The Sprig part 7

Sprig’s early education was somewhat fragmented because of a couple of periods away from home as an evacuee, but he started school at St Mary’s in Yagnub. The house is now a retirement home. When the time came for him to go to prep school, he followed his brother to Town Close in Norwich as a weekly boarder. It was chosen because the owner and founder, Mr Dearnley, was a friend of Pa and Ma but, in fact, it’s got a good reputation and I don’t suppose it had a lesser one then. Having said that, Sprig was never particularly happy at school. He was one of those people who immersed himself in learning everything on a subject if it interested him, but didn’t engage at all if it did not. His total ignorance about many things bemused me in all the years I knew him, yet he was a quick and retentive learner when he chose to be.

He was very good with his hands, good at maths, artistic and a good speller, but he didn’t do better than bump along the middle of the class. It probably didn’t help that his elder brother had been very academic, nor that he wasn’t sporty at all. Mr Dearnley was very fond of celery and a great quantity of it was grown in the school kitchen garden – the aroma of it cooking and regular meals of celery soup put Russell off the vegetable permanently. He became life-long friends with a couple of staff members though. Miss Ratcliffe, known as Auntie Rats, was the bursar I think, though I’m not sure, and we used to call on her and her sister in Norwich once in a while. John Farqueharson (pronounced Farkeson) was a lovely man, Deputy Head in Sprig’s day and one of my favourite people ever. He painted watercolours in his retirement, which he sold for charity at annual exhibitions. I have several of them. He moved in the end to Towcester or Bicester, if only I could remember which, to be near his family.

In the meantime, June was at school locally, at All Hallows Convent School in Ditchingham. From all I’ve ever heard about it, this was a very happy school and girls who went there loved it. It’s only about five miles from here but June would have been a weekly boarder too. The last nuns left the convent to disperse to other orders this year, the school itself having closed some thirty years ago. Slightly unusually, it was an Anglican convent; most of them are Roman Catholic.

Again following his brother, Sprig went to Repton, a minor public school in Derbyshire. There must have been some connection with Town Close, because that school had been evacuated there in the war.

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