15 Great Yar­mouth

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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.

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