A rare daliance with creative writing – this little piece has just appeared in the April edition of Words Down the Line (part of Wivenhoe Station’s Off the Rails programme) under the title ‘Crying on Lady Di’s Toilet’.
The first time I came to the East was for a family holiday. Catholic Peoples Weeks they were called (or CPW for short). A raggle taggle bunch of folk would descend on an deserted public school. The radical priest; the toddler who still breast fed; the sure footed parishioner; the non believer and the drinker – provided you paid your subs you were ‘in’.
It’s funny but I don’t remember much of the philosophical discussion. I do remember my youngest brother being baptised in a field, I remember another brother being rushed to hospital after being hit by a skimming stone and the time I hurled myself over a pole only to find my knee meet my nose at a pace which was far from healthy. I’ve never tried demonstrating high jumping again.
But theres one memory I’ve spent years trying to hide in the deepest, darkest recess’ of my brain.
I can’t have been more than ten or eleven when we first arrived at Riddlesworth Hall. But even at that early age I was a fanatical cricketer. My daily missal was the Observer book of cricket. The Yorkshire cricket team my litany of Saints. I’d spend hours religiously playing arm chair cricket ( a card game) and jockeying anyone and everyone to play Ash Grove cricket on our back road. In my mind I was Bradman, Botham and Bairstow. I was destined for great things…Headingley 81 was never far from my thoughts
..So I organised a cricket match. I found the kit, the ideal place in the grounds and convinced the willing and the unwilling to play. I suspect there was even an order of service. I naturally captained one of the sides – I’d have volunteered to captain both sides if I could. We won the toss and with Brearley and Boycott ringing in my ears I chose to bat.
Out I strode with my opening partner ready to face the might of the opposition. And they brought on … Felicity. My eyes lit up and for one short moment I was in cricketing heaven as I imagined despatching the ball to all corners of the ground.
Play cried the priest. Felicity’s delivery was underarm, a slow, straight almost timid ball. I picked the length and aimed to heave the ball deep into cow corner. The shot was impressive – a fullsome swing which combined speed, dexterity and skill. Unfortunately I missed – and as I swung round I saw it roll apologetically up to the stumps. The bails sat there for a second – as if contemplating what to do – and then fell to the ground with a thwack which appeared to resound all round Norfolk.
There was silence. A long pause. I think like WG Grace before me I was waiting to be invited to bat again. But nothing happened so slowly I turned and started the long walk back. AS I reached the boundary I broke into a trot and then a run – fleeing past my team mates and into the hall itself. I hurled myself into the nearest toilet, locked myself in and burst into uncontrollable tears.
It was only later – when I learnt that Riddlesworth Hall had been Lady D’s prep school – did I realise I’d spent an afternoon bawling my eyes out where once a royal bum had been.
You can find out more about CPW holidays here
If you’d like to find out more about Off the Rails this video comes from a talk given by the co-ordinators at the #Transforming Spaces conference at First Site
You can pick up a hard copy of Words Down the Line at Wivenhoe station. The April edition includes poems by Phoebe Southgate and Leslie Bell. For more details about Words down the Line or to make a submission e email@example.com