Pictorial blethers

By blethers


One of the refrains of our life since we both retired from teaching 15 or so years ago has been "We must do something about the loft". The chorus intensified with the onset of lockdown, not to mention the creeping thought that there would come a day when the ladder (strong, but nevertheless the kind that pushes up into the loft when not required, and the best part of 40 years old) might prove too hazardous for a couple of ancients. (We're not there yet, by the way.) Life, however, has proved too interesting, which means that other things claimed our attention.

A chance comment on Facebook today sent me up the ladder and burrowing through the assorted hazards to reach the bookcase in the slightly damp recess under the Velux-window-that-needs-replaced and the shelves which held a promising-looking file box to look for copies of the school magazine which I had charge of for some eighteen years before I retired and which has become interesting again because its first editor when it became self-supporting is now the editor of The Scotsman. The file box turned out to hold a good number of issues, so was put into a shopping bag (used to carry heavier objects back down the ladder with one hand) along with some books which had been in a plastic bag which had disintegrated. (My loft is proof that plastic will eventually disintegrate if left long enough.)

Such joy! That plastic bag had clearly been one of the little offerings my mother used to leave in her hall for me to remove if I was visiting. The treasures therein included the red copy of John Masefield's Jim Davis which I devoured some time before I was ten (a watershed year in which we moved house, so memories come with rough dates) and a battered Worralls book that I don't remember owning but knew the moment I opened it. Two little blue books, one very much the worse for wear, were Horace's Odes, Book 1 and Virgil's Aeneid, Book 2. The latter has my name in it and my class - Fourth year in secondary school - along with my mother's name and that of the first owner of the book, who must have studied Latin around the time of WW1. The first page is so dog-eared and worn it has become detached from the spine; the first ten lines or so are carefully annotated with the scansion as well as words that were unfamiliar to me at the time.

All this came with shovel-loads of memories, many of which I shall have to revisit with further browsing, but I shall share one here: When I was doing Latin at school, I had so much homework every evening that my mother offered to "break the back" of my Latin homework. This involved studying the passage we had to translate, working out the rough meaning, looking up the new words, and leaving me to do the final work on polishing it, either for a written exercise or - even more demanding - so that I'd be able to deal with it "live" in class if called upon to translate. I loved Latin (and my teacher by that time!) and went on to study the subject for a further two years as part of my MA, which means I'm actually qualified to teach the language in Scottish schools ...

So that explains the rather chaotic photo montage for my blip. We did in fact go out later, simply because being in the loft makes both of us feel desperate for fresh air. We ended up in Benmore Gardens, pounding up the hill in the pouring rain with the wind thrashing the tall trees all around us. We saw not a soul, not a squirrel, not a bird, but the moss was vibrant under the trees and the river surged silently by over submerged banks. 

I've just watched the news and seen the latest Mars landing - and felt another memory bubbling to the surface. When I was about 7 I was passionate in my interest in space, space travel and Mars in particular. I can still feel the excitement of making a tiny book from a pull-out section in The Eagle with artists' impressions of the different planets. Childishly, I still feel ever so slightly disappointed with the view of the real thing. 

Better with the memories...

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