Miss Fincham, Freda Fincham was my class teacher at St Joseph’s Primary School, which I attended when I was 10 years’ old. She was tall, lanky and gangly, her limbs mobile and appeared not to fit her body. She had a long face and a long nose with dark lustrous hair that she piled together on top of her head and clasped back with a huge slide but which kept escaping into wild tendrils around her face. She wore bright red lipstick and long flowing dresses with large colourful flowers on them and big woolly cardigans which had probably been hand knitted.
My mother was in hospital at the time and I was boarding at the Fidelius Convent but I was neither clever enough, nor was my mother rich enough for me to attend their school, instead had to walk down down the hill to the local school.
I was unruly and disruptive in class, I’m not sure exactly what I did, I talked alot (I still do) and joked alot (I still do) and generally did anything I could to attract attention which resulted in my being sent out to stand outside the Headmaster, Mr Brennan’s Office. He would give me a telling off and hit me with his cane on the hand which stung and made my fingers red.
What I liked about Miss Fincham, although in my head she was always Freda, was that she would sing instructions to us. ‘Put your pencils down’ ‘Take out your books’ ‘Pay attention when I’m talking to you’ and so forth, all on one note but very musical and I found her fascinating. On one particular day there was alot of noise and I, along with others, was making paper aeroplanes and throwing them about. Freda approached me and sang at me
‘Get out of the classroom.’
I sang back, ‘No.’
She then sung, ‘I told you to go out of the classroom.’
I again sung back, ‘No.’
She reached out to grab hold of me to pull me up, I resisted and grabbed hold of her cardigan which was flapping around and pulled back. The cardigan sleeve stretched and stretched until I fell back down on to my chair, still holding on to her cardigan. She looked at me for a few moments with such a look of caring that it was like an arrow of surprise that pierced through my hard, sulky exterior straight to my heart. I didn’t realise anybody could care for me. I let go of her cardigan and went straight out to wait for the cane.