Monday, July 22, 2013

The Truants by John Walsh

It seems these days that anything and everything is available just by typing a few words into the google search bar, but it's not true.

For years if I ever saw a book that had been illustrated by Edward Ardizzone I would buy it  just to discover yet more of his beautiful pen and ink line drawings, most of them I never bothered to actually read at all -  and the book pictured below 'The Truants' by John Walsh I must have owned for at least a dozen years and I'm sure I had not looked at it since the day I bought it .That is until a few days ago.

I don't know why I took it down from the book shelf but I'm so glad I did,  flicking through the pages I saw the title of one of the poems 'Last day of the Summer Term' , perhaps it drew my attention because exactly this time of year is just when the schools in England break up for the long summer holiday, and the hot weather we are having so reminded me of my own summers at school in the heatwaves of 1975 and 1976.

As I read, the poem's story unfolded from what at first seemed a rather 'jolly hockey sticks' girl's school tale into a haunting image of such melancholy and sadness that I was dumbfounded.
I must have read it 50 times at least in the last week.
I searched for more information about John Walsh on the internet but drew a blank, which was sad but in a way I was glad that he had disappeared, the thought that hidden within the pages of so many dusty and forgotten books there were still gems like this just waiting to be discovered by someone  interested enough to seek them out made me feel glad that a world of words and dreams still exists somewhere out there besides on a glowing screen.
Anyway, Thank you John, whoever you were or are - and here is your poem....

Last Day of the Summer Term

We sit around in the classroom
Exchanging holiday plans;
The many familiar faces-
Kate’s and Maud’s and Anne’s!

Kate’s spending a month in Brighton;
Joan is for Paris; Maud’s
Going to an aunt in Scotland,
And Anne to the Norfolk Broads.

I listen, envious and silent,
Or do the jobs of the day:
Tidy up; stack books; or I read
In a half-hearted sort of way.

We gather for the last Assembly-
The prayers and the final hymn;
‘If you girls go on being fidgety
I shall keep the whole school in.’

But it’s over at last, all over;
And I walk along home with Sue,
And stand at her door, while she chatters
About what they’re going to do:

They’ve hired a holiday-caravan
Down on the Isle of Wight:
‘We shall set out by car this evening-
We’ll be travelling all night…

‘Ah, well! Good-bye till September!’
I go on to my house alone;
I find my key, and enter
My holiday-home.

The house is close and quiet;
A few dead roses spill
Their petals one by one
On the hot window-sill.

A tap drips in the kitchen;
Two flies buzz on the pane;
There’s a note on the breakfast-table
Two lines from Mother. – ‘Dear Jane,

‘Make yourself a cup of tea, dear;
I’ll be working late at the shop.’
And I turn with hardly a sigh
To the uncleared washing-up;

Or wander vaguely upstairs,
To stare awhile at the tall 
Unanswering photo of father
That hangs on my bedroom wall. 

Posted by Rob R


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