Reading, writing and arithmetic

When it was too wet to go out to play, I liked to play school with the dolls and teddies and Annabel started taking an active part once she was old enough to hold a book and look at pictures. She picked up Ring o’ ring o’ roses, Pocketful of posies, which was the first song I ever learned, in no time, and the Toll crowd had to start playing it all over again. We had a lot of books, such as Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes, and I knew them all anyway and explained the pictures so that before long she knew by the pictures what rhyme it was. Rhymes like One, two, buckle my shoe were part of our curriculum, so Annabel learned numbers also, although not always in the right order! She wanted to play at school all the time. We had singing lessons with the Nursery songs and also songs Dad had sung to me and to Annabel. He liked to sing. In later years he bought a mandolin, and we used to groan when he brought it out as his favourite song was Moonlight and roses and we got tired of it! He and Mum always sang songs like When the red, red, robin comes bob-bob-bobbing along and Red sails on the sunset. When Annabel was still a toddler I used to sing her

Horsey, horsey, don’t you stop

Just let your feet go clippetty-clop

Your tail go swish and your wheels go round

Giddy-yap we’re homeward bound

That, and another song about a pony called Dobbin Grey, probably sparked off the game we used to play in bed. I would lie on my back with my knees up, she would sit on my knees and we’d sing the song each in our own way while I jiggled her about. Then suddenly I’d open my knees or flatten them down and Annabel would fall off. Mum always knew what we were playing because Annabel always laughed so much when she fell off! We also had Drill, as our PE was called then, and did stretching and toe touching and marching up and down while I sang Oh, the Grand Old Duke of York. She started school not quite a novice. As I’ve been writing this I’ve been laughing inside, not only at the memory of those happy days, but also at the thought that maybe it was partly my fault that Annabel wanted to start school so early because I had made it seem such fun! The difference in our ages meant we didn’t have rows. I was always the big sister who loved the baby and wanted her to be happy. Of course, when we were both adults we didn’t always agree about everything! Now in our older ages we meet most weeks and enjoy talking about the long ago.


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