PC 103 Homework and in Class

My last scribbles described some of the highlights of my ten week ‘Creative Writing’ course and some of you emailed asking for the piece about Nelson, David and Freddie Starr. You were kindly appreciative, so I thought I shouldn’t hide another three little gems that came about either in class or as homework.

We were asked to write about shopping. Such a vast topic but for someone who hasn’t even been to Blue Water, one of those out-of-town shopping acreages, I decided to keep it simple. See if you agree?

For my fresh eggs I normally go to Dean & Perry’s market stall which is erected at the top end of pedestrianized George Street here in Central Hove. The eggs come from chickens in Peacehaven and are really lovely. Dean’s a tall chap and he has to stoop a little to fit under the canvas awning. Having picked up four egg cartons from the side of his stall, I come into view in front. It’s become such a regular occurrence that the whole shop goes somethings like:

“Hellllloooooo! How are you? Just your usual? ….. How many have we got?  …. Remind me, it’s the £1.09s, isn’t it?….. So that’ll be £4.36 ….

“Good morning Doris! How are you?……. Sorry! Be with you in a minute.

“…….So is that everything? These strawberries are the first of the season. No! We had the Spanish ones but these are from the Netherlands.

“Smell good an’ all” says Jim standing beside the stall from where he’s been talking to Dean about the football when there aren’t any customers….

“I don’t want to smell ‘em, Jim, I want to know how they taste .”

“Sorry Doris, two secs! ….. “

“So two dozen eggs and a punnet of strawberries £7.35 call it £7 Thanks for that …. three pounds change then ….. See you next week ……

“Now, Doris what did you want? Yes, the beetroot are cooked, real sweet, I can tell, had some for my tea yesterday.”

I wander back down the street, smiling. Such a pleasure!

In one of the first classes, we had ten minutes to write about a memory of school, for here for sure was something that everyone had experienced, some more recently than others. It did seem a very long time ago but eventually this flowed from somewhere:

Anywhere but here!

I sit at my usual desk. There are twenty of us, all boys, struggling to make sense of Mr Parrish’s mathematical calculations on the board. He has a large nose, a beak, and he’s not confident. It’s a two hour double maths period. On my left is Ray and on my right Ian. Chalk dust lingers on the hot room. The sun streams in through the large windows.

Anywhere but here!

In the distance I can hear the sound of Mr Gough mowing with his tractor, preparing the cricket pitch for this afternoon’s match. I loathe cricket so I’ll skive off somehow.

Anywhere but here!

Do I really want to know how to do differential calculus? Will any knowledge of it help in the future? I take my slide rule and apply myself; I have to!

Anywhere but here!

Mr Parrish’s voice interrupts. He sets homework, reminds us to hand in the answer to his problem and leaves in a flurry of black master’s cloak and chalk dust.

You may guess I wasn’t a fan of school!!

One week the homework was to write about a happy time in your childhood. Thought it strange that as soon as Heather had asked us to write about this, she mentioned that past students sometimes had had a real problem as their childhood had been unhappy! Made me wonder why she had chosen such a potentially volatile memory bank. Yet one has to assume that somewhere in this generalised memory of ‘childhood’ there might be the odd nugget of happiness, even if you’ve labelled the whole as ‘unhappy’. So here is one!

 I never used a Rolodex but understand how they operate. I look at my imaginary one, flip through it ‘A’ to ‘Z’ and realise that finding happy childhood eexperiences are as rare as finding pissholes in a large snow field! Surely somewhere …….

 So it is that I recall, aged maybe 6, walking down Marlborough Buildings in the Georgian city of Bath, the city of my birth, to Victoria Park at the bottom of the hill. It’s midsummer and the tall trees are in full leaf, reaching across the traffic-free road to touch gently in the middle. My heart lifts as I see the ice-cream van in its normal spot. On Sundays it comes in the morning, on weekdays only for the afternoon.

 I put my hand into the dirty pocket of my grey shorts and am reassured by the touch of my threepenny piece, along with a piece of string and my penknife; enough for my favourite ice-cream! There’s a small queue, some adults, some children – all wanting to taste something cool and sweet on a sunny morning; shouldn’t be long.

 My turn!  I get the coin out of my pocket, reach up on tiptoe as high as I can and put it on the aluminium shelf. It’s Giovanni, who I know from past conversations was interned during the war because he was an Italian living in England. He doesn’t know my name but I’m not bothered. “A vanilla block and wafer please?” He reaches into the ‘fridge, picks up a block, adds two wafers and hands it to me. “Thank you” I mutter hurriedly as I feel myself salivating.

 I turn away, carefully unwrap one side of the block, place a wafer on top of the ice-cream, turn it over and remove the remaining paper, replacing it with the other wafer. At last! Holding my ice-cream carefully between thumb and forefinger, I lift it to my open mouth. I smell it, inhale the dusty wafer crumbs, and take my first bite. Now I am happy.

As I said in PC 102, I loved the challenge of having to write something, then, there. Now I just need to get motivated to take it to the next level. Hey! Ho!

Richard 12th August 2017

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