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A Shout From The Attic: Archer's Banana

When Archer came to school in austere war years bearing a banana, all the boys marched in procession behind him.

Ronnie Bray continues his life story.

Spring Grove School on Water Street backed on to Bow Street. In one of the terraced houses on the school side of Bow Street lived a family called Archer. They had several sons, and one of them was, I think, in my class. They had a son in the navy, and towards the end of the war he came home on leave bringing with him a banana.

Such a banana I had never seen except in the conservatory at the main entrance to Greenhead Park that once sported a banana plant with a miniature crop hanging on for dear life. Archerís banana could have been kin to one of those. It was about three inches long and boasted a diameter of no more than half an inch. Moreover, it was green.

My mind made no comparison with its peacetime cousins nor, apparently, did anyone elseís. Had we forgotten their size, colour, and fruity grandeur? It was a moment of glory for the Archer boy and his banana. Holding it deftly between forefinger and thumb where all could see it, he marched round the playground with all the boys in train eager procession behind him.

Questions flew from our enchanted minds. The air was filled with eager boyish cries of: Give us a bite? Are you going to eat it? Do you have any more? bursting into his ears from his enthusiastic followers.

It occurred to me that if he did eat the banana, then gave the empty skin to me, I could carve a banana out of wood and fit it inside the limp skin, giving the illusion that I had a banana. It seemed to be the prescription for public acclaim. This idea had massive appeal for an unremarkable lad, such as I was.

What I didnít know then was that banana skins go off very quickly once their contents are removed - I was young and had much to learn. In any event, at the close of the school day, he carried his banana back home with as much palaver as when he brought it. As to its final disposition, its ultimate destiny remains a mystery.

In later, somewhat wiser years, I thought about Archerís banana and was convinced that unripe fruit was best left alone, and that fame so cheaply bought could at best be no more than fleeting.

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