I am indebted to my grandchildren for introducing me to some of the school traditions which hadn’t been dreamt up when I was a pupil.
As a result, I was not as mystified as I would otherwise have been to see several children arriving at the Mischief Makers Summer Reading Challenge Desk in the Library this afternoon wearing tee-shirts decorated with multi-coloured graffiti. Yes, it’s
that School Leavers Ritual of inviting all your friends - and all your teachers - to take a felt tip pen to your previously clean white shirt and deface it by signing their names.
In my school days we had to make do with a rather more prosaic autograph book. Well, there was no such thing as cheap school uniform in those (far-off) days; my mother would have been appalled indeed had I returned home with a shirt
so badly marked that it could not be passed down in turn to my younger sister.
Instead, we would mark out a “Friendship Wall” in our autograph
books and ask our friends to each sign a brick, a marker of our eternal devotion as we went our separate ways to various secondary schools, depending on whether we had passed the dreaded “Scholarship” or not. Ideally, the two centre pages of your
autograph book would be given over for the Friendship Wall - though this posed something of a problem for me. My dear Dad, you see, had a habit of seizing any new autograph book, turning immediately to the centre pages and penning that immortal rhyme: “Hey
diddle diddle / I’m bang in the middle.” Great poetry it was not - but there’s something sweet about the fact that I remember it so well, that it brings a smile to my face all these many years later...
Issy, my fellow volunteer on the Mischief Makers Desk today, tells me she still has her autographed shirt from her last day at primary school. One day, she says, she will find it and try to put faces
to every name. I find myself wondering if my old autograph album is lurking anywhere, and how many names I would remember. Oh, where are you now Jill Carpenter and Barbara Bland? Do you remember when we acted out the Three Billy Goats Gruff in Infants School?
And who played the Troll?
I am forced back to the present when a family of four children arrives at the desk, one wearing an autographed shirt which I admire fulsomely,
requesting a twirl so that I can peruse the names written on the back. While their mother is registering them all on-line, we take them through the Challenge and I ask them if by any chance they are Mischief Makers at home? They gaze back at me with
eyes full of, well, mischief. We send them off to the Children’s Library to follow a Treasure Hunt. They surely can’t get up to too much mischief there. Can they?
I love all the children who visit my desk - how could I not? But most of all I love the story-tellers. The children who recount the events in the book they have just read and remember every name, every place, every strange occurrence. One young lass
this afternoon has read The Magician’s Nephew by CS Lewis and tells us the story, in full, complete with actions - she is a truly brilliant story-teller, I say.
So many stories I’ll be hearing about over the next seven weeks. What’s more, now I come to think of it - every “end of school” tee shirt tells a story.
Wouldn’t you agree?