Tomorrow, I meet up with a person who, when I was ten years old, had a huge impact on me and my life. Whilst at Victoria Junior School, Penarth, some forty-six years ago, a teacher took me under her wing and taught me for a full ten months in her class. Since that time, we have only briefly met once.
I would often ask myself; I wonder what became of Miss Glaves? Had she continued teaching, where had she ended up? Did she live locally, and I just did not recognise her, or was she now on the other side of the world in a totally different lifestyle to that which I remember her for?
I had previously tried to see if I could find what had happened to her through a website called Friends Reunited, and I posted a question asking where she was. But nothing came of it and once more, I considered this plight to be no more than a fond memory of a moment of my life, and we had now all moved on.
However, my memories are vivid of that exciting time when all we wanted to do was to absorb the information, the experiences, the creativity, and run as fast as we could until it was time to sleep.
One rainy winter afternoon in class, when the temperature fluctuated between boiling hot from the overheated classroom to the bitter chill of the cold air outside, and Miss Glaves announced, “everybody out, I’ve had enough of you in here, you need your fresh air”, we charged forth into the vast expanse of the playground. On our way through the door, I recall my mate and I noticing her quietly reached behind her desk and producing a beautiful Spanish guitar for the next lesson when we returned from the battlefield outside.
We had not seen anything like it in the flesh before. Yes, the black and white tv showed groups of musicians strumming, blowing, and hitting their instruments, and some class members did a pretty good impression of these talented people. It was just a shame that the sound left a lot to be desired. But the enthusiasm counted for everything at that age.
Wide eyed and with disbelief, we watched in awe and listened with the intent of a person hearing for the very first time. The melodic sound, the harmonious combination of chords being formed and linked together, taking us on a journey of sound and emotion. We sat, captivated.
The impact was so much that this instrument was the number one priority in my mate’s and my life. Xmas lists were rewritten, and we hoped and prayed that our begging to our parents would pay off. Fortunately, it did. There, at the beginning of the January school term, John Rook and I stood outside the school gate admiring each other’s guitar cases, refusing to admit that these oversized items were too heavy for our spindly arms, our parents smiling at each other whilst we clumsily made our way in through the main door and along to our daily sanctuary that others called the classroom.
Rock’n’Roll was about to get serious, not that we had any idea whatsoever about it, the fashion, or the culture. But it was the initial step. And it started with the song “Take Me Home, Country Roads” with Miss Glaves.
This was not the only first experience of a new world that this teacher introduced me to. Being quite a shy youngster who wanted to be part of everything that was happening around me, but just could not make that step, I never really went anywhere further than I could without the comfort of knowing where one of my parents were. This was commonplace and daily life for us all. That was until I came home telling my mother that I was going to Belgium for a full week with the school.
Shocked was not the word to describe her look. I had never been further than her apron strings had stretched to, and for a working class terraced housed family, Belgium was a place that existed solely in school geography books.
The key to this trip? The reason why I felt reassured and confident to venture further than the front door? Miss Glaves. And off I went as an excited ten-year-old for an absolutely magical week to Belgium on the other side of the world!
And tomorrow, I finally catch up with the teacher who helped to give me the confidence to do something different to which I was used to. It will be an opportunity to relive those special moments, to fill in those missing years and again be grateful for what I now have in my life.
So, looking back on the characters that have influenced me, I count my blessings that I have had some wonderful people behind the scenes, supporting and encouraging me in many different ways, even if I did not recognise these at the time, which is often the case for many of us.
In reflection, revisiting past memories and catching up with Miss Glaves is in some way a part of the theory of the full circle. Back in that haven of a fantastic period of schooling, she displayed a piece of my artwork which I was so proud of at that time, I had to write about it in my book, as you may very well know.
Now, some forty-six years later, my son, being a successful musician who travels the world playing guitar with his band to large crowds, also plays his very own rendition of “Take Me Home, Country Roads”. Of course, it is much better than anything that I could have played, but I am not admitting that to him.
And as I look forward to tomorrow’s meeting, a thought just crossed my mind. I hope I don’t have any outstanding homework!