Meeting up with old friends – especially old school friends – is always a good excuse to indulge in sentimental reminiscing and nostalgia. I had the pleasure yesterday of spending the afternoon and part of the evening with not just one but two former school pals. In the same class from the age of eleven and sweethearts from the age of 15, this couple will soon be celebrating their golden wedding anniversary and are still in love with each other. It’s a cliché, but spending time with them is uplifting and cheering, as theirs is the kind of love that spills out and warms anyone in their company. It’s a privilege to count them as my friends.
I have known D. (the husband) since our first year at Grammar School (High School) and P. (the wife) since we were five, when we started infants’ school, and it was fun to see some old photos of her with her flaxen plaits, just as I remembered her – and her hair is still the same colour, believe it or not.
We were invited for lunch, which was delicious, and our compliments to the cook, our hostess, were received rather diffidently. I have to say that in my experience, she is a good cook, but she is always putting herself down, and has no confidence in her ability in the kitchen. Like me, she was traumatised by our cookery teacher in our pre-teens. I wrote about this teacher in a previous post, and came away yesterday wondering how many other girls that woman affected in the same way?
Time to lay that ghost to rest, I think. I need to forgive and forget her! She was a Scottish woman, probably about 30, and a Miss. A neat trim figure and probably not unattractive when she smiled (which I never saw her do). Until I met her, I had never had a teacher who disliked me. That was a shock. There had been some who were indifferent to me, and others who clearly liked me, for on the whole I was a pleasant, cooperative pupil. I was bright, enjoyed school and wanted to succeed so I was surely not difficult to teach. My chief fault was that I was a chatterbox and felt compelled to comment on everything. Maybe that was what irked Miss W. Maybe I reminded her of someone unpleasant she had known before. Maybe I just rubbed her up the wrong way. Whatever it was, I was anathema to her and her dislike of me was felt by all my classmates, just as strongly as her favouritism towards another girl, Joy. Joy and I were at opposite ends of Miss W.’s spectrum of love-hate.
“What do you serve salad with?” she asked, on the day we were preparing to spend a double lesson making a simple mixed salad. “Salad servers,” I replied and promptly received a smack on my cheek for impertinence. I was bewildered. We had salad servers at home, and I knew how to use them. She repeated her question, and this time Joy gave the required answer: “Ham or cheese or a tin of salmon.” (This was the early 1950s and we came from unsophisticated homes.)
Miss W. moved to another school as we came to the end of our second year, and I was allowed to drop Home Economics as a subject. I have a school photo from that year, and there is a tiny hole in her head where I stuck a pin in her. She had virtually killed all interest I may have had in cooking, and even though my mother was a good cook and my assistance in the kitchen at home would probably have been appreciated, it was only when I got married that I discovered I needed to develop some culinary skills.
I have blamed Miss W. for my deficiencies for too long. Almost sixty years, to be precise! That’s a long time to carry the burden of unforgiveness, be it for so small a thing. I think she was probably not a happy woman, and very likely had no idea of the effect she was having on her hapless pupils. I am putting that grudge down, and letting go of it.
Dear Miss W., I am sorry for sticking a pin in you and I hope it didn’t cause you migraines. You surely didn’t know what you were doing, but even if you did, I forgive you! And whether you are alive or dead, I trust that you will henceforth go in peace. (And you should have asked, “What do you serve with salad?”)