Oasis memory : Marjorie’s first day.

In these days of central heating and double glazing,as are prone to have an illusion of what coldness really is in a home because the only real factor that concerns us is the cost.If we are cold ,relief comes at the flick of a switch and that is complimented with hot water and all the thermal securities of modern living.Alas,our protagonist,Marjorie Allcock didn’t have these givens as such and so existed in lodgings in her first teaching post in a very cold damp room.There was a coal fire,but Mrs Jasper had a rule that you must put layers in to ward off the cold,and she religiously kept to this way of life.Even though Marjorie wasn’t a member of the aristocracy,her parents always made sure that fires were lit in all the occupied rooms,ensuring a comfortable life for them all.Now,Marjorie wasn’t aware that such a thing as being comfortable applied in Cornwall,It all seemed to be about struggle,toil and strife.So Marjorie,quite unable to engage with Mrs Jasper about anything of personal importance regarding her living arrangements ,lust accepted the things that she was being told.If she had contacted the education board,they would have informed her that Mrs Jasper was in breach of her duty in not providing proper heating for her while she was in her room and other parts of the house.Mrs Jasper was paid what amounted to a spipend from the board to provide these basic amenities and by not doing this,she was secreting funds for herself when they should have been used to support a valuable member of the teaching profession.

Wether Mrs Jasper was just a canny old Cornish women on the make ,or just an unhappy miser was not entirely clear ,but things would change for Marjorie on that front in a few weeks.It wasn’t that Marjorie was not aware of Mrs Jaspers unique take on money,but it didn’t seem as important to her as getting on with the job at hand at the school and this was her first day.She needed all her faculties she was sure and if the Sunday school experience was anything to go on,things would be tough here.

Arriving extremely early ,she was met by Mr Candy,the school caretaker ,with his bunch of keys proudly fasten to his belt and pocket watch displayed.He seemed a friendly enough man and his voice,although difficult to fully understand,wasn’t so rough as to be an annoyance to Marjorie.Reg,as he liked to be called,was also Sexton of the Methodist church and Marjorie clocked that at least he would be literate,putting him into the higher realms of society in this village.She was fast realising that the main currency here was brawn not brains.

Greeting the children as they arrived with a hello,she knew that these children ,although polite,were very much like their parents,mistrusting,She would have to be industrious to win them over if at all.Her class would be the most troublesome of the school,the 10 years.That is,those who were in their last year of primary before heading off to Grammar or secondary modern.Marjorie had no choice as to who she would teach,that had been decided by the board and she must make the best of it.Although the eleven plus was supposedly the goal of these children,only 2 out of 30 would actually pass the test.Many of the children still struggled with the basics,as their parents had before them and their before them too,It just wasn’t a priority among Cornish parents and the world of work beckoned the boys,and keeping house for girls.Marjorie,had read the notes from the previous teacher and she realised that out of the 30 in the cohort,10 were fluent readers,with the rest of the children foundering with basic comprehension,To Marjorie,This was simply scandalous ,a stain on the school and the community,and one that she intended to address ,and address quickly.

After morning assembly,she set to work with her class,with her goal of hearing every child read individually.She chose Charles Chausley,the Cornish Poet to start with,but soon even his basic metre was obviously beyond the scope of the majority of pupils in her care.She knew that when she got back home that there would be much preparation to begin to turn these children into even half educated young people,

Her first morning break was spent walking around the playground,observing,looking,and getting a feel for the place,All around the area,the workings of China clay works littered the landscape ,leaving Marjorie with the impression that this was more of a lunar landscape than a village.Her pupils took it all in their stride,proud of the mining heritage,proud to be Cornish,mistrusting her motives.She could see from the look in their eyes that they would test her resolve,her metal,her vigour and strength to the limit.As she viewed the children playing hopscotch ,tug of war,and other playground games,she thought how very poor they were but also ,on the whole,how happy they were too.It struck here that they loved being at the school but the school didn’t seem able to educate them somehow with generation after generation leaving here without any of the equipment to thrive out there in the big wide world.

Oh,how young and idealistic Marjorie was.After all,she said to herself,surely these young people want to get good jobs don’t they?Her ambition ,although laudable,wasn’t matched by the majority of the pupils of their parents who just accepted Cornish mining life lIt was how it was in the clay villages and nothing could be changed.If Marjorie had heard this from her fellow teachers,to the lady 8n the post office,and to fore ,mostly,Mrs Jasper,she had heard it countless times since arriving:”Tis the way it ’tis ere”

As Marjorie returned to Mrs Jasper after her first day at St Dennis Primary school to Mrs Jasper she knew that the road to educational enlightenment wasn’t paved with gold in Cornwall ,but caked in Clay and Tin ore and ruggedness.As she ate her tea in silence,she excused herself to go to her room to prepare her lessons for the morning and as her head turned to walk up the stairs,she noticed that there was a letter for her.It had a London postmark ,and she quietly climbed the stairs to read it away from the prying eyes of Mrs Jasper.She thanked her for the meal which was a sort of mutton stew that was more mush than anything else.Opening her door,she was struck by the cold,the damp unforgiving nature of the room.Like the Methodist Sunday school hall,it seemed that nothing was warm,just cold and harsh,As she thought about it,she wondered if the children lacked any hope in their life.That without hope,you don’t think of the future,in fact,you have known.She wondered if their future had already been marked out by the cold,u forgiving landscape to which they were joined.There was no escape to them.They didn’t realise that education could be a gateway to them to do other things than just work in a clay pit,or just be a housewife.

As her mind got lost on this concept,she opened her letter,not realising that the seal had been broken,that Mrs Jasper had other flaws apart from defrauding the education board.In fact,Mrs Jasper had already been reading her private letter.

It probably was for the best this evening that Marjorie wasn’t aware of this crime ,as she seemed to have enough on her plate for one day.She wrote copious notes on her next days teaching plans ,and as she did,she grew in confidence,in emotional strength as it were,and all the while,her cutting continued to grow,and as it did,it seemed never to need watering,or so she thought,but people with flaws ,also have good qualities,and Mrs Jasper seemed to get that the Rose cutting was very important to Marjorie,and she did her best to tend to its future and the future of that Rose would affect many people over the years with its story and even the writer of this story remembers it vividly to this day.

Thank you .

Kernowsmith.

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