Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

When BB was an unlikeable bb

Recently The Crow posted about calligraphy. I mentioned my interest but said it had always been beyond my uncertain hand and that I was flogged repeatedly at school for bad penmanship. This horrified her and she asked what sort of school I had attended. Well, it was fee-paying and, despite my cowardice, I could see some link between the crime and the punishment. What was less easy to accept was when I was flogged for having feet that were bigger than those of the geography master. Lucy admitted herself guiltily amused by this.

The Crow has reason to attach emotional content to handwritten letters and urged me to consider leaving mementos more permanent than a million forgotten emails to my daughters and grandchildren. I may well do this, always assuming I believe they can read what I’ve written. But my memory was sprung. Upstairs in the loft is a box the size of two house-bricks, packed with the letters I sent my mother during my two years’ national service.

While I was training in Wiltshire I had my portable and typed everything. In Singapore I was reduced, like everyone else, to airmail sheets. These consist of very thin paper and I suspect the ballpoint ink has migrated. The letters are over fifty years old and I have never read them since I slipped them into the postbox at RAF Seletar. I was a callow, cynical, self-regarding airman (qualities which have not entirely disappeared) and I am pretty sure I do not want to re-visit that version of myself. However, perhaps my descendants may enjoy examining the feet of clay belonging to the authoritarian figure who impinged irregularly on their lives.

I get the feeling this wasn’t what The Crow had in mind.


The Crow said...

Friend BB:

Did thee sign them in thy hand? I bet thee did, and that is almost as good as a whole letter in thy hand. It is probably the content of my mother's letters that I treasure, for the words echo her cadence and reflect her thoughtful responses to questions, her wicked sense of humor. The soft drawl of her Southern upbring I have to supply for myself.

Do share that box of treasures with thy daughters. They will thank thee for this glimpse into their father's life that they might otherwise never have. Would that I had something from my father to touch and hold close.


The Crow said...

(sorry for the Friends' familiar address...I forgot myself.)

Julia said...

How did I miss the shoe story? Did the master notice this and suddenly demand revenge or how did it come about?

I once nearly got in terrible trouble for drawing caricatures in class, but was saved at the last moment by a swift (kind) sketch of the teacher substituted for the um...less kind version. As I recall, he had small feet too.

Julia said...

And just think - your descendants CAN read your blog. No problems with handwriting there. It's even printable in book form!

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: I'm comfortable with the second person singular familiar, though I doubt I could carry it off as well as you do.

Julia: The shoe story saw blogosphere light of day in a comment on one of Lucy's posts six months ago; it had to do with the fact that Lucy and I grew up on opposite sides of the education system - she in a position of learned authority, me as a whingeing no-hoper keen to leave that environment (which I did, at age 15).

In fact, had the geography master been a Catholic he'd now be doing time for recurrent abuse, or, more happily, would have died in jail. I was hauled out in front of the class for getting something wrong and, as we stood together, he noticed my feet, forced me to align my foot with his, pointed out the difference in size to the rest of the class (who laughed obsequiously) and then beat me - possibly for what he imagined to be a form of hubris. But I wasn't his most regular victim. Two other boys were both overweight and he beat them repeatedly for fatness. They didn't seem to mind. I did. For the record I take a 10½.

Occasional Speeder said...

Difficult here to avoid sentimentality and I'm sure the letters will be something I will read as and when. However, language isn't only in the written word. And everytime I decide that something is "greasy", a company goes "belly up", I can here "scritching" or, of course, a melon happens "to taste like fish", you'll be the first thing that springs to mind. Those things will be permanant until my mind no longer works.

occasional speeder said...

Here - hear. I work in a State Owned bank - they beat us for breathing but care not about our grammar.

Avus said...

When I was doing my national service basic training, down the road from you in Wiltshire, my future (and present) wife and I wrote to each other every day.

About 15 years after we were married we got the bundles out - having read two of them we chucked them in the bin! Different time and different people.

Lucy said...

'she in a position of learned authority,'

Eh????????????? First I'd heard of it.

It isn't really funny, the shoe story. What is it with geography teachers? Tom's had a whippy cane with a knob on the end which he administered to the base of the spine. Nice. Where are they now these officially sanctioned sadists?

Barrett Bonden said...

OS: It'll be like dipping into the Dark Ages - a world too wide for his shrunk shank. It was a mango that tasted like fish. I had to look for help re. the reference to "greasy" and this caused an angry outbreak between our guests: since the noun has an s sound, this should be sustained for the adjective.

Avus: That's a hard-nosed anecdote. The conclusion, I suppose, is that you are both now better literary critics than you were.

Lucy: Weren't you once something elevated in the education world? OK - how about "wise beyond her years"?