Our little school bordered the shores of a lake a couple of miles outside Galway city. We had about forty students spread over three classes making up the whole school. Mrs Feeney had all the smallies, first class to third, were taught by the Master and fourth to sixth classes had Mrs Burke. I hated leaving Mrs Feeney's class, but time tide and the school system waits for no man. The master was old and very cross looking. So far I had found school to be easy and great fun. The only thing Mrs Feeney had ever corrected me on was singing. Prior to a visit by the bishop, we were practicing hymns. The whole room were gathered around her desk singing a Christmas song when Mrs Feeney waved her hands and stopped everyone mid song.
"Squid, why don't you just pretend to sing," she said sweetly. I had been giving the song great gusto but even today I can't hold a note. God knows what racket I was making. Red faced I did as she said. When the bishop came I stood at the back of the group and acted like a goldfish. Who wants to sing for silly men in dresses anyway!
The spelling book was different. The master told us to open the book on our second day in his class. He asked everyone to spell five different words. I got all mine wrong. His face darkened like thunder but he said nothing, I was terrified. That night we had to memorise the first page in the spelling book. I went over and over the words trying to get the letters to stick together in my head but they just would not stay. They were like butterfly's in my brain, they kept flitting around when I tried to remember them. After a long time I got them to sit still. I though I had it cracked. I asked my dad to quiz me, as soon as he asked the first word all the butterflies took flight again. Spell river he said. "R.i.v.r," I tried. No matter how much I repeated them the letters wouldn't stick in my head. I dreaded going to school the next day.
I tried telling mom I was sick, but she made me go to school anyway. The test came after first break. I stood at the front of the class. The master called each word out loud and clear. I got seven out of eight WRONG. I stood there feeling terrified and stupid.
"Harold, that's not good enough at all," the master scolded. I scuttled back to my desk, sick to my stomach. The minutes to lunch dragged. I couldn't wait to get outside and away from everyone. The school was a three roomed little thing with pebble dashed walls. It was spring time and a wild squall blew in from the lake. The driving rain nearly flew straight across not down. The others kids were huddled in the "shelter," behind the play area. Still smarting from my humiliation, I went around the front of the school.
I hunkered down behind a low wall. The wind howled, whipping rain in sheets over my head. Down where I sheltered I was warm and dry. The stillness of the air was amazing. I poked my hand above the wall feeling the icy rain sting my chubby fingers. Although I should remember this day for my terrible spelling, the memory that comes back to me most are those magic moments hiding in the lee of the storm. How I was cocooned in my own world. Despite everything I was elated. Now that I am grown I sometimes think of those minutes, mainly when I feel the world crush down on top of me. I wish, I were still small enough to shelter beneath a stubby west of Ireland wall and let the storm rage safely over me.