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U3A Writing: The Big School

There was a very good reason why David Bennett should be pleased to be moving on from primary school to grammar school. Her name was Eileen...

The depressing score line read : St. Giles Church Juniors 14 Methodist Juniors.2

I played Right Half for the Methodist Juniors and the only two other boys going up to the Grammar School with me, from our small Primary School in the village, played for the Church Juniors and I was very anxious to get into the Grammar School's Junior Colts eleven. Still, apart from the sport, there was another reason why I was pleased to be going to the Grammar School. Her name was Eileen Young. Eileen and I had been something of an item since our kiss-catch days in the Infants.

Our relationship had started when Eileen had saved me from yet another ' behind the knees' slapping from Miss Cutts, our formidable and powerful teacher. Although I was a good reader, when Miss Cutts had displayed a flash card, with the letters THE written on it in letters nine inches high, and had asked me to pronounce the word I hadn't been able to do it. Written like that the word looked completely unfamiliar. My attempts at pronunciation had sounded like 'teeeee' or even 'taheee'. Miss Cutts clearly thought I was doing this on purpose, so every time I got it wrong, I was slapped.

Eileen was ten months older than me but I had always adopted the protective role in our relationship. This was purely at Eileen's unspoken wish, as I well knew; Eileen was bigger and stronger than me, and she was a fighter, feared by both boys and girls. Eileen was also very beautiful. I was on the skinny side of thin, pale and with a big nose (even then) and spectacles.

"What does she see in him" was the unspoken question on many a prospective Romeos lips, particularly as we got older. So far as I know the question was never articulated. Eileen packed a powerful right hook!

On that first dewy morning in early September we walked the three miles to the Grammar School together. We had always walked to Primary school together and had arranged that this habit would continue when we moved to the 'big' school. In fact, the habit continued for the next seven years. On that first morning, I noticed once again, that even in rear view, Eileen was something of a dish. Her shiny new satchel bounced provocatively on her pert little bottom as she walked. I remember feeling the first stirrings of an unfamiliar emotion - desire! The three miles to school seemed to be covered in record time. Bitter reality awaited at the school gates!
"Girls to the right" shouted Mr. Harrison, pointing to our left, "and the rest of you to the left". Continuing the deception, he pointed to our right. Mr. Harrison quickly became known as Mr. Boilerhead. There were two reasons for this. Firstly, he was always hot and steamy, and secondly, there always seemed to be two large and angry-looking boils on the back of his neck!

Obediently we boys peeled off to our right. I remained curious as to whether Mr. Harrison had included a third gender in his call to "the rest of you" Somewhat disappointingly, he hadn't.
Without Eileen I felt rather nervously alone. However we were quickly shunted into the Main Hall of the school to be allocated to our new forms. Down the centre of the Hall was a mysterious blue line. We soon discovered that this doubled as an invisible wall. The girls stood on the left of the line whilst we boys stood on the right. We were told to stand in silence - and we did!

Mr. Harrison, red-faced from his exertions at the bottom of the school drive, busily strode into the Hall and, without wasting a moment, began to shout out the names of the boys to go into Form 1A, “Bannerman, Barratt, Bennett.” I ceased listening at this point, pleased that I'd made it into the A Form because I knew that Eileen would be joining me. Eileen had been the cleverest pupil, by far, in our class at the Primary School.

I pricked up my ears. Mr. Harrison was coming to the end of the girls’ list. “Walker, Betty", he shouted, "Walton, Mary, and finally Williams, Elizabeth". "That's it", he said, confirming the end of the list, "you lot follow Mrs. Adams".

I don't remember walking out of the Hall. I was in shock. I couldn't believe that Eileen would be in a different Form. The fact that she wouldn't be in the A Form was entirely irrelevant. That day was the most miserable of my school life. Even the Games lesson in the afternoon failed to cheer me up, particularly as the water for the showers seemed to have been piped straight from the Arctic. Dejectedly I trooped back to the Form Room with the rest of the boys for final registration, and there, miracle of miracles, was Eileen. I can't describe the joy I felt. The sun shone and the angels sang!

A short time later, on our way home, Eileen described what had happened. Apparently, when Mr. Harrison had read out the names of all the pupils in the Entrance Year, Eileen's name had not appeared anywhere.

"Are you sure you're supposed to be here", he'd asked her?

"Oh yes Sir," Eileen had responded "Mr. Bladon, our Headmaster at the Junior School, told me so and he wrote to my parents. He said that I would be in the same Form as David Bennett."

Resolution of the problem had clearly been beyond Mr. Harrison, and he had sent Eileen into the Form with the fewest girls, IB, until he sorted things out.

Late in the afternoon he'd sent for Eileen. A single sheet of paper had been found on the floor of the school Secretary's Office, headed 'Pupils allocated to Form 1A (cont.).' There was a single name on it -Young, Eileen. There was an unusual recommendation on it from Mr. Bladon, he'd told Eileen. It said, "Sit next to David Bennett if possible. She's a very good influence on him!”

Eileen smiled at me and my happiness was complete. She let me hold her hand on the way home.


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