River Wissey Lovell Fuller


July 2018

Did you have to use a slate at primary school? When I was at primary school, for the first year or two, we had to write on slates. Later, we progressed to the ink pens – more later. In order to wipe our slates clean, we had to knit dishcloths about six inches square, using needles about a foot long and half an inch thick. I found this experience really stressful and, having finally cobbled together something vaguely resembling a dishcloth, I vowed never to knit again. On several occasions, I have mentioned to people that I had to use a slate during my early education and, usually, I have been met with disbelief and ridicule by people, such as Management, who were educated in posher parts of the world and had pens and pencils from the earliest days. I used to walk two miles to and from school, usually sucking a cinnamon ball (4 for 1d from the penny tray) and not everyone will believe that, either. Only on reflection years later, do I realise how immensely patient was the shopkeeper, waiting patiently while the young schoolboy tried to decide whether to buy 4 aniseed or cinnamon balls, 4 black jacks, 2 traffic lights, 2 sherbet lemons, one liquorice stick in sherbet or one Gobstopper with his carefully nurtured penny. Anyway, back to the slate. I had an hour to kill today so I popped into a little village cafe and delicatessen for a coffee and a read of my newspaper. Seated around a table were five ladies of my age, all knitting. (It turns out that, every morning from 10am to noon, it is open house for those who wish to attend the cafe to learn to knit or sew and drink discounted coffee). One of the ladies was the proprietor and, as she put down her knitting to make my coffee, she invited me to carry on with the knitting in her absence. Queue Nisbet's slate story and the fact hat I had given up knitting in disgust 68 years ago. We all got chatting about the use of slates and, gradually, all the ladies recalled that they, too, had been forced to use slates. You know, a sheet of slate framed with wood and cleaned with the wretched dishcloth. Obviously schools in the Midlands were as deprived as my school up North. One lady remembered that her mother used to be really angry about all the chalk dust in her cardigan but none of them seemed to have had any trouble knitting the dishcloth. We then moved on to discuss our progression to pen and ink, The pen with the detachable scratchy nib and the inkwell filled daily by the janitor from a jug in which he had mixed the ink powder and water. This led one of the ladies to remember that her father had owned a nib-making factory and that she still had hundreds of these push-on nibs. We agreed that, in my style, she should hang on to them as they would probably “come in” one day, much like all the stuff in our attic. I look forward to my next chat with the old dears. As I drove off in the car, a really doddery old lady was trying to cross the road. I stopped, as did a car coming the other way, to give her plenty of time and space. Suddenly, a blue light ambulance screamed around the corner and aimed for the gap we had left between our vehicles. Happily, the driver was alert! Unhappily, my beloved Espace is in hospital with a broken front spring and a driver's door window glass which lost the will to live and crashed down into the bowels of the door. She is mended now and ready for collection. It will be good to have her back as I still cannot work the Satnav in Deannie's Mokka! Joe died and his will provided £30,000 for his funeral. After the funeral, a friend asked Joe's wife how much the funeral had actually cost. “\All of it” replied the wife. “The funeral cost £6,000, I donated £500 to the church, the wake, food and drinks cost £1200 and the rest went on the memorial stone” “£22,000 for a memorial stone” said the friend “How big is it?” “Two and a half carats” replied the wife John asked his wife Mary what she would like for their 40th wedding anniversary. A mink coat, a Mercedes, beautiful new jewellery or a new home in the country were all turned down. Thoroughly exasperated, John asked Mary what she really would like. “I want a divorce” she said. “Oh” replied John “I wasn't planning on spending that much”. A young lady gave an old lady a lift. Having stared at a paper bag for some time, the old lady asked what was in it. “A bottle of wine I got for my husband” “Good trade” said the old lady after a moment's thought. Best wishes to you all Ian Nisbet

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