“It’s my mum’s anniversary today,” Violet yells above the playground buzz.
“That’s lovely, Violet.”
“She’s been married eight years. I wasn’t even born then!” There’s a gasp of amazement from the giggle of girls around her, which swiftly moves into a conversation about frocks worn at various parents’ weddings.
Violet is nearly eight. She’s a delightful child, as are her two older brothers. They’re all happy, sociable and loved. And born out of – or only just in – wedlock.
One of the interesting things about working in the same school for a long time – twenty glorious years – is seeing how society changes, in miniature. My first class at Thrush Woods had, I seem to remember, just three children whose letters home were not addressed to ‘Mr and Mrs…’ Now all letters are ‘To the family of…’ because there are classes where children from unmarried or single parents are in the majority. I’m not saying that’s good or bad. It just is.
Hold that thought.
For Christmas, I bought ActorLaddie a book of diary entries all with a London theme. He’s into London, is ActorLaddie, and should you wish for someone to whisper sweet Livery Companies in your ear; then he’s your man.
Yesterday AL read me the diary entry from Elizabeth Bowen who, as part of the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, had been attending the trial of Donald Hume, accused of murdering Stan ‘the Spiv’ Setty. It left us wondering about the outcome, so we looked it up.
Biography.com tells us:
Hume was the illegitimate son of a school mistress, born in December 1919. He was shortly abandoned by his mother to the West Country orphanage, which he loathed, particularly the three old ladies who ran it.
The place was bleak and forbidding, but worse it was also lacking in any compassion for the children, who at that time were looked upon as the product of sin and treated accordingly. The proprietors even kept a parrot that shouted out the word “Bastard”, just to remind the young residents of their lowly position in life.
Life in the orphanage was tough and devoid of the usual comforts expected in a family home. Often eight children would sleep in an iron bed and food was sparse. Punishments included being locked in a filthy, dank cellar for hours on end, but more disturbing was the creation by the proprietors of an eerie character known as the old green gypsy.
A member of staff would dress up in green garb and appear as a visitation to scare the children. The ‘green gypsy’ also carried a green walking stick that rattled as the amateur actor in drag performed their macabre act to scare the wits out of the young residents.
One day, after been locked in the cellar with a young girl for a misdemeanour, the two youngsters became terrified when they believed they were about to be visited by the Green Gypsy. But Hume recognized the feet under the Green Gypsy’s dress as belonging to a member of staff, and in a fit of anger at being conned by a cruel myth, chased the member of staff with an axe.
He was then only seven years old.”
I guess not everyone in that orphanage became – as Hume did – a double murderer. But as formative experiences go, it does lack a certain something.
Which makes me grateful that, today, children can chat about their parents being married or otherwise, oblivious to the fact that this would once have been a blight on their own lives. This has to be a Very Good Thing. As I’ve no idea how to train a parrot.
Someone’s bought of a copy of The Jelly Chronicles 2012-13 ! And it’s not my mother! The first year of Chronicles, with a few added pics, is available as an e-book here. It’s £2.99 plus VAT and profits are going to The Cure Parkinson’s Trust. Seems to only work on i-Pads at the moment, alas, though if anyone can figure out how to read it on Android or PC, I’d love to know.
If you are not already signed up to GiveAsYouLive to help fund Parkinson’s research, please please do. It’s easy, it costs nothing and it will bring a cure nearer. The link is here.