River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from a newcomer

February 2006

Marion wonders if School days were really the best days of our lives.

'It was the best of times; it was the worst of times'. Charles Dickens wasn't referring to childhood but, even so, I think those words pretty well sum it up.

When someone waxes lyrical about schooldays being the happiest time of their life, I can't help feeling their memory is playing tricks on them. They have clearly forgotten the excruciating boredom of school lessons with teachers droning interminably on, the humiliation of being told off in the front of the rest of the class, the cruel tyranny of older, bigger children. We can all add to

the list.

It's no coincidence that so many comedians say they first started cracking jokes in a desperate attempt to win friends in a hostile playground. If you can make 'em smile, they won't duff you up behind the bike sheds for not being one of the gang. With a bit of luck.

Far from being one long sunny idyll, our early years are more about learning how to survive in a world we didn't create. It's easy to forget how powerless children are; they don't get to choose any of the everyday things we adults take for granted - the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the time we go to bed. When you are little, all the rules are made by grown-ups.

No wonder the wail of 'It isn't fair!' is often heard from youngsters. The crisp response, 'Life isn't fair,' may be true - learning to accept it is another matter. But grim as growing up can be, it is alleviated by the magical

saving grace all children are blessed with; a soaring imagination. Remember how any miseries could be instantly banished in the excitement of a good game of

'let's pretend'?

Draped in a cast-off skirt and wearing a tiara of tinsel, little girls can transform themselves into beautiful princesses while little boys gallop around on imaginary horses shooting imaginary Indians with a stick shaped roughly like a gun. Just look at a child's face while watching their favourite DVD - they aren't just following the story of Thomas the Tank Engine, they are living

every magical second of it.

And which of us wouldn't love to recapture the enviable resilience of toddlers? One moment lying on the supermarket floor, screaming and kicking with grief

and fury, the next contentedly licking an ice-cream with the tears barely dried on rose-petal cheeks. Come to think of it, it would be lovely just to have those rose-petal cheeks again.

But the best days of our lives? I don't think so. Being an adult has its cares - when did you last see a grown-up skipping happily along the pavement? - but along with responsibility comes a measure of freedom. I might have to run the Hoover round and pay my council tax every month but nobody is ever again going to whack me with a ruler for not knowing my nine times table.

Marion Clarke

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