I detested school, the old-fashioned teachers, the naked aggressive bullying, the choking atmosphere of catholic containment. Additionally, Northern Ireland in the late 1980's was a bitter and uneasy place. There was one sustaining class though, Eng Lit/Lang, taught by the lovely Mr H. This class, the first cohort of GCSE student,s gave me an escape from the day-to day mundanity and the anticipation of a permanent absence. The power of words and a university education could take me away from the chilling graffiti chalked up on the 'gasworks wall', a release from the constant self-censorship both in words and of actions and of movement.
The images above are just three of the rich and vivid books that we poured over that summer. That cover of Cider With Rosie, while not my favourite was the text that we used and just a glimpse brings me back to that stuffy classroom, the shuffle of paper, the laconic buzz of a distant fly and the smell of Tippex, Impluse and cut grass. As Laurie explores Rosie in the hay, there was a corresponding fission of anticipation in that classroom. Occasionally Mr H would divert off into a monologue about his hobby of flying micro-light aircraft. I would surreptitiously stare out of the mobile classroom window at the handsome curly haired boy while my friend N had thinly disguised thoughts for Mr H's moustache.
A little later, armed with A levels I escaped to the beautiful but sometimes haunting city of Bath to study, Handsome Curly Haired boy married the girl next door at 21, Mr H stayed on teaching at the same school chalking up thirty years at the same school. I wonder how many students he inspired to continue and enjoy reading and writing not as a chore or even a sometime habit but as an essential fundamental part of everyday life. I wonder if he still spends the weekends flying his little 'plane. I wonder did any of us thank him...
Inspired by Sue's wonderful post about Cider with Rosie and the centenary of Laurie Lee's birth falling so close to my own birthday I was inspired to pick this book for our June book-club choice and I cannot tell you what a wonderful experience it was to re-read. The rich descriptive language, the abundance of unforgettable characters, the Grannies, the Uncles, Miss Fluck and her pre-Raphaelite suicide, this book touches my heart like few others. Now, re-reading as a mother, the chapter 'Mother' especially emerges as one of the most loving and compassionate portraits in the English literary canon.
"She was as muddled and mischievous as a chimney-jackdaw, she made her nest of rags and jewels, was happy in the sunlight, squawked loudly at danger, pried and was insatiably curious, forgot to eat or ate all day and sang when sunsets were red."