Sunday, 18 October 2015

Ben

Ben had dark curly hair, big brown eyes and a cheeky smile which accentuated the dimples in his cheeks.   Even though we were only six he had something about him that made me feel excited.  I looked forward to seeing Ben at school every day -  so much so that it even helped me overcome my fear of Michael, the infamous class bully, who was best known for being good at kicking shins and flushing gloves down toilets.

One Spring morning Mrs Marychurch announced that she was going to take the class for a nature walk.  We had to line up by the door in pairs.  “Right now, children, join up: boy girl, boy girl…”   Some of the boys looked distinctly unsure about this while the girls giggled, but we soon fell, rather chaotically, into couples.  Somehow, magically, I ended up with Ben.  “Now hold hands with your partner, everyone, and don’t let go,” our kind, maternal teacher instructed.  Ohhh!  I clung tightly to Ben’s palm, which felt warm and nice, and I knew I wouldn’t be letting go in a hurry. 

Off we went on our walk, a Crocodile of six-year-olds, out of the school grounds with its flat-roofed 1960s classroom blocks, across the road and up to the top of the wide tree-lined path which led between a cricket field and a meadow of Friesian cattle.  There at the summit Mrs Marychurch pointed out an oak tree and some cow parsley.  Then she let us all run to the bottom with the breeze in our hair, our grey skirts and shorts flapping, and Ben and I raced down that hill, laughing, our hands still tightly clasped.  We kept on going, further and further down the path, exhilarated.  Of course we were on strict instructions to return the second Mrs Marychurch summoned us back.   We carried on.

“Oh I think she’s calling…” Ben said anxiously as we paused to catch our breath, Mrs Marychurch now just small and slightly blurred some yards behind us.   “No she isn’t!” I insisted.  My companion seemed less certain and urged me to return with him but I was adamant.  So we turned our backs on her distant figure and kept running.  And thus, at the tender age of six, I got my favourite boy into trouble.  When it finally dawned on us that the rest of the class had all joined our teacher and we were the only ones who hadn’t - the only ones - our sheepish return was met with a very stern telling-off.  “I told you she was calling,” whispered Ben crossly after we’d been shown up horribly in front of our classmates. I was as mortified as a lovestruck six-year-old could be, which is to say: very   

In spite of trying to make it up to him with presents of Love Heart sweets (‘Be mine’ and ‘Will you’), that was the end of Ben and me.

A six-year-old's view of Mrs Marychurch and her class, 1970


4 comments:

  1. You were quite the little scamp, Ms. C! I have to admire you, because I think it's much better to take relatively harmless risks at that age and to refuse to be terrified of those scary, but not-so-earth-shattering, consequences.

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    1. Haha, yes.... the sad thing is that I didn't even do it deliberately, I must have just been so loved-up that I was genuinely deaf to Mrs Marychurch's calls.

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  2. Probably the inspiration to Michael Jackson's Ben. Don't believe the scurrilous rumour that it was about his pet rat

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