This morning, one of my facebook (and camera club) friends posted this status on his wall:

Oh what a beautiful morning it is in *********, the sun is shining, the birds are singing and the sound of children playing can be heard in the distance! . . . . In my dreams; in reality, it’s dark, and pouring with rain, no singing birds, no children playing and just the sounds of car tyres on wet tarmac!”

This, of course, provoked a lot of discussion and banter about, amongst other things, the weather, computer monitors, Christmas, ironing, hoovering, the cat and dishwashers (not necessarily in that order) and it has since set my mind meandering into the past remembering another dismal day, in a decade long distant of a distasteful memory. What follows is a very brief part of a story I found on my hard drive some weeks ago which I must have commenced writing and then abandoned, so thought I’d share it here today to possibly liven up the extremely miserable day we’re experiencing!

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The School Uniform, clicking on the photograph will open a new window or tab on Philip Howard's flickr site.It was pouring with rain, I had gone to school in my navy blue gaberdine raincoat and wellingtons, topped off with a navy blue sou’wester, so I was well protected against the elements.

“Are your feet wet Michael Stokes?” the harsh voice of the teacher barked;

“No Miss” I timidly replied;

“Speak up boy, I didn’t hear you” she shrieked; It was my gaberdine raincoat that was the problem. Although it could shrug off most of the bad weather thrown at it, it did just that and dripped off the bottom edge, down my bare short-trousered legs, and straight into the tops of my wellingtons dampening my socks on the way. How I wished my raincoat was just a little longer so there wasn’t a 3 or 4 inch gap between the bottom of the coat and the top of my wellington boots.

“No Miss” I repeated just a little louder; they were though, but the thought of being made to take off my damp socks and wellingtons and put on a pair of elasticated school issue daps (plimsolls) was just too much to even consider; school daps were only ever worn by those who couldn’t afford any, or by the boys and girls from the local Children’s Home and even at that young age I was much too proud to be seen wearing them; wet legs it was going to have to be then! Strangely, we never took any shoes to change into in my era, it just wasn’t the done thing.

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And that’s it, that’s all there is of this story, I’m not quite sure where I was going with it as it was started so long ago; perhaps I was going to tell you how this particular teacher loved to slap the backs of your legs. I remember reading to her once standing by her desk; “Speak up (smack smack) Michael (smack) Stokes (smack smack), I can’t hear you (smack, smack, smack)!” All the blows were rained upon the back of my bare legs beneath my shorts, she was renowned for this type of punishment; my mother remembers, even in her schooldays, the sound of this teacher’s smacking resounded throughout the school. Can you imaging the furore if this should happen today?

Anyway, back to the facebook status, I suppose the mention of children playing and the sound of the cars swishing on the wet road set my thoughts in motion. Nowadays kids very rarely walk to school in the rain, the ubiquitous motor car ferries them there; back in the 1950s we had no such luxury, we walked! I like facebook, despite many persons of my age despising its very existence, I feel it helps to keep my mind alert and active and is very often thought provoking, prompting me to think about and share my memories.

The boy illustrated in the photograph is not me, but is dressed very similarly to how I would have dressed for school in the rain in the 1950s, although I had a sou’wester to top off the outfit. The boy in the photo is also a little older than I would have been at the time of this tale, I guess I was eight, coming up to nine! I’m grateful to Philip Howard, a flickr friend, who has a large collection of historical childhood photographs including the one shown here, who has allowed me to share the link to the photograph.

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