TUESDAY: Still Climbing

BY RICHARD WEST

Copyright is held by the author.

WE WERE having a great time. Our class had been moved to one of the huts outside the main building. Dalmain Road School had opened back in the 1890’s in Forest Hill, London. Its austere construction had stood it well. Even in the late 1950’s it served its purpose well. Increased numbers had meant that overflow classrooms had been needed. Hence our latest classroom assignment in a wooden prefabricated building.

Seven-year-olds tend to let off steam whenever given half a chance. Being directed into a new classroom without a teacher was just such an occasion. We explored and found all sorts of things to amuse ourselves with.

Dougie Shand pulled my woollen sweater and pointed up. “Bet you can’t climb up into the rafters!”

When I was seven I never could flinch from a dare. So, I clambered onto a desk and studied the tantalizing rafters. They were too far up for me to reach. Undeterred, I jumped from the desk over to a bookcase which stood against the wall. From the top of the bookcase I could reach a rafter and so I shinnied along it until I was directly above Dougie. Dougie’s grimy face gaped at me and I beamed at him.

The door opened and a lady came in. She spoke in a soft but clear voice. “I’m Miss Nomico and I shall be your teacher until your usual teacher returns. Please sit and we shall begin this lesson.”

Everyone sat down and Miss Nomico proceeded to read a piece from a story.

“Now, who can tell me who the main character is in the story?”

Hands shot up and the question was answered by one of the girls. This went on for a few more questions, until Linda answered the question by saying, “Miss, I think Richard knows this answer.”

“Who’s Richard?”   

Linda pointed up into the rafters where I had been trying to look invisible ever since Miss Nomico had come in.

“Ah. So, you’re Richard and not a stray monkey who has taken up residence in the roof. Can you please answer the question?”

I duly answered the question and waited for her to tell me to come down or go see the Headmaster.

She went on with the lesson until the class had to write things in their exercise books. Then she added, “Richard you can get down or do we have to send a pencil and a book up you?”

I climbed down.

That night I told my Mum about our new teacher. Mum beamed like she had found a little kitten. “You sure she is called Miss Nomico?”

“Yes Mum.”

“How old is she?”

“Sort of old.”

“Oh. She taught me. I loved her.”

My first thought was. “Heck. Mum’s going to find out about me in the rafters.”

Miss Nomico taught us for a month until Mr. Banks came back. I missed her. She was a great teacher.

Eventually I went to University. One week I came home early on a Friday to see my family for the weekend. Mum called to me as soon as I came in through the front door. “Richard. Glad you’re home early. Can you go around to the school and meet your little sister.”

So, I went to Dalmain Road School and waited for Katherine to come out. My nine-year-old sister finally crossed the yard to the gate. I was surprised she wanted me to wait before going home. After a few minutes a little lady crossed to the gate. My sister beamed at me and Miss Nomico said, “Well Richard. Still climbing?”

I laughed and we enjoyed a brief reunion.

3 comments
  1. Tearing up here. I could visualize the child in the rafters and the Exciting moments before the teacher addressed the student in the rafters even offering to send the notebook up. The reunion was lovely. Thank you.

  2. Nicely done, Richard. Crisp and clear, without a wasted word.

  3. The best way for me to describe the piece is a very human presentation without pretentions.

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