Monday, July 09, 2007

A Bloated Capitalist

Back in the early years of my teaching career (1967 - 70), I taught in a primary school in one of the poorest districts of Portsmouth. Many of the children came from impoverished backgrounds (real, not relative), living in Victorian terraced houses with poor sanitation. Those houses have long since been demolished, along with the school and the great sense of community that existed then.

The headmaster of the school firmly believed in encouraging every child to recognise and realise their potential and we teachers had to provide as many opportunities as possible to bring this about. As well as our normal teaching duties we introduced literary festivals, art exhibitions, musical concerts and dramatic productions as well as taking the children on trips to historic sites, to theatres etc. We also tried to encourage the children to develop a habit of saving for their future. This was done through the National Savings Bank; the children were encouraged to bring 6d (pre-decimal coinage now worth abouth 2.5p) each week to deposit in their account.

In my class of 7 year-olds, I had a little girl called Elizabeth. She was the shyest, quietest child imaginable, who would not even answer when her name was called at registration time. Her father was the local rag and bone man, or 'totter' as they were called locally. He drove his horse and cart around the streets, collecting old clothes and junk to sell on the market and his children came to school wearing whatever he could salvage from the collection. I was not surprised, therefore, that Elizabeth never came forward with a 6d on Monday mornings.

Then, one day Elizabeth sidled up to my desk and, without looking up, thrust a grubby piece of paper into my hand. I came across the note yesterday:

Dated 6/11/69, it says:

To Whom it May Concern

Elizabeth now States her Desire of Being a Bloated Capitalist.
By Joining School Bank. So Long as it has No Political Strings.

Mr. G. Early

Elizabeth then gave me a ten shilling note and ran back to her seat. Ten shillings was worth twenty 6d pieces.

I have always hoped that Elizabeth went on to develop those expressive skills that her father proudly claimed for her. I hope she got her desires, whatever they were in the end. I wonder if she became a Bloated Capitalist?


  1. What a lovely story! I often think of the children and young people with whom I have had contact in the past. Some of them of course have kept in touch, but just occasionally I will meet someone or hear of someone through someone else and that always gives me very great pleasure. None of them - as far as I know - have done anything very great, and have had sad and troubled lives, but for the most part, those I have heard of have become good, kind and caring adults. An outcome not to be sneezed at!

  2. This is the immeasurable reward of teaching, isn't it?

    I'm going back to story-telling on the blog. It is safer and probably more interesting!


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