Across the road from the apartment I was to get the bus which would take me to take me to my new school.
School was a long way off from our flat. Every day we were collected by bus and driven there. Back in those days, there was none of the modern parental smothering and being driven individually. In those days you had to be there in time for the bus. It was mostly uneventful.
Then one morning, something was different. Armed Military Police were there with the bus. The windows were covered in what looked like chicken wire. When I got home I asked my mother about this (the other kids all seemed to be taking it all in their stride, and I didn’t want to appear stupid). For the first time in my life I discovered that because of an accident of birth, I was most unwelcome to some people. Hatred that drives anybody to kill somebody just because they represent something I have never been able to understand since that day. My mother told me the escort was for our protection (obviously) and the chicken wire was to stop grenades getting thrown inside the bus.
Whenever this happened again in the future, I can’t say I was scared. After all, what does one’s own death mean to a child? I was uneasy, and on part of the route to school we went past a graveyard at the end of Ma'alla Strait. I still remember the sadness I felt knowing among those buried there were service personnel who never went home. I also had morbid thoughts, not something I discussed with anybody, nor have I ever mentioned before now.
On a much brighter note, there were two individuals at Chapel Hill I remember with great affection. The first is a teacher, Mr. Bounty. I really enjoyed his lessons. The following year when I changed class and we were on the next floor up and at the other end of the building our teacher was Miss or Mrs. Wright. I realised what a difference a person can make to learning and understanding. I shall say no more about my time under her care!
The second person who meant a lot to me was Colin Birch. He was my best friend ever. Nobody could ever be as great as him. He showed me the word ‘fart’ in the dictionary. We made up crosswords together. We were at a birthday party at the other end of Ma'alla to where I lived, and everybody apart from me and him were doing the twist. I thought it was rather a silly thing to do and was very embarrassed when a grownup encouraged me to try it. That sort of thing has never been of much interest to me since, making a fool of myself, as myself, in public. Making a fool of myself other than as myself is a different matter!
© 2012 Gwailo54
Class photograph. I am on the back row, fourth boy from the right.
My school badge.