Portland College continued.
I stood at the top of the drive, with my stuff, having got from the Bus to Mansfield. I had crossed the road and hesitated! What was in store for the next three quarters of the year? What if I didn’t make friends! What if ?
We walked up the driveway the three of us, not speaking at first. We reach the office to sign in. We were directed to the recreation hall and told that we would have some lunch in a while and then we would have to go, individually, to be interviewed and allocated to our billeted room! In the recreation hall we met other people who we found out were starting their courses at the same time. Strange, how the guys and girls separated, by gender. To introduce ourselves, and generally talk. After a light lunch we each went in to see The Major, He had a folder on each of and told us that everything we did while there would be put into this file. I often wonder if they were, because we turned out to be possibly the most disruptive group they had ever had at Portland, as you will see! After seeing the Major, each of us was taken to our bed and told that after using the shower or bath we must clean it, so that it was clean for the next person. We were not to do anything else on that first day apart from getting to know our fellow students and the lay of the land! We had our diner in the hall early evening and were left to our own devices. We had access to a telephone, as there were public phone box’s there. I phoned home and spoke to the wife and kids, told them I was in Sherwood Forest, where Robin Hood came from! And that I would call again later in the week depending of what we had to do, but that I would write anyway. Watched a bit of television then off to bed!
Next morning, washed and dressed and off to breakfast, had cereals, British breakfast, you know greasy and no good to you, drink of tea for me, milk for some of the others. Then off into the Classroom, to meet our tutor for the next 10 weeks. We went into the room and there was this little man with spectacles on, he spoke with this funny accent and called us all m’ducks. He introduced himself as Mr Moseley, and told us that the first thing we would do was to have a little test in Arithmetic and later in English. He told us not to worry about them it was just so that he could see what each of us could do, and would have no effect on the actual course. We did the test and while he had a good look at our finished papers, he told us to reach a book and have a read. What we didn’t know was that afterwards he wanted to see what each of us had picked from the large array of books he had. This apparently gave him an insight into what kind of people we were! Eventually he told us the results of our little test and then he told us a little about ourselves. When it was my turn he said you have answered all the questions with the correct answers however if I had taken the Pitman’s exam, I would have failed, and told me that it was because I had not worked the answer out by any formula, and the invigilator would require to know that I had worked it out and not copied it from someone else. I said that I didn’t know the formulae, as I worked things out in my head. He insisted that I would have to learn the formulae, or else. Try as I did, I could never learn the blooming things and failed each exam. Mr Moseley said I told you, but also added it was a shame as all of my answers were correct. I was after all from the time when at school we learnt to work things out in our head, we didn’t have calculators. We didn’t realise this day exactly how hard we would have to work to get through this first section. I could not learn to work things out, by a formula, and don’t think that Mr Moseley quite understood why! For me I never grasped that you could get more points for getting it wrong as long as you had tried to do it with the formula. You can tell that 39 years later it still narks me! At least with English I didn’t have to worry about the blooming things, just do the English I had learnt from my early days at Watling Street. I passed stage 1 pitman’s English at the end of the 10 weeks, but not arithmetic. We also did a little bit of double entry bookkeeping during this period. I think that I did have a little advantage over the others because Dave Shirley, who was the club secretary at Middleton House, had taught me a little when I was younger, as he wanted me to assist with running the books at the club. This first period was hard, and took up a lot of time outside the classroom, but we did also have some free time. We also had to assist in putting on a student part for the upcoming celebrations, which I have published the programme of. Our intake was to put together a little skit, which must have been taken from a P.o.w film, its title was The Colditz story, one of the people doing it was one Richard Wattis who came from Wednesbury.Picture from Richard Wattis site.
It had the joke in it which went. My wife’s gone on holiday to the West Indies, Jamaica, No she went on her own! I know lame but old. One of the girls was going to play her electric guitar, nothing special about that I hear you say, but this lass was in a wheel chair and require assistance to do most things, but boy could she play that guitar.
This concert of celebration, by the staff and students took place just after we had started stage two of our training. But we nearly didn’t take part and almost got sent home.
On the night prior to the big day, following days of preparation, getting hold of a bed sheet black paint and rope to tie the sheet, Oh! And most important, a very large pair of Bloomers. The plan was that I would go with one of the lads and we would put these bloomers up the flagpole. The thing was that the other lad had really strong arms but no use in his legs. You should have seen him get up the building and me struggling behind him to get up there! But after all I was there just to assist! While we did this another group climbed onto the Recreation Hall to hang the bed sheet up. It read something like Welcome to Colditz, which was aimed at the Major. What we hadn’t really thought of, was that putting it up that early meant it would be seen at first light and would be taken down. The bloomers on the other hand nearly escaped, but were found when they put up the union jack for the princess to arrive. You would not believe the inquest after it was all over, and the resulting recriminations. Luckily for all of us students the major could not prove who had been involved, so could not sanction anyone being sent home!
This weekend was also the weekend when I held a mock auction, and on the Monday was called into the Majors office and accused of stealing some of the goods. I said send them to go thru my stuff and if you find anything you won’t have to send me home, I’ll go. I knew I had not taken anything, and had only been having a bit of fun. Which was what everyone else saw it as. It seemed as silly as it was only home made tea cosies and tea towels and things like that which the local Women’s organisation made to raise funds for the college! Showed that the Major Had no sense of humour, as he also pulled in all of the youngsters involved in the mock auction. The, actual Ceremony, when well, and everyone, Guests and Students, enjoyed themselves. The Show was brilliant, all the students who took part had a great time, and from the comments made by the members of the public had a good time too!
Monday came around and, The Major had his time by interrogating all the people involved in the Saturday mock auction, and he conducted a search but could not find a single thing! It never came out what, if anything had been taken. After a couple of days things got back to normal and we prepared for our first exams. Pitman’s English stage1 and Pitman’s Arithmetic stage 1. We would be on the second stage of our training before the results came back, but only by a few days, and we had to start to prepare to either repeat stage1 exams or prepare for stage 2, whichever we would be taking.