‘You are as old as you feel’ they say. Well I am seventy three and by God I feel it.
Being old has crept up on me. One day I am 60 and then in a whirlwind moment I am 70 plus. I can’t quite believe it, here I am with a daughter of nearly 53, grandchildren and two husbands behind me. All in the blink of an eye.
Childhood, school, and teenage years filled with confusion, spots and greasy hair. Falling om Love with all its intensity for 20 plus years, then children, career and work in that order. Each section a rollar coaster of up’s, downs and turmoil. Separate chapters with different paragraphs.
My title for today is about education and whether or not having one makes us who we are. I used to believe as a young mother that education of the young was more important than anything else ‘ one hoped to give children a good start in life’,
Offering them opportunities one hadn’t had oneself.
Nowadays I think not having a decent education is as important as having one. Either way we are influenced by the having and the not having. Going to a poor school as I did was a driving force behind most of my choices in life. What direction would I have taken if I had been to a good school instead of some back street catholic dump run by the church.
A typical start to each day began with some form of religious study from the catechism.
A chain smoking headmaster presiding over us, a scruffy bunch in 1950 plus, starting each day to the chorus of
‘Who made you?’
‘God made me’
‘Why did God make you?’
‘He made me to love him and serve him in this world and the next’.
Very educational to us kids from the back street terraced houses of the north of england where parents slogged for a few bob in factories and cotton mills. My mother was a factory cook and we waited on the street corner for her coming home from work with something to eat in her bag. She would sneak out an extra pie or steak puddings and then add a bubbling chip pan of chips along side. Corn flakes for breakfast if lucky and luckier still if we had school dinner but invariably dinner money was not forthcoming. Learning came secondary to a rumbling tummy by 4pm.
I had an education of sorts but it wasn’t about geography or history, maths or english no, it was more about survival through each day without getting heads banged together by some angry teacher or wearing wet knickers cos you daren’t ask to be excused. Teachers came and went from this brick box of a building towered over by the catholic church cutting out daylight to the school windows. In the main these were student teachers who didn’t stay long because they moved up. Those who were permanent fixtures were there because they couldn’t get jobs in decent schools.
I did take my 11+ but no one enlightened me as to what it meant and nothing came of it, no happy day onto grammar schools or secondary. We were the forgotten few who stayed on and left for factory fodder at fifteen. I suspect my mother would have been relieved because she would not have been able to afford the uniform.
Can I say that my education or the lack of it was important? I slowly realised as those early years past that without it I was stuck in the mud of factory work and self-consciousness around those who seemed better than me. Watching from afar those who went on to office work, secretarial and comptometer operating. Those who went higher but not knowing what higher meant I couldn’t aspire to it. instead I went to the bottle washing factory at Whitbread beer. My education was life experience and slow and steady building bricks to climb out of the mire of Catholicism with its ten commandments. To find work in hospital, eventually qualifying as a staff nurse which became my stepping stone to a better life. Most of my post war generation hoped for a better life for our children and that included having a good education. Thus each generation does better than the last.