Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Thank you Roland Phillips DDS for teaching me about work ethics. #Influencers by Sally Cronin


In the other posts on this theme I mentioned that when looking back at my life, I was grateful for the support and love from family and friends, but that those who taught me a valuable lesson or who inspired me were often ordinary people, just doing their jobs, rather than the rich and famous. All of them provided me with valuable lessons about life and this week I wanted to say thank you to my first full-time boss.

Thank you Roland Phillips DDS for teaching me about work ethics.

Since the age of 14 I had been working along the seafront and had been given a great deal of responsibility for my age. But I was still a student and it was fairly relaxed and only part-time.

In June of 1970 I left Highbury Technical College with a diploma in secretarial studies. Whilst I worked the summer along the seafront in my role as taste controller for the whipped ice-cream machine… I was also occupied with finding my first full-time job. To be honest I was earning around £7 a week with tips and was slightly disheartened to see that my diploma only qualified me for jobs that paid £6.00 or less in some offices.

My mother felt that at least it would be a stepping stone to better things in the future and that selling ice-creams was not necessarily a career. I searched the job pages and  attended several interviews.

One stands out in my mind as a watershed moment. The interview was conducted by a rather fossilised lady of a certain age who reminded me of my headmistress. The lady in question was a lovely human being I am sure, but her opening statement made me reconsider my application.

I have worked here for Gamble Your Money Away Solicitors since I was a gal myself you know, forty years and just coming up for retirement. I am looking for a worthy replacement that I can train into my job over the next year.

The next day when the evening paper came out I decided to change tack and an advert leapt out of the page at me.

Secretary/Receptionist required for Dental Practice in Southsea. £9 per week.

Two days later I was interviewed by Roland Phillips. He too was on the elderly side and in fact was 67 years old, but was immaculately dressed in a suit and white jacket. I was only seventeen but we seemed to have plenty to talk about, and for some reason he saw my potential. I was hired to begin the following Monday.

Roland was an former army dental surgeon who had served in the desert during the Second World War and ran his practice as if he was still in uniform. My training was intensive and included learning the names and backgrounds of everyone of his 400 private patients. Each evening before I left I would retrieve the next day’s patient’s records and do a summary of their last treatment and what was expected at this new appointment. The files were presented on his desk for his arrival at 8.00am sharp for him to review with his coffee.

There were no breaks in the day except for an hour for lunch when the surgery was closed. On Wednesday afternoons when Roland was out on the Solent sailing his yacht, I was given the task of thoroughly cleaning every piece of equipment in the surgery, sometimes with the use of a toothbrush.

My job was to take phone calls and to ring patients a little tardy in making their own. I also would prepare accounts for the customers at the end of each month by going through the files, typing their treatment and the cost onto high quality paper. These were then mailed out, and if not paid within 14 days, they had to be chased up with a phone call. I would then complete the banking and prepare monthly accounts for the incoming revenues and outgoing costs.

I wore a white coat and sensible shoes and I was always ‘Miss Coleman’ to Roland and his patients. My hair was tied back and nails had to be kept short and very clean. I was not allowed to wear make-up of any kind including lipstick. (A little different from my outfits worn after work!) This was tough on a 17 year old but I loved the job…..

That was the September of 1970 but early in 1971 things evolved by accident. My Boss was in the middle of a surgical procedure, removing a stubborn molar root, assisted by his long time dental nurse. I heard the thump as I was preparing the monthly accounts. I feared the worst. Had the patient fallen out of the chair during the procedure, or even worse had Mr. Phillips succumbed to his advanced years in the middle of surgery? It quickly became apparent that this was not the case.

‘Miss Coleman, please get in here immediately.’

I entered the surgery to find that his nurse was now sitting in a chair holding her head in her hands and looking very pale around the gills.

‘Ah Miss Coleman,’ he smiled at the patient who was looking a little discomforted at this point, mouth wide open and wide-eyed.

‘Could you be so kind to take over and continue with the suction.’

It turned out that the lovely nurse who had been with him for many years was unexpectedly pregnant and could no longer stand the sight of blood. Luckily I was not squeamish and I  found myself not just handling the suction, but handing over instruments and mopping up the patient.

The one clear personality trait that summed up Mr. Phillips, was his dislike of change… he had no wish to break-in another chair side assistant and considered me bright enough to learn the job fast. Unlike today where it is necessary to undergo a college course beforehand. Things were a little more basic in those days but I was expected to get up to speed very quickly. His current chair side assistant took my previous role on for a couple of months until she left to have her baby. I learned on the job as well as studied at home with books from Mr. Phillip’s library. He decided not to replace my predecessor and bumped up my wages by another £2 per week.

Added reponsibilities

My role now included all of the reception and accounting duties as well as full chair-side assistance 9 to 5 every day except Wednesdays. I worked through lunchtime to catch up on paperwork and we had an answer machine for appointments that I would deal with when my services were not needed in the surgery.F

Fillings were the most common procedure and I would be responsible for laying out the instruments and anaesthetic syringes along with mixing the appropriate filling material which in those days meant making an amalgam from mercury.

Roland Phillips was a consultant dental surgeon he would take referrals from other dentists for more complex procedures. I would assist him in operations such as multiple extractions with an anaesthetist who would come in one afternoon a week.

I was also responsible for developing the X-rays that were taken and I had a dark-room at the top of the stairs where I would retire with long rubber gloves and a mask. The X-rays were attached to a metal frame that held four pairs at a time. They were released from the clips by a centralised catch at the top of the frame for use after they had been dipped in two separate tanks.

On one memorable occasion I accidentally released this catch, depositing all the X-rays in to the second fixing tank.  I had rubber gloves up to my armpits, so I stuck my hand down and managed to retrieve them all. I then had to identify which was which and I consulted the patient records for those concerned.  I thought that I had got away with it until one day my boss requested my presence in the surgery.

In the chair was an elderly patient who wore dentures but had been experiencing pain under her lower ones. She smiled at me toothlessly whilst Roland held up the X-ray to the light.

‘We appear to be witnessing a miracle Miss Coleman.’ I waited with bated breath.

‘Miss Smith seems to be growing an entirely new set of teeth!.

Apparently I had swapped an 8 year old’s Xray for an 80 year old’s!!

Three days after my 18th birthday in February the lights went out. The miners’ strike was now into its sixth week. The blockades preventing coal reaching power stations meant that the government had to begin scheduled power cuts.

We now know so much more about the circumstances and the conditions that the miners were striking about and can empathise with their position. However, at the time it meant that households and businesses also faced hardship as they were switched off on a rota basis between 7 a.m. and midnight every day. Most were without power for up to nine or ten hours.

Many businesses failed to recover and certainly hundreds of thousands of men and women were laid off during those difficult days. Certain services though had to continue and we were considered one of those.

Dentistry relies heavily on electricity. Even back in 1972 we had the newest electric drill, suction machines and X-rays. Faced with no power and patients booked in for procedures we had to improvise. Out of Roland’s garage materialised two ancient but still functional pieces of equipment, last used in the African desert in 1945.

One was a drill that was powered by a pedal that the dentist pumped up and down with his foot; a little like the old treadle sewing machine. This was of course considerably slower and noisier than our modern electric drill, and also very tiring for my 68 year old boss.

When you drill you have to add water to the patient’s mouth to ensure that the drill does not overheat and burn the surrounding tissue. It is also necessary to suction this out to prevent the hapless patient from choking to death.

This is where my piece of equipment came in. Again pedal driven, it was a large wooded box that provided a stream of water through a hooked pipe into the patient’s mouth and another pipe sucked the excess and deposited into a bottle attached to the side.

Looking back it must have seemed to anyone watching that we were in the middle of a Monty Python sketch. Both of us pedalling like mad to a background of very percussive sounds; whilst the patient lay back in the chair in a state of abject terror.

By the time I left Roland Phillips at age 19 I was much better equipped to deal with the challenges of my working life ahead. I knew that I had to learn fast and well, and not to cut corners. I was used to working for someone who trusted me to do an important job and to work however many hours were needed to complete it. He taught me self-discipline and commitment, as well as customer service skills and punctuality. Because of his hand in developing my attitude to work, I was promoted into my first management role at age 22 and was running my own business by 24.

Even now after he is long gone, I still remember my time working for him and the lessons that were drummed into me. So thank you Roland Phillips for teaching me about work ethics and anytime I have writer’s block I can hear his voice in my ear.

‘Get on with it Miss Coleman, the patients cannot wait all day.’

 

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this nostalgic step back in time… please share your memories of people who have made a difference in your life.. Sally

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Thank you Betty Lavington from Sally aged Seventeen – #Drama #Influencers by Sally Cronin


In the other posts on this theme I mentioned that when looking back at my life, I was grateful for the support and love from family and friends, but that those who taught me a valuable lesson or who inspired me were often ordinary people, just doing their jobs, rather than the rich and famous. This post was recently shared on the wonderful blog of Hugh Roberts

Thank you Betty Lavington from Sally aged Seventeen

Carmen, Gypsy, Spanish Woman, Dancer, Girl, Rose, Red

Image by Владимир Берзин from Pixabay

My two sisters who were ten and eleven years older than I was, both trained as secretaries, which led to them having some interesting and high level jobs over the years. However, I decided at an early age that I wanted to be a singer and actress! The desire to follow this career path was my mother’s fault really. Apart from the fact that she had a bit of a flair for the dramatic, she manipulated me into being her co-conspirator every Saturday afternoon.

My father loved football, and after he had cooked us one of his Spaghetti Bolognese lunches, followed by steamed treacle duff as he called them, we would retire to the lounge where our television took pride of place. I would have been about seven or eight at the time and my mother would coerce me into facilitating her viewing pleasure; the Saturday afternoon musical on BBC2.

Of course this conflicted with the afternoon football offering by Grandstand on BBC1. Fortunately my father had a weakness. Stoked up with carbohydrates and sugars from lunch, within 10 minutes of the match starting, he would be stretched out in his recliner, snoring.

In the good old days it was necessary to get up and down to switch channels, and this is where I came in. As soon as my father began snoring, my mother would nudge me, and I would creep across the carpet to turn the channel over to BBC2 and the Saturday musical. Things did get a little hectic at times if there was a temporary change to my father’s breathing. At a shove from my mother, I would leap up from the sofa, dash across the room and switch channels back to the football. My father would watch blearily for about five minutes then resume his afternoon nap.

This would happen several times during the course of the movie, and as the final credits scrolled up the screen, I would turn the channel back over to BBC 1. My father would wake up to enjoy the cup of tea my mother had made, convinced he had watched 90 minutes of fancy footwork, but not the kind we had been watching.

This Saturday afternoon ritual fuelled my love of dancing and singing. My heart and soul burned to be the lead, dancing and singing my way through the performances like Ginger Rogers, Esther Williams (yes I would have done synchronised swimming if called for) Deborah Kerr, Mitzi Gaynor etc. I had seen South Pacific at age ten and I would have even taken the role of Bloody Mary given half the chance. I knew all the lyrics from all the popular musicals of the day and wept buckets as John Kerr lip synched to “Younger than Springtime”; and I could perform all the songs from the Sound of Music.

Over the next few years I was lucky enough to be cast in a number of school plays. Being tall for my age, it usually involved me standing completely still for thirty minutes in the guise of a tree or some other inanimate object.

I did attempt to achieve some form of recognition for my talents, which included dressing in Swiss costume and dragging one of my friends around to old people’s homes to entertain the residents with the songs from The Sound of Music (they were very appreciative, let me tell you!). This did not impress my parents, who were adamant that when I left school, I must train as a secretary, as drama was not a profession to be relied on.
I left school in September 1969 at age 16 and enrolled in technical college for a year’s secretarial course. Over the course of the next twelve months, I became very proficient in shorthand and typing, but it was the extra classes we took in English that I enjoyed the most.

Our teacher Betty Lavington also taught drama, and had trained more than a few successful actors and actresses over the years. To my delight, she was casting for that year’s drama production which was the operetta “Passion Flower”, based on the story of Carmen, but adapted for the amateur stage and she encouraged me to audition.

Without informing my parents I decided to try my luck. I was rather expecting to be cast as part of the scenery again, but you can imagine my absolute thrill when our producer chose me to play Micaela – Carmen’s rival for the matador’s affections. Something that I kept from my parents, and they assumed I would be part of the chorus as usual.

Police cadets did their initial training at the college, and several of these were roped in to play the soldiers. Our producer recruited outside talent from her drama group to play the leads including an Australian dentist in his mid-thirties who took on the role of the matador, Escamillo, and a wonderful young singer called Julie took the part of Carmen.

The performances ran for three nights, and by the final evening I had almost conquered my nerves, despite the fact there were two very important people in the audience. I had persuaded my parents to come on the last night, with the expectation that it was likely to be the most flawless performance of the three. I was desperately hoping that if they saw how passionate I was about acting (and my talent); they might relent in their objections to me attending drama school.

I can still remember standing in the wings that night, knees quaking as I prepared for the cat fight with Carmen, followed by being manhandled by the soldiers as they pulled us apart enthusiastically. All was going very well until we reached the final scene when Escamillo threw a rose onto poor dead Carmen’s body, having been stabbed by a former lover, and then pulled me into his arms for a passionate kiss!

Jacket, Torera, Torero, Bulls Spanish, Matador, Bulls

Unbeknownst to the rest of the cast, our lead actor had been celebrating the end to the run by consuming a number of cans of beer hidden in the wings. This certainly gave his performance some extra gusto which our producer put down to exuberance. As I swanned across the stage and into his arms for the expected stage kiss, he bent me over backwards and gave me a hearty smacker, before picking me up and rushing off stage.

Cue a very loud gasp from the cast clustered around poor Carmen’s corpse and from the front row where my mother and father were seated with other VIP guests. I can only assume they had already been taken aback by my starring role as a floozy, in an off the shoulder blouse, big earrings and a penchant for men in uniform. I also had an inkling that these last few minutes had not gone down well. My erstwhile suitor and I joined the cast and clasped hands, bowing in appreciation of the applause. All I could focus on was my father, arms crossed with a very frosty look on his face.

My mother told me later that my father had turned to her and shouted over the applause, ‘Who is that man and what was he up to with our daughter?” At this point, a woman who was sat next to my mother announced furiously ‘That would be my husband.”

As you can imagine, this fiasco did not further my ambitions to be allowed to attend drama school. Two weeks later, when I had graduated with my secretarial diploma, the evening paper’s employment section was strategically placed next to my beans on toast for supper. Probably for the best, as I have enjoyed a wonderful variety of jobs across a number of industries including broadcasting.

I do know that without Betty Lavington my dreams of being a musical star would never have been possible… even if it was only for three performances.

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this nostalgic step back in time… please share your memories of people who have made a difference in your life.. Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archive -Baie dankie my vriend Linda Mooi from Sally aged Ten. Capetown 1963 #Influencers by Sally Cronin


In the other posts on this theme I mentioned that when looking back at my life, I was grateful for the support and love from family and friends, but that those who taught me a valuable lesson or who inspired me were often ordinary people, just doing their jobs, rather than the rich and famous.

Baie dankie my vriend Linda Mooi from Sally aged Ten. – Capetown 1963

My father was posted to Cape Town to Simonstown in early 1963. I was ten years old and had just spent another two years at the Garrison school in Portsmouth. The school had been a relief with its 100 pupils after the 1200 or so at Verdala in Malta and before we left a decision had to be made as to my secondary education.

The Royal Navy was prepared to pay for me to go to boarding school for the next two years, and to be fair my parents did ask for my input. My mother I think was relieved that I said that I would rather to to Cape Town with them and we all departed on an RAF flight via Nairobi (where we spent the night at a Safari hotel) for Cape Town.

There were adventures along the way but since they are not the subject of the story will leave until another time.

Suffice to say that yet again I was introduced to a new education system. Secondary school did not start until 13 in South Africa as children did not go to school until 6 or 7. The days were shorter – 8.30 to 2 or 3pm if I remember correctly, and I used to travel back and forth on my first bike. To be honest I remember that more for the scar on my knee that I still have today. I was looking at boys and rode up onto a pile of gravel by the side of the road and landed in an inelegant and revealing heap.

Of course everything that I had learned to that point was useful but the curriculum was very different. I now had to catch up three years of South African history, geography and learn Afrikaans as mandatory.

I enjoyed my time at school and I always adapted to new environments by developing the local accent. I had already learned at an early age that if you want to fit in quickly you sound like everyone else as soon as possible. In fact when we returned to the UK we went up to Preston in Lancashire for two years, and I went from a very strong South African accent to broad Lancs in the space of two weeks, much to the confusion of my family.

So I have set the scene at school but our life was very different in some major aspects.

Before we left the UK for Cape Town my father was given a relocation package that included our behaviour whilst guests in South Africa. As you can imagine this was the early 60’s and apartheid in South Africa was probably at its most fragile. We as guests were under strict instructions not to comment on the situation under any circumstances. This included us children. My brother attended an English private school in Rondabosch but I was to attend Newlands Public School and be part of the culture in all senses of the word.

I had been a baby and toddler in Shri Lanka until the age of three and was used to cuddling my Indian amah who looked after me every day and evening. I therefore was not prepared for the restrictions placed on me by apartheid. Even at the age of ten I found it unreasonable and very uncomfortable.

However, we were guests and expected to comply with the rules of our hosts and we met many South African families who were kind and generous people who had been brought up in the system, but were also restricted in what they could say and do at the time.

It was customary for the naval families to employ a local maid and my mother was sent some approved candidates.

These were the days of the resettlement when coloured families were moved out into townships. To work in the white areas, a pass was required and if you were caught without the pass you could be arrested and imprisoned. The maids lived in and would go home to the townships on their day off. If they had a generous employer they could spend the night and return the next day.

Linda Mooi – and I think I have remembered her surname right – was a slim and very pretty young woman of about 24. Over the next 18 months before we left to return to the UK she became more than a maid.

Image by Meine Reise geht hier leider zu Ende. Märchen beginnen mit from Pixabay

We had inherited another naval family’s boxer dog called Bosun – he was passed on as people were reposted and he knew that his role was security and nanny with young children. There was no way you could take this huge animal for a walk – he was let out in the mornings and you could hear him barking a mile away in the local park, returning exhausted and slavering an hour later with a satisfied look on his face. I dread to think what he had been up to.

When Linda joined us for her first morning – Bosun was out doing his usual morning activities and he returned and scratched the front door, being let in by my mother. We were at school by this time, but by all accounts, Linda took one look at this slobbering monster who charged into the kitchen looking for the intruder and she leapt up onto the cooker which was thankfully not on at the time.

Her gentle nature won him over within a few weeks and whilst tentative at first eventually the relationship blossomed, with Bosun following her as she hung out laundry or worked through the house.

My mother I know was instructed that on no account was she to pay any more than the official monthly wages. However I also know that she slipped money to Linda when she returned to the township where her husband and two young children had to live, and that she always returned home with a food parcel.

As far as we were concerned, Linda was our friend and babysitter. My parents had a hectic social life and without television in Cape Town in those days, entertainment for us children meant running around outside and reading.

Linda would read us stories and she knew all the voices. She had two young children of her own that she must have missed dreadfully between visits to the township, and we were the grateful recipients of her maternal instinct. When my younger brother was asleep in our shared bedroom she would come in with a tin tray from the kitchen and an old pack of cards and she taught me how to play Snap, Rummy and Poker.

When there were thunder storms or we had a nightmare she would sing to us – and I still remember one of her lullabies today and I have used over the years myself.

She hugged us, patched up grazed knees and made us laugh. At the time as children we did not see the shadows in her own life and I know the distance between her and her husband and family created some dramas during our time together, but there are a couple of things that she taught me.

One is that it is our judgement that is coloured, not the skin of the individuals that we meet, and secondly that stereotyping is one of the major stumbling block towards any peace process. I also want to thank her for teaching me to play cards and win!

She would be in her 80s now and I have no idea if she is still alive in Cape Town somewhere. But she does live on in my memories. Baie dankie Linda.

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this nostalgic step back in time… please share your memories of people who have made a difference in your life.. Sally

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Grazzi hafna from Sally aged seven to the old Prickly Pear farmer and his donkey #Influencers Sally Cronin


In my first blog on this theme I mentioned that when looking back at my life, I was grateful for the support and love from family and friends, but that those who taught me a valuable lesson or who inspired me were often ordinary people, just doing their jobs.

Apart from Mrs Miller who taught me to read and write, (which are skills that I am still perfecting today!) there are some other people that I remember from my childhood who made an impression on me.

That’s me on the right…troublemaker written all over me!

One such person was an old prickly pear farmer in Malta who tended his fields in the confines of my home there.

My father was office in charge of RNWT Rinella which was close to the Royal Naval Hospital of Bighi on the Island, close to the entrance to Valleta Harbour. We arrived here in 1959 and lived in naval quarters on a hill above the station.  I remember that there were lots of steps down to the station and the surroundings which included a tennis court (where the summer ball was held) a stream that ran through the area and various fields where crops were grown in the dry and stony earth.  These fields were bordered with a weed – prickly pear – a sharp hedge that would deter any animal from straying into the crops.

I was 6 years old going on 7 when we arrived and I went from the small Garrison school in Portsmouth, with barely 100 pupils to the massive Royal Naval School Verdala, with around 1000 pupils.  I remember feeling totally lost and even the school bus ride was quite terrifying.

Anyway, I am afraid that apart from ballet lessons with a French Madame and learning to do the splits (still a viable feat but requires assistance to get back up) I rather forget most of the two years that I attended the school.

I do however; remember the days I played truant.  It started very innocently on a Saturday morning when my parents, busy with my much younger brother would let me off the leash to explore the safe confines of the station. There was always someone on duty and I soon got to know some of the service men and women that I met on my jaunts. Provided I kept away from the working areas I was mainly unnoticed.

We had not been there long when I noticed that every Saturday morning a farmer and his cart would arrive at the fields in the general vicinity.  It was actually the donkey that attracted me in the first place as I was mad about horses.  Poor little thing barely looked strong enough to carry a bale of hay, but would valiantly pull the small cart and its driver over the rough ground around the field and then stand patiently all day with a rusty bucket of water and a nose bag of feed.  I would sit on a pile of rocks and just watch the slow, painstaking activities of the old man as he cleared rocks and other debris from the dry, dusty earth.

 

Image by katja from Pixabay

This went on for a few weeks with the farmer apparently showing no awareness of this silent watcher for a couple of hours every Saturday.  Until one week, he turned his weather – beaten face towards me and across the small field beckoned me to come over.

These were the days when children were not as restricted in their exchanges with adults as they are today. Of course we were told not to accept sweets from strangers and not to get into a car that we didn’t know the driver of, but nobody had mentioned donkey carts.  I am afraid I was a bit of a devil as my mother used to say, and had at the age of 7 decided that if this farmer was allowed into the area then he must be classified as acceptable.

I went over and stood hesitantly by the side of the cart.  By this time it was getting on for mid-morning and the sun was hot.  The old man bent down and came back up with a battered tin cup in his hand.   He held it out to me and after inspecting the contents I took a little sip.  It was the sweetest water I had ever tasted.  Even the slight metallic taste from the tin cup did not detract from that cool first sip.  I handed the cup back and he smiled – showing just a couple of brown stained teeth in his upper gums.

He held out one of his hands and I noticed that they were almost black with earth and heavily veined.  He gestured and I put my small hand in his.  He led me over to the donkey, standing patiently with one back hoof tipped as he rested.  As we approached the flies buzzed around the animal’s eyes and nostrils and he shook his head and turned to us.

The farmer gently took my hand and poured some of the water from the cup into it and held it under the donkey’s nose – the warm, rough lips clamped onto my little hand and sucked the moisture right out of it.  It was the most amazing sensation I had ever felt.

The old man took my hand away and then helped me hold up a bucket of water under the donkey’s nose and let him drink his fill.  I had seen the tin cup dipping into the same bucket and it seemed the most natural thing in the world to share this precious resource between ourselves.

I remember running home as it was getting towards lunchtime – I didn’t tell anyone about my adventure as far as I remember.  However, it did lead to a relationship that lasted a long time in the relatively short life of a child.

Every Saturday morning I would catch a ride on the back of the cart as soon as it arrived in my territory and I would spend the morning helping!  I would actually spend most of the morning, patting the dusty coat of the donkey and half-heartedly picking up small stones that littered the field.  We barely spoke as he was not happy talking English and we communicated with hand signals.  We spent silent hours, happily together, sharing coarse white, homemade bread and cheese for lunch, washed down with sweet water and with a dessert of prickly pear.

Image by Angeles Balaguer from Pixabay

Opening these feral fruits is an art and whilst I admired his strategy with a machete shaped knife I was not allowed to practice myself!  He did however show me how to gently peel back the skin to reveal the luscious, pip filled centre.

I did not get on at school – it was too big and I felt overwhelmed.  Therefore occasionally I would take a sickie!  I would arrive down by the guard post where I was supposed to catch the bus, leave my bag behind the building and when the farmer arrived hop on the cart and spend the whole morning until 2.00ish when the bus would reappear in the road at the normal drop off time.  I would then race back and pick up my bag, dust myself off and return home as normal.

Unfortunately, this all came to a rather abrupt halt.  One tea-time my mother casually told me that she and my father had been to a parent teacher meeting and that concerns had been raised about the state of my continued ill health.  Busted!

I was escorted to and from the bus from that day forth.  I did however manage to visit on a Saturday morning and learned that if I took an apple or a carrot, or even a piece of cake surreptitiously removed from the pantry, all three of us enjoyed our lunch even more!

Life Lessons

In retrospect, the life lessons passed on by the old man were profound.  I learned that conversation is not necessary to communicate. That dirty hands can be gentle and represent a lifetime of hard and honest work.  That donkeys have very soft mouths, that water can be sweet and the complex art of opening and eating the very prickly pears.  And how to spit out the pips as far as possible.

Funny that my time at the Royal Naval School, Verdala has not stayed in my memory – teachers, pupils, lessons, but I do remember as if yesterday an old man, a donkey and prickly pears.

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this nostalgic step back in time… please share your memories of people who have made a difference in your life.. Sally

Posts from my Archives – Thank you Mrs Miller – luv Sally age four ‘n’ haf – #Influencers by Sally Cronin


Thank you Mrs. Miller – Luv Sally age four ‘n’ haf

I was 68 this year and whilst I am both young and heart and a rock chick (Status rules okay) – I am also in the process of taking stock before I embark on the next couple of books I have in mind.

Anyway, at the same time I am heavily into social media – Facebook for my friends who are spread throughout the world in different time zones and LinkedIn for professional and work and Twitter – well that is a bit like Alice in Wonderland!

It was Twitter that got me to thinking about inspiration. There are many big hitters on there in the Leadership field – some of whom kindly follow me – somewhat out of curiosity I suspect – but there are many others who are selling courses and books on the art of leadership and they use their 140 characters to their full advantage #leadership #empowerment #10deadlysinsof etc, etc.

I have had the honour of interviewing some extraordinary people on radio and on camera. I have also attended conferences and seminars where leading speakers on world affairs, health and government have shared their vision and thoughts on these weighty subjects. However, when I was making a list of those that inspired and empowered me throughout my life, I was surprised at the people who actually stood out.

They were not the powerful, famous leaders in their field, but men and women just doing their jobs.

Of course there are family and friends who have supported me and inspired me on a daily basis on and offline including my husband David has been a wonderful motivating force for over 40 years. But as a child I was certainly blessed by having my two older sisters, who being 10 and 11 years older than me – let me tag along and everything they did, I did too. Well within reason! But they taught me to be fearless and jump off diving boards,made me smocked dresses, swim in shark invested (well jelly fish) waters and told me bedtime stories. My sister Diana was still at home when I became a teenager and her presence made those years a lot of fun.

I have a short list of people that I would like to pay tribute to over the next few posts. People who were in my life for short periods of time but whose impact has lasted a lifetime.

Mrs Miller.

In the September after I was four, I went to school. The Garrison Primary School in Old Portsmouth was a collection of old corrugated iron and wooden huts and had four classrooms to the best of my memory. The head teacher was a Mrs Vine who later remarried and became Mrs Biscoe or Briscoe (come on it was 60 years ago!) More about her later.

I was obviously in the infants class- along with about 15/20 others. I wanted to go to school, as I mentioned my two sisters would read to me and I could already follow certain words and knew my letters. Even now I can remember the feeling of anticipation as my mother walked me from our home to school that first morning in my new clothes and squeaky Clark’s sandals.

The desks were old and scratched with a blackened hole where the ink wells used to reside. Tiny chairs with hard seats were uncomfortable and led to twitchy bums and fidgeting.

Our teacher was standing by the blackboard. I can still see her. Blonde, younger than my mother who was early 40’s, so about 32 I would think. She had slightly protruding teeth that gave her a lovely smile and she stood quietly as we all settled down.

When we were quiet, she introduced herself as Mrs. Miller and then she said the words that would change my short life as I knew it.

“Today, we are going to begin to learn how to read and write as these are the most important lessons for young children to learn”

I spent my first year at school with Mrs. Miller and I loved every minute. I can remember eagerly waiting for the next lesson and my hand was always the first up when she asked someone to read from our well worn books. She patiently guided our reading skills and then as we used our ruled books to copy our small a’s and capital A’s and the rest of the alphabet.

I began to read at home and I joined the children’s public library and always had a book on the go. My father was also a library member but his books were considerably racier than mine – Harold Robbins being one of his favourites – and I would help myself to his selection from about the age of 11. Always careful to take the book he had just read from the bottom of the stack he kept in his bedside cabinet. I probably read a great deal that was above my pay grade and certainly most was completely misunderstood!

Reading and then writing has been the greatest gift that I learned. Mrs Miller was just doing her job, but she and the millions of teachers around the world who teach children to read and write are inspirational.

To illustrate how inspirational she was, I still remember her name and how she looked 65 years later and I still treasure the gift she gave me of literacy. Apart from being able to read any book that I wished, my career in industry, radio and television would not have been possible. Nor would I be able to pursue my love of writing books, poetry, short stories, my blog and keeping in touch with friends and family. It also impacts our verbal communications and I certainly do love to talk!

This gift is precious and needs to be put into perspective. It is estimated that globally over 800million people cannot read or write. Around 70 million children do not have access to primary education and over a million people in the UK struggle with reading and writing. This impacts their everyday life in virtually every way.

Mrs Vine

Mrs Vine was also a character but I did not really have much contact with her until I returned after two years in Malta and joined moved from Interim class to her senior class.

She was memorable because firstly she looked like Olive Oyl from Popeye and we called her that behind her back – and also because Friday afternoons despite her tough exterior she would dispense a packet of boiled sweets.

Also, even though she was a strict disciplinarian, she was very fair. My father was posted to Cape Town and we were due to leave in the January 1963. In the September prior to that when I arrived in Mrs. Vine’s class for just one term, she still made me Head Girl until Christmas as a reward for my hard work. So thank you Mrs Vine too. For showing me that recognition of achievements is one of the most motivational rewards you can give to someone.

I suspect that Mrs Miller and Mrs Vine may no longer with us in this dimension but I do hope that they knew how influential they were to so many children and how they gave them such an important start in life.

Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed this nostalgic step back in time… please share your memories of people who have made a difference in your life.. Sally