Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Down All The Days

Down All The Days by Henry Marriott
One day early in 1940 my mother deposited my sister Mary and myself at St Georges. My sister was aged 10 and I was 6. Being older Mary was immediately housed in Preston while I was to spend the night with my mother at the school hospital (now Hesketh House) . Sister Spenser who was the School Nurse decided I needed a bath, she drew the bath water and ordered me to strip. I was horrified, as the only people who had bathed me previously was my mother or an ayah, and certain parts of my body I thought were not for general exhibition, I was persuaded to cooperate and I suffered the indignity disapprovingly. My mother accompanied me to Oldham House the next day where I wished her a tearful goodbye with promises on her part that she would send for us in November... We didn’t see her in the next four years. We spent our Christmas holidays either at school or one year we spent them with Miss Spencer and her sister in Chinnapatna in Mysore where she ran a Maternity Hospital for Muslim women, part of the hospital was an Ashram run by a group of Indian Missionaries.
Sister Spenser was a large Australian lady from Perth and when some time later I was confined in hospital with some malady, I remember on fine afternoons she would take her gramophone out to the garden and play recordings of Dame Nellie Melba, Waltzing Matilda and other Australian ditties, which seemed to cause her considerable anguish, tears ran down her cheeks, her breasts heaved with emotion and her shoulders shook as she wept. But she was enjoying herself apparently. because she frequently played her gramophone either in her quarters or in the garden. The hospital was very short of reading material as the Sister only allowed The Church Times, which included the sermon of the week, John Bunyan’s Pilgrims Progress ( which I read in daily instalments) and the Eye Chart which had a confusing plot as it went E, TB, DLN. PCER, FBZDE, etc. not as uplifting as Pilgrims Progress.
Oldham House was in the care of Miss Richards, or Pitchie as she was called. She was red haired and freckled and a very lovely person. I remember on fine weekend afternoons we took our afternoon naps on the very luxuriant lawn in front of the House and she would take the opportunity to cut our nails. I remember she once got me to stand in the corner of the play room for some minor infringement and forgot me, about an hour later I was desperate and called out but she had gone out so I wet myself it was only when she performed her nightly rounds did she discover a very wet and shamed lad. She actually apologised for forgetting me and gave me a biscuit in propitiation.
In those days we didn’t wear any form of footwear or underwear for that matter Our clothing comprised of a khaki shirt and shorts, and a rain cape which had at all times when not raining, to be neatly folded and carried draped across the left shoulder. In cold weather it was miserable, it was difficult to get warm, we suffered from chaps on the feet and lips, and I had cracked heels as well. The remedy was Vaseline for the feet which made them black as they picked up dust. and for the lips whatever the scrape that was spread on the bread.. The Principal at this time was Rev Key, a very remote person. It was only when Mr Wynter-Blythe became Principal that we were required to wear chappals

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