From the point of leaving her home in Blackheath,Marjorie started out teaching in a small school of around 120 pupils in the clay district of St Dennis,Cornwall.Like most areas just after the Second World War,it was a time of rationing ,coupled with high unemployment.She noticed the depressing clay village had high unemployment ,it was covered in a white clay dust that permeated the cloths on the washing lines of a Monday.Like the Cornish accent that she found incomprehensible,the sheer affect of being around the oftentimes feral population was quite a culture shock to her.From her days at university with the trappings of books and assorted talks ,debates and musical appreciation societies,she now found herself literally at the coal face of the proletariat.
Her accommodation had been arranged for her by the board of education:Just a room in the form of lodgings in the house of an elderly Mrs Jasper.As she alighted from the bus that took her from St Austell to the village she asked the driver if he knew of the street.His reply,garbled and gruff,took her a while to fathom,and she asked again but with still no real understanding as to the exact location.It seemed like an odd thing to her that the locals didn’t really want to communicate to strangers and she could see that it would be a tough road ahead.Clutching at her suitcase in her left hand and with her rose cutting in the other,she walked along the only real street in the village where she hoped to find the post office.There ,or so she thought,would be someone who would know the address of Mrs Jasper.
As she turned the door handle ,there was a bell above the threshold and it dinged a bright sound that seemed almost out of context with the dreary and depressing accent of the people that she had met.There was only one other in the post office,so Marjorie waited her turn,thinking as was always the case in London that the person would buy what they needed and be off right after.For what seemed like hours,the lady and the postmistress held forth about so many things that Marjorie could neither understand or really appreciate as by now she had had enough for one day .It must have been gone 3:30,and she hadn’t eaten since early that morning.After the customer drew breath ,Marjorie’s cleared her throat loudly in an attempt to get her attention.Still,it seemed that the locals were extremely thicker skinned,and to Marjorie, quite rude.But eventually,the postmistress almost in a derisory manner asked what she could do.Marjorie explained that she was new to the area and that she was trying to locate the following address .As she did,the lady in front of her turned around,looking right into her eyes and said:”I’m Mrs Jasper and if your Miss Alcock,then I thought you was comin ‘morrow!Marjorie was relieved that she had ,at least,found her new landlady but somehow the lines of communication hadn’t quite got off to a good start.Anyway,all was well that ended well,and Mrs Jasper asked her to come along with her to her place of lodging.
Mrs Jasper talked non stop which sort of suited Marjorie as she felt that she couldn’t really contribute too much to the conversation as she spoke ,to her,a foreign language.Marjorie did marvel at the sheer physical strength of her landlady who picked up her suitcase as if if were a feather duster.She even asked if she could carry Marjorie’s rose cutting,but the delicate sackcloth ,soaked in water and tied up in string was Marjorie’s invention to protect it and she didn’t feel that Mrs Jasper would quite get why it had to be handled so delicately.
“Yer ’tis”,was the exclamation from Mrs Jasper as they reached her home.It wasn’t an imposing house,more like a miners cottage she thought but with a little more space.
Once inside,Mrs Jasper showed her to her room at the top of the stairs.Marjorie was a tall women and Mrs Jasper alerted her to the beams that seemed to suffocate you.This was so different to her parents home in Blackheath,a shock really.Sitting on the bed ,clutching her cutting ,a tear ran down her cheek,and the realisation that she might not really be able to do this thing,this teaching in a poor area in the back of beyond.As she starred at her cutting,the words of her long departed dad rang in her ears:”Marjorie,girls should grow up to be homemakers and mothers,men won’t find a bookworm attractive”.She clutched her rose cutting and dreamed of it ,one day ,being part of her Wedding bouquet,and her tears fell some more.
To be continued.