After only a few days of holiday in Devon it was quite easy to torment Sam and Bea with the idea that it was already time to go back to school. Sam was not impressed to read the confirming label on the side of the small granite school house we were angling towards as we headed out of the George and Charlotte Copper Mine and they whinged and stamped their feet in annoyance. Bea quickly cheered up when she spotted the white numbers painted onto the floor of the paved playground area though and was soon showing Grandad how to play hopscotch.
In this walled courtyard there was also a long skipping rope with one end attached to the wall and recess lasted long enough for everyone to be entertained by Sam and Bea jumping rope.
All too soon the bell rang for school though and a very strict teacher ushered everyone inside the little room for class to begin. Made to sit quietly on the rows of stark wooden benches which would have originally designated our pecking order in the class and had students arranged from front to back by age, we were given slate boards and tiny slate pencils and tested on our joined up writing. While we all sailed through that exam with our penmanship passing muster, Sam was singled out for some minor misdemeanor and made to demonstrate the dunce’s cap. He did a very good job of standing at the front of the class and balancing the paper hat on his head as it is designed to be so small that it perches atop the culprit’s head and requires complete attention for it to remain in place.
Sam and Bea were also treated to an introduction to other Victorian methods of school discipline and the cane was brought out. Girls would have received a strike to the back or palm of the hand, while boys would have endured a beating on their bottoms. Both children proved to be model miscreants and took their punishment happily.
The large flat wooden paddles that caused wide eyes and concern as we presumed them to be another disciplinary tool when brandished by the teacher turned out to merely be for posture correction. There was no slouching allowed in class and these were used to maintain straight backs.
A half remembered mumbled verse of “All Things Bright And Beautiful” drew the lesson to a close and we were released back into the playground for another round of skipping.