Writing Contest #227 Prompt 5


Jeremy’s father was a master-baker and confectioner, and therefore in a reserved profession, so was not called up to fight in the second world war. He volunteered all the same and was rejected as he had flat feet. So he decided to take up a post as Baker and Cook at a Reformatory School (Juvenile Correction Centre). He would be baking for the school and the village nearby and dealing with, and cooking meals for, boys who had been committed to corrective and job training, for breaking the law. A few days after Jeremy was born the family moved into a staff house, out in the country, a mile from the nearest village and ten miles from the nearest town.

Only three other members of staff had children and they were much older than Jeremy so Jeremy had to find his own amusement from a very early age. When he started school it made no difference to this situation. Firstly because his parents sent him to a school in a different village. Secondly because other children’s parents did not want their children going up the narrow winding road, with large hedges on each side, to that place where there were young criminals.

He often amused himself by exploring the footpaths near his house – walking several miles across the fields to a neighbouring village or exploring a large wood nearly two miles away. When they were in season he would pick mushrooms and blackberries which were gratefully accepted as an addition to the family menu. Later in life he found walking was a good way of seeing places and he walked for enjoyment. After retirement it became a way of  saving money when getting from A to B rather than a pleasurable pastime.

The family did not have a car until Jeremy was eleven, or a television until he was fourteen. Whilst he was very young he travelled on a seat, on the cross bar, of his dad’s bicycle but as soon as he was old enough he was taught to ride a bike and the family cycled at his speed. By the age of eight he was allowed to cycle around to nearby villages and cycling became a hobby as well as a means of travel. When he was fourteen he often used his bicycle to travel the eleven miles to grammar school in the summer. Cycling allowed him to have a social life. He could get to other villages and to friends’ houses. Once he had passed his driving test, at 18, he no longer bothered with a bike – he could travel further and more comfortably by car.

In the evenings, particularly in the winter, he listened to the radio and read. Until he went to grammar school he did not have many books to read. In the evenings the boys at the reformatory school were encouraged to take up hobbies. Jeremy’s father was sure that Jeremy would be fine joining the stamp collecting group – a small group overseen by the deputy head. Jeremy enjoyed sorting out and sticking colourful stamps into an album but his only source of stamps was through the club and he soon had collected all that was available. His father then suggested he joined another small group making model aeroplanes. Jeremy enjoyed this and the boys in the group looked on him almost as a younger brother and helped him with his model. He was quite proud of the plane he had built and took it on to the field, wound up the rubber band that drove the propeller, and launched it. The plane rose steeply, flew for a few meters before crashing, nose first. It came down with such force that the plane broke up. Jeremy could not see the sense in spending hours and hours making something that only survived for a few minutes.  So left that group.

Later, when he travelled to the nearest town to go to the grammar school, he gained access to a library and he began to immerse himself in books. This is the one hobby that stayed with him for the rest of his life – how much, and what he read, depending on other pressures on his time and other interests.

In the summer he immersed himself in cricket. Directly outside his house there was a smooth road which was little used and a six foot wall that separated the staff houses from the school. He spent hours and hours practicing smashing a tennis ball against the wall, trying to always return the rebound, on fine days in any season of the year. In addition when the boys were not on the playing field he had access to the cricket nets and would set up a single stump and take six cricket balls up and practice bowling. In the first three years at grammar school he was always picked to be captain of one of the teams, opened the batting, and often batted right through. He was also  usually the most effective bowler in the team. An unfortunate accident ended all this. His cousin moved to live in a nearby village, when Jeremy was thirteen, and often came to stay. They used to go up and use the school nets taking it in turn to bowl at each other. One day Jeremy bowled a slow spinner indenting to encourage his cousin to smash it in the air. Jeremy followed through with the intention of dismissing his cousin caught and bowled. Unfortunately the ball had been hit with the most force his cousin could muster and came at head high. Only ten yards from the bat the force was such it went straight through Jeremy’s hands, hit him in the eye, and laid him out. After that he found that cricket was too dangerous because if the ball came towards his right eye he could not prevent himself from taking his eye off the ball.

In his teens he went weekly to the village dances and enjoyed dancing, particularly ballroom dances. At college he went to the monthly dance at the University and at one college dance danced with a girl who had been a British junior ballroom champion who said he was the best partner she’d had since leaving home. Ballroom dancing featured regularly in his various liaisons with girls until he married when his wife stated she did not really enjoy dancing. This spelt the end of that pastime.

He became a primary school teacher and this really suited him as he was able to indulge in a wide range of activities, as he had to teach every subject. He developed some passable drawing skills, learnt to play a recorder sufficiently well to teach beginners and enjoyed singing. As he could not play a piano he used his own voice to encourage his class to sing along with a BBC school’s programme. He was happy singing with the children and when he became head of a small primary school was happy to lead the school hymns as he had no music teacher. Once he moved to teach older children he became self conscious and stopped singing in public.

A talk from the newly appointed IT adviser to one of his parents’ evenings lead to his school being one of the first school with children up to eight years old to have a computer. Jeremy soon found that the adviser had no knowledge of young children and that there was only one program suitable for his school. He set too and learnt the computer language ”Basic” and wrote several simple but relevant programs. He also became an advocate of the computer language Logo which the older children enjoyed.

He had become very concerned about teaching maths properly and spent a year taking a Maths Teaching Diploma course part time. This lead to his being offered a post – retaining his heads salary – attached to a middle school as a maths advisory teacher. As soon as he joined the staff the head of the middle school persuaded him to take on the role of IT coordinator. He was involved in setting up the network and training staff to use the computers and managing the network. Encouraged by the head he wrote an article for “Primary Education” advising schools how to make available  the three or four computers they could afford to all the children in the school, without setting up a special computer room.  Ten years later he became a Microsoft Office expert and was employed by Essex to train several school staffs. He also taught company secretaries how to use “Word” and “Excel” at evening classes – without this knowledge they would not be employed.

He retired from full time teaching when he was sixty but put himself on the Supply list and for the next ten years was in almost continuous employment. The fact that he could teach almost any subject to children between the ages of five and thirteen meant he was much in demand. He rarely taught IT in those ten years and soon found he was no longer an expert , but was competent to teach a few IT lessons.– IT was, and still is, developing very quickly. “Basic” has long been replaced by easier programming languages and Jeremy tinkered with programming using “Scratch” but did not find this very stimulating, it did not present the same challenges as he had enjoyed when programming with “Basic”.

 He became very interested in stone painting and produced some quite nice pieces.   His wife pointed out that taking stones from beaches was not good practice so he stopped collecting them. It was very difficult to find smooth stones in the garden so he gave that up.

During the time he was teaching he watched quite a lot of television. After teaching, eating a meal, marking and then preparing for the next day, television  allowed him to switch off and relax. When he was seventy he and his wife decided they needed to move nearer the grandchildren and he vowed that he would not watch television again until it was the only thing he could cope with.

He now reads copiously. Enjoys growing vegetables in his raised beds, and is involved in volunteering. Walking for at least half an hour every day – unless it’s raining – is his way of keeping fit. He no longer walks for pleasure and chooses his walk for the effort required. He is no longer interested in looking around him just that he is meeting his target. He has also taken over all the dusting and hovering duties in the house and at the end of each day wonders where the time went.

January 28, 2021 21:24

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Hallie Blatz
17:10 Feb 04, 2021

This story was written well and moved along nicely! It felt a little like reading a Wikipedia article though... I liked the way you jumped back and forth between time! Sincerely, Hallie.


Hallie Blatz
17:12 Feb 04, 2021

Let me know when you write another story! I’d like to read more of your work.


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Laura Fanning
21:32 Feb 03, 2021

This is a lovely story, it sticks to the prompt about hobbies but it seems as if the antagonist - Jeremy - goes from enjoyable success in life to more enjoyable success in life and aside from 'enjoying' these things, there is little reflection on how Jeremy felt about how his life. Did it go the way he want? Was he really as able to exchange one dream - walking, riding, IT, motoring - for another so seamlessly? It almost seems like a loving Obituary in a local paper. I would love to hear more. Possibly because I am from over-the-pond I w...


Victor Flute
15:43 Feb 04, 2021

To be honest it is more or less my life story boiled down to the basics.


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