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Chapter 9. Daphne

The syllabus at the Municipal College changed so what I was teaching at the end was nothing like what I taught at the beginning -- well not much anyway. We had instructions to broaden the activities of the dept.-- †extramural work it was called -- so I volunteered to do this course in human biology. I would do the first year and it would be health, disease and micro- biology. The head of the department, Mr Thorpe, would do the rest of it - human anatomy and physiology. We actually divided the syllabus in that way.

That's how I met Daphne. I felt she was a special person almost immediately, she made herself useful. She worked the projector and helped get the apparatus out and was one of the brighter students too. There was another man in the course too, he was a Quaker and he thought he wanted to know more about human biology just as a hobby, he was solicitor. He and Daphne worked together and he invited us to his house for a number of times so we got to know each other quite well. So that's how our romance started. The course had started in September and we were engaged at Christmas. There were all sorts of things connected with the children with which Daphne was most helpful, absolutely irreplaceable, when she helped with the children.

we had originally planned to marry in the summer vacation but the social services heard that I was getting married,. When they got to hear of it they said: ďWhat are we looking after your Gordon for, you ought to do it.Ē And then the Morby's, who looked after Gordon, were upset because they had wanted to adopt Gordon. I can well imagine that they would become attached to the young fellow, for most of the time it seemed that was the solution to our difficulties. So there were all sorts of complications and personal matters involved and so we decided to get married in May at the Whitsun break. We received Gordon in early August, at the end of the summer term because the Morby's wanted to go to France and so they would have had to find another foster parent for Gordon so we took him instead. Daphne did marvelously well with Gordon. He settled in very easily. We were married at Horsham.

Then David came. People used to think David and Gordon were twins, David was bigger and Gordon was smaller so they weren't vastly different in size. They are two years apart. When Gordon came home from the foster home, Daphne sat with him and held his hand until he just went to sleep and we had no problem whatsoever and yet to have left that one and only mother that he knew and come to us. He knew me as I used to visit him every week and we took him to Horsham once. He always accepted things well. He was 15 months old when he came back to us. He could only just about stand with hanging onto things. He was quite tiny as he had been a premature baby and he had bronchitis with every tooth he cut. One night we steamed him and ruined the electric kettle. He never had bronchitis again. We steamed him and we ran with condensation. We steamed him through the night, we left the kettle and filled it as it emptied. We must have both gone to sleep and the kettle boiled dry but the steaming did the job. He's really strong now. Well it was just a matter of routine then.

Gordon used to tease Helen, he was a shocking tease. We ordered him to walk on the other side of the road from David and Helen when they went to school. He was a tease with Daphne and when David was born Grandma Fos came to stay and she went to change his nappy and he'd run up the hall and turn round with a wicked grin. He loved to run away when we tried to take photos too. He didn't like to have his afternoon sleep in his pram. He'd wait until he thought Daphne had gone then he'd sit up and look around. David and Helen used to love making things. They used shoe boxes and an old bookcase to construct a mouse fair, with different rooms for all the mice. David was already keen on genealogy then. He was about 10. He used to create family trees for all the different mice. The dark brown felt mice were gypsies. He dressed the royal family of mice in ribbons and lace. We had parafilm that you could stretch sideways, like cling film. and if you worked it with your fingers it would stick together. They used this to remodel cowboys and Indians where, again, they would have different tribes. They used to cut off bits and put on artificial arms to change the shapes of the plastic figures. It's like cling film except you can stretch (crosswise) it. The children also had a little electric train set.

Gordon loved Enid Blyton. At one stage after he'd read quite a lot of Enid Blyton he was going to be a detective. Helen was going to be a smuggler, and at one stage she said she never wanted to grow up. Sarah used to read books about the Chalet School, a girls establishment in Switzerland. I used to read Mary Plain to Sarah. Gordon sometimes read Paddington books to her and she used to get so cross because he would read ahead without saying it and he would start roaring with laughter and she didn't know what he was laughing about.

On Lee Primary school sports day Gordon said he couldnít run so he didnít run so he didnít join in the sports so the master in charge made him his messenger so there was Gordon rushing up and down the track and carrying messages backwards and forwards running far faster than the competitors. I came in last in the sack race - Dads sack race. Helen was a good runner and she was in the school team for the area meeting with the other schools and she was also a brownie. Sports David was good at - skipping with a rope, he really got the rhythm right. He didnít like football and those sort of sports much. Gordon didnít like sports much, he has always liked walking, always has. Helen was quite good at net ball and she was net ball captain at Sidcot. Sarah found it difficult with ball games with her bad eyesight, she couldnít focus and Helen was excellent at hockey at Sidcot because she could run well as well as get the ball on the stick, she was on the wing, she was very good at hockey.

David entered a competition to write a short story while he was still at Lee and in the junior school to celebrate the opening of the new library in Gosport. There was a competition for childrenís short stories, senior and junior and he won the junior prize. There was a reception with the mayor and they put out a table of refreshments for tea, they were quite nice cakes and the parents were invited too. The children wolfed the lot and we didnít get a look in.

Friends suggested that Gordon should go to Sidcot School so we went along there to see the headmaster and he †said there would be a place for him. He would have to take the entrance examination so the entrance exam. was sent to Lee Junior school and Gordon took the examination under the supervision of the headmaster there and on the strength of that he was given a place at Sidcot and from then on he didnít look back. He got his 11+ all right, no trouble at all.

He would never accept anything from Daphne, he used to write holding his pen in a funny fashion and couldnít be made to change his mind. First day at Lee Infant school the teacher told him to hold it the right way so he did and within a week he was reading. He was so ready for school, the infant school. He was a slow starter but heís very meticulous and heís a good sticker. When my father-in-law and I were laying the tongue and groove floor they were measuring it up and sawing and putting it in position and Gordon had a little hammer and he was knocking home the nails after I started them. He worked on and he wouldnít stop and he was absolutely beat at the end, he wasnít very old, about 8. He was always determined to finish.

Sidcot was a Quaker boarding school and David thought he would like to go. When Gordon first went David and Helen said they didnít want to go to boarding school. They encouraged parents to visit the school after the first three weeks. Grandpa (my Dad) and I went and visited Gordon and he was quite cheerful. Then towards the end of term we had another chance to visit. There was a childrenís play put on by the school and we took the children. David always liked drama and they said ďPlease, we would like to come to Sidcot tooĒ. Gordon, David and Helen went to Sidcot and Sarah went to the local secondary school called Bay House where Harry, Andrew and Martin went.

For them they all got their 11+ and if you get that you can get financial assistance. Then, comprehensive education came in and no 11+ and so Sarah couldnít get that funding and the fees kept going up and up. We couldnít afford to send her and she wasnít very keen to go. She said afterwards that she was glad that she didnít go and that she got as much out of life at home as she would have done there.

Helen was very homesick to start with, but David took her under his wing. Every break he went and comforted her and she enjoyed it afterwards. She got over it and did very well and then she went back as a matron for a bit, after she had graduated. She was there for a year as matron after she had finished at Canterbury and got her degree. They have a grade at the school known as the graduate assistant and thatís what she occupied for a year. Sarah and Tessie went to visit. She had a little flat of her own, Tessie had the time of her life, all those girls queuing to take her for walks. Helenís duty was with the girls.

They had a house called Newcombe where they had converted some of the rooms into dormitories. It was a beautiful old house with oak panelling and that was where the girls slept. Helen was in charge of the girls in that house. Helen told us that her alarm went and she leapt out of bed and told all the girls to get up and when she got up and looked at her clock it was 2 hours too soon. One evening she was trying to persuade the girls to go to bed and along came the head matron and Helen felt she shouldn't be there, she forgot she was assistant matron and she dived under one of the beds. It was one of the things the girls never forgot.

Helen went to London and signed up with an agency and did clerical work at various places and then she went to this oil company, they thought they would like to keep her. They had to argue about her with the temporary company as the temp. co. don't like their temps pinched as Helen was a reasonably good one. When she got settled in she rearranged all the filing system and she said well they can't sack me now as I'm the only one who knows the filing system.

David had a few odd jobs, he was down in the forestry commission down in Devon after Sidcot. He went to a stationers printing after his degree and worked for a firm that imported Japanese advertising matches. He decided that commerce and industry was not for him. He got a place on the teachers training course in Westminster College, Oxford. He was living with Allister and was going bell ringing at the local church. I think it was about that time that he met Lucy. He got a degree in English at Kings. I went to Kingís as a post graduate. Gordon did a year of teaching after getting his teachers diploma. He taught Geography and Economics in Stevenage. He did his post-graduate certificate of education at Birmingham University. He didn't take to teaching. He was too trusting. They would pinch rulers and protractors and he didn't realise what they were up to. Gordon, David and Helen were at Sidcot from 12 to 18 years old, the whole of their secondary education. Gordon is still a Quaker, David is a Roman Catholic and Helen is naught, same as Sarah.

David wanted to be a teacher and he had always wanted to write. He got three grade ĎAís in his A levels. After he had worked with the forestry commission for a bit he was ready to go to University. He had done well for himself.

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