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School Days

My Brother Greg's Response:

When my sister asked me to put into printed word some of my childhood memories whilst living in Africa in the 1960s, my initial reaction was..... "Alison ... I haven't got time to mull over memories of a million years ago" (which is a slight exaggeration as I am only 65 years old now in 2014 but was eleven years old at the time).
Anyway as I was lying in bed later that night, counting sheep as one sometimes needs to my mind started to drift back down through the years to that time of my life. Blantyre, Nyasaland, what a wonderful, enchanted place and time ~ 1961 to 1964.
I attended St. Andrews High School which was quite different to the schools I had experienced in Wales. The school uniform was compulsory of course, a drab grey shirt a pair of matching grey shorts, long woollen socks (even in the hot African Summer) black leather shoes (polished) and a blue striped tie, not to mention the grey hat similar to the one Harrison Ford wears in Raiders of the Lost Ark - but he wasn't even invented then so I always wore it under protest!
As I recall the headmaster was Mr. Owen and a relatively nice chap. However, the deputy head, Mr. Silcock ........ now you wouldn't want get on the wrong side of Mr. Silcock as he had a very long cane and enjoyed wielding it as he moved around the school yard. I remember clearly on more than one occasion, butterflies in the stomach, waiting outside his office for six of the best for getting caught fighting..
There were four sports teams or houses as they were called then, named after early African explorers, I was in Livingstone, I enjoyed sport and was quite a fast runner, I was also keen on languages, I studied English of course and excelled in that, Latin I could take it or leave it, but French I found very interesting, now the French teacher was Miss Hart, she was a little over weight but quite attractive, always dressed immaculately with bright red nail polish and lipstick to match, she thought she was chocolate.
I also enjoyed Art, my Art teacher was Mr. Penny and during my time at the school, he married another teacher whose first name was Penelope and so forevermore she was known as Miss Penny Penny, amazing the things that stick in your head. Another amazing memory was between classes one had to pass the big double doors of the assembly hall, where laid out on tables for boarders only were hundreds of slices of toast and Marmite .... smelled delicious (the only time I wished I was a boarder).
I enjoyed Music too and as I could sing and play guitar I was often invited to perform at some of the school socials.
Weekends were always interesting, no TV then, just the radio and on Saturday around six in the evening. We would sit and listen to 'Saturday Night Spin' which kicked off with The Shadows "Dance On" and then the announcer would fade in with "Welcome to Saturday Night Spin ... Dave Gilbey on this side of the microphone" and then he would play and we would listen to all the great music of that time.
I had an idea, so one Saturday I made my way into Blantyre with my guitar and a friend, walked into the radio station and asked if I could sing on the radio. Within a few minutes I found myself sitting in the recording studio with Dave Gilbey at the sound desk. He asked what I wanted to sing, I said 'Travelling Light' by Cliff Richard - so half an hour later after a couple of takes we were done. Dave Gilbey announced on the program that night that "he had a special guest and for all our listeners in Rhodesia and Nyasaland here is Greg Tomkins singing Travelling Light" .... Dad Recorded it on my Philips tape recorder .... what a buzz!
Dad enjoyed singing too but would usually sing a little off key, Mum however had a beautiful voice and I'm sure could have enjoyed a career in opera..... anyway another lifetime. They joined an amateur theatre group and would take us to every rehearsal, I still remember most of the words to every song in the production of "The White Horse Inn".
I'm going to sign off now because as I said I don't have the time to mull over memories.
But it was a very special time of my life and I shall remain ever thankful to Ma and Pa for taking me on the adventure ride of a lifetime.
May God rest their souls ....... xx

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