Thursday, October 27, 2005

Turning Antique!

Indulge me today. I'm getting nostalgic. When I did that meme thing a few weeks ago, I just had too many bits of life left over. Thought I'd use up these bits today.

Thirty years ago:

I was twenty years old and in my first year at a teacher training college in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. I lodged in nearby Droitwich Spa with another student, a sweet, ditsy girl called Valerie, who drove us to college every morning in her beat up car which we had to push down the hill to get started. Val and I soon asked to be moved to new accomodation when we found ourselves roped in as unpaid babysitters, and the hot water rationed.

Halfway through our first term moved to stay with the Pages, who lived just walking distance from the college in a beautiful big house full of books and were extremely kind to us.

It was a year of discovery for me. The formidable Dr. McGowan was as kindly as she was gruff, but how we quaked in her classes! She introduced us to Eliot, and Conrad, and Patrick White and Browning and William Golding. A buffet of literary excellence to whet our appetites for what we'd be studying later on.


And this was the year I discovered opera. My landlord, Jim Page was the music critic for the Bromsgrove Messenger and got free tickets to all the major performances in Birmingham. In swift succession I got whisked off to The English National Opera's productions of The Ring cycle, Il Travatore, Tosca and was hooked for life.

At weekends I'd hitchhike, not home to see my parents in Meriden, but to The Boyfriend's squalid bedsit in Coventry. He was studying at the School of Music and trying to decide whether to study formal composition or just join a rock band and move to London. My musical education (everything from Joni Mitchell, through Frank Zappa, Soft Machine, and weird experimental jazz to Mozart, Schoenburg and Peter Maxwell Davies) was safe in his hands ... though my heart wasn't. Weekends we'd go to see plays at the Belgrade Theatre or I'd accompany him to concerts where he played clarinet solos with amateur orchestras and wind groups for a little extra cash.

Forty years ago
Ten years old and in Mrs. Marsden's class at St. Edward's Catholic School, Coleshill. Mrs. Marsden believed in strict segregation. Her 44 students were arranged in three islands: Top group, Middle Group and Bottom Group. The boys were seated at her end of the room: the easier to whack them with the ruler if they misbehaved. I was in Top Group, though I feared relegation at any moment - my friends has threatened to rat on me about the ink blots in my science book.

I sat between Linda McCrilley (who always had this stale smell about her because her dad owned a pig farm and she helped with the swill before coming to school), and my best friend Deirdre who was my mentor in shop-lifting.

We started the day with Hail Mary and Our Father, catechism class ("Who made you?" "God made me"), recitation of times tables, and a fifteen minute burst of mental arithmatic. We listened to schools' programmes broadcast on the BBC during the music and science periods, and heard Homer's wonderful Odyssey in episodes. Mrs. Marsden taught everything apart from music when we were dragged over to the hall by Mrs. Pendlebury to sing "The sun is a-coming to welcome the day, Hey ho come to the fair” while she bashed at the piano.

On Friday afternoons were my favourites We had painting and we were all jealous of the mournful Margaret Downs when Mrs. Marsden praised the maturity of her work. She painted all her pictures (whether of the Annunciation or Cyclops' cave) solely in moody red and black.

Play times were always spent with gap-toothed Laureen Howard, saving the treasures of Atlantis from the bottom of a tropical ocean, or piloting Thunderbirds 8 for International Rescue, or swapping the Man from Uncle cards which came free with squares of pink bubblegum.

I dawdled home as slowly as possible with Deidre, each of us daring the other into new dangers after school. I stopped the dare business after a particularly hairy escapade left me hanging for dear life by my fingertips on the outside struts of a bridge with a twenty-foot drop and a rushing river beneath me. Good job my over-protective mum never knew.

My family was living temporarily in a postwar prefabricated house (the malaysian equivalent would surely be 'low cost') at the bottom of the hill, while our new house (designed by my dad) was being built.

It was a year of Enid Blyton. I devoured the Malory Towers series in preparation, I thought, for how things would be at my secondary school.



50 years ago (today)

Sharon Joyce Young born at St Francis Private Hospital to Leonard James Young (Road Engineer) and Kitty Ella Young (formerly Turner) of 21 Abbey Drive, Leicester. With a whole lot of memories in my head that couldn't possibly be mine.

Today I have become an antique!

28 comments:

=] said...

It's your birthday? Many happy returns! Thoroughly enjoyed Malory Towers at that age too. I'd always wished that I could go to a school like that and ride horses and swim in the sea and have midnight feasts and..oh the list goes on..

XMOCHA! said...

HAPPY HAPPY BDAY SHARON!!
Stay Wonderful!

Sim & SM

dz said...

happy birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu
happy birthday to youuuuuuu
happy birthday to sharooonnnnn
happy birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuu

may your birthday be filled with books, books, love and happiness!

simon said...

wow, sharon, i have to say, its an exquisite posting... but nothing of the recent past?

makes my life drab in comparison... I'm a 'provincial non-entity' in contrast, as townsend says...

q said...

wonderful! happy birthday, sharon!

boo_licious said...

Happy Birthday Sharon! Lovely post and don't worry, wben we all age, we grow better like wine.

Nizam Zakaria said...

Salamat Hari Jadi, Sharon :)

Spot said...

wow, that was like uncorking a fine wine and toasting the day.

happy birthday sharon!

Leon Wing said...

Happy Happy Birthday, Sharon. And Many many many Happy Returns!!

The Visitor said...

happy birthday, Sharon Joyce Bakar.

starlight said...

happy birthday sharon!
what a beautiful posting. agree with spot - that was some mighty fine wine you uncorked!

Kak Teh said...

sharon, happy, happy, happy birthday!! and what a beautiful way to do it! Since that meme thing I too feel that for people er..around er...our age, there are lots of left overs that we need to tell. Have a Good Day!!! and many , many more.

Kak Teh said...

oooh sharon, I forgot to add. ...Sharon, you will forever be Young!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Sharon. :)

What a blessing you - and your blog - has been.

Karcy@Livejournal.

snowdrop said...

what a lovely and heartwarming post. there's a good reason why many people appreciate antiques :)

happy birthday, Sharon, and may your future years be as memorable as the past!

Caving Liz said...

Very Happy Birthday Sharon.

I haven't looked at your blog for a while, so am glad that I visited today in time to wish you some birthday greetings. Have a great day!!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Mz Bakar, your creative writing class was the best thing that happened to me in quite a while. Now roses sing for me once again, chocolate grows on trees, and chocolate roses bloom in my bedroom! By the way, my favourite Enid Blyton of all time was the Magic Faraway Tree.
Best wishes,
Karina

Lydia Teh said...

Selamat hari jadi! You should celebrate with a big bang. Turning half a century is a momentous occasion.

Sharanya said...

Happy Birthday Sharon! :)

Really enjoyed today's post!

Anonymous said...

"Today I have become an antique!"

Nah, you're the only one to whom I can say with all honesty that you'll always be Young :)

"ride horses and swim in the sea and have midnight feasts.."

Yes, Mallory Towers and all that stuff.. well they didn't say anything about hypothermia or the fact that if you left food out in the open it'd be gone when you woke up (and no one would admit to eating it.) Horses stink, and if you're not careful you might not survive riding it. I wonder if you're legally responsible if your horse tramples or kicks anyone.

bibliobibuli said...

Aiyoh! So many of you and such kind words. Very many thanks friends - you made my day.

The "you'll-always-be-Young" jokes followed me for years .... *sigh*

Trust "anonymous" a.k.a Mr. Porty to be the fly in the egg sandwich ... horses don't sink in Blyton and no-one gets hit by hypothermia ...

Anonymous said...

Sharon, Happy Birthday to you, even though I've only recently made your acquaintance. Enjoyed reading your mini memoirs there. I was hooked on Enid Blyton's St Clare's series myself. -- Lydia

amir said...

I'm late, but well wishes anyway.

I thought Enid Blyton was a brit living in Malaysia cause I read her SERI MELUR series (translated from Mallory Towers) first.

marisa said...

i'm even later. many belated happy returns.

hey, but an antique's priceless, you know...;)

Anisah said...

Happy belated birthday, Sharon.
Antiques are pricelsss, 'for anything else there's Mastercard'. I wonder if this advert line is aired in Malaysia for that credit card company?

I lodge with a landlady who's just starting her PhD, she's past 70. 50? No problem! Everyone with determination is capable of doing a PhD, well perhaps not for a 5 year old. But 50, you're 10 times that!

Malory Towers... yes I remember reading that and the whole Enid Blyton series, the fairy tales, the children adventure stories, in bed, when it was supposed to have been past light out. I remember the Chalet School series too, but they were not by Enid Blyton. When mom popped in to check on me, I would shove it inside my blanket, and pretend I was already fast asleep. All that time, I was trying not to giggle. If mom ever knew that I wasn't sleeping, but reading, she never told me off. Bless her.

It's a pity, Enid Blyton books are no longer seen in most schools, even bookshops in Britain, because some of her writings were deemed not P.C. I was so glad when the book club I belong to started offering reprints of her books in series. I could buy them for you if you want to order through me. I shall be in Malaysia early next year.

bibliobibuli said...

amir - thanks! i like the idea of enid blyton living in malaysia - she's so popular she might as well have been!

marisa - thanks too! priceless? always thought of myself left over after a carboot sale ...

anisah - yes why not do a PhD at 70 - keep the brain sharp - all you really need as you grow older is sufficient attitude! i think an addicition to enid blyston is very healthy - provided that you migrate onto other stuff later ...

Anonymous said...

I just remembered that the students played lacrosse in MT. They never said much about that, but it's one of the most violent sports anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Okay! just mind what u say about my auntie lin McCrilley!! you'll be happy to know she is very successful, perhaps 1 of the most successful ive ever known!!