I became 12 at the end of ’53.
That year we had bought our first TV
(with a 9 inch screen) to watch the Queen
being crowned. Just in time for the crowning
the British – with some help – had ‘conquered’
Everest. That September I had started
at the grammar school which had been founded
by Henry VIII after he had robbed
the local monastery. The masters
were begowned, the corridors stone-lined, dark.
Placing the sides of our blue and green striped caps
equidistant from our ears – as per
the British obsession with school uniform –
we would take the short walk through the city
to a Georgian building that had been
a charity school. There we had science
and ‘dinners’. Next door was a brewery.
As we lit the Bunsen burners, and ate
the grisly meat and semolina,
we could smell the pungent brewing of hops.
We were forbidden to eat in the street.
At some point I had lost my sense of humour,
had forsaken The Beano and The Dandy –
with their roll-calls of impromptu anarchists,
like Dennis the Menace and Korky the Cat –
for The Eagle, and its square-jawed, upper class,
Scottish space hero, Colonel Dan Dare,
and his fat batman, Digby, who came from Yorkshire.
That summer I had read Enid Blyton’s,
‘The Famous Five Have A Wonderful Time’,
knowing that it would probably be
the last time I read such a book, that
my childhood was ending, and being grown up
was approaching – sometimes like a huge iceberg,
sometimes like an imminent, hoped-for
landfall on a fragrant coast that was just
over the horizon.Dan DareDennis the MenaceEnid BlytonEverestJune coronationKorky the CatRigbythe Beanothe DandyThe Eaglethe Famous Five