When I was a child, at primary school, we were always asked to write about our weekend on a Monday morning. Were you? The Blackboard had the day’s date and the word ‘News’ scrawled on it in thick, white chalk and both were heavily underlined lest we be left in any doubt.
The book in which we wrote was, invariably, a yellow covered exercise book. The pen we wrote with, varied from year to year. Hence, first efforts were in the thick black charcoal pencils that our stubby fingers could grasp more easily, while later efforts were produced with fine nibbed fountain pens that tended to leak in one’s pencil case and stain one’s fingers.
The title could be decorated to one’s own fancy. That was often my favourite part, decorating the letters with coloured pencil. Loops and swirls, tiny flowers hanging from the letter N. There were no rules to how we carried out this exercise,
“Just let your imaginations fly!” we were told.
I had a vivid imagination according to my teachers, essential for a writer I feel. However, I worried about what to put in the news book if nothing much had happened at the weekend. Invariably, nothing much did when you were 9 years old, the age I was when this tale begins.
Entries read much the same each week. I am sure the entire class wrote variations on the same theme.
“…went to see my grandparents”
“played with Jane/John/the dog”
“went to the park and fished in the pond,”
It was a bonus if one had had a birthday over the weekend. Then there would be plenty to write about.
I did try to spice mine up a little by describing events in detail but essentially, nothing much ever happened in the real world.
Luckily, these boring diatribes would be interspersed with the occasional gem, saved up just for this occasion.
With nothing much to say about the weekend on one such Monday morning, I was delighted to write that a black bull had run up our street just as I was leaving for school and my mother had to shut the gate and haul me back indoors. (Monday morning news was allowed as well). I wrote at length about this amazing event (we lived in a town) that eclipsed anything else that had happened over the weekend. I handed in my work, flushed with anticipation.
My teacher flipped through the books, her pen ticking and crossing as she went. At break she came over to me with my book, laid it in front of me and said, not too unkindly, “Deborah, you have a great imagination but news should be what has really happened,”
I was mortified,
“But Mrs Anderson, it did happen…” I began.
I could tell by her face she did not believe me though she did not get me to rewrite the piece.
That evening, the local paper carried a picture of a little black bull who had escaped from its truck and was to be seen running up a familiar looking street at 8.30 In the morning. Apparently, it had jumped out of a cattle truck and was making a bid for freedom instead of heading to Romford farmer’s market.
I was vindicated! Indeed, I think I was first with the Scoop!
I reveled in the questions put to me the next day by the other children, who had now heard about it and I accepted my teacher’s astonished,
“Well I never!” as an apology.
It must have been a couple of years later on another Monday morning, having progressed to writing something we called, Weekly Diary instead of simply, News, that I dressed for school, full of expectation. I had something to write about, it was on the tip of my tongue. I had woken up knowing exactly what to write. I had felt pleased that this item was interesting and looked forward to setting it down on paper. The feeling remained with me over breakfast and throughout the walk to school.
Registration was over, our ‘Diaries’ were handed out and I opened mine. I began writing today’s date. I would decorate the title later. I must start writing before the words disappeared, before the feeling died…before…
…I stared at the paper and realization washed over me.
I was about to write about the trip I had taken on an aeroplane. I wanted to write about the houses and trees looking so small below me, the sun glinting on the wing, how the stewardess had smiled at us and handed out orange squash…
Only she hadn’t had she?
It had all been a dream. I did not have a great idea for my diary, I had not had the most exciting weekend ever and I had never, ever been on a plane.
I stared at the blank page and disappointment flooded through me. But that feeling had been so real, the excitement, the colours, the plane, it had all seemed so real. I sat there for a while feeling foolish.
My imagination had got the better of me this time – or had it?
After a while, I began to write,
“Last night I had the most amazing dream…”
I think I was destined to become a writer of fiction, scoop or no scoop…