This week we discovered squatters in the roof. By the mess, they’ve been there some time, but the night before last they decided to party, and they seemed to be wearing heavy boots. Actually, I think I’ve been aware of their slippered-presence most of the winter, but inertia was easier than sorting out the loft ladder and torch, and I couldn’t imagine that there was much up there to interest them.
How wrong I was. Mice, it turns out, will chew anything. They’ve stripped the insulation off the water pipes, and shredded holes out of some spare carpet-underlay I had stashed away.
Amongst the debris though, I salvaged some oddments, one of which was the project-book we infants made, after a trip to the zoo. It’s a tattered remnant, but I’m glad our guests hadn’t got round to feasting on it.
Our village school was small: so small that it was closed-down around the time I left senior school. Because there were only half-a-dozen or so children in each year, I had no trouble putting faces to the names on the brief reports and drawings of our day out. Besides, I have a photo of our class with our teacher, Miss Johnson… somewhere.
The project also reminds me of my last few days in the Junior school, when the flimsy collection resurfaced from the back of the school stock-cupboard. ‘Who would like this?’ Mrs Gwatkins asked, after we’d flicked through it, laughing at the artwork. A few of us put our hands up, so she put names in a box, and mine was drawn out.
It couldn’t be said that I’ve treasured these pages, tucked away amongst my old diaries in the roof. As you’ve seen, it came perilously close to being a mouse-nursery. It’s possible I wouldn’t have missed it greatly, like those other fragments of school-life I thought I’d kept, but haven’t seen since I can’t remember when.
On the one hand, the project is just a collection of shaky calligraphy examples and scrappy drawings. On Monday we went to Birdland and we saw some Pelicans, I wrote, capitals and long letters touching the line above as well as the line they were resting on. And, We saw some pennies in a glass tank and there was some penguins swimming in a glass tank.
On the other hand, that repetition, and that,‘was’, was my six-year old voice, and, this project is able to link me back to the rain outside the mina bird house; the feel of my school uniform, and the way I felt as we crowded in to the small room where the Myna bird whistled, and recited, Sing-a-song-of-sixpence.
So for now, I’ll tuck the old folder into the bottom of a drawer, out of sight and mind. It’s resurfaced so many times, that I can’t help feeling it’s not finished with yet.