who was affectionately called ‘Bird Seed’ or ‘Budgie Seed’ was an older lady about forty (well that’s what she seemed to be to me). She had very dark hair and I was a little afraid of her. I learned a few years later that she had married which was a great surprise to me. I must have had some presumptions about who is marriageable for it to have been such a surprise to me. I’m quite embarrassed to have had those thoughts all these years later for why shouldn’t she have the chance to be happy? In that class, I remember a humanities system that we used. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was colored coded. As you got through the levels in each colour, you moved onto another colour with a greater degree of difficulty. You had to read the text on the card and then answer questions on it. It was nice to get onto the levels that were a little more challenging, but I also remember getting stuck and not having a resource to go to understand it. Miss Trill was a little bit fierce. I remember once that we were being taught how to address envelopes. She taught us that it had to be the following format:

Mr. and Mrs. intials surname
number and name of street
Town
County
Postcode

We were tasked to address the envelope to our parents. I checked my work two or three times before I stood in the queue to show Miss Trill. I was pretty shocked and humiliated for her to tell me that it was wrong. Mystfied I returned to my desk. I read it and reread it. I couldn’t see where it was wrong. I knew I had to go and show her again and this time try and ask her how it was wrong. So shaking, I stood in line again. She was very quick to tell me that it was still wrong. I disliked the sharpness in her voice. But I had to ask. I knew that she would be annoyed. I plucked up my courage and asked her what was wrong with it. Sharply she looked at me and said ‘You have put ‘Mr’ twice’. I was stunned. Why hadn’t I seen that I had done that? I walked back to my desk very cross with myself, very embarrassed and humiliated. Let’s just say that Miss Trill’s voice was loud and sharp. How could I have missed that? Once back at my desk, I looked at the envelope again. I got ready to correct it. But I looked at it and looked at it. I could not see that I had written ‘Mr.’ twice. Then the lightbulb went on! My dad’s initials are M.R. That’s why it looked like I had written ‘Mr’ twice. So now I have to line up again and let this scary teacher know that it is correct! I know I was shaking in my shoes …..

The fourth year also brought more recognition of being part of a team. In Fareham Park Junior School, each class in each year were divided into a team which were named after the patron saints of Britain: St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland – colour blue; St. David, the patron saint of Wales – colour yellow; St. George, the patron saint of England – colour red; and St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland – colour green. Each of these patron saints have a day during the year when they are remembered. If you were in the Brownies or the Cubs, you could wear your uniform to school on those days. I was always in St. David’s house during my years of school. Some students were put in different houses during their sojourn there but I was always in St. Davids. And St. David is who I supported. We worked in teams getting house points for work that we had done. During my years, St. Davids and St. George were always the top two houses for points and were always in competition with each other each week. Even in sports we were in our teams. I kind of let my team down in PE as my arms and legs don’t seem to coordinate unless I’m in the swimming pool. We played a lot of rounders. I remember sports day. I also played netball.

The other wonderful thing that I liked to do in junior school was country dancing. We used to do it in class and then they had some extra time to do it at lunchtime. It must have been after everyone had had their school dinner though. Now school dinners, that’s another thing. I got chosen to help serve the school dinners. I loved it when I was putting the jam or sugar on someone’s rice pudding, but felt awful when I had to serve out the mince. The mince at school was terrible. I don’t know how they could cook it so badly. It made me retch. It was even worse that the warm milk! I helped serve schools dinners during my fourth year. During that time, the school kitchens were renovated and they had to bring in an outside caterer. Now their food was totally amazing and I often would go up for seconds. Because I served school dinners, I also got to have a school dinner free. This meant a change from the sandwiches that I used to bring in – or worse yet, the cold toast and jam. I don’t know why my mum would think that cold toast with jam on it would be tasty. I have always liked hot toast and still do. Love my food hot not tepid! Or in the case of toast, cold …..

Anyway, back to country dancing. I loved to do the Victoria Reel and the other dances. Because I was tall for my age and there were a lack of boys, I often had to be the boy in these dances. But I loved to dance them. There was something satisfying about dancing with a group of people in a systematic way.

The final thing I thought I would mention about junior school was that we took the eleven plus. For those of you not familiar with this, there was an intelligence test that was given in the fourth year of junior school. From the results of this test, students were then filtered into three types of school. If you did well in the test you went to grammar school when you left junior school. If you didn’t do well in the test, depending on other aspects of the score, you either went to technical school or to secondary school for the next five years. I did read somewhere sometime that there was another test given earlier in junior school so that this combined score contributed to the decision of where your post junior school education were be. The tripartite education system had been existence since the mid 1940’s. I do remember sitting in the school hall taking this examination.

Now I could get on my hobby horse about this, but I will leave that for another time. Suffice it to say, that I would have gone to the grammar school if they hadn’t built the new Fareham Park Comprehensive School. I’m actually glad that I attended this school and this type of education as it suited my learning style and my personality better. We were the first year through this school and the school was being built around us as we went. This was really good for science as teachers could dissect the rats that they caught on the building site (so glad they didn’t ask us to do that)! We were quite fascinated with the pregnant rat. We also got to see a pair of cow’s lungs; and thank goodness for clarinet lessons – as I missed them cracking open the fertilized eggs and seeing the headless chick running around. I felt so sad for the chicks that died and the cut up rats.

We had sky blue PE skirts, tracksuits, white collar tops for PE and black leotards for gymnastics and dance. We used one of the larger classrooms for PE. By the third year we had the gym, the running track and the dance/drama studio.

Have to say that my time at Fareham Park Comprehensive School was pretty boring! Most of the time, I read the book that I had brought in as teachers struggled to make my class quiet enough to teach. I was in K through out my five years there. My friend was in P.

The first couple of years there were fine, but by the third year, I was getting bullied. Girls from my class would wait for me and try and push me down the stairs and hit me with wooden spoons in cooking. My mum came up to the school and had a word with my tutor. She told them that I would only take it for so long and then I would probably lose my temper and someone would get hurt and she didn’t want me to get into trouble for that. I’m thankful for my mum’s confidence in me but I wouldn’t have actually lost my temper because I wouldn’t have really known what to do in those kind of situations. I knew that I didn’t want to go to school and that I was frightened and had no control over the situation. I was so glad to move on from that school and go to college. Academically it was more satisfying and I felt safer. Ironically, the girls that bullied me were the first ones to come to me for help when we were doing our ‘O’ levels and CSE’s.

Sadly, the bullying has appeared in its multiple forms again and again in my life. Even this last year, it has reared its ugly head in the workplace. I know that wherever I go, it will happen again, so this time I am not going to run away from it and am endeavoring to change my behaviour in response to it. Again, another clear choice. Hopefully, it will have excellent benefits as did my choice to be friends with the girl in my third year at junior school.

(First published March 8th, 2018 in Spanish Views – Spanishviews.weebly.com)