This is the story of Armitage Street Junior School, Ardwick, Manchester, a baleful, psycho child called Irene Proctor who, in all probability, grew into a bunny-boiler psycho adult, and our teacher, Miss Gilchrist, in the summer of 1950. Oh, and me.
Miss Gilchrist, I suppose, was a babe, being quite pretty and very much the youngest teacher in the school but, from the perspective of 5 going on 6, every adult was inconceivably old and, as I would find out later, this one couldn’t be trusted.
I lived, in those days, just a few minutes from the school – see http://ronsrants.wordpress.com/2008/06/17/my-home-town/ , and went home for lunch which, in those distant days, was dinner, every day.
One day, released to the clangour of the midday bell, as I was running through the playground – we ran everywhere, it was what little kids did – I passed Irene Proctor in the playground. And as I sat down to write this, a question has occurred to me for the first time – we were in the same class, so how did she get there before me? Anyway, I noticed she was bleeding from a cut to her calf, ran past her and away home. Hey, I was 5, what do you want, compassion?
Wandering back to school after dinner, I was dismayed to find Miss Gilchrist lying in wait for me. I was hauled to the front of the class, where the psycho, Proctor, now with her leg swathed in bandages, accused me of cutting her.
I denied it – well, why not? I sure as hell hadn’t done it. But Miss Gilchrist kept hammering at me for what felt like hours, and I kept right on denying it – the third degree had nothing on this woman – until she made me an offer. If I kept on denying it, she’d beat me (this was 1949 – she meant exactly what she said). And if I confessed she wouldn’t.
So I made up a story. I found a piece of broken glass in the playground and, hurrying to put it safely out of harm’s way, down the nearest grid, it slipped out of my hand and accidentally cut Irene Proctor as I passed her. Hell, I almost believed it, and Proctor didn’t deny it!
And guess what? Miss Gilchrist beat the shit out of me anyway.
I often wonder, especially at times, like now, when I’m, physically, at a very low ebb, is Irene Proctor still out there? And does she remember the impressionable little kid whose life she royally screwed up with her lies, he was so traumatised?
And, if you remember, do you care? At all?
And, as a matter of interest, what were you doing out of the classroom ahead of the rest of us, and just how did you get cut?
Mind you, if she is out there, and somehow reads this, she’s probably convinced herself that I did do it – I’m pretty sure she was nuts, otherwise why make up such a blatant and essentially pointless lie? What’s wrong with “I fell and cut my leg,” which is probably the truth? After all, little kids fall down a lot.
Miss Gilchrist is probably worm food, in which case I feel for the worms, but if still alive she’s in her late eighties/early nineties, and if you are you old bag, how’s your conscience these dark nights? How many other little kids did you fuck with in the course of your career?