4 Dec 2012


Flora & Fauna

Flora Gardens as I knew it was a prefabricated ILEA primary school opened in the late 1950's, replacing a Victorian school built in 1885 that was either bombed or replaced after WWII. The Bomb Sight map records a hit there during the Blitz but the damage is supposition but there is the anomaly of pre-war house in the grounds where the janitor lived.

An example of its former kind stood nearby. Called John Betts it was founded 1859 and is still in the same building and they were our rivals. I recall being told by my father that Flora was only built to last 15 years and so it had reached the end of its planned life when I and Tanya attended but it's still there now.

Its most notable alumni is probably Steve Jones, the guitarist in the Sex Pistols, though he is much older than I am so I doubt we crossed paths.

Tanya was in the year below me throughout our time there. We would walk there from home every day and back again. Tanya evidently did well which meant she would have been sitting up front and near the full length Crittal windows. She probably had the special privilege of opening them. Both of us made many friends there. I've known my friends Claudia and Seb since then. Names I recall but have lost touch with are Erica Smart, Chloe and Lucy Burt, Jonathan Flint, Joe Pether, Derek Edwards, Beno Davis and there was Andrew Murray and Collette round the corner in the square who I walked home with a lot but never went in to her house. Something about her parents being very strict.

I can't recall the teachers' faces of Miss Day, Mrs Darling, Miss Littler but the kind Mr Hall (one time deputy) and the fearsome Mr Spurrell and his slipper I remember well. In the LCC archives are the punishment books marked "not for general access".

Then there was the unique headmistress, Miss K.E. Heron. She never revealed what her initials stood for; she said it was 'Kindness Everywhere'. She seemed to be in her 70's even then but I bet she wasn't over fifty.

She called the children and the school the Flora and the Fauna. 

Every year there was a sports day in Ravenscourt Park on a little field lined in chalk used by lots of schools in the area. Parents would come and sit on the opposite bank to cheer you on. I never won a race, not even the egg and spoon, in five years the best I ever did was a third but Tanya won or placed in everything. 

The school had some odd traditions. You were never allowed in the The Sunken Garden. That was holy ground upon which no one must step, at least in my day. I passed the school on the tube a few years ago and saw the kids playing in it. Does anyone know why we were banned from playing there?

Miss Heron wrote plays and loved music. I never saw Miss Lyons teach a class so I think she was a school secretary but was also the piano player. She was very dedicated, peering at her music through thick lenses. I also remember that a recording of the "William Tell" overture was always played at the end of assembly. Each year the record got scratchier and scratchier.

Once a month on a Friday we had 'Penny Twists', a after school disco to raise money for things. Whenever I hear "Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep" I am transported back to the assembly hall. We also danced in there to the BBC radio programme 'Music and Movement' which was an innovative idea and I hope those neural pathways I developed moving around in space with my eyes closed pretending to be a butterfly will help me in old age. One year I was picked to be the announcer at the end of term and leavers assembly, speaking in front of all the parents and the mayor and councillors. Apart from mispronouncing J.S. Bach as 'Batch' I pulled it off and I never worried again about public speaking, except about having something interesting to say.

There was an old man who was the Lollipop Man on Dalling Road. I used to talk to him for hours through the fence about his wartime exploits. He had been a fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain.

The caretaker who lived in the house in the playground was always cheerful and telling jokes. Real groaners of the knock-knock kind we loved.

Flora was a special place and a very happy time for me and Tanya. I hope it will be for those who go there now.

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