‘No one forgets a good teacher’, and I shall never forget Wendy Dawson, and her husband, Peter.
She had cleverly recognised that here was an ill-fed,motherless, neglected child, who had some potential academically, but needed to be helped . So, heroically, once a week, after lessons, she would drive me to her pristine, cosy bungalow in Billericay to tutor me .She must have felt great pity for this precocious waif of a child to do so, for this weekly outing became very heaven for me.
Firstly, she’d feed me. Properly. Salads. With every conceivable fresh vegetable, garnished with peanuts. I’d never eaten these before, and I loved them. Secondly, we’d all sit round the dining room table en famille, with a fresh linen tablecloth to dine on, and Peter would talk to me – kindly and solicitously. Their dining room looked out on to a pretty, neat, lawned garden, lovingly tended with beautiful flowers. To my young eyes, this was Paradise. They were a loving, attentive couple, and the house was a tranquil, peaceful and calm place. So different from the murderous , poisonous atmosphere at ‘the cottage’. I am sure I must have shocked them with my innocent chatter about my complicated ‘home life’. I know I did.
After our meal, Wendy would sit me in her quiet lounge, at a dear, little, green baize-covered table, and I’d do seemingly hours of maths, English and general intelligence tests. I worked as hard as I could to stay in this safe, sane place for as long as possible, so as not to be taken ‘home’.
Her generosity and kindness to me paid off. I was one of only two girls in her class who made it to Brentwood County High School for Girls. I’d passed the 11+ exam, thanks to her. My school friend, Gail Bracken, and I were leaving to join our new school. However, Gail was to be a ‘day’ girl, whereas I would be a ‘boarder’ at High House, a small boarding section for about 50 girls attached to the main school. I was saved at last.