A Chapter by Peter Rogerson



It was the start of another day and Annie shuffled into her kitchen and very carefully part-filled her kettle in order to make herself the first cup of tea of the new day.

There was one thing she could remember from all those years ago about what may have been her first day at school and that was her mother’s morning cup of tea and the way she sniffed. It wasn’t the sort of sniff she might have made because of a runny nose or anything like that, but it was the sort of sniff she made at an item in the Daily Mirror that she was thumbing through.

And that sniff was still hanging in the air like a cloud when her mother took her to school that day. She wasn’t quite sure, maybe it was her very first day at school or maybe it was soon after, one of the early ones, but the sniff came with them until her mother met Mrs What’s-her-name, she couldn’t cope with names at the best of time and names from almost a hundred years ago had mostly gone altogether. And Mrs What’s-her-name wasn’t sniffing. No, as she held the hand of her own little girl just like mother was holding hers there was a thrill of excitement that almost but not quite wiped out the sniff.

There had been something in the paper, and it had displeased Mother in a similar proportion to the way it had pleased Mrs What’s-her-name.

It’s like I was there again,” she thought, “though in my mind everything’s gone to black and white, like an old film or early television picture. Black and white, or more accurately different shades of grey! Mind you, I hadn’t seen a film back then, colour nor black and white, and there was no such thing as television! But I recall that day or one like it, and it was most assuredly black and white!”

She knew all these years later what the excitement and the disapproving sniffing was all about. There had been a royal wedding with pictures in the Daily Mirror. The Duke of York had married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and all it served to do was remind mother that she had a husband who had been killed so that families like the royals could live. That was how she saw it. They never got killed, did they? That Duke hadn’t ever dodged bullets in the trenches, had he? No, he’d been sailing the high seas as a naval officer and had emerged from the conflict unscathed.

Mother’s husband might have been just as unscathed, but instead he was dead. And he had been killed by a bullet made to be fired by a soldier of the late Queen Victoria’s grandson! She knew that now and mother had known it then. A squabbling family was how she’d seen it, a squabbling family causing so many vital young men to die.

She’d probably been taught it at school, but most of what she’d been taught was gone.

When I was at school back then my teacher can’t have been very memorable at all,” she thought as she sipped her second cup of tea. It was Earl Grey because it made her feel as though she was a step up on those who drank plain ordinary breakfast tea. Her mother would never have drunk Earl Grey, though, it reeked too much of the ruling classes for her! Then she whispered to herself, “You’d have thought that someone as important as a first teacher on such a traumatic day as a first day at school would be etched in my memory for ever, but I can’t remember one thing about her.”

She’d like to have remembered such important matters as first teachers. Instead, all she could do, being forced to stay in, was remember, or try to remember.

She sighed. Everything these days was such a chore and she couldn’t go out into her back garden so easily because she needed help getting her walker down the steps and in lock down there was nobody allowed to help her. Why did they have to put those steps, only two of them but with her problems there might have been two hundred, to get in her way? Hadn’t they known, when they’d built the house, that people sometimes grow to be actually old and then can’t cope so easily with steps? And the lad, what was his name, the blonde one with easy manners? Anyway, the lad who mowed her tiny patch of grass couldn’t come because of the lock down and it was beginning to grow long and unsightly and she did so like a neat lawn.

She looked up at the window and strained to see the small plot of garden behind it. She’d talk to that window, sometimes, in a whispery voice that nobody would hear, because if they heard they might think she was talking to herself and had gone gaga.

What was that woman’s blasted name?” she whispered. “Miss something or other. I seem to remember that teachers had to be single ladies back then. If you were a married woman, it was reckoned, you knew too much of the more sordid side of life to be a good Christian influence on tender young minds, as if there was something really evil about reproduction, about sex, and married women soon learn what they didn’t already know about sex, don’t they...”

And wasn’t that a cobweb up there near the ceiling? Just there, at the top of the window? She was sure that it was. She screwed her eyes up, her old eyes that still worked fine, and concentrated.

There it is: a long delicate thread more sheer than silk. That must mean there’s a spider about, and if there’s one thing I don’t like it’s spiders...”

Anyway,” she whispered to herself, “there was a deal of noise at school when we got there because of the royal wedding. It seems that not everyone was of the same opinion as my mother even though there were half a dozen kids whose fathers had been stolen from them by the war, I seem to remember. So I wasn’t alone in that! But I suppose mum was right. As far as I can recall not one of the royals got killed or wounded during the years of the first world war, the war, they said quite wrongly, to end all wars. And that was a joke that Hitler came to snigger at!”

She shuffled in her chair and stared at the window and the sun shining outside, making everything look clean and tidy when she knew that it wasn’t. The war to end all wars! If her Bert had known what she knew now he would never have volunteered.

Sam Pendy! That was the boy in the playground when I was a little tacker! Fancy me remembering his name after all these years, and I don’t think I’d ever spoken to a boy before in my entire life by then… No father, no brothers, no male cousins, no boys living next door or even two doors down… But he taught me a rather naughty lesson! One that I didn’t understand for years after that, though I made believe that I had.”

She sighed, and struggled to picture as much of that old playground as she could. It was small with the vague shapes of little bodies running here and there and playing tag, grey rushing faceless figures, and against the far wall, as far from the old Victorian school building as possible so that the smell didn’t get into everything, were the toilets, boys one end and girls the other. And Sam Pendy, she could picture him, cheeky face, tousled blondish hair, grinning at her.

I bet you girls don’t do what we do,” he said, impishly, “when we go for a wee and stand in front of the black tar wall we have a competition to see who can wee the highest! And sometimes I win. I get it to shoot so high it almost flies through the window! Now I bet you girls don’t do that!”

Why wouldn’t we, then?” she remembered asking. Clear as most memories weren’t. “Why wouldn’t we?”

And he just shrugged. “Cause you wouldn’t,” he said, “’cause girls are too gentle for that kind of game...”

And looking back at it almost a century later it tells me one thing. I knew nothing about the plumbing of boys and this particular boy knew nothing about the plumbing of girls!” she whispered to the window, though the window wasn’t listening.

And it was true. Those were innocent days even though they were in black and white. And a princess got married to a prince who would be king and her mother hated him because he hadn’t got killed like her father had.

It’s strange, this life I’ve lived,” she sighed, “and I didn’t understand Sam Pendy’s toilet games, and when I tried to picture it I couldn’t imagine how he never came out of the toilets without being soaking wet and smelling of wee!”

She smiled to herself, and for a few moments closed her eyes. The years of ignorance would fade only too soon.

© Peter Rogerson 02.05.20

© 2020 Peter Rogerson

Book Fairs | Submit Book
Fairs help get the word out faster about your books
It's anything you want it to be, and maybe everything you hate it for, but relatable none the less.

My Review

Would you like to review this Chapter?
Login | Register

Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Added on May 2, 2020
Last Updated on May 2, 2020
Tags: royal wedding, school, playground, toilets, ignorance


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 77 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..

3. Exodus 3. Exodus

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson