In 1963 at the age of around 5, I started school at the Mombasa European Primary School. I had been at the adjoining nursery which is still there today. The primary school was on Mombasa Island, and my father took it in turns with a work colleague called Dougie Turner, to take us to school on their way to work. David and I would sit in the back of Dougie’s car and chant “Mr Turner is a Learner!” whenever we thought he couldn’t hear!
My time at the Primary school was happy enough, and I don’t recall being under any pressure academically. However, there are a couple of memories that have stood the test of time. The first is the school sports day. I have never enjoyed school sports, as I was one of the least athletic of all the boys at school. As always it seemed a necessity for the school to insist that every boy participated at the sports day. At Mombasa Primary it was decided that as I wasn’t in any of the track races, I would have to be part of the bunny hop race. Unfortunately for me, it was filmed by my father on his cine camera for all posterity! See the girl next to me who clearly is taking it very seriously. I heard she competed in the Olympics in the bunny hop. I never heard how she got on!
On another occasion, I was part of the school ‘ensemble’ and we had a performance at the local hall in front of all the parents. In rehearsals I had been given a triangle to play, but when it came to the big day, they gave me some bells to shake! The triangle was a ‘proper’ instrument, and here I was with some baby shaker or other! I was greatly offended! Another prominent memory from that time was when I thought my father had forgotten to pick me up from school. Every day the children would sit in the waiting area by the car park for their parents to arrive. On this day, I was the last to be picked up! Clearly I had been abandoned! It turned out that my father had suffered a flat tyre.
I found it very hard when I visited the school in 2004. The school has had many changes since the 1960s and whilst it is still going, it has been sadly underfunded for all those years. There were almost no windows in the hall with complete glass and the playground at the back of the school, scene of the celebrated bunny hop race, was completely devoid of any grass and consisted of compacted murrum, although the climbing frame was the same from forty years before. My son Luke was with me, and he asked incredulously “Dad, did you really go to school here?”