Friday, 24 October 2008

Fifty things I remember about my time at Sissinghurst Primary School

This is part of my 50 things I remember project. Here is a list of all the 50 things posts.
  1. Mrs White the dinner lady saying: 'Eat your fritter'. A fritter was a diamond-shaped piece of battered fish.
  2. scratchy hemp skipping ropes
  3. peering through the silver grey fence panels at the flowers in the church yard
  4. staying in at break because a funeral was going past
  5. looking through the gate at the fourth year juniors sitting in the field with the goats
  6. Helen Pope's and Bronwyn Riley's heads touching as they shared an advanced spelling book. They would also play their recorders for hymns in assembly
  7. Using pooters to catch insects (beakers with two tubes, one you suck and the other to vacuum up the creatures. Mr Martin explained that the sucking tube had a valve to stop you getting a mouthful of ants.
  8. Mr Martin telling us to sing louder in order to drown out the new children who were crying in assembly.
  9. The clunk-clunk of the fire escape door. And being too scared to use it, until I learnt to read the 'push bar to open' sign.
  10. Leaning against the wall to get up on to stilts -- there were three sizes, bigs, mediums and small, all splintery and varnished in bright orange and yellow.
  11. Being told off for telling the girls who came to take us for games that our teacher always let us play with the stilts.
  12. Mr Martin's fierce orange eyebrows
  13. Mrs Covelli's fierce black eyebrows
  14. Being told in assembly that Mrs White was very ill, and then later that she had died. And then sitting on her memorial bench, and wondering if she was watching.
  15. I didn't like the name of one of the dinner ladies so I called her Mrs Jones. Her real name was Mrs Grabham (Mr Martin said that this was a very appropriate name, and we should do what she said or she'd grab us).
  16. On hot afternoons going out for a nature walk round Chad Lake.
  17. There was a wendy house behind the blackboard.
  18. Weaving on cardboard shapes with fat yarns.
  19. Ned Crowe coming in from boys electronics in the hall and picking up a thick piece of wool from the floor and saying 'Whatever is this'.
  20. Holding hands with Ben Bower and him saying I was just the sort of girl he would like to marry.
  21. Country dancing -- and crying because I couldn't do Lucky Sevens, and being surprised at how kind Mrs Covelli was.
  22. Mrs Covelli escorting Mairi Smith out of the classroom, holding her shirt sleeves up so her painty hands wouldn't get everywhere and calling her a messy little girl.
  23. Not being allowed to go home until all the scissors were accounted for.
  24. Mrs Covelli counting down from ten while we tidied up.
  25. Jonathan Martin getting under the mobile classroom
  26. Digging down in the gravel in the adventure playground and finding the gravel got wetter the further down we went.
  27. Digging a hole in the sandpit and being afraid we might get to magma.
  28. Priscilla Parish holding forth on the correct way of taking a crisp from someone else's packet.
  29. Buying packets of crisps from the school secretary Mrs Smith, who had wirey black hair and a beatific smile.
  30. Insisting that the nit nurse checked my doll's hair before she checked my own.
  31. Mrs Suthers making me stand up on my chair to sing a song about Jesus because she said I hadn't been listening.
  32. Mrs Hall explaining the correct way to carry chairs (which I can't remember) and the incorrect way to carry chairs (which I can remember): Don't carry it on your head. Don't support it on your hips with the legs sticking out to the side.
  33. The smell of scented rubbers, and scented felt tip pens.
  34. Calling felt tips 'felts'. 'Can I borrow your felts?'
  35. Queuing for the loo before going into the swimming pool and discussing whether it was all right or not to wee through your bathers before you swam.
  36. Walking back from the games field holding hands with Eleanor Milburn and doing 'All girls together, no boys.'
  37. Nearly up-chucking at the smell of Emma Bowyer's fishpaste sandwich.
  38. 'Georges win! Andrews in the bin.'
  39. Gordon Russell dropping a fat, snotty tear on my green reading card. He was standing behind me in the queue to have his reading heard, and had just been told off. I was cross, because it was a newish reading card and I would be stuck with the stain for a very long time.
  40. I had to do a maths exercise which involved colouring in a square to show how many boys there were in the class. They ran around so much that I couldn't count them, so I coloured in all the squares. Later, I was told off: 'Mrs Covelli doesn't have 30 boys in her class!'
  41. Being frightened of a dinner lady's twisted hands and shining knuckles -- Mrs Filmer must have had painful arthritis, which is probably why she always seemed so cross.
  42. Finding a cross carved into the trunk of the lime tree in the front playground.
  43. Horrid boys trying to push girls into the damp and smelly boys' loos in the back playground.
  44. In the summer, we were allowed to eat our lunch in the front playground. My form teacher Mrs Covelli came and kindly asked me what I was doing alone in the cool deserted dining hall. I explained that the sun was too bright and hot, and that I preferred being inside. She sat with me and ate her lunch, and complimented me on my pink Victoria Plum lunchbox.
  45. Singing lessons with Mrs Crowe, in which we sang 'We All Live in A Yellow Submarine' and 'John Brown's Baby's Got a Cold Upon its Chest'.
  46. One afternoon our teacher was late back from lunch. We lined up outside the locked classroom and sang 'We all Live in Tub of Margarine'. When she still didn't come, we sang 'We All Live in a Bubblegum Machine.'
  47. A rumour flew round reception that if we put two words too close together, the thing to do was to put a neat dot in the middle of the line.
  48. Getting changed after swimming under my blue towling poncho. The highlight of the swimming class was doing a whirlpool -- we would walk round the circular pool, pushing against the water, and then stop and let ourselves be washed backwards.
  49. A lesson where we had to read one of a set of non-fiction books -- they covered every topic you can imagine, and we could choose whatever we liked -- and answer some questions at the end.
  50. Simon Butler asking a girl who had come in to do work experience how to spell 'kerfuffle', and her looking really confused.


  1. I love this post! One reason I love it is because I'm American, and it's so exotic when you say "packets of crisps" or "queuing for the loo" or "maths exercise." But the main reason is that even though we were in different countries, it makes me remember things about my own elementary school. I will post a tenth of the number you did:

    1. Mrs. Partin saying "Who is that girl zig-zagging down the hall?" in a very mean voice when I was actually walking quite straight, just straddling the line in the middle of the linoleum. I wasn't allowed to watch the filmstrip on Friday with the other kids because of how I was walking.

    2. Mrs. Beard crying when Christa McAuliffe died in the Challenger explosion, and crying again when her (Mrs. Beard's) grandmother died. I had never seen a teacher cry before.

    3. Ms. Semple saying "Whoa, Nellie!" and "Keep it down to a dull roar!"

    4. David Castle, love of my young life, wearing his Space Camp uniform to school. I thought he looked so dashing. (He died in a car crash several years ago.)

    5. My little sister kicking Bobby Heller in the shins when we were walking home and he blocked the gate until we correctly spelled "Antarctica." Or kicked him in the shins.

  2. I think I may have been at Sissinghurst just after you. You have a much better memory than me. It looks like Mrs Leech and Mr Maylam had left by the time you were there. For me, they were my inspirational teachers and the school was poorer for not having them. I also reckon that although his teaching style wasn't up my street at the time, Mr Martin was possibly a very good Head.

    1. Reverand Butler took a van full of boys to Rochester during our Dickens project. We came back in disgrace because of a huge punch up with Rochester oiks who pushed Christopher Butler off a wall. Reverand Butler said we needed to turn the other cheek. Mr Martin said that if we needed to punch we should have our thumbs outside of the fist.

    2.Marmalade the kid goat eat my school tie.

    3. Stilt races were banned unless on the field because of several injuries.

    4. Mrs Clovelli's class room was always freezing.

    5. Mrs Leech was a very very kindly teacher who coached me to take a scholarship exam when I went off to baording school while everybody else went to Angley, then Cranbrook (or not). Mrs Leech left when I left, going to Loose Primary.

    6. Mr Martin was a rubbish French teacher and a sadistic maths teacher. He instilled a fear into me. Even now I think of him every time I do maths stuff. Long division filled me with fear, as I knew that board rubber was coming my way.

    7. Mr Martin made us perform his sons musical "Rats". I was the crippled boy with a big song at the end, left all alone on stage. I goofed and fluffed it- couldn't remember the words and there ended my acting/musical career. I did help write alot of the music for it so sorry to anybody who was in it.

    8. Mr Maylam used to arrive on his bicycle every morning with his son Scott on his bike. Scott looked like a clone of him. One time they got knocked off but injuries were minor. We loved Mr Maylam and he went on to be head of Benenden Primary. I just thought he was so cool, so unflappable and bloody nice.

    9. We got beaten 7-0 at football by Benenden Primary School. We were utterly rubbish.Mr Martin never took us to a competitive game again.He muttered all the way back to school.

    10. We had four very fast sprinters, and would have won the Wealden games but Matthew dropped the baton- or rather didn't let go of it. I was running the last leg, and wanted the ground to swallow me up.

    11. The boys toilets were a disgrace- leaky, smelly, icy in winter.

    12. Mr Martin took us on a trip to see Bran Den, the allegedly haunted house near Biddenden. I was bloody terrified but didn't say a word cos nobody else seemed to be.

    13. There were two identical twins- Jackie and erm...something else beginning with J.

    14. In the top class the two class swots had the two old fashioned flip top desks with storage under them.

    15. I seem to remember teams as being named after the saints. I was in St Andrews I think and we wore a blue sash.

    16. Steven King was always getting into trouble for half drowning people in the pool, usually prizing non swimmers from the side of the pool during the whirlpool moment.

    17. The mother of somebody took us for science- doing experiments etc- setting fire to stuff. Can't remember who it was.

    18. At the time I went to the school everybody was trying to get their kids in there because of the reputation the school had. Several children, including myself came from outside the catchment. I was living at Benenden girls school up the road. Others were from Cranbrook, Biddenden, High Halden, Frittenden and Staplehurst.

    19. In the nativity all of the shepherds got stage fright and had to be threatened by Mr Martin to make them go on stage. I was supposed to be singing a duet with somebody but they cried all the way through their part.

    20. During the slowest bicycle competition a collie came out from the crowd to take out each bicycle and child, methodically one by one, without malice- it just didn't like bicycles. That collie...was mine and I was in so much trouble. Not sure Mr Martin forgave me.

  3. Hi David

    Wow -- those are great memories.

    You must have been there before me. I couldn't think who Mrs Leech was; but then it came flooding back. she had short hair, and she was quite short herself, wasn't she? She left soon after I started and was replaced by Mrs Archer (who was tall and frightening).

    Also, I was in the same class as Simon Butler, who was Christopher Butler's younger brother. And those twins would have been Sarah and Jackie Hammond. They looked like giants to me when I was in reception!

    It's a funny thing about Mr Martin -- he could be terrifying, but we seemed to love him, too -- I remember him walking through the playground followed by a stream of children all wanting to tell him things (or give him a banana). I don't know if it was a survival instinct -- please the leader to avoid being beaten; or if it was just that he had two sides. I do remember being enthralled and delighted by some of his classes and made utterly miserable by others. I loved the fact that there was one school rule: 'Use your common sense'. There are some other things that I remember clearly that aren't on the list because I didn't want to write them down as the truth (I'd use them in a story, though!). I guess it was an important lesson in greyness -- people are hardly ever all good or all evil.

    I was in Rats, too! I was a townsfolk protester. Something happened that made me cry, but I can't remember what.

    The other team was St George -- they had red sashes.

    I was another outside the catchment child -- we lived in Staplehurst, but my mother didn't want to send us to the village primary school. She denies this, but I distinctly remember her saying she thought the headmaster was strange because he made the boys wear shorts in winter.