I lie in the half-light at 5.30am trembling with excitement that I am about to call Miss Tillson. Many colourful memories come flooding into my head in anticipation of the call, most would be hard to translate and several unrepeatable
I am so distracted as I dial the number that I dial my own. Then I compose myself and tap out the code to the south of England and Ruth answers before the phone has rung once.
‘Hello’ she says in her deep evening voice, and we laugh at nothing tangible, just the collection of shared memories that dance around our heads and that are about to escape.
We met in the heady days of teaching-in-your-twenties. Ruth was blonde and funny, I was dark and laughed a lot so for one term, we created the highlight of both our teaching careers. Then she got swept away to a school down the road and we could only meet socially, not professionally (she would laugh at that).
It wasn’t that we were unprofessional, more that we loved the fun that was forever floating round those multi-cultural classrooms and we tapped into it as often as we could, much to the chagrin of our serious colleagues. We would get out the guitar, veer off onto a side topic spontaneously, see if the hall was free for impromptu drama games, and we were both as bad or as good as each other.
On Thursdays she’d stay over at my shared house, taking a day off the London to Brighton commute, and I remember once, on the way back to Clapham in my Mini Metro, she explained that she had just tried to teach the children about electricity. The only problem was that she herself didn’t know how electricity worked, it was like magic!. She had thought it might just come to her and had held up a circuit board to the children, flicked the switch, the lightbulb had lit up and she had said , ‘isn’t that clever, Look, you flick a switch and the light goes on! Now lets get out the pencils for some drawing time!
We delight in reminding each other of our rebelliousness. She laments that we couldn’t go off at a tangent now, there are really strict guidelines in place for teachers and a new curriculum. We remember a time when everyone smoked in staffrooms and there were candles and jossticks burning into the mellow atmosphere of the school. I find that Ruth’s memory has unfortunately improved. She went through a stage when she was having babies where her brain turned into swiss cheese with gaping but beautiful holes and now it’s all coming back, to shock me!
She reminds me of the time we got up late, raced into school with our full cereal bowls on our laps in the Mini Metro and she said ‘ I don’t suppose you have a paracetamol in the car.’ I said that I thought I’d seen a lone tablet recently on the car floor. She searched through all the paper, shoes, underwear etc, found it and popped it in her mouth. It could have been anything!
The outrageous times that we recollect cover scabies, boyfriends, being stopped by the police as we drove over speed humps with 8 people in the Metro (the police laughed it off), unfortunate diseases, anaphylaxis, the unbearable cliquiness of the Poetry Cafe and also the father of a child in her class who went into the countryside to ask Haile Selassie for a name for his new baby daughter and came back with the name ‘Tellis’!
She recalls the weekend that I spent with her in Brighton. We had invited my friend Renee to come too, and my new boyfriend and his friends were going to join us. Ruth, Renee and I watched as the lads all got out of their car in flares, platforms and wigs and then we spent the night at a rave in an underground multi-storey car park, dancing in puddles. The next day they went home, I drove home with Renee and we stopped off at a party she knew about in Tooting Bec. It is there that I saw my husband for the first time and mentioned to Renee, that I was going to marry ‘that tall guy over there, but,’ I continued ‘I had imagined him to have more hair’. And, I did.
I am finding it hard to write this blog post because I am still too excited. I left it for three days hoping that I would simmer down and get some distance from the phone call. But it’s no use.
Perhaps it’s that I have this song playing over and over in my mind. Ruth and I also shared my room with a New Zealand supply teacher one night, Roger, and before we went to bed we had danced on the sitting room furniture for several hours, most memorably to this.
Today I changed my profile on Twitter to ‘author, blogger, teacher, poet, smiler’ because I can’t stop.