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Two More Letters to Those Who Attempted to Discourage Us as Writers — 1 Comment

  1. Dear Miss Bludgeon,
    I was around 16 years of age, and have no memory of how old you might have been at that time. I didn’t know you, and you didn’t know me. I’d never had you as a class teacher. You had been assigned to monitor the exams we were all taking who were that age. It was for the General Certificate of Education exams created administered throughout all English highs schools at that time.
    It was terrifying. Arranged in rows in the gym, because an ordinary classroom would not have been big enough, we all felt it was a do-or-die marker in those last years of High School.
    Did you, Miss Bludgeon, have any idea how serious and nerve-wracking this sort of unusual event can be for a child, even one who is a teenager? No, I don’t think you could have.
    One of the items on the agenda was to write an essay about something you remembered from your childhood. I liked this assignment because it didn’t depend on rote memory of a bunch of facts, but just remembering something from my own real life!
    For some reason, I landed on a particular memory of mine that isn’t at all earth-shattering, but I hoped to convey why it still, even today, fascinates me.
    I had been evacuated out of Liverpool during World War Two, to live with a dear Aunt of mine in Yorkshire, a place thought to be safe from the bombing. I was two years old at the time, and was going to love the green fields, low stone walls, sheep and trees of that lovely green countryside. But best of all was to be taken care of by my very dear and loving Aunt. She was a happy soul and like to sing—especially Irish sings—as she swept the kitchen, peeled potatoes or made tea. She gave me free rein to explore the house and the big outdoors when the weather was nice.
    But what I came to love most was a window on the second floor that was a design in colored glass pieces. I discovered that the glass allowed me to see the garden and the house next door in different colors. I could make the world all red with the red glass: a pink sky, dark red trees, and scarlet bricks in the wall of the neighboring house. Or it could be a lemon sky, bronze leaves, and yellow bricks in that house, I changed the world out there depending on which colors I selected—blue, green, purple, and the shock of back to clear glass and how it was to begin with. It felt like such a power and excitement, each color creating a different feeling with it too, It was fascinating. I don’t know if my aunt ever knew how much I loved this game but she never interfered.
    So this is what my essay was about.
    So after the essays were collected up for some initial scrutiny by the monitoring staff, this is where you reappeared at my side, Miss Bludgeon, with a comment that shook me to the core. “You just made this up, didn’t you?!” you hissed in my ear, as you slid the papers under my face. What? I must have looked up at you with shock and pain in my eyes. Of course I could not say it—that it is what I remembered. I couldn’t understand what made you think I’d cheated. What was it that made you so angry!
    You were finding fault not with my writing, but what the child in me liked to imagine and play with. Isn’t this very natural to a child, and very much a part of all good writing of fiction, poetry, essays and plays, that it IS made up, and expressed with imagination.
    I’m glad I passed that exam in any case And that I never had to see you again, Miss Bludgeon. But I hope you found the child in you that loves to dream and fantasize, and just relax into the fun of writing, painting, dancing, seeing the magic of color and light that gives life to all things, including you.

    Shelagh Cosgrove, January 2022.

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