“Let me look at your dress. You haven’t spilt any lunch down it, have you?”
We both gave the front of her dress a close inspection and were pleased to see it was almost as pristine as when she had put it on that morning, as were her long white socks and black patent shoes. It was her best dress, navy blue with broderé anglais trimmings. Relieved, I took her hand and we headed off for the station.
“Where we going, mummy? Why’ve you fetched me from school early?”
“I told you this morning, we’re going to see your new school.” Her little, seven-year-old legs had to trot to keep up as we hurried to the station.
The sun shone, the train clattered through squashed, huddled South East London, then the suburbs and eventually open fields and the empty, green marshes with Higham on the horizon.
We stood on the platform. The train disappeared into the tunnel and we were left with the smell of fresh air and total silence.
“Why aren’t there any other people? Where is everyone?” Kim whispered.
How amazing, there were vegetable and flower beds along the side of the up platform. And then another shock to us used to taciturn, bad-tempered ticket collectors; this one smiled and spoke to us. The country was strange indeed.
We started to walk up a narrow lane with flower-filled hedgerows. I noticed a field full of runner beans almost ready to be picked. I pointed them out to Kim.
“They’re not beans, they’re plants,” herLondonknowledge asserted.
And then the small, Victorian Gothic school with tarmac surround.
Mr. Morgan, the Head was a soft-spoken middle-aged man wearing a tweed jacket. Kim remembers the office furniture being wood and having to read a passage to test her literacy. He asked her about her present school, what she liked, and who her friends were. Kim, never backward in coming forward, launched into a detailed description of her class room, teacher and school dinners. She told him her boyfriend was Tony Olarowley and her best friend was Selina and she was black and had really black curly hair. [Sydenham was already very multi-cultural] She told him she went to the Irish Dancing on Saturday mornings and liked feeding the squirrels in the trees by the house. She told him about her cat called Acker and ….
There was no stopping her until Mrs. Morgan came in and offered us tea. This was followed by a tour of the school. She remembers the hall but not being introduced to the class she would be joining in September, when they went up to the Juniors. They stared at her curiously.
We jostled our way back to Sydenham pushing against the rush-hour tide. How dirty and smelly London now seemed. Roll on August, the new house and moving to the country.