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As Time Goes By: Scene Shifting

Eileen Perrrin and her husband Les become increasingly adventerous in their choice of holiday destinatinations.

To read earlier chapters of Eileen's autobiography please click on

Our friend Khoka Chatterjee from Nanital in the Himalayas, invited us to some talks on philosophy which he was giving in a friend’s house in Wimbledon, using our car as his transport.

Quite a crowd gathered in the lounge to listen intently, then to ask questions at the end. Looking back, I wonder how we came to be so impressed.

In July 1962 Les and I went out to Saanen in Switzerland, to join Khoka for a week of talks by Krishnamurti. Jiddu Krishnamurti was born in 1896 in Southern India and died in California aged 90 in 1986. He had travelled the world giving pubic talks to millions of all ages and backgrounds. He said that only through a complete change in the hearts and minds of individuals could there come about a change in society and
peace in the world.

In the Swiss chalet where we lodged we sampled our first duvet filled with divine down. Tea was served in glasses, and we listened to the farmer sound off his alpenhorn. The bells on the cows clanged sweetly as they wandered in flower-filled meadows amid superb scenery, but the lakeside midges were an abomination.

We took our dinghy Nimboo Pani down to my Mum’s bungalow in Rochford, and kept it there for a while, going back at weekends with Les to sail at Hullbridge on the river Crouch.

Mrs. Brown had moved from next door, replaced by an American family with two small boys who watched us intently from over the fence. They played ‘haarse’ (horse) shoes with their Pa, while eating sandwiches of peanut butter and jelly (jam). When Les forked over a patch of earth for planting, he was asked ‘what’re yer doin’ with that du...rrrt, Mister ?’ Another memory was of Aunt ‘Puuurl’(Pearl) sitting on their
back step and singing ‘Amazing Grace’.

I wanted to know more about free-thinking teaching methods, having read books on Summerhill, the Suffolk school in Leiston founded by A.S.Neill, with the idea that pupils need only go to lessons if they wanted to. One day in early summer I went down unannounced to see what it was like for myself. I wandered around and went inside without being challenged. The grounds were unkempt, with bits of rubbish strewn about. The school entrance hall and surrounding outbuildings were in poor repair. There was no one there.

Cathy and her Dad went to Ealing to do the weekend shopping for me while I was preparing teaching practice lessons. The weekly Sainsbury’s bill came to around £5 in those times.

Since joining the Teacher Training School in September 1962 we had not seen Bernard but then found out in the Spring of 1963 he had been arrested and sent to prison for robbery, which came as something of a shock. I visited him in Brixton where he was waiting to be transferred to Maidstone prison in Kent, where he spent the next three years. He never explained just what had happened and I never asked him to tell us. On one visit I took Khoka down to visit him.

In the summer of 1963 we went to Scotland, taking the car up on the train from London to Perth to stay with a teacher and his wife in Fort William. We visited Loch Linnhe, Glencoe, Neptune’s Staircase – a flight of eight locks at the southern end of the Caledonian Canal, and took the West Highland Railway train to Mallaig where we boarded a MacBrayne steamer out to the Isle of Skye.

One day Eric the teacher took Val for a walk up Ben Nevis. Val was fairly fit as he swam regularly and was in a rowing eight at his school. He often did a lot of cycling around Surrey and East Anglia in his quest for the church brasses of medieval
knights. These five foot high brass-rubbings, including Sir Roger de Trumpington 1289, and the famous 1227 brass from Stoke d’Abernon, ended up adorning the walls of our front room.

During the early sixties we saw such memorable films as ‘Cleopatra’ with Elizabeth Taylor, ‘Billy Liar’ with Tom Courtenay, ‘Tom Jones’ with Albert Finney, ‘How the West was Won’ with Henry Fonda and Gregory Peck, ‘Summer Holiday’ with Cliff Richards and the Shadows, ‘Zulu’ with Michael Caine and Stanley Baker, ’My Fair Lady’ with Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, 007’s ‘Goldfinger’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ with Julie Andrews.

My fourth teaching practice in the Spring of 1964 was at Longfield Road in Rayners Lane, Harrow, which was enjoyable. The staff were friendly: we borrowed boxes of books from the local library, and we wrote poetry on ‘A Rainy Day’, which I have kept to this day.

Every day the biology teacher, a nice elderly gentleman, brought in buttonholes of camellias for all the teachers. By this time I had decided I was not cut out to be a teacher and enough was enough. When the end of term came, after all my
good intentions and hard work, I handed in my resignation to leave Sidney Webb College, and as no one seemed to want to encourage me to stay on, I assumed that I could not have been much good.

We went across to Ireland for our summer holiday, sailing from Fishguard to Rosslare, and stayed with a taxi-driver and his wife in Killarney, visiting the Dingle peninsular’s glorious beaches, Tralee, the Ring of Kerry, Galway Bay and Cork.
That autumn and for the following year, I went up to London about three times a week, to the City Literary Institute in Stukeley Street off Drury Lane to attend classes on architecture, voice production, hands-on Art classes, Art Appreciation, Psychology of Everyday Life, writing for pleasure, appreciating the literature on Russian authors such as Vladimir Nabokov, Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’, and ‘Quietly Flows the Don’ by Mikhail Sholokhov.

We brought the dinghy back home and Les joined a sailing club in Surrey. We returned to Barmouth to sail there for the last time in the summer of 1965. There we learnt that our friend Meirion Rowlands had died.

Khoka was with us on that oliday and helped Les and Val with the boat. He, idealistic as usual, suggested that we start a school of our own and we looked round a large empty mansion, and dreamed of what it could become. The idea came to nothing.

It was decided that we sell the dinghy to a young man Les had met at the Surrey Sailing Club.

In 1966 for our usual Whit week holiday in Somerset we rented a cottage in Watchet from a Mr. and Mrs. Putt and enjoyed, as ever, the beautiful countryside, around Dunster and the rhododendron-clad North Hill, Minehead.

On one memorable day we went on a visit to Lundy Island.


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