Miss Downs

Taking advantage of the beautiful weather I walked up to Wimbledon common just before midday with a couple of books and sat reading by the pond in which I’d sailed my boat as a child.  The bench I had chosen was inscribed IN MEMORY OF DOUGLAS WARD CAMPBELL.

As always when passing Wimbledon Library, situated adjacent to St. Mark’s Place, where Jack (see post of 13th. May) stood awaiting his next charge, my thoughts turn to Miss Downs.  Miss Downs was a teacher at St. Mary’s Russell Rd. Roman Catholic school which I and all my siblings attended.  Miss Downs was adamant that we should read three books a week.  Consequently, dutifully, if not religiously, Mum took us on a regular weekly trip to the library where these treasure troves were to be found.  Was anyone else out there nurtured on Patricia Lynch’s Brogeen stories?

Every Sunday morning my brother Chris and I would attend Mass in the Church of the Sacred Heart on Edge Hill and go on for breakfast at Auntie Gwen’s in Latimer Road.  Auntie Gwen was my godmother, not the proprietor of yet another greasy spoon.  Mum was not a Catholic and Dad, at that time, was not practising.  In our case ‘attend Mass’ was a loose description.  When we discovered that it was only if you missed the crucial parts of the ceremony each Sabbath that you were condemned to Hell, we started stretching it a bit.  We would sneak in just before the Gospel and slide out just after Communion.  What we didn’t know was that Miss Downs was part of the congregation.  It was therefore something of a shock when we were summoned to her room at school to be asked to explain our behaviour and to be given what for.  This seemed pretty bad luck to us, and a bit out of order.  The long arm of the school was everywhere.

So…… for a lifetime’s pleasure from reading, Miss Downs and Mum, I thank you.  I still read every day.  For a sharp lesson in the wisdom of sussing out every possible drawback when contemplating manipulating the rules, Miss Downs, I, er, thank you.

I took the 93 bus back today, walking the long way round from Morden Station and stopping for an excellent shish kebab with a first rate salad at Morden Best Kebabs on London Road.  I have not been able to eat a doner since Becky told me what went into them.

This evening Jackie and I ate at the Watch Me, our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant on Morden Road.  Presumably it gets its name from the fact that, if you feel so inclined, you can watch the team of chefs performing behind a long window.  The food is wonderful, especially for me as hot comes as standard.  The staff are all very friendly young men, one of whom plays cricket.  The atmosphere is of a family gathering.  Alomost all the other customers are Sri Lankan families, the women wearing gorgeous saris, especially if there is, as often, a party going on; and really very small children running about.  The fathers are very hands-on Dads.  Waiters are adept at weaving in and out of darting infants whilst balancing plates of food.  You are not expected to order your ‘mains’ until you have eaten your starters, and you are never approached with the bill.  As far as they are concerned you are there for the evening.  We are indebted to my sister Jacqueline for the introduction to this establishment.

26 responses to “Miss Downs”

  1. I took many photos of the benchs in Holland Park in London. It is never seen in Japan, but I liked to leave the dead person’s name and message from family on the bench, I could feel the people’s warm feelings, the departed person might be happy to see people in the park.

  2. […] became old enough to travel alone we would visit her every Sunday morning for breakfast after Mass (see Miss Downs, 25th. May).  Maybe that’s where I get my penchant for fry-ups from.  After a full English we dunked so […]

  3. […] failed to supply this essential volume, and my parents could not afford it. Mum ordered it from Wimbledon Library. As the weeks rolled by, we waited with bated breath for its arrival. It was in our hands after […]

  4. Great post, Derrick. I too attended a Roman Catholic grade school and, on occasion, I ‘may’ have construed the term ‘attending mass’ in much the same you did! Three books a week is marvelous advice and I don’t think that advice is given today nearly as much as it should. I do remember how much I loved going to the library as a kid, too. In fact, you are really bringing up a lot of memories for me this morning!

  5. I never had a Miss Downs, I never had anybody to guide me into reading, I just did it, because I liked books and the written words and what they were saying. My dear ol’ Dad was for ever telling me “take your head out of the book boy, ” I think he knew my name.

    I think had it been possible to send me into the workforce at age 7 or 8 my mother would have done so.

    Luckily for my sister when we got to Australia in ’51 my mothers ideas changed and my sister got a good education and went on to teach,

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