Between Five and Six.

Bern's Prose.

Between Five and Six.

My Birthday, I was told that on the following Monday I would go with the other boys from number six cottage to the Balfour road school. I had no idea about what a school was apart from the fact that most of the boys could read the occasional comic that was smuggled into the Homes. The Homes was an orphanage, the full title was to be found on the odd letter from my father. It was addressed to

Master Bernard Shaw

Number Six Cottage.

The Medway Cottage Homes



 I myself could not read and my letter was given to one of the older boys to read to me. This meant that the letter was read either during Lunch or at Teatime. No privacy the letter could have been addressed to the boys of number six. I often was teased by the other boys whenever the letter ended with the words, Lots of love from your Dad. On hearing that I was to go to school I was I must admit so pleased that I was going to learn how to read. Now perhaps I would be allowed to read my own letters myself. After all a letter I was later to learn was a very personal thing. My first Teacher was a wonderfully kind person. It was not long and I could say the alphabet without making one mistake. Small notes that I wrote to myself were mainly torn up before anyone else could read my little secrets or if you will my notes of my complaints. If only the Foster Mother had read one of my notes to myself she would have given me a good thrashing.One ofmy best subjects at school was to write about what we had done over the week-end. I loved writing although to be honest my handwriting must have been the worst in the school. I had this knack of being able to take in all that i saw. One of my little essays was a walk up to Bluebell Hill I wrote three sheets full of what I had seen and all about the people that went to bluebell hill and picked huge bunches of bluebell flowers that they threw away it was too much trouble to carry them home and put them in water. The way back to the Homes was literally covered with thrown away bluebells. No Pets were allowed in the homes. One day the Foster Mother came back from her week-end off bringing with her a canary in a cage. We were told that this canary was her mother’s and her mother was too ill to look after it. The canary trilled away all day, just at night when the boys went to bed. It stopped its musical whistling. That was at seven in the evening. By the way no talking in the dormitory standing on the landing on a cold winter’s night was not for our pleasure it was a punishment for breaking one of the Foster mother’s rules. I well remember the first time that I smuggled a comic into Number Six. I had palled up with one of the outsiders a boy named Peter. Peter gave me a comic nearly every day. I suddenly became very popular with the boys from number Six. Comics were much sought after. I read every comic from beginning to the end before I passed it on for a sweet or a small coin. Our pocket money, if it had not been stopped for breaking some rule or other was one penny a week for boys under twelve for those of twelve and over were given two pennies. My punishment when one of the boys got caught with my comic and told the Foster mother that he had got the comic from me. Was a beating with an hair brush then when I protested too heavy at such treatment I was thrown into a bath of cold water. My protest now got me a scrubbing of my mouth with carbolic soap, even the sight of blood running from my mouth did not stop the woman from scrubbing more carbolic soap into my, what she called a dirty tongue and that I was not fit to be with other boys I should be placed in a lunatic asylum. I deserved some form of punishment but this was taking things too far. The woman then lft the Homes and another took her place. This new Foster mother read one book after the other she thank God had nothing against comics. More from your scribbler Bern in another tale of my stay in this God fearing home for orphans and other children that were placed in the care of the Kent County Council.

View bern's Full Portfolio