Ch.10 - I discover literature.
The shop must have made some profit because Dad had a gas geyser installed in the kitchen to provide hot water for the tin bath that hung outside on the wall. It took ages to get enough water to have even a meagre bath and as soon as I could I went to Noel St. public baths but only in the summer. It was said, "You would catch your death" if you went out after a bath on a cold day. The first time I was so overcome by the joy of a proper bath that I forgot to take my vest off. I squeezed it out as best I could and wrapped it in my towel.
I told Mam it had dropped into the bath, she was sure I would get pneumonia by walking home without it. I don't know whether this incident was related but I began to have nightmares about walking through the streets in my vest that had shrunk to just below my navel.
The most wonderful part of the Manning School for me was the school library. I was an avid reader and there was nothing I liked better than to be sent to sit in the library. I had joined the public library but there I was restricted to the children's section. At home Mam had a collection of Ethel M Dell novels that I read and enjoyed but the school library introduced me to Walpole, Thackery and Jane Austin.
Dad had bought a complete works of Dickens and author he thought was wonderful because he highlighed the problems of the poor. Although to my knowledge he never read them himself Dad insisted that I read the whole collection before he would sign for me to use the adult public library. I admit I skimmed them and was able to give him brief outlines of the stories. I hated Dickens, he was in my estimation dreary and long winded and yet I soaked up Walpole's Herries series.
English was my favourite lesson but I was often in trouble when we had to read around the class. I couldn't resist reading on ahead and so when I was called upon to read aloud I couldn't find the place.
We had a Shakespeare text every year and I really enjoyed them. We acted out passages in class and when volunteers were called for my hand always went up. As well as written homework we often had to learn poetry by heart. This was no problem for me until one day, in my usual desire to show off I learnt the whole of a long poem - I think it was "He Fell Amongst Thieves" by Henry Newbolt. I stood up when my name was called and I couldn't get beyond the first line. I was mortified. To add to my dismay I got a detention for failure to do my homework.
A similar memory loss afflicted me much later in life when I took up amateur dramatics. I went on stage confident that I knew my lines only to find they had deserted me.
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