Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Down All the Days - Also

Down All the Days - Also By Henry Marriott
Warning: Persons of a delicate nature may find the opening paragraph gives rise to disturbing images if you have a fertile imagination.

The school had two magnificent Brahma cows, which produced lovely loads of manure. The cow shed was somewhere near the girls toilets and the Netball court. There was also a magnificent Hampshire Large White pig, who wallowed in his own ordure ,the disgusting animal. At one point when it was adjudged to have achieved a suitable size, i.e. immense, it was decided to slaughter it, because the butcher could not transport the animal on the hoof, anyone interested was invited to witness the process. I was there front and centre being of a bloodthirsty type. It was strung up in the wash room, It was first stabbed in the heart and then its throat was cut and left to bleed before being quartered and cut into suitably transportable pieces.

Besides the gardens in front of the cottages, the boys houses also had vegetable gardens which were judged each year by a visiting horticulturist and a shield awarded to the winning house. For some years Lewis house walked away with the shield because we had Erdley Powell, he was a very quiet chap, never entering into or starting a conversation, he only spoke when he was addressed, His morning ablutions was an example to us all. It was a strip down to the waist job, with soap being lathered generously to all parts, the rest of us merely had a lick and a promise.

I believe he was dyslexic. Now, he was a great gardener, to see him caressing, yes actually caressing, the tilth gave you confidence that any seed planted in that tilth would sprout into a sturdy plant yielding generously of its produce. At recess he would take a wheelbarrow down to the cow shed and help himself to the manure, which was subsequently spread over the beds. One year the Lewis vegetables were so advanced that they had to be harvested before the annual inspection, Mr Paul ,who was gardening master suggested that the garden be prepared for sowing, (although in fact sowing would be after the annual holidays), however this was done under Eardley’s supervision and Lewis won again. The next year Eardley didn’t attend classes but was given a plot of land which he cultivated, he was then sent to an Agricultural College and subsequently he began as a creeper (trainee Manager) in one of the tea estates.

Like many students of this period I complained of perpetual hunger. If I had subsisted purely on the school cuisine I would have been in a sorry state, but for many years I had a mucus problem , I was perpetually having to blow my nose and sniff loudly which was an irritant to me and to the teachers. Sister Spenser used to syringe out my nose which made me comfortable for a day or two. When I did get back to Ceylon my mother, then in the money, took me to a ENT specialist who pronounced me under nourished and prescribed Keplers Malt and egg flips. Miss Dover gave me a daily dose of malt which was delicious. In those days I took piano lessons and the three music teachers who succeeded each other ordered that their toast and scrambled eggs not eaten at breakfast be given to me at the morning break, so I had egg on toast and egg flip then.

Also like others I was a competent hunter gatherer, and in season filled up with loquats, hill guavas, blue plums, potatoes and turnips. I also trapped quail, using the four brick trap and rabbits using the wire noose method taught me by Rodney Jonklaas of Lawrence school. I had a fireplace complete with oven on the way down to the dam behind Lewis and Oakshott. Unfortunately the wild life was always over cooked on the outside and nearly raw inside because of our impatience. The old baker was always kind to me and gave me lumps of dough and even on one occasion baked it for me.

I too used to run down to Palada where there was a tea shop. The monthly visits to Ooty meant laying in stocks of ‘jigs and jogs’ (peanuts and jaggery) ,besides having a meal in the cafĂ© near Jubilee Rooms. These visits always resulted in me being violently ill, because of the quantity and variety of what was consumed. I have educated my children to eat a toffee when eating peanuts.

Sister Spencer was replaced by Mrs Wynne, who brought with her Reg, Norman and the vision of loveliness Pamela, who was three or four years my junior. I remember after a year or so the school went on a picnic by bus and I sat next to Pamela and we held hands during the trip there, at the venue and on the return journey back like conjoined twins. On returning I was hovering outside the hospital unsure whether to go back to Lewis or go early to the Dining Hall. I heard a sound behind me, it was Pamela, she put her hands on my shoulders end kissed me on the cheek. Immediately the birds sang a merrier tune, the wind rustled the leaves in the trees making an accompaniment to the bird song, the air became scented, the flowers bloomed more brightly my teeth whitened and my hair curled and I became altogether a better person. While all this was happening to me she skipped away, and I was denied the opportunity of returning her kiss. I was in love I tell you, my heart sang with joy and I did without supper, it was only that ox liver muck anyway, I wanted to be alone with my happiness.

For some reason I had been baptised or whatever they do in the Pentecostal Church, but I’d never practised as one, remember this as you read on. Mrs Wynne left Ketti and returned to Bangalore. Some time later I was spending a weekend at Rev Ash’s house prior to going to Tambaram, I was 18 at the time,. I was sitting on the bank where the maps have been drawn, looking down the road towards Lewis House . I had skipped evensong. Mr Hammick occupied the staff cottage near Lewis House. The Hammicks were married but had no children as yet., it appears that Pamela was spending a holiday with the Hammicks. Suddenly there appeared this vision of a flower full blown, at 15 Pamela was a beautiful vision., blue eyed , blonde hair and a perfect face framed by curls. As she slowly walked up the hill, I rehearsed what I was going to say to this vision,. “My God” I planned to say “You are the most beautiful person I know, is there any hope that you would consider me worthy of your love” Something along those lines I thought would meet the case. She drew abreast of me and the Pentecostal spirit hit me and I said in Swahili I think in clear ringing tones“Gnrr niigg arrginng brreter chang a linggart”. She replied in similar vein but in a softer voice “ Arriggii nogggijkl arributting” I’ve never seen her again.

I think I've got another article in me dealing with Mr Hammick and Rev. Ash, but do be patient I've got a ham string injury in my writing muscle!

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