Copyright©Sept. 2016 Suzy Stewart Dubot
Published at Shakespir
An Anglo/American who has been living in France for over 30 years, she began writing as soon as she retired. She recently spent seventeen months in London, UK caring for an aged relative. She is now back in France. Writing follows her as easily as her laptop. With her daughters, she is a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights. She is also an admirer of the British abolitionist, William Wilberforce, who was also a founding member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (S.P.C.A.).
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental.
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Cover design: Suzy Stewart Dubot
In 1956, at eight-years of age, I left a small town in Ohio for the capital of Great Britain. My mother was taking me and my two brothers back to her hometown—the city of London.
The Atlantic crossing on the liner RMS Queen Elizabeth was the prelude to greater, older things to come; a life on a different scale to modern America.
London was a bustling city with red double-decker trams and buses, black beetle-like taxis and considerable traffic of small compact cars, all driving on the wrong side of the road. Terraced houses stretched along streets, as far as the eye could see, with very little greenery to break-up the brickwork. In winter, those houses would chug out smoke from their chimneys causing the well-known yellow smog that prevented you from seeing the hand held in front of your face. As children, we loved it! We could play hide-and-seek in the fog.
My new school had opened in 1857, and it was almost possible to believe it had remained in that century. St. Jude’s was a Church of England school with some of the classes still being held in small-windowed rooms off the old stone church. This was the same school that my mother had attended as a schoolgirl. Upon registering us there, she was surprised to find that one of her teachers, a Miss Pichon, had, in the intervening years, risen in the ranks to become Headmistress of the primary school; another sample of the past actively affecting present day.
The old-fashioned classrooms were furnished with wooden desks made for two. They had ceramic inkwells which were filled once a week by an ‘ink monitor’ who had to mix the blue-black ink from powder and go around distributing ink to those needing it. We wrote with nibbed pens that were dipped in that ink. Blotting paper was almost as important as the paper we wrote on. The desks were primitive and not comfortable but young children don’t sit still long enough to notice. Strange to think that one of those desks may have served my mother. They were certainly old enough.
My first teacher was Mr. Griffiths. He was a tall, slender Welshman with a bushy red moustache. He was very patient with me, a young American who was educationally behind those in his class. Because of his kindness, I fell in love with him.
Being a Yankee had me fighting the boys. It wasn’t that long after the end of WWII and the boys had, no doubt, heard family members saying how tough the American soldiers had been during the war. I had to prove it was true each time one of the boys challenged me.
On one occasion, we had come in from recess after one such altercation. Some of the kids had rushed in to tell Mr. Griffiths that I had been in a fight with Albert, and I was dreading a reprimand from the man I held in awe.
“Who won?” he asked without much alarm.
When they told him I had (poor Albert had finished with a bloody nose), he replied, “Well, that’s all right then.”
How could I not love Mr. Griffiths?
Another of the boys I had fought fiercely, wrote me my very first love letter the next day.
Heartlessly, I threw it away.
My life in England had me adapting to the less sophisticated living conditions where there was no central heating in winter, only a coal fireplace or an electric heater in one room. My American accent was unconsciously replaced by an English one. I was no longer taken to be a Yankee and didn’t have to prove that we were tough. Wearing a school uniform with a tie became natural and going to Girl Guides each week was my favourite activity.
After four years, I was comfortably integrated into the English way of life, no different from my friends or other children on the street.
It was then that a family crisis sent my brothers and me flying back to our father and a president rather than a queen.
Now, with my English accent, spelling and handwriting, I was standing on the other foot trying to fit back into life in a small town in Ohio…
It was only a small taste of what was to follow, however, because five years later, I returned to London to begin the process again…