School Notes (1967-1968)

From Marjorie’s exercise book: Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School, Class 4J (1967-1968)


October 17th:

…The dictionary definition of the word `divine`, is that of something which is devoted to God’s service. Therefore, in the passage, `divine` is improperly applied as a description of perfume.

Women are generally considered to be the more gullible, romantic, and less realistic sex, and this type of advertisement is printed in their magazines, with the hope that it will appeal to their vivid imaginations, as they slave over their hot kitchen stoves.

The meaning of escapism is one of seeking freedom and your individuality, in places far away from the crowds, and normal, uneventful life. I agree that too much escapism is harmful, as I consider that life with all its problems, should be faced realistically, instead of avoided. It seems to me to be a great pity that certain people feel misfits in their society, and have to resort continually to escapism.

There is a similarity between the given advertisement and escapism, as the former invites you to depart from normal, everyday life, into a land of romance and beautiful surroundings.

Also, there is a difference between relaxation and escapism, because although one forgets, or escapes from the happenings of the day whilst relaxing, in escapism, one substitutes for them imaginary incidents concerning imaginary people in an environment of fantasy.

November 10th:

A description of a person at work

For the last three weeks, a smart, shiny car has been drawing up outside the New Unitarian Church in Scotforth, every morning at a quarter past eight, prompt. Out steps a thin, willowy, middle-aged man with a layer of steely-grey hair which is spread over his head as artistically as a wire pan scrub, and knotted under his pointed chin in the form of a soft, tufty, badger-grey beard.

Taking from his car a neatly folded bundle, the driver then begins to adorn himself in faded, meticulously-clean blue overalls, and fisherman’s thigh-boots, with the pride and care of a bride wearing her wedding gown for the first time. After having entertained the entire population of Scotforth, to this spectacle, he then surveys the fruits of his labours (namely a two feet high wall, which extends fifteen yards) with no uncertain feeling of accomplishment.

However, before beginning his day’s toil, our little brick-layer combs his head of hair (as though he were attempting to rake wet cement) and then, with a quick look at his watch, he sets to work on his “master-piece” like a man inspired. Racing to his wheel-barrow of bricks, he lifts one and, slapping mortar onto it, as though it were shaving soap, he places it heavily on the top of the wall, cement oozing out of it like the cream from an éclair. Not stopping to draw his breath, he glances at his watch, and if he has laid his brick in record time, he smiles, complimenting himself on his success and struts up and down, arms akimbo, as though awaiting a round of applause from the people at the bus stop across the road.

Then, however, his behaviour changes and his soul suddenly becomes possessed with a creative spirit which urges him to stroke away the surplus mortar, as though he were soothing a child. Caressing the brick into place and seemingly pouring all the feeling in his twitching, sensitive face into his work, at the same time. He then runs a sticky hand through his beard and over his nose, as though the strain of the last few minutes was sapping him of his strength.

As he makes his second dash to the wheelbarrow, the process of racing against himself begins once more. If, however, he overreaches his time limit by more than thirteen seconds, there are scowls, and a slow and thorough combing of his hair, in order to regain his lost composure.

Though, perhaps, he will never become the master of his trade (he lays two bricks in twenty two minutes) this rather bohemian brick-layer provides a great deal of entertainment for those waiting for buses; and of all the people I know, he’s the only one with the ability to lay a brick as though it were his life’s vocation.

November 19th:

What do you think will be the main changes in our society by the year 2007?”

During the last fifty years, things have changed tremendously, and perhaps these changes will be accelerated in the future. If the present rate of scientific development continues then this will certainly be so.

As the motor car drove traffic from canals and railways, so will airbuses, hovercraft and monorails lessen the importance of the roads. Monorails (an American invention) have been successfully developed in France during the last few years and it is very probable that they will have been exploited to their full extent, by the year 2007. They can be constructed cheaply, and their rails maintained at a low cost, so undoubtedly, in fifty years time, they will be considered standard travel.

Certainly agriculture will also undergo sweeping changes in the next half-century. Last year, American scientists devised a method of making artificial bacon from the extracts of various animals manure.

With animal disease ravaging the country (for example, `foot–and–mouth` disease) more of these synthetic meats will probably be developed in order to counteract the high death toll. (Incidentally, these foods are considered to be more nutritional than natural foods, and many human `guinea-pigs` couldn’t tell the difference between the manure and the ham !) Though I doubt if we’ll be gnawing vitamin and protein pills for our breakfasts, in 2007, I think that possibly these tablets will be substituted for meals, concerning invalids, in order to speed recovery and minimise hospital catering.

Great strides will be taken concerning textiles with the exploiting of such materials as `Decorene` (hard-wearing, washable, non-melt plastic sheeting) and the development of other synthetic materials. It is rather improbable that everybody will live in their own plastic igloos (as has been predicted by a Professor from Hull) but, it is foreseeable that flats will be built to overhang each other and to jut out over a one small, central building; thus minimising the space wasted by a rectangular block.

Life inside the home will be almost unaltered, except for the addition of time-saving machines (one useful example would be a washing machine which irons clothes as well.) Colour televisions will have been developed to the size of film screens, extending across one entire wall of a room.

However, I believe it is extremely unlikely that the world will be dominated by computers and machines. The person who proclaims loudly, and with a lump in his throat, that nobody in this world cares any longer, is an obvious contradiction of his own statement.

Also, with new surges of nationalism being felt in the different corners of the earth, it is very evident that people do care what happens, and still have the ability to communicate this feeling to others. Though this spirit may have died by the year 2007, I still find it hard to believe that everyone will have become embittered, unemotional and isolated in themselves. I think that `drop-outs` will long since have been forgotten, and to replace them will be a hard-working, conscientious generation of rather dull teenagers. The gap between generations will undoubtedly have been narrowed, and my age group will find our children comparatively easy to control.

One thing which I’m certain will never be controlled, is the weather. No matter how many pellets the Americans shoot at the clouds, complete weather-control will never be achieved. It has been suggested that, if the weather could be controlled to any degree, rain be directed over the deserts, so that they could be developed as towns. I feel, however that the future of the deserts still remains in oil.

Oil and natural gas have already replaced coal to a certain extent, and by the year 2007, coal will be used as often as we ( in our age of `Zip` firelighters and blow-alight fans) use wood.

I think that systems of education will have been improved greatly, so that it will really be the intelligence of the child which is tested, and not his ability to memorise facts and opinions given to him by his teachers. By our standards, schooling will probably have become very relaxed and informal. Undoubtedly, however, children will receive a better education, (and one which will be necessary in a world of highly-skilled jobs.) Also, I feel that religious instruction will no longer be compulsory, and lessons will take the form of informal discussions. I think that churches will be thought of as something in the past, and religion will become a more personal thing.

Basically, I believe that the world will become a little more settled and will have recovered from the initial thrill of nuclear power. I think, also, that there will be a renewed interest in the arts, if only to combat the marked emphasis on the sciences. Overall, I feel that life will become more evenly balanced and peaceable, and our children will be able to live happier, constructive lives.

Also, the neurotic fraternity who will set out to give themselves ulcers, by incessantly worrying about life in 2057, will probably find their own lives too enjoyable and, with luck, not bother.

November 24th:

The scene in a restaurant

The “Willow – Tree” Cafe is situated in Clarence Road, Harrogate. There is always a jumble of coaches outside this cafe, conveniently blocking the narrow little street, thus preventing the populous of Harrogate from reaching the Public Conveniences. However, putting this trifle aside, every week, these coaches bring to the cafe hundreds of customers, all of whom are engaged in the quest for Yorkshire Puddings.

Above the lintel of the door hangs a sign upon which is written in brown lettering “A.J.Penny and Sons.” Underneath this, in watery pinks, lie the words The “Willow – Tree”, and at the beginning and at the end of the notice there is a picture of a round, brown, sticky mass, supposedly representing a Yorkshire Pudding.

Once inside, and having climbed one’s careful way up the winding stairs, one is confronted by a pale pink door displaying the picture of a weeping-willow, apparently discussing all its troubles to a brook running by.

Upon opening the door and entering the cafe, one is greeted by a bracing breeze and a sense of chill, and frozen silence. The only form of ventilation in the room is a sky-light (which was once left open in the rain, and has since rusted.) All around the room are groups of school-children and parties of girl guides, who are going on outings. They sit huddled round card and trestle tables which are covered with stark, white cloths, in a permanent state of cold.

At the far end of the room stands a tropical plant, which sways with every fresh gust of wind. On the wall behind this, is a small, white box which at regular intervals emits “clatterings” and also a smell of methylated spirits.

Two of the walls in this room are painted dark brown, and the other two are cream-coloured. Hanging on one of the latter is a large, red poster printed by the Yorkshire Good Food Committee. On it the life story of Yorkshire Puddings is told in no little detail. However, most of this is illegible, due to the poor lighting in the cafe. Although there are two lights in the room, they both flicker charmingly whenever the door is opened.

This means, also, that the menus cannot be read easily. However, it doesn’t present many problems, because the only meal that has been served for the past seven years is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, followed by semolina. Probably the chef decided to practise a little, before achieving absolute perfection!

After the meal, which is usually eaten by all in the manner of a communion, the rather oppressing silence is broken, as people start to rise. Moving across the linoleum floor with reverent expressions on their faces, they compliment Mr. A.J. Penny on his good management and quick service as a waiter. He stands, large and burly, blocking the doorway, his face unmoved by all the “touching” compliments. Suddenly, however, he seizes everyone’s hand, in turn, and squeezing and pressing them with his own, bids his customers farewell.

Then the atmosphere becomes a little more friendly. The school-children begin to chatter once more and, climbing into their coaches, growing warmer every minute, it would seen as though nothing had ever happened.


February 9th:

The things I prize most in life

The things I prize most in life are my hands, which, although a trifle gnawed, still serve their purpose most admirably. Apart from their obvious uses, like those for writing and manipulating knives and forks, my hands can play the piano for me, and no doubt with a greater ease than my feet would possess. Owing also to the fact that scratching my back with my teeth doesn’t appeal to me greatly, either, I feel extremely thankful for my hands.

However, concerning more material subjects, I prize my long playing record of Jacqueline du Pré and John Barbirolli performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, most of all of my entire collection of classical records (limited though the range may be) Indisputably Jacqueline du Pré possesses talent in addition to genius, and also, the fact that I have seen Barbirolli performing with the Halle, lends a certain attraction to the record.

Another record I enjoy greatly is “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts` Club Band”, by the Beatles, the last track of which (“A day in the Life) is almost classical and features a one hundred and forty piece orchestra. However, the song “Within you, without you” is probably my favourite. The music consists solely of a sitar and table, and the “chorus”:

“And the time will come,
When you see we’re all one
And life flows on
Within you and without you”

Summarises the feeling of the song.

My small, paper-backed edition of Roger McGough`s poems also signifies something I prize greatly. Although there is a fraternity (school) who condemns his poems as sensational and meaningless, I find his works extremely amusing, direct, scathing and interesting, more especially so after a `re-reading¬. I feel his poems “Come Close and Sleep Now”, “You and your Strange Ways”, “Why Patriots are a Bit Nuts in the Head” and “There’s something Sad” are especially noteworthy.

Without doubt, the works of Voltaire are my most `treasured` pieces of literature. “Candide”, “Zadig” and “L`ingénue” are probably the best books I’ve ever read. All Voltaire’s writings are so perceptive and scathing, they could have been written this century and might easily be applied to modern attitudes.

Besides all the topics I have enlarged upon, there are some things of secondary importance which are also significant to me. Such examples are my piano, violin, chess set, our Farquharson – tartan kilt, and the newspaper cuttings on my bedroom walls and door.

One of the latter is a picture of the Royal Family carved in coffin-shaped, life-sized blocks of wood. The Queen’s nose is a carrot and glows a beautiful orange. From her head there hangs, at a precarious angle, a plasticine crown. The whole effect is very bizarre, though extremely amusing, as the statues seem so dead and stiff, they could almost be real. Another statue in this collection, made by the same sculptress, is the one of Harold Wilson, with hand raised in surrender, and a tiny head which is encircled by a halo.

My favourite `cutting` is that of a photograph of Stalin pulling an amusing face for the benefit of his daughter, Svetlana, who is enjoying the joke, and seemingly laughing uncontrollably.

All these subjects (which I have discussed at no uncertain length) are the things that I prize in my life. However, they form only one third of what is important to me personally, the other two thirds being people.

September 20th:

Have the advertisers too much control over newspaper content?”

Most newspapers print, or exclude, similar news items and remarks. Politically biased papers rarely attempt to give impartial information, and seldom do newspapers relate adverse foreign comment about home policy. This drabness results when many widely circulated newspapers belong solely to one group of proprietors, and there is general lack of imagination in news presentation. As newspapers influence public outlook, sponsors can refuse to advertise if they feel readers are uneasy. Therefore, advertisers and newspapers have mutual need of cooperation. 

October 5th:

Between the fallen summer wrappers and cartons, the fine sand lay blistering in the heat. At times, the sea shrugged over the shore, with the sound of wet yawning.

The afternoon had spoken of warmth and ice-cream, but with the evening came sharper weather. The shadows of the encircling cliffs had lengthened across the extent of sand before them, and with each warm gust of blistery wind, carried in by the sea, the canvas of a solitary deck chair flapped, like grudging applause.

Everywhere, the air was lively with smells, of hot matted seaweed, the ice-cream, a lacing of the sun tan lotion, fresh scented sea clovers and also a sweet, pure `nothingness` which had previously that day, brought joy to the lungs of each and every tourist.

The only sounds were the stifled singing of the sand, smothering under the heat of the sun; the muffled mumbling of the subdued waves as they slunk through the rocky pools; the nonchalant whirling of ice-cream wrappings and the incessant feathery battering of the wind against the wall of cliffs facing the sea.

The sky turned a freezing pink and the sun, glowing redly in the air, seemed to be just another “ happy-after-supper-and-I`m –really– or bed “ face.

Slowly, a bird left the cliff top and, stroking the sky with the far reaches of its wings, almost as though it were flying, it surveyed the scene minutely. From behind the hills, in the direction of the town, [where“ God was good and so was Guinness”], could be seen a small black mark moving hastily, against the grass, towards the sea.

A young man dressed in black, with his jacket pulled tightly over his head, hurtled onto the beach from the path, and ran the whole length of the shore, through the sea, shouting, until he reached the long, low, foot-like peninsula, on the other side. There, kneeling in a lukewarm pool of water, he bowed down wearily, and thought with great despair.

November 17th:

Mrs. Osborne’s List

If I were, by any strange quirk of fate, to be assigned to collect articles essential to our culture and put them in a box measuring eight inches by four inches, I should first compile a comprehensive graph of the last ten years` track figures and use it as a lining.

Then, I should include a list of stocks and shares from the `Times Business News`, as the thrills and spills of the present Stock Market could prove of interest in one thousand years` time. This would be an indication of the extreme wealth of certain parts of the world, and therefore, I should strive to create a more accurate, overall impression, by including and advertisement for Oxfam which reads ` Hep Oxfam stop feeding starving Biafran babies`, and includes a picture of an emaciated child. I believe the most distinct feature and folly of our society, is that, which prevents America, for example, from supplying starving countries with cheap, surplus grain, for fear of overwhelming the market.

My next souvenirs would be badges demanding the banning of the Bomb and Vietnam Solidarity. The wearing of badges nowadays, is probably the most effective method of `individual` protest known by the masses, and perhaps the people of a thousand years hence will appreciate our social conscience. In order to emphasise the more international outlook held by many, I should also enclose an International Pocket Dictionary, which may either stress the fact that a valiant attempt is being made to overcome language difficulties, or alternatively that there is still no common language spoken.

My penultimate choice would be a Bible, to show our descendants what we used to believe, as, in my opinion, Christianity will not last (as long as there remain Popes and bishops to make a mockery of it). For a while, I think youth really expressed this disillusionment with religion and life, in songs. The last, best, though not the most successful song of this era was `Strawberry Fields` by the Beatles. It seemed the ultimate in technical and musical progression, at the time, and so I should feel bound to include a carefully written copy of the words, for the benefit of future generations. It illustrates best the feelings and attitudes of the young generation, (in all its pretentions, infinite wisdom). In one thousand years` time, it will, I feel, reveal the most truth about the people of this century.

“I think, and know, and be,
Ah, yes, but it’s all wrong; –
That is, I thinkI disagree…
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out, – 
It doesn’tmatter much to me…

Strawberry Fields Forever!”

March 15th:

`What is that little black thing, I see there in the white?`

This quotation typifies for me one of the rather less probing questions I frequently ask myself as my eye aimlessly scan the vast expanses of white ceiling, in our class rooms. Occasionally, I make radical variations on this theme, for example, “Why does the ceiling bulge above the door?” or, “What is that little white thing, I see there in the black?”

These philosophical gems occupy my thoughts during those ever-increasing moments of mental numbness I experience, when Von Papen, his industrialists, and even Keats and his purple-lined palaces of sweet sin, fail to grip my predicament, adopt similar postures, some gazing intensely through the window, at a most devastatingly unusual paper bag on the grass, and others engrossed in a study of the formation of the floor-boards.

I tend to favour the raising of a slightly quizzical eyebrow, which, I hope, lends a certain `pensive` air, and in addition to this, a fixed, rather gloomy stare at an object a few inches to the left, or right, of the teacher’s head. Undoubtedly, thirty-two pairs of melancholy, `unspeculating` eyes, whose gazes are all transfixed by the same vase of daffodils, must prove somewhat disconcerting for any member of staff, and so several girls unselfishly make a pretence of being in a deep coma.

Thoughts, in these circumstances, tend to vary from an intellectual “I wonder what is the speed of time?” (which is usually repeated slowly, and very often, as it seems a clever question), to a frenzied, “Who did she say wore parachute underwear?”, as the speaker suddenly comes winging back into `real` life.

It is my conviction that these lapses have a considerable value of their own. During them, innumerable poems come to fruition, unfortunately, only to be forgotten again on reawakening. Subject matter for countless essays, particularly my own, is provided, and also, the brain is rested sufficiently, so that, `strengthened` and `renewed` , it can, once again, cope with the really important issues of life, for example, that `Sodium Nitrate is notused in gun powder.`

Possibly, teachers too find brief respite in studying the occasional azure vein wandering across `fair-spaced temples`. It may well be that, as they dictate, and we busily scribble, all our minds are really fused as one, on another level, which might be conveniently `Over the silver mountain`.