Read introduction

Over in this neck of the woods we have a strong tradition of story-telling. It’s what people used to do, huddled round winter fires in the days before high-class, hote culture X-Factor and Come Dine with Me were on the box in the corner. Sometimes my poems are a form of story-telling and here is another one.
When I return to the town I grew up I pass a road where my old school once stood. It’s now a heap of rubble, a new school having been constructed a mile or so away. But the wee path is still there, the lane, rails and run to the local shop for provisions. And I recall the desk, the iron bell, the stove in the corner, the football in the yard, the ice slides we had in the snow, the magic shows by a travelling motorbike magician Victor Frens (Fernie), the outside toilets etc. Some parents nowadays would complain and call social services!

The Old School

Fdf5205c-8b5b-4da8-a6dc-63fe28d680a9by Billy J. Stewart20 Mar 2014

The scattered bricks lie loose in redness glow of crumbling clay,
Prostrate amidst the weeds and rust, and general demolition mess,
Ghost echoing, cry voices out of far off days of play,
Now lose their grip, torn from the rooms in violent disposes.
But then, in finding other times, with tender souls,
And there am I, ensconced at creaking oak-hinged desk,
Poking blotting paper into ink-welled holes,
And carving out my name among the grains, in etches so grotesque.
The creaking lid, ah yes… the creaking lid that weighed a ton,
So ancient, thick and surely hewn from half a royal tree,
Was prised an inch or two, and in so sneaking half a bun,
I crumbed my way through jotters smudged, to almost half past three.
And sitting there I see the big black-out curtains pulled across,
To shield us from the sun in its full and withering glare,
My Beta Mathematics text still had me at a heart-sinking loss,
One book to two, we always had to share.
The Master, Mr Gardner chalks up arithmetic sums galore,
A gentle patient man the father-figure, teacher, sage,
Corrects me with a wrinkled smile, when I give some answer “64”,
“No, not quite, try again son, that is just my age!”
Each morning brought the corner stove to burning light and fire,
And once aflame, was left the crate of frosty milk beside to sit and thaw,
Thus warm beneath the glowing door, so tempting our desire
To suck its creamy goodness, poked through foil with plastic straw.
The bell, with clanging ding gives noisy sign for lunch,
Such sweetness music to our little raptured ears,
And lining up were we, a poised and ever-ready bunch,
To charge to shop, a-slip and skip through all the running gears.
The yard confined by stone and fence contained us in the pen,
A mighty pitch, it seemed, a field for all our games of play,
And kicking, running mad, an orange Wembley football then,
The FA Cup was acted out in each and every day.
The ground in coloured chalk the girls marked out,
And taking turn would set with jump and hop and skip,
So chanting story tell in singing shout,
Before these games got somehow lost to gismo set in microchip.
With winter chill the snow and ice were tramped to form a slippy slide,
And queuing woolly hats and gloves, were all to take a running charge,
So thus let loose were we to wobble, fly and sometimes glide,
And at the end, abruptly bounce off toilet wall, as it loomed large.
Oh yes the toilet in the outside brick-house water closet sanctuary,
With creaking door exposed to natures icy air,
A foot strategically placed to keep our fleeting dignity,
And lovely scratchy paper always there!
Now we didn’t have much money for fancy this or that,
But we made the very best of what little gifts we had,
And a cabinet stood outside a class, and inside it there was sat
An ostrich egg, placed proudly on a cotton pad!
So every year we entertained the parents with some dramatic play,
Bold Slasher, Fearsome dragon, King George and maidens fair,
With costumes made from silver foil, sticky tape and modelling clay,
Set off with gleaming, beaming faces everywhere.
And every now and then we had a live-act treat,
Thus gathered in one class, to watch as “Fernie” staged a comic show,
The “Motorbike Magician” had us on the edges of our seat,
All in stitches laughing loudly, as his corny gags would flow.
And then… I remember my last day, and the final call,
To march as one and tramp the wooden floor,
And Mr Gardner dinged the bell in time to our foot fall,
And so departed we, out into our world, through Carniny’s final door.
The school house now is gone and where are we?
Whatever has become of all my playground friends?
A heap of rubble is now all that I can see,
Though in my head the memory lives anew, and never ends.
And there it shall remain and safe from diggers crush,
Preserved forever, set in endless warmth of summer sun,
In colours green and scented flowers of Hawthorn bush,
Were days at the old school filled with happiness and fun…