Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Page 6

Just over a year had passed and Dennis was doing really well, l although there was no improvement in his left arm. Dad was a little better physically but mentally there were problems. He tried several jobs, but just couldn't cope. He even got a job at the Olympia where he had painted the Royal boxes etc.. but was now reduced to sweeping up, it was a bitter blow to his state of mind, nevertheless he did it to earn some money for his family.

I was worried as I was due to sit the 11+ examination and I had missed so much school, I was convinced I wouldn't pass and have to go to the Secondary School. Mum and Dad said not to worry just do my best. They said they felt guilty keeping me away from school so long, but I knew there hadn't been any alternative and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Taking care of my baby brother was very special. I was still looking after him to try and ease things for Mum.

Dad had changed from a patient,loving,understanding Dad and in his place was a short tempered cantankerous man, but I still loved him. I knew the real Jim Berry, my dad. I could only look back on my childhood with happiness, at least I still had him, that was a bonus in its self. I did feel sorry for Dennis as Dad just had no patience with him but Mum and I tried to make up for it but it wasn't the same.

I went to school as usual on the Monday morning and everything was as it usually was then the headmaster came into our classroom and said " I have the results of the 11+ exam. Some pleasant surprises and some disappointments, so I will call out the names of each of you in order of classification i.e. Grammar school or Central School or Secondary,when called stand up " we were all getting agitated - had we ? hadn't we ?.

I was under no illusion I knew I hadn't passed. He started to read out the names," Paul Davis, Alan Green etc.etc., I was miles away sure that my name would be at the end for secondary school, "Sheila Berry, Sheila Berry" the voice droned on "Sheila Berry" I couldn't believe my ears was that my name I had heard ?, no I must have been mistaken"Sheila Berry are you asleep ?",it was my name I stood up trembling I could not believe it I had gained a place at Grammar School in spite of being away from school three months and many odd days absent which were to help at home.

I couldn't wait to get home and tell Mum and Dad. At 4.00pm I didn't wait for my friends as I usually did I just ran all the way home. "Mum, Dad guess what! I have passed my 11+ I am going to Grammar School" this all came out without a breath.
They were so thrilled, because I know they felt guilty at keeping me at home, they both cried and hugged me. Dennis wondered what was going on and waddled over to give me a hug.

Of course now another problem had arisen what about school uniform, money was very very short as Dad was unable to work regularly in spite of him keep trying, he was neither physically nor mentally able.

The school was aware of our problems as Mum had kept them informed all the way through. The headmaster gave me a letter to take home to my parents this explained all about grants available for people in our situation. My parents particularly Dad was upset , he felt that he should be able to provide for his family, not to have to, as he put it, rely on "state handouts" but common-sense prevailed and the necessary forms were applied for. He was a very proud man.

Dennis by this time was a very bright alert toddler there was a very strong bond between him and I, even at this young age, maybe because I had had to do so much for him and still did.

I eventually started my new school and really enjoyed it. I loved the French Lessons and was really good at it, I was always top of the class. I felt so grown up the uniform was really smart.

Dad applied for a job as a resident caretaker at Peabody Trust, Camberwell, by this time he was walking normally the only paralysis he had was from his ankle to his toes but he had managed to cope with this without a limp. Mr Logue the neuro-surgeon said over time it would improve and he was right, but still a long way to go.

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