L is for Letheridge
Actually, this is my first and only bit of poetic licence. You’ll read about an old teacher, Mrs Holl, under ‘R’ (you’ll see why when you get there). Mrs Holl was her real name. But although this is a true story, the surname here is fictional.
Mrs Letheridge was an awesome and frightening woman who taught Geography at my school. It seemed to me, young though I was, that she had had a complete personality and sense of humour bypass. She was extremely accurate with one of those blackboard rubbers that had half a tree’s worth of wood to support whatever it was that actually wiped the blackboard. She terrified me.
When my daughter was at Primary School in Great Malvern, I was horrified one day to see Mrs Letheridge striding manfully into the school. I had assumed her to be long dead, as teachers always seem ancient, don’t they?
When she was my Geography teacher, I thought that she had to be at least fifty years old. She was probably in her early 30s. Anyway, thinking that I had imagined it, or seen the Ghost of School Past, I let it go. But, following several sightings, I realised that this was no ghost.
I pointed her out (from a safe distance, of course) to my five year old daughter, and asked her who she was.
“Oh that’s Mrs Letheridge,” she said, “She teaches us French.”
I must mention here that, at the time, I was a mother in her late thirties and yet the sight of Mrs Letheridge had brought me out in palpitations and flash back anxiety syndrome. I managed to avoid her for several months until she spotted me one day when I was dropping my daughter off at school
“Ah. Nonny Leetham,” she cried. (Leetham was my maiden name). “Fancy that. And now I am teaching your daughter!” She smiled hugely.
I froze. I was, literally, struck dumb. Well not quite dumb. I managed a few stutterings that made no sense whatsoever. Eventually I managed, “Oh, oh, um, Mrs Letheridge!” I gushed. She laughed. Well sort of cackled.
“Oh, my dear, you must call me Beryl.”.
I remember telling her, extremely politely of course, that I could NEVER call her Beryl, if that was OK, and that she’d always be Mrs Letheridge to me.I pushed my daughter violently towards the pupils’ door and rushed to the car and drove off before she could give me a detention or throw a heavy board rubber at me – or both!