A memory from NW London

Up until I was 7 years old I attended a kindergarten/prep school in a North western suburb of London. The school was run by a very kind lady and her husband. I was quite bright and got on well there. Any naughtiness was dealt with by a mild slap on the hand, at worst.

At age 7 it was decided that I should go to the local primary school. Whilst I was quite confident that I would cope with bigger classes and possibly better structured work I was concerned that I might get hit. I was a very advanced reader and had read school stories like Billy Bunter, 5th Form at St Dominics and others with much caning etc.

My parents did their best to allay my fears. Firstly, they said it is very rare that anybody is smacked at school theses days and only VERY naughty boys  ever got hit. Being a generally good boy I was bound to avoid any such incident.

On the first day of term, I joined a class who had been taught in infants by Miss O, so they knew what she was like. To me, she was an imposing figure and, although she was probably in her early twenties, she seemed really very grand.

Our first lesson was arithmetic. Miss O showed us exactly how to fold the page in our book in half and to write the sums in the left hand side and the answers on the right opposite. This was not THAT long after WW2 and we had to be careful not to waste precious materials.

I had been put at the front desk by the window and a girl, Ruth G, was sitting next to me.

After a little while we were called out to show Miss our work. I was the first and, although not everything was correct, I had done well enough to earn a ‘Well done’ from Miss O.

Next up was Ruth. As soon as she saw the girl’s book she became very annoyed. Ruth had not followed instructions and her work was messy and all over the page. After telling her off for a few moments Miss O opened her cupboard and produced a big white plimsoll.

“Bend over,” she ordered.

The hapless girl did as instructed. Miss O the flipped up the back of Ruth’s gymslip and delivered three firm, stinging cracks across her bottom. Ruth was then told to sit down and do the work again.

She was red in the face and in some distress when she returned to her seat. I had learned two important lessons within half an hour of being at school:

1) Parents lie to children

2) You don’t mess with Miss O.

Over the next 4 years most of the class, myself included, felt the effect of a slipper on our bottoms but by the time we left and Miss O had become Mrs B, all of us had great affection for her and had been very well taught.

HL


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