Teachers 2 JohnnyFox January 20, 2007 Other Writing I can’t move on from this subject without recording the debt I owe Joan Webber, my kindergarten teacher. I went to school when I was only 3, my mother being driven insane by my early ability to read the Radio Times and incessant questions about “what does this mean”. Evidently I came home from school one day and said “Mummy, what’s ‘phenomenal’? Mrs Webber says I’m phenomenal.” It was later explained to me that Mrs Webber used to impress prospective parents at Whitelake by making me stand up and then saying to them “listen to this little boy read, and he’s only five …”. She was mortified when I turned six and her viral marketing scheme collapsed. But boy, did I love her and would jump through any hoop to win her approval or an extra large red tick in my exercise book. I was so tick-hungry that I even asked for homework which wasn’t given out in kindergarten. With the help of therapy I have ultimately forgiven her for, when doling out the instruments from the box which contained the tools of our ‘Percussion Band’, she never, EVER, gave me the cymbals – something I was itching to play and at the time insufficiently assertive to request. Her amplitude was always covered in some floral yardage probably sourced on Urmston market, and in looking at old school photographs she seemed only to own one dress pattern as in each successive year she appears in a different version of the same style. But look at this picture, taken one dappled afternoon in about 1958 It’s another planet. The Clarks’ sandals, the girls’ gingham summer dresses and hair ribbons (although Jean Tate clung defiantly to her barathea gymslip even when the sun was melting the tarmac on Flixton Road) and the ties and socks from Horne Brothers in Manchester all define a simpler and a gentler time, and my innocence. It’s an idyll. Below, I’d credited Mr Buttery with inspiring me to the drama. But I’d forgotten a production of “The Wind and the Sun” staged in the front garden of Whitelake School and directed by the aforementioned Mrs Webber and her young sidekick Miss Kershaw into whose tender cardigan-shouldered care I graduated aged six. Whether for my latent acting ability, or because I was her favourite, I was The Wind. In a dark blue velvet cloak made from the old dining room curtains and as I remember still with the rufflette tape and some hooks attached. There’s got to be a line about Gone With “The Wind”, but I’d struggle to frame it. I can actually identify more than half of the children, including Susan Stephenson, the tallest one and daughter of my mother’s best friend – we were paraded in parallel prams – and my first girl-friend Terry Barlow to whom I was engaged when we were six. I had good taste, though. Michael Billington who is the only member of my class to be in touch through Friends Reunited says she was the prettiest. Feel free to try and spot me: there’s only nine boys, so you’ve 11/1 odds.