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.
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!
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,
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!!