I started this school in January 1970. I recall I felt out-of-place, because of my strong Caribbean accent. The teachers and children would laugh at me. The woman they called my mother use to dress me in boys clothes, in fairness I believe it was because she knew no better. She herself was old-fashioned and very religious, I went to school in boys laced up shoes they were pointed and I hated them, but I couldn’t complain. I use to pretend they were nurses shoes. The way I dressed the way I spoke made me an easy target for bullying. However, I was a fighter and would defend myself. I would always get the cane. I believed the whole school knew I was a nobody. I always attended school on my own and left on my own. I noticed that most of the children had brothers or sisters or both which aided in their popularity. Once more I was the loner and the outsider so I mainly sat on the bench at play times.
One thing that made me proud was the ability to read. I recall we had a supply teacher, called Miss Dwyer, it was common practice for children to be taken out of class to read. I was very excited because I could get a chance to shine. Well, that’s what I thought. Miss Dwyer picked up a sheet of paper, there were many different words in columns. The words started off very simple. I found it so boring as my eyes scanned the bigger words at the bottom. Then I said one. Miss Dwyer was so shocked at the ease at which I read the remaining words, but I was bored. I noticed there was a dictionary on the table and I picked it up. I looked around and these lovely books filled the library. I wanted to read them all. I was so excited as at home the books were grown up, and I had practically read those too. I opened up the dictionary there was a lots of lovely words. I told Miss Dwyer that I could read all the words. I asked her what was the longest word in the dictionary and she told me. I recall saying “I can spell that” and went ahead.
A.n.t.i.d.e.s.t.a.b.l.i.s.h.m.e.n.t.a.r.i.a.n.i.s.m. I was now six years and 10 months.
It meant the establishment of a church. Isn’t that ironic that this word should refer to the church…
Miss Dwyer was so shocked that she grabbed my arm and literally frogmarched me to the head teachers office. Mr Bothcherby our head teacher was an awful man, he ruled the school with the cane. I was afraid of him. We all were and I t seemed that everyone I had met in England so far so far caused me to fear. I stood sheepishly behind Miss Dwyer as she explained how good I was at reading. He simply informed her to put me on workbooks, where you was able to answer questions and work through on your own. There were no praises after all. Each time I completed workbooks I had to attend Mr Bothcherbys office to collect more. I particularly loved these books and by the end of the week. I had completed the whole sets including those that were given to the older children. I still craved praises but it never occurred sadly, the only person whom praised me was my father. Mr Botcherby the headmaster, decided that my new role from that day onwards would be to teach all the children in the school to read.
I did this but I didn’t enjoy as the children at the time were reading such things as cat, dog, mouse, house, and Peter and Jane. Peter and Jane books are still etched in my mind as a result.
Peter, Jane, Peter and Jane, I like peter, I like Jane. Imagine how bored I was after spelling such long words.
Princess Frederica was a Church of England school, and every morning we had assembly my favourite song was “At the name of Jesus” At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, every tongue confess him king of glory now, this the fathers promise we shall call him lord….
I remember this song until today. I recall how the hall use to spring to life with all the children in the school singing. Fond memories.
During those times children had to have a pint of milk every day.
I arrived in school late that day, and was told to sit in a class. All the children were sitting on the floor, they all looked up as I walked in and I sat down beside a chubby little girl, she had three plaits in her hair, and I remember they were chunky plaits. One at the front and two at the back. She smiled at me and said “do you want my milk?”. We have remained friends until today 43 years later; Although she claimed years later, she didn’t like milk so that’s probably why she offered it. 🙂 Her friendship is still one of the positive things in my life.