Monday, January 14, 2008

Cherry Tree Lane

Occasionally, in the top class of my convent prep school, you were "chosen" - allowed to leave afternoon class, walk prideful down the corridor past the holy statues, through the empty assembly hall with its waxed parquet floor - a picture of a suffering saint gazing heavenward - then into the wiped clean, spick span kitchen. As a last huzzah, the dinner lady would leave a tray with a linen cloth set for tea. A china cup of course. You and your fellow good girl pupil boiled a kettle, poured scalding water into the teapot then with infinite care carried the tea to a nun. I say a nun. I cannot quite remember the who's and why's of the ritual. Only that it was, like all good rituals, entirely sacred. But if I cannot remember who swallowed the tea, I can remember the way the kettle always boiled too fast.

For a while on those afternoons, as we waited in the kitchen, my friend and I talked about Mary Poppins. Did more than talk - tried to summon her, closing our eyes and wishing hard. Confusing our musicals, we clicked our heels and turned around, quite three times. The perfect number. To my surprise she never came. Perhaps she thought the nuns would burn her as a witch. The only apparition good Catholic girls prayed for then was the most Virgin Mary - mother not the nannying kind.

Yesterday as we travelled in the car, I put on a crackly tape of Julie Andrews to quiten down the kids and growled: "Listen." I listened too, sang along and thought: "At what point though did I stop being the plait-headed girl so desperate for a spoonful of sugar? At what point did I become the self obsessed Banks parents, the father grim and work-obsessed, the mother ditzy and political?" I think I am both, truth be told and that cannot be good. I would rather, given any sort of choice, plait up my hair, close tight my eyes, pirouette and hope that wishes would come true.


Beryl Ament said...

I have it on good authority (but cannot verify) that she of the plaits and pirouettes sang these lyrics at the Radio City Music Hall to mark her 69th birthday:

Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak,
When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache,
When the hips break,
The eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Whispering Walls said...

At least the hills are alive up there.

jonesmry said...

Oh the joys of synchronicity. My 12 and 13 year olds have just rediscovered Mary Poppins. The 12 year old is to join in with Step In Time as part of this year's Gang Show and the new 32" LCD Digital TV has rejeuvenated many old and much loved videos (incl Mary Poppins)

Anonymous said...

"At what point did I become the self obsessed Banks parents, the father grim and work-obsessed, the mother ditzy and political?"

I think it happens to us all :-(

Anonymous said...

I'll lend you my wishing well, you can provide the coins.

Crystal xx

DogLover said...

WITN, I'm sure you'll stay forever young for us, your devoted readers!

Bery lament, that's a fine bit of poetry and every favourite thing rings a bell with me! Not got the zimmer frame yet, but it won't be long now ...


Unknown said...

Going to a Sing-along-a-sound-of-music is a very liberating experience!

mountainear said...

At primary school two of the Big Girls made the teachers' drinks at playtime. 1 cocoa, 1 Bournvita and 1 Horlicks - forever ingrained on my mind. This involved boiling milk in a little pan on a one ring stove.

Unimaginable now I suppose, but then so was making it unsupervised in a room heated by an enormous open fire.

.....and if you wanted to make tea for teachers you could always become a dinner lady.....

@themill said...

At some point in my life I went to bed young and woke up middle aged, but I've no idea when it happened.

Swearing Mother said...

Life was so much simpler then, we just worried about, well, not all that much, really.

I have recently felt an urge to buy a scrubbing brush (the proper bristly sort, wooden, not plastic) to scrub my kitchen table. A bit like we used to do in Domestic Science as it was called back then in the days before gravy granules. Could this be a retro moment, or am I just losing the plot?

Expat mum said...

In my Catholic school, me and the two other swots (I mean brightest girls) were given the privilege of washing up in the staff room after playtime and lunch. This meant walking into a fairly small room, thick to the point of a pea-souper with cigarette smoke, and washing all the bloody tea cups. Mind you, we also scarfed all the biscuits that were left on the plate.

Ciao said...

I too remember going into the staff room with another pupil to make the teachers cups of tea and to clean up afterwards. Was this the Catholic way to get us used to a life of servitude?

Frog in the Field said...

If your children are anything like mine, they will have begged for the Rolling Stones or a bit of T Rex - anything to shut me up!
I very much like your last two posts too.

Anonymous said...

I think you worry to much - you have not become the hideous parent yet.. and Mary Poppins always annoyed me as child. And still does. I hoped she would crash into some high voltage overhead cables...

Unknown said...

Ciao said...

"Was this the Catholic way to get us used to a life of servitude?"

In my mind, more like a way to reinforce and solidify the importance of the ordered hierarchy over the lowly laity...

Life As I Know It said...

My son was really into Mary Poppins a few years ago and would sing allll of the songs. It brought back some nice memories, for sure, but of course, very different from an adult perspective now.

OvaGirl said...

The Mary Poppins books are so much darker than the film. No songs as I recall... And the final one, where she goes through the door and Jane and Michael realise it's for The Very Last Time had me sick with sobbing. I believe I was about 33 when I read that. Ahem. said...

Ah, catholic school. I remember kneeling on wooden floors for morning prayers until the planks cut big grooves in our knees, the smell of beeswax, the horrid stew with bits of cows stomach floating in it. Ah yes, I remember it well.

Anonymous said...

I used to hate Mary Poppins; mainly I think it was because the kids played it over and over and over. Never a fan of JAs voice either. Or could it be that my Nain (welsh granny) insisted I looked like a young JA.
No idea about nuns either, good non-conformist upbringing, not many penguins in Wales.
I think we all play different roles and scenario’s as we feel the need and may be as the circumstances around us dictate.
I sometimes laugh at some of the images I took on, now I am me and do you know, I quite like me this way.

Anonymous said...

This post has been here for a week! Have they refused you bail this time?

Bathsheba said...

Hi - Just a note (not for publication) to say that I've had to take down my blog i might come down for meals because my youngest daughter (who wrote most of the content) has decided to object. You should remove the link from your list.
If it ever restarts I'll be in contact. Thanks for your help and encouragement. Good luck with yours - it's going strong and I love it!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Just a spoonful of sugar - yes, those songs are everlasting. So where do you live? How is it so different from London? I'm in Oz, in a kind-of provincial city by the sea. It's bright and sunny, but our hearts are always divided - between Geelong and the islands of Fiji.

Swearing Mother said...

OK, any time now we're going to start talking amongst ourselves again. Reckon WITN's gone off to Harrod's sale or something?

I hate it when she goes AWOL.