December 13: we have a new tadpole

I remember, as a five-year-old, the day I was expected to be able to write. We used to have a section of the day given over to what was called ‘News’. The teacher would write up on the blackboard the news for the day whcih would invariably be Today is Tuesday. It is sunny. The tadpole is dead.The day of the week; a bit of weather and a bit of actual news. There was, I recall, a kind of wooden slate hung up somewhere in the classroom with spaces into which we could insert wooden words like Tuesday and sunny, so we were used to these words. So the teacher would write today’s news on the board and we would painstakingly copy. Then one day she said today you are going to write your own news. The bafflement that spread around the room was massive. It was like the news of the Kennedy assassination. I looked to my right-hand neighbour. He started with the letter A. I copied him. I looked to my left-hand neighbour. He had started with Th. This looked more likely to me, so I crossed out the A and put Th instead. After 20 mnsutes the evercise books were collected in. Mine was a blank page with a crossed-out A and a Th. My memory now goes blank, but I do remember looking through my News book a few weeks later and the next page was written on. Soemhow the next day or next week I had managed something. Today is Wednesday. It is windy. We have a new tadpole or some such stuff. Somehow I had understood what it was to compose a piece of text. In a now forgotten space my mind had processed something and the main moment of my education was done. I was now ready for the world.

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