Posted by: Witch Doctor | May 20, 2010

Blackboards, belts and crates of milk

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When The Witch Doctor was in primary school she always wanted to be a teacher. This wasn’t because she had any desire whatsoever to have any pupils although she would have put up with them at a push. The main reason for her ambition was because she loved all the accoutrements of teaching. A big classroom of her own with rows of neatly arranged little desks and their tiny chairs facing her and joy of joy! – a great big teacher’s desk and chair for her to clamber up on. The teachers’ desks in her school were made of solid golden oak and probably dated way back to the Arts and Crafts era. They all had sturdy lids on them that made an awful noise if slammed shut. Teachers used to do that as a means of silencing us. The Witch Doctor hated sudden bangs of any sort and still does. They scare her. This is probably the reason.

Inside the teachers’ desks were lots of interesting bits and pieces – a register, textbooks, notebooks, rulers, pens, pencils and a long leather strap. This was a useful piece of equipment because it taught The Witch Doctor to respect those teachers and those other members of society who had such presence that they never needed to resort to violence.

The shelf on one side of these big Arts and Crafts desks was where a big box of drinking straws was kept. Two of the boys were chosen each week as The Crate Boys. They had to collect a big metal crate of milk from the janitor in the playground every day at 11.00am and bring it back to the classroom. The noise from the clatter of crates in the playground could be heard through the classroom windows from 11 to 12 noon every day. Once the milk crate arrived in the classroom The Straw Girl for the week went down to the front of the class and sat on the floor beside it. She took her pencil with her. The crate contained dinky little glass milk bottles that held a third of a pint. That was the government quota per child. Each bottle had a round cardboard lid with a little perforated ring on the top. The ring was exactly the size of a pencil. The Straw Girl had to poke her pencil through the discs on top of every single milk bottle to perforate it and then she had to put a drinking straw into each bottle. Sometimes the little disc was pushed completely into the milk but more often one end stayed attached. The cardboard discs were cream coloured with writing on them, but it is too long ago to remember what is said – maybe it was a government stamp of some kind, or maybe it was the name of the dairy supplying the milk. The printing on each top was a different colour every day. The Witch Doctor liked that because it meant you could take the cardboard tops home to wash and collect all the different colours. Alternatively, the girls would often bring them back to school after they had been washed and use them to make multi-coloured pom-poms from wool from ripped out jumpers and cardigans. These pompoms could be attached to the end of the ties of the “pixies” that we wore in the frosty days. Heaven knows what the boys did with them.

You will notice what was being done was not politically correct. It was ALWAYS boys who collected the crates. It was ALWAYS a girl who put the straws in the bottles. These teachers would probably get life imprisonment nowadays for breaching the laws on sex discrimination.

On the other shelf of the teacher’s desk lived two great big boxes of chalk – one white and the other coloured. The Witch Doctor loved these boxes especially when a new one was opened and you coud see could see each piece of chalk standing to attention unbroken. She especially liked the box of coloured chalk arranged like a rainbow.

It was a lovely sight.

The greatest delight to The Witch Doctor was The Big Blackboard. Not the kinds that are floppy and roll round and around. And certainly not a whiteboard or a green board. It was a blackboard that was plain on one side and had squares or lines on the other. The blackboard sat on a solid big oak easel with adjustable pegs. The black board and easel would probably be considered too heavy and dangerous for a teacher to heave around nowadays, but The Witch Doctor has no recollection of any interesting classroom accidents involving these blackboards. The leather straps hidden inside the depths of the big oak desk were much more dangerous.

Why in the name of all that’s wonderful is The Witch Doctor telling you all this?

There must have been a reason.

It’ll probably come to me during The Witching Hour.

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