Miss Lax and Mr Booth

Elizabeth Lax (now Woodward) was my junior teacher at Mile Oak County Primary School, Portslade, East Sussex, from 1969-1970. John Booth was the headmaster.


Dear Miss Lax and Mr Booth

You both got me off to a great educational start. Miss Lax, I remember you for your enthusiasm and passion for reading and writing, your wooden Scholl sandals and short dresses – and not necessarily in that order! In fact, I think that’s where my love of words first started to show itself. I recall being fascinated by your handwriting and I even began to copy your style of writing the letter d with a curved tail.

We completed many class ‘projects’ as we called them. I remember one which captured the excitement we all felt about the moon landing in 1969 and a second focusing on Red Indians. On the musical side, we ran projects on Beethoven and Grieg and we even composed a school hymn. Then you began to teach us to play the dreaded recorder (what a racket) and, later, the occasionally more tuneful violin.

The violins!

But what I really remember is that, inside my own little boyhood mind, I was madly in love with you and hoped that I could grow up faster and faster each day so that I could marry you. Imagine then my heartbreak when the announcement was made that you were about to marry someone else. On the walk home that afternoon, I remember telling mum the news and actually crying. On your wedding day, mum took me to see you emerge from St Peter’s Church, West Blatchington. Clutching a little silver horseshoe festooned with ribbons, I ran up to you and thrust it in to your hand, spinning away almost immediately – so that you wouldn’t see my eyes reflecting my broken heart!

Miss Lax's class v2

Miss Lax’s class photograph, 1970:

Back: Neil Bennison, Christopher Hayward, Carol Bridge,
Lynn Playford, Bridget Davies, Jane Brierton, Debbie Smith, Helen Scrivener,
Nicola Richardson, Bobby Rigg, Leon Berry, Miss Lax

Middle: Rene Deru, Gary Symes, Phil Sayer, Simon Murphy,
Simon Bailey, Ronnie Kelly, Ian Guppy, Steven Dennis, Peter Smith,
Trevor Robinson

Front: Nicola Timpson, Michelle Rigg, Lorraine Darby, Carol Cresswell,
Tania Graves, Carole Cooper, Tina Lockwood, Karen Stannard, Sally Chivers

Mr Booth, I remember you as a disciplinarian. I must be one of the few children to ‘get the slipper’ on their first ever day at school, but that’s just what I got from you in September, 1966 – for punching Marc Edwards in the stomach (I can’t remember why I did it, not that any ‘reason’ would excuse such behaviour). I had several altercations with that dreaded item of footwear over the years, once for straying into the girls’ area of the playground. At the time it seemed harsh, but I did knowingly break the rules and rightly got punished for it. To this day, I retain a slight fear of authority which I think began with you. But I see it as a positive – I’ve never been in trouble with the police in my life.

The only time I recall a slight miscarriage of justice was on the day of a school party. We had a break ahead of the celebrations beginning and a bunch of us were playing racing cars in the playground. I’d orchestrated the event and, accordingly, adopted a role more of pit-lane manager than driver. As such, I based myself beside a raised drain cover where ‘the cars’ would come in for refuelling every two minutes. As each one arrived, I would fill them with fuel using an imaginary pipe connecting to a nozzle in their backs. Just as one arrived to complete the said refuelling process, you strode round the corner. You observed what you thought to be Master Simon Bailey delivering a punch in the back to a fellow pupil. You stopped in your tracks and pointed directly at me. “My office!” you bellowed. I protested my innocence, but got the slipper nonetheless. And I was forbidden to attend the party. A few years back, I visited the school again. The raised drain cover was still there.

So, thank you both for such a great start all those years ago. Although I still haven’t quite forgiven Miss Lax for jilting me, or Mr Booth for the ‘refuelling’ incident!!

Simon Bailey

Miss Lax and Mr Booth school report 001

My school report from 1969.
Mr Booth’s comments are in red

Miss Lax 2015

And Miss Lax (she will always be Miss Lax to me) as she is today.
Happily married. Although not to me!

3 thoughts on “Miss Lax and Mr Booth

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Simon, this is great. A lovely blast from the past,. You write so well it all bounces into life. Do you know, I think somewhere in one of my boxes of memorabilia I still have that horseshoe !
    In these days when folk are all too quick to apportion blame and see negativity in everything it is so very refreshing when someone takes the time to say Thank You. It means such a lot.Thank you Simon xx

  2. shauna says:

    This is so cute! Good memory Simon!

  3. Debbie Howard says:

    Ha ha this is great – I find it hard to believe you and John feared ‘breaking any rules’ I expect the two of you really pushed the boundaries on occasions and the reason you’ve not been in trouble with the police is probably because you were never caught – if you ever came close to getting into trouble, you both probably came up with an amazing story that made you two out to be victims not culprits!!

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