15 Great Yarmouth
week before to deflect my innermost anxieties promptly came home to roost.
“My mum’s ill in hospital,” I told her.
To this day I have never forgotten her reply, “So’s mine,” she confided. “Serious?” I nodded. It transpired not only was her own mother undergoing a similar lifesaving operation as mine but was also a patient in the same hospital ward. Through adversity a chord of empathy had been struck. Thus, whenever our paths crossed, we made a pact to keep each other abreast with developments.
I had every intention of honouring my half of the bargain too, had it not been for succumbing to the same malicious bout of chicken pox which recently kept my sister, Susan, off school for a month. Miraculously by the time I’d recovered, Mum was out of hospital beginning the long road of convalescence. The indescribable joy her homecoming brought can only be known by those who’ve been saved. There were none more grateful or more humbled, than her family.
On hearing I was out of quarantine my best friend, Trevor, called round to visit. He kindly brought me some grapes, along with a disheartening array of school books, courtesy of our benevolent teacher Mr. Bowers, presumably to catch up with the rest of the class before the exams. He perched on the end of my bed, filling me in on everything that had happened during my absence, and by the time he got up to leave we’d munched our way through the grapes! Only then did he drop the bombshell, in that matter- of- fact way schoolboys have a propensity for doing, about the special prayers held in yesterday morning’s assembly for the passing of our former classmate’s mother. At the age of 10 it’s hard to fathom the laws of the universe. Suffice to say only the slenderest threads of luck that springtime defined her loss from being mine.
The summer holidays arrived and the days turned golden. Six
weeks of recreational pursuits, family holidays and generally lazing about. Come mid August, when all that self- indulgence teetered on boredom, the circus came to town — albeit the school’s main car park. It is a snapshot forever imprinted in my memory. Gaggles of giggling school children lining the boundary walls. Familiar faces in unfamiliar clothing, entertained by clowns and conjurors. An annual treat, courtesy of the staff and governors, to alleviate the growing six- week monotony and ease us back into the forthcoming new term.
When September came it heralded the last summer of childhood. Twelve months down the line lay secondary education and a passport to adulthood. Farewell Empire’s heroes; no longer would your stirring portraits adorn our classroom walls: the indomitable Francis Drake; the courageous Grace Darling. Goodbye, too, emboldening assemblies where “Knights Won Their Spurs” and “Hills Of The North Rejoiced”. Like fine wines we had steadily matured, ready for decanting into the wider world.
Though not before one last hurrah! Cranford Park Primary’s pièce de résistance reserved for all leavers; the panoramic view from the top of the school building. No Health & Safety back in 1965 preventing eager lads and lassies ascending the skylight ladder to the tower roof. Just a handful of vigilant staff and a dose of common sense.
Once outside, up amongst the gods, what a breathtaking kingdom we beheld. Miles away to the west stood the faint outline of Windsor Castle, shimmering in the July heat. Nearby to the south, across the concrete ribbons of a newly constructed M4, the ever- bustling world of Heathrow. In the warm afternoon sunshine 4A and 4B gazed out from the roof of the world. Awestruck.
It was the end of an era. A day of days. And I’m sorry I’ve never thanked you for them, till now.
The end of term brought the prospect of seaside holidays as here at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk.
A schoolboy looks across the Thames beside Tower Bridge.