Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers Day Thoughts

I was looking through the racks of Fathers Day cards on sale at the Mall and finding it hard to find a suitable card to send to my dad that expressed my feelings. I have told you some of my personal history in my article on the War Brides exhibit but on revisiting the story of my ‘becoming’, it’s hard to put my relationship with my dad into perspective. I stood there reading all the lovely sentiments “Dad, you were always there for me”, “Dad you made me the person I am”, “Dad, thanks for letting me borrow the car, I’ll give it back someday!” and “Dad, I know I gave you a hard time growing up etc. etc.” I find it very hard to relate to any of these sentiments as I actually only spent six years of my early life with him from ages two to eight.

I do remember my dad as being a big strong man who carried me on his shoulders, took me to the beach and parks, he played with me and made me things, a hobby horse, a rifle that fired elastic bands, a Red Indian headdress from duck feathers. I had a bike and birthday cakes and friends. We ran pretty wild in the bush around our home in East Vancouver, what fun we had. I remember winters with lots of snow and my dad pulling me on a toboggan along the roads. I remember the three of us sitting in the small living room listening to the radio while granny knitted and I played on the floor with my farm animals or the dolls house dad had made for me. He took me to movies and the drive in, made Halloween costumes for me and took me “Trick or Treating” and when a good tune came on the radio, I stood on his feet while he danced with me, all the things a little girl could wish for from her daddy.

I look back on those years as very happy and normal ones, my dad was there, I had friends and my granny was a substitute mother but after my mum died, granny decided she wanted to go back to Scotland and wouldn’t leave without me so dad let me go and off we flew to Scotland. I hadn’t been allowed to attend my mums funeral, it was only every talked about in hushed whispers around me and no one asked if I wanted to go to Scotland to live, I guess I thought I was going on holiday. What a culture shock that was. You know the scene in the “The Wizard of Oz” where it changes from black and white to Technicolor? Well landing in post-war Scotland in 1952 was just the reverse!

I know it must have been hard for my dad to let me go, things were different back then and granny was a very strong willed woman, he had to pretty much to sell up everything to pay our airfares and he did send child support until I was 16 and did keep in touch with letters and presents and cards over the years. He remarried and had a new family, two boys, my half brothers. I remember being overjoyed at the thought of being a ‘big sister’ and couldn’t wait to hear the news and tell everyone at school as they all seemed to have loads of brothers and sisters and also had two parents. I was looked on as an oddity, living with my grandmother with no mum or dad


I was reunited with him when I got married, he flew over to ‘give me away’, we made the local papers, ‘Together after 14 years” etc. But I only had a short time to get to know him before we were separated once more. I went out with him the day before the ceremony for a quiet drink and I’ll never forget what he told me. He said “You know, it’s not too late to change your mind, cancel the wedding, you can just walk away”. I remember being totally taken aback, how on earth could he know that’s what I wanted to do more than anything! But I didn’t have the courage to walk away, what about the church, what about the guests, what about the reception, all booked, what would people think? So I burbled merrily “Oh no, why would I do that? I love him!” and that was that. Years later, I asked dad why he said that and he told me he just knew my husband was not for me and that it would end in tears and it did.

I don’t know if growing up without a father figure affected my development, I know my life would have been totally different had I grown up in Vancouver. For a while I did resent the fact that I grew up without what I deemed to be the attributes of a ‘North American’ life style, that of senior high, dating boys with cars, beach parties, maybe going to college etc. I even gave up writing to a girl friend who had been a neighbour in Vancouver as I was jealous hearing about all the things she was doing, while she went out with friends in cars, I was cycling around and while she went on camping holidays and road trips with family, I was taken on bus tours with my granny and all the other old pensioners!

I did get over it, time does that but I always hankered after the life I thought I should have had and now here I am back in Vancouver and surrounded by my own precious little family. My relationship with my dad, though warm, is still at a distance, I didn’t find the family with him I always craved, and I don’t think it actually existed except in my imagination. I think I have finally come to terms with that. You make your own life; no one else is responsible for how it turns out. I only wish I had not spent so many years searching for what was here all the time, and just like Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz”, I found, indeed, that there’s no place like home.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

In Praise of Aunties and Uncles

These long summer days and my ever lengthening years have put me in a somewhat melancholy and introspective mood. I miss my aunties! I suddenly realized I only have one aunt and uncle left and they are becoming increasingly frail and also lives thousands of miles away in England. Once upon a time I not only had several aunts, uncles too of course, but also Great Aunts and Uncles, the siblings of my grandmother. I miss the weekly visits from them at first my grandmothers house (she raised me), then later mine and turn about when we visited them. There was always tea and scones of course and lots of gossip. As a wee girl, I’d sit quietly on the floor, playing with my toys while they chatted with my gran, gleaning nuggets of family history and sometimes, gasp, a scandal or two! They always brought a supply of cream cakes with them and of course, sweeties for me and when they left, they always gave me some “pocket money” to spend. As I grew up, I was allowed to join in with the adults and later when my daughter arrived, she in turn loved their visits with the candy and cash being for her this time.

From time to time we would all go through to Stirling to visit an old friend of my grandmothers, who was an honorary aunt! Granny, two aunts, my daughter and I would board a train for the 40 minute trip to Stirling where we would be met by a nephew of my “aunt” and whisked off for an afternoon of blethering with a lovely “tea” spread out for us. When I was a girl, I loved to visit there because there was another girl, a relative of theirs who I could team up with and we would go off exploring the countryside. When my daughter’s turn came, she loved the visits too because of the delicious home baked treats laid out for tea and because behind my aunt’s house there was a field of cows and she would go out feed them over the fence.

Aunties and uncles are important members of a family; I only wish I had many more of them and that they were still with us. I’m an aunt myself but alas don’t have the same close contact with my nephews that I enjoyed. I wrote the following story as a writing exercise a while ago but it recalls a happy childhood memory of a different era. I hope you enjoy it.

My Secret Garden

I was raised by my grandmother in Scotland in the early 1950’s and have fond memories of visiting her sister Bell and my great-uncle Frank Bunn at their little home in a village just outside of Edinburgh called Loanhead.

Theirs was an old terraced house with a long, narrow garden which backed onto a railway cutting. Every time we visited in the summer, Uncle Frank would say the magic words “want to go down to the garden Maxine?” This eight year old had no hesitation, and off we would go my young hand tucked in his old gnarled, gardeners’ one.

We would walk slowly down the long gravel path, stopping to admire the neat rows of vegetables; carrots, beets, turnip, lettuce and peas with me listening politely while he extolled the virtues of this variety or that. Then we would come to what we both knew was the real goal of this sedate stroll…..the strawberry patch! Uncle Frank would say with a twinkle in his eye, “well Maxine, and let’s see if there are any ripe berries today”. I needed no second bidding! And of course, there were always berries, large, luscious, sweet strawberries, ripe and warm from the sun. I would just brush off the soft, brown soil and pop them in my mouth, savouring their sweet juices. Uncle Frank and I would just grin at each other as he helped me eat my fill. Then with a satisfied sigh, we would move on to the raspberry canes, my next favourite stop!

When we reached the end of the garden, there was another source of satisfaction and not a little morbid curiosity on my part for I knew that under the beautiful rock garden there, lay the remains of their beloved pet dog “Tippy”, who had died many years ago. Uncle Frank would always stop for a few minutes here and pick out a tiny weed or two that had the temerity to take root.

Just over the rough stone dyke was the railway line. Uncle Frank had a bench here and I would stand on this and peek over the wall while he puffed away on his old pipe. There were steam engines then, great black puffing noisy monsters chugging by, what a thrill for a child! I would wait patiently for one to come by, belching out clouds of black smoke and would wave wildly to the engineers and passengers as they passed, they always waved back. Later, my pockets stuffed with peapods and my face stained with berry juice, we would return contentedly to the house and join my aunt and granny for tea and scones with strawberry jam of course!

The house, the people and the steam trains are long gone now but not my happy memories.

Monday, May 5, 2008

For Mother's Day

I am the daughter of a WWII ‘War Bride’. My Scottish mother met my father, a Canadian soldier, at “The Palais De Danse” in Edinburgh during one of his leaves. The Palais had seen better days. It used to be quite grand apparently. It had a sprung dance floor and a balcony running around the large floor where you could watch the dancers. Before the war people used to arrive in carriages, and fur and jewel bedecked women swanned in on the arms of handsome tuxedo clad men, or so I am told. The wars changed all that and in the 1940’s it was a hang out for the ‘sojers’ to meet Scottish lassies. I just remember it as a place to go “dancin’” and meet boys in the 1960’s. It had a bad reputation by then and I was not supposed to go but did anyway. Sadly it closed down and became, like many others, a Bingo Hall. I don’t know even if it is still there.

My dad was not a dancer, being a big Saskatchewan farm boy, but he wanted to meet girls so made himself go. On this occasion he looked ‘across a crowded room’ and spotted my mum and her lovely, auburn hair and was instantly smitten. He plucked up courage to go over and ask her to dance. He remembers the song that they danced to was Bing Crosby singing “Where the Blue of the night meets the gold of the day, someone waits for me”. He tells me that after they met, they were inseparable and every leave he got was spent in Edinburgh with my mum. You have to realize that this was war time and a different generation, the blackout was on, no lights allowed anywhere, no sign posts, food and clothing rationing and people being shipped out at a moments notice.

They were married in 1943 in my mum’s house by the local minister. Being war time, it was very difficult to find nice things and my mum was married in a short, pale blue rayon dress and she could only find a pair of heavy shoes to wear with it. Of course Dad was in his uniform. It was even difficult to find enough ingredients for a wedding cake with the severe rationing that was in place at the time. I was born in 1944 in Edinburgh while dad was away and he actually didn’t get to see me until I was 1 year old.

The war ended in 1945 and dad was sent back to Canada to be demobbed. He bought a veterans house in Vancouver and sent for my mum and I to join him in 1946. We sailed from South Hampton on the Queen Mary which was almost brand new but still fitted out for war service. My mum thought it was very grand and sent a post card of the ship to her mother, my granny, saying they were having ‘a swell time’ with plenty to eat and cheap cigarettes or ‘fags’ as she called them!

Imagine a ship full of hundreds of women and children all leaving their homes for new lives with husbands they hardly knew to live in a huge, strange land. How brave they all were, I don’t think we’ll see the like again. We landed at Pier 21 in Halifax and then my mum had to face a four day train journey across Canada with a two year old! The train was packed with other war brides and children who were dropped off as they crossed the continent, some in the middle of nowhere in the prairies. My mother was lucky she was going to Vancouver and a comfortable home.

We were only reunited with my father a short time when it was discovered that my mum had contracted TB. She was hospitalized and my Scottish granny came out in 1947 to look after me and keep house while she was in hospital. My mum was in hospital for 5 years during which time I was not allowed to visit her, only see her through a window several floors up. She died in 1952 age 32 never having seen any more of Canada other than what she had during her train trip. I was 8 years old and had only had my mum for 3 years. My granny wanted to return to Scotland and wouldn’t leave without me so my dad let me go and we left for Scotland later that year.

I am now living in Vancouver having immigrated with my own daughter in 1981 and I have nothing but admiration for all those brave war brides who have helped make Canada the wonderful country that it is. I only wish my mum could have been here with me to see it all.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


“Hosta la vista baby!”

Its official, I’ve reached “the falling years”. You ladies over 50 or so will possibly know what I mean. Standing in front of a full length mirror in the nude (sounds so much more rude than naked don’t you think?} takes all the courage I can muster. The 63 year old body reflected back at me always comes as a bit of a shock to put it mildly. Is that really me? How can this be? Where did the slim, supple, smooth skinned lass of even 20 years ago vanish to? I’ve gained about 25 lbs in those 20 years and before that I can hardly believe that in my twenties at 125lbs I thought I was plump! I know, there are some really fit, taut, lithe women in their 60’s out there, not to mention those who are trying to stem the relentless tide of the advancing years with Botox injections, liposuction, face lifts and tummy tucks that only prolong the agony for perhaps another 10 years. Have you seen some of those gargoyles that pass for mature women on television? Mind you, if I lost 20 lbs and kept up at my fitness and weight training classes and had just a tiny bit of surgery to tighten a sagging jaw line and maybe a wee shot of collagen injected into my ever thinning lips, then maybe, just maybe I might try a foray into the dating scene again.

Anyway, once again I seem to have strayed from my topic; “the falling years”. Apart from the obvious of falling chins, breasts and buttocks, there is the problem of physically falling down. I seem to be doing this more often than I can remember since I was five years old. A while ago I tried running lightly up the stairs to one of our Sky Train Stations, why I don’t know, they come every five minutes, only to trip on the top step and sprawl heavily to my knees in front of the hoards of people waiting to board an arriving train on one side of the platform and a departing one on the other. As I struggled to my feet, gathering my scattered belongings to me, not one single soul came to my aid or even to ask if I was alright. They studiously ignored my plight as they fought their way onto the trains and I slunk off to the side to lick my wounds and wait for the next one. Pretty much only my pride was injured on that occasion though I was quite shaken up.

Another time I was on my way to a doctors appointment and after parking my car, I crossed the road and fell up the kerb on the other side. I don’t know why, but I did. I put out both hands to save myself, spraining (or staving as we say in Scotland) my wrists in the process. I also scraped my knees and muddied my pants. I got up, brushed my self off and looked furtively around to see if anyone had witnessed this latest humiliation, no one in sight thank goodness so I carried on with my appointment. My doctor, who is an old Scotsman just looked at me over his glasses when I told him my story and tisk tisking at me said “Oh lassie, whit are we gaeing to dae wi’ ye?” I ached all over for a few days after that spill.

The most recent event occurred last week when I was pottering around my tiny garden, plucking a weed here, tweaking a recalcitrant plant there when I decided the bird bath needed my attention. I could have gone around behind it which would have been the sensible thing to do, but no, I stretched over my pots of hostas and the little wall of edging stones around the plot and endeavored to twist the bird bath to level it off a bit. Well of course I over balanced, tipped the bath over and fell among my hostas, knocking pots and gnomes flying in the process. I can only imagine how this must have appeared from behind had there been any witnesses!

Once I extricated myself from the plot, almost impaling myself on the pointed hat of a cheerfully smiling gnome in the process, I surveyed the damage both to my plants and my person. I righted the bird bath and noted the many broken and flattened leaves of my poor hostas. I had sustained a “staved” left wrist, a scraped right hand, two bruised knees, one which has since come up in a bump the size of a hens egg and also a big purple bruise which has appeared on my right inner thigh, I don’t remember how that got there although I suspect the gnome had something to do with it.

So here I am, sitting in the sun recuperating from the trauma of it all, Gin and Tonic at hand and I am hoping, dear readers, that I’m not suffering alone with this ghastly affliction and I look forward to hearing your “falling” stories soon too!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Nana Over The Edge

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

New writing assignment

This is for my latest writing assignment from Mr. Sternberg and it was a hard one! We had to incorporate a quotation and then pick at least 10 words to change that must enrich the story and make it obvious what they were. I have taken a stab at it and if nothing else, it's good exercise for the old brain cells! Please excuse the grammar, I've forgotten all the rules around quotation marks but would appreciate any tips on editing!

The Radio

I stood hesitantly uncertainly at the door of the old shop. I’d passed it by many times, glancing in the window as I hurried along on some errand, urgent or otherwise but today I had a reason to stop as firmly clutched in my arms was a parcel containing the pieces of my grandfather’s old Bakelite radio. The old boy had left it to me in his will, he had also left me a modest sum of money, his gold railroad watch and other sundry items but a letter to me, which accompanied the will, specifically told me to look after his old radio and mentioned that if I ever got it working, I would be in for quite a surprise.

So curiosity piqued, I found myself entering the old, dusty, musty electronics repair shop that I had walked by so many times before. Peering through the dust motes floating in the still warm air of the room, I could just make out the outline of piles of parts, wires, tubes and bits and pieces of miscellaneous assorted plastic littering the tables and counter tops.

“Hello” I called out tentatively uncertainly “is there anyone here?” I heard a noise from somewhere in the back of the gloom and a bent figure slowly shuffled into the faint light falling from a naked light bulb hanging in the middle of the room. “Yes, can I help you?” a thin voice like paper rustling reached towards me and drew me into the circle of light. The shop keeper, if you could call him that appeared very old, ancient really, well past his sell by date and retirement age as well. His few strands of wispy white hair were carefully combed over a bald, mottled pate and a pair of gold wire rimmed spectacles (one would not call them glasses!) magnified his blue, rheumy eyes which nonetheless sparkled with intelligence. He reminded me of an elderly cricket and he did move with a rather odd hopping gait which he proceeded to do quite suddenly, circling around me and making a small humming sound under his breath while he did so.

I remained transfixed for a few moments and then managed to stammer stutter out my request asking him to take a look at the radio and see if there was any hope of getting it in working order. He stopped his hopping and indicating to a relatively clear spot on his work bench with a gnarled, grubby finger, I set the parcel down there. He dragged a small stool over to the bench and perching on it, untied the string and opened the brown paper wrapping. He continued to make little sounds, tisking and tutting and humming while poking and picking up the various parts. “An old RCA Victor I see, model 66X3, 1940’s. They don’t make em’ like that anymore”. “Leave it with me, come back in two weeks and we’ll see what’s what”.

I was about to leave after jotting down my name and phone number for him, when I noticed he was looking at me rather oddly. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Oh nothing”, he replied, busying himself with his tools, “I was just wondering why you want this old thing fixed; some things are better left unmended”. “Did your grandfather not warn you about meddling interfering with things best left alone? Do you not wonder why this radio’s in so many pieces, almost as if it was deliberately smashed?” I hadn’t really given it much thought about how it came to be in so many bits but now I felt a chill running down my spine, in fact the temperature in the room seemed to have dropped a few degrees since I had first come in. “No, I hadn’t” I replied, “my grandfather left it to me and suggested I try and get it fixed, that’s all”. “Okay” he said “it’s your funeral, see you in two weeks”.

It was only after I rather gratefully left the store and hurried back to my warm apartment that I realized I hadn’t actually told him how I had come by the radio, not until I was leaving that is. How did he know about my grandfather? I laughed at my foolishness silliness, he probably just guessed, judging by the age of the radio. I forgot all about it until nearly a month had passed and I was sitting studying for yet another exam when the phone rang. “Hello” I said, “Mark here”. A thin reedy voice wheezed into my ear, “the radio’s ready, come pick it up…..soon”. Before I could reply I heard the click of the receiver clattering down at the other end. I knew who it was of course and it was with a sense of uneasiness I realized I didn’t really want to collect the thing now anyway. Sighing I returned to my books, I’d call in at the shop tomorrow after class.

I stood once again outside the shop door, noting this time that there was actually no identifying name or number over the lintel or anywhere. Telling myself to ‘get a grip’, I opened the door firmly and went in. This time a bell tinkled, announcing my arrival, I glanced up at it, trembling shaking away as I passed through. I could see the old man waiting by the counter in the gloom, no difference there then, I thought. He waited patiently for me, his hands moving gently, almost lovingly over a small square brown radio gleaming softly in the dim light. It looked as good as new, it was actually a mottled brown and beige colour, with large clear dial numbers, a cloth grill and 3 large tuning buttons on the front, quite handsome really.

“Wow” I exclaimed, “it looks brand new”. He just smiled and turning to the wall, plugged the set in. The dial front lit up and as he tuned the station button, the soothing sounds of Glenn Miller’s “String of Pearls” flowed from the speaker. “That’s great” I said, thinking it must be one of those oldies stations. “Thank you very much, and what do I owe you?” He smiled again, turned off the radio, unplugged it and wrapped it carefully up in the same paper I had brought it in, knotting the string thoughtfully considerately into a carrying handle for me. “That will be twenty pounds” he said. “Are you sure?” I asked, it didn’t seem much for such a restoration job. “Yes” he replied, “quite enough, young man. Maybe even too high a price. Use it carefully” he added enigmatically mysteriously.

I took it home and after some revision and a take-out meal, I settled down to read a magazine and drink a beer, I felt I had earned that small pleasure. As I settled by the electric fire, my eye fell upon the radio, now sitting burnished and gleaming on my sideboard, a relic from my grandmother actually. I switched it on and the first words I heard were, “Who knows, the Shadow knows” and a commentator welcomed us to the Lux playhouse. I twiddled the tuner but kept coming up with nothing but really old plays, comedies, music and commercials selling cigarettes and cars and detergents from by gone days. What the heck is going on, I thought. Next the announcer was exhorting us to buy war bonds. This is nuts, am I going crazy or what. I switched on the TV, it was showing Star Trek reruns, which I found somewhat comforting. I turned it off and tried the radio again. This time it was a play with a young Orson Welles starring in it, a thriller, quite creepy actually. I left it on and returned to my chair, leaning back and letting his mellifluous honeyed tones draw me into the story. He was intoning “I see things in darkness that no one should see by light of day.” when I must have dozed off.

When I awoke, the first thing I noticed was that it was very quiet; I couldn’t hear the usual hubbub din of traffic outside. In fact everything was very dark, my room felt different somehow, all the lights were off except for the glow from the radio which was silent now. I stumbled to my feet, a newspaper spilling off my lap. I made my way to the light switch, even it felt different. The light came on revealing a very different room to the one I fell asleep in. I didn’t recognize anything in it except for the radio and the old sideboard it stood on, though even that looked bright and new. Dazedly numbly I went to my window, I pulled back the heavy dark curtains and tried to see out, the glass was criss-crossed with tape and the street below was in blackness, not a light to be seen, what few passersby there were, walked quickly by holding shielded flashlights pointing to the ground. I suddenly heard a loud whistle and a uniformed man yelled up at me “Turn your light off, don’t you know there’s a war on?”

I staggered back, letting the curtains fall back in place, somehow or another I had been transported back to the 1940’s, how could this be? I grabbed the paper and frantically looked for the date, there it was staring at me; January 21, 1944. Is this what my grandfather meant by my surprise? This is insane, I can’t stay here, I haven’t even been born yet. I ran across the room and grabbed the radio, raising it above my head I threw it to the floor, smashing shattering it to pieces once again. I must have fainted, when I came to, I was lying on the floor amid the wreckage of the radio but to my immense relief, I was staring at the same beer stained rug I had always had and I could hear the roar of the morning traffic outside my window.

I gathered the pieces of the radio together in a bin bag and dropped the lot in a garbage can by the main door on my way out. As I ran for the bus, I glanced across the street to look for the repair shop; there was no sign of it, only the launderette next door and a new doughnut franchise. Somehow, I was not at all surprised.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Incident at the Gym

Thank you all for your kind words about my April Fool misadventure. Unfortunately there seems to be no end of my embarrassing moments to share with you. Here is another one from my School Days. I hope you enjoy it!

Another embarrassing moment in the life of Nana Crunch.

To set the scene we have to go back to the so-called good old days of the 1950’s when I attended High School in Edinburgh, Scotland. Back then you generally left school at age15 unless you passed your “Highers” and could go on until you were 18. We sat exams in elementary school grade 8 and these determined what ‘stream’ you would enter in High School. I fell into the category of “Commercial One” which meant I was going to be a short-hand typist whether I wanted to or not. Lower scores were sent to “Domestic” or “Commercial Two”, higher scores got “Languages” and thought they were way better than the rest of us plebs.

“Domestic” meant you were destined for the factory floor, or the service industry and “Commercial 2” meant you were taught some typing skills as well as cooking. The elevated “Languages” classes were taught Latin and German and didn’t have to work with their hands at all. As well as typing, short-hand and book-keeping, we also had English, History, Geography, French, Science, Math, Art, Music and Sewing. They didn’t seem to think we needed to know how to boil an egg but we had to be able to sew buttons on our husbands’ shirts! I also have the painful memory of being given the ‘belt’ by granny Ross, our vicious little sewing teacher, all because I didn’t put my lap-bag on fast enough, too busy talking. This was delivered in front of the class and the fact that I was a hulking 5’ 6” and she stood about four feet nothing did not deter her. I can still feel it! There were several boys in our class but instead of sewing, they were given the manly task of banging nails into bits of wood while we treadled our lives away. I’m sure there must be a place somewhere in another plane of existence where all those mismatched “what-knots” and lop-sided display shelves languish along with aprons, dirndl skirts and unwearable blouses.

That reminds me, we were also taught something called “R.I.”, Religious Instruction, from which the two Catholics in our class were always mysteriously excused, the rest of us being good Scottish Protestants of course. I rather enjoyed this class, it was more like an ancient history lesson and we got to draw interesting maps of the Holy Land. I remember I actually won a prize for an essay we had to write. It was to be a modern day parable and I chose “The Prodigal Son”. Something about him returning home on the Number One bus apparently struck a chord with the jury! The prize I picked was a book, “Animal Tales” by Blackwood, I still have it (my one and only school honour!)

The other class I was not very keen on was Gym. You have to picture the era, we didn’t wear shorts back then we just took off our skirts and ran around in our school blouses and navy knickers. These were made of thick durable navy cotton with elastic around the legs; some even had a pocket in them for a hanky. The classes were not co-ed though, thank goodness.
We would be made to do all the usual humiliating routines of trying to climb the ropes, balance on beams, hang upside down on the wall bars and on occasion, vault over a “horse” or “buck”.

Sadly, I was never very athletic but the Gym teacher, Miss N. always tried to inspire us to greater things. She was convinced this day that I could make it over the vaulting horse. She said we had to take a really good run at it, rebound off the launching ramp, slap our hands in the middle of the ‘horse’ and over we would fly. She assured us she would be there to catch us. So there we were, all lined up around the gym waiting our turn. My heart was pounding but I was determined to give it my best shot. I watched in some trepidation as the girl in front of me hurtled towards the ‘horse’ only to shy away at the last moment, almost taking Miss N. with her. I swallowed hard and gathering my courage prepared for take off. Miss N. was smiling encouragingly at me from beside the beast. “Come on M, I know you can do it!” she called. Taking a deep breath and running as hard as I could, I landed my feet squarely on the ramp with a satisfying thump, launched myself into the air, hands landing precisely as instructed in the centre of the ‘horse’ and then horror of horrors, the elastic in one leg of my “breeks” caught on a protrusion sticking up from the top of the ‘horse’. There was a loud ripping sound and I sailed on leaving most of my knickers hanging on the ‘horse’.

There was a moment of complete silence then the whole room erupted. I can still see all the girls collapsing in hysterics against the wall bars, my best friend M absolutely doubled up with laughter. Miss N after she regained her composure grabbed me to herself and enfolding me in her thankfully wide skirts, marched me lock step to her office. The offending item of clothing was retrieved and I sat and sewed them together in quiet misery as best I could, the laughter of my class mates still ringing in my ears. Miss N, bless her, told me she hadn’t had such a good laugh in years and hoped I didn’t mind but she had just had to tell the next class about my misadventure. Of course it was all over the school by lunch time but I saw the funny side of it and whenever I get together with my Scottish friends we still talk and laugh about it. I’m glad this was well before the days of camera cell phones and You Tube, Britany Spears had nothing on me!