September 1959 to July 1960
1. When I was in Class 2 — this was between September 1959 and July 1960 — there was a girl called Alison King, who was a year older than I, in Class 1. She was a slim, pretty girl with long, dark hair, and she typically wore a blue check dress.
“Is your name Alison?”
2. Sometimes our classes, normally separate, except for morning assembly and special events such as prize-givings and Christmas parties, would join together for shared activities. My brother Steve recalls that when he was in Class 3, Mrs. Hodgkinson’s class, they used to merge with Class 4 for Religious Instruction, taken by Mrs. Jackson. And he remembers Classes 2 and 1 merging for Craft. I don’t remember this when I was in Class 2, but I do remember that we came together for Music, taught by Pop Kay.
Apart from such instances of planned joining together, I also remember a time when I was in the older school building, not the Class 2 schoolroom; and the group was being addressed by Mr. Bastide, Class 1’s teacher, not Mr. Robinson; and I didn’t have that feeling of comfortable familiarity which I would normally have in Mr. Robinson’s class. Perhaps Pop Robinson was off sick, or away for some other reason.
I have the impression that we were all seated in a semicircle, not at desks. And my mind was wandering, I was daydreaming. Suddenly, though, I came back to reality with a start. Everything had gone quiet. Mr. Bastide had stopped speaking. He was waiting for something. It became evident that he had asked a question and was expecting a reply. And — oh, no! — he appeared to be looking in my direction.
Fear! Anxiety! What had he asked? I had no idea. And still he was looking towards me. He must have asked me; it must have been me he asked.
“I– er— I– I—” I started to stutter, unable to withstand the tension any more.
Now he was looking at me. “IS YOUR NAME ALISON?” he demanded.
And there she was, in line of sight from me, looking rather cowed and almost tearful.
Music lessons with Pop Kay
3. I mentioned music lessons with Pop Kay. These also were in the older school building. Again, being seated in a semicircle comes to mind, only in this second situation we were at the end of the building nearer Church Road, actually facing towards Church Road. The door to Pop Kay’s room was therefore to our left, but I think the reason for our being just there was that the piano was along that wall. (A more central location comes to mind for the first situation with Pop Bastide, perhaps on the other side of the partition (if one was used, or if it was being used), and facing away from Church Road.)
4. In these music lessons, I can remember singing:
Come, see where golden-hearted spring…— which I think is a song from Handel’s opera Berenice; and I seem to remember that, out of the whole class, it was just about only my boy-soprano voice that could soar to reach the high note near the end:
Come, see where golden-hearted spring, once aaa-gain…(I wonder where Trevor is, in this context. My new-found friend, — or perhaps I should say, for it was he who found me, “my new-finding friend” — Trevor Davies, was in Class 1 when I was in Class 2, and he too had a clear boy-soprano voice.)
There was another song, which expressed the anxieties of fishing communities when their men-folk put out to sea—
We little chi–ildren go to bed;—and, notwithstanding that neighbouring Fleetwood was a fishing-port, and that some of my classmates may have had fishermen-fathers, I secretly wished that God would bless the “fi–i–i–ishes” not the “fi–i–ishermen”!
5. For a number of weeks we learned sea-shanties; and that is the context in which I remember Alison being there, smiling and moving her head in time to the jaunty rhythm as we all sang:
Boney was a warrior—Pop Kay’s septum and my obsession about symmetry
6. As I recorded in the story of bike rides and the boy at Burn Naze, I experienced consternation when I noticed irregularities about people’s eyes — cross-eyes, glaucous eyes, glass eyes — but I was in danger of becoming obsessed even with other facial asymmetries. I remember feeling disturbed on noticing Pop Kay’s nostrils, for the flesh between them — I didn’t know the word “septum” at this time — didn’t divide them evenly, and there was one narrow nostril and one wide, triangular one. It made me a bit nervous about trooping from the Class 2 classroom to the other building for Music.
Alison King: some final words
7. I sometimes wonder which Alison, whether the Alison from Switzerland who had been with us in Class 4, or Alison King from Class 1, was the inspiration for the place name Alison on my fantasy-map of Fairymoon. I tentatively conclude that it was the former, and that my infatuation with the earlier one made me susceptible ever afterwards to the name “Alison” — as when Pop Bastide brought the later one to my attention with his words: “IS YOUR NAME ALISON?”
8. I can’t picture Alison King properly in my mind’s eye any more, because other, later images have overwritten hers. I thought that perhaps I had seen Alison at some time with wet hair; but I could be confusing this image with that of Liesl, played by Charmian Carr in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music. There is a scene in this, where Liesl’s assignation with secret lover Rolf is cut short by a thunderstorm, and she climbs into the new governess Maria’s bedroom, soaked through. (So she sings along to My Favourite Things, not Boney was a warrior.)
Or I could be mixing up the image of Alison with one of that other slim, dark- and long-haired lovely, Sandra Gorst, who would have appeared thus on a number of occasions following swimming sessions at Beechwood Baths.
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