The School Board

The School Board

14 August 2020

The church with the old graveyard

Yesterday it was so hot, we biked only as far as the church. I love writing that. Lismore—advanced heat. Let’s boast. 

The island is like a velodrome. Bikes everywhere. Some wobbly, some racing and many with no idea that biking on the left is a good idea. Worse no bells or no bell use! I am not ashamed to say that, when provoked and a silent bike brushes by almost touching me, I sometimes yell: ‘Ring your effing bell’ as some lycra-clad idiot almost falls off with amazement (they never expect expletives from someone older). Whether I am walking or biking it is the same. They are dangerous. I know I speak for many islanders. 

Things will get more hectic here as continental Europe closes and, in addition, quarantine is introduced for returners from France, the Turks and Caicos, (will that be for tax dodgers returning in their yachts), Monaco, Aruba, Holland, and other places most have never heard of. Pandemics are good geography teachers. Because our neighbours change every week or two, and we have no idea where they come from, we wonder should they be quarantining. Not that they are ever bothersome. 

Our current neighbours have a personalised number plated Range Rover as did the last. Personalised number plates; what human need does that meet. As children, we write our names on things: is it a failure to grow out of that? One day someone may offer an explanation which dignifies this. Meanwhile I file it judgmentally under sad. They have two yappy dogs who don’t bother us, but one chased a sheep, who ran into the sea and was drowned by her heavy wool, leaving two traumatised lambs on the shore. Fortunately the farmer found them and the escaping dog, and money changed hands although I don’t imagine it has been the highlight of their holiday. Quite the opposite.

Lismore is not the ideal place for letting dogs off leads as sheep and lambs wander the island. The sign near the ferry about their being shot, frequently goes unheeded and, if I ever ask people to use a lead, and frankly I tire of that, they always say petulantly their dogs would never chase sheep. Dogs are wolves. Of course they will.

Had to abandon work in my study as the heat was stultifying and my computer kept overheating. I am assuming it was the heat rather than age related computer problems. I have never known such a long period of wonderful heat and will never complain. Some find it tiresome, and I wonder do they prefer howling gales, mud fests and drenching rain. It is wonderful to walk in dry fields. Just wonderful.

I have the final proof copy of my third book Sleeping with the Captain. Helen thinks the images need improving, but I am not keen for further delays as it is already about two years late! After I read the last final proof copy, a few months ago, I decided I liked everything about it except the words! And they were my contribution. So I set about rewriting it. My name is on it, so the words have to meet my needs. They are adequate now: no writer surely ever thinks all the words are okay. That would be clinical. In the end you have to kiss them goodbye. However, when I randomly checked this last proof I found a quite long repeated sentence. It was not such a gem that it stood repeating.

I am so happy that my excellent friend Gill Bridle agreed to do the cover again (She did the cover for Going Bananas) from her amazing visual brain. She is such a talent. Sadly she has moved to Shetland so is not longer delighting me and the island with her wit, wisdom and unique visions. Although her work is still for sale in the Heritage shop. 

I will never forget her coming to the door to ask me to join the Lismore Primary School Board as she was retiring as its chair! As I only functioned for just over half of my life, those available for public appearances were random (thank you migraines). I was terrified of committing myself, as my only real talent was cancelling appointments which I hated doing. And was often too ill to do it anyway. She convinced me the meetings were rare and well I agreed. I was interested in the school and knew it was vital to the island and had taught in the East end of London so proving I was good at managing mobs.

Morpeth School Bethnal Green, London 1972
Morpeth School Bethnal Green, London 1972

However, at the first meeting, to my astonishment, Mary MacDougall proposed me for chair and the vote was unanimous. I’d been set up. I stayed in post for several years and enjoyed it and even managed to co-opt Duncan Brooks from Killean as the other non parent rep and as someone who would be entertaining.

Freda MacGregor (now Drysdale) was the Head teacher, Mary MacDougall her assistant, so I was in good hands. My only rules were that no meeting must be longer than an hour, and no-one could speak except through the chair. I was power mad; I was not going to chair a rabble. 

 Gill Bridle had come to the island, with her partner Davie Meddes, in the early nineties just as we had. Because they lived in a bus while they were doing up Killean Cottage, they were thought to be ‘alternative’ or even, surely not, hippies. Living in buses or caravans is now normal while you are building. And the bus went on to have a life or its own and is still on the island but not abandoned. I will tell you its story at some point because for a time it was my neighbour.

The Brooks family bought Killean Farm and Croft about the same time. 

Today’s tip: When you meet yourself in the mirror (or any passing reflective surface) always smile. Be pleased to see yourself. ‘Wow you are lovely’ you might say. Love what you see. Own your body, take responsibility for your body. It is not some baggage you are obliged to put up with. It is you. The human body is a mysterious miracle. Not loving yourself is a mortal sin. Punishable. I know it functions as well as malfunctions. Overall we are wondrous.