Black and White

Two memories sprung to mind as I thought on this weeks Gallery theme, black and white.  In June 1975 as I said goodbye to primary school I, along with all my classmates, was presented with a dictionary.  For the next 8 years until I left home it lived on my ‘big girl’s’ desk which my father got me as I moved on up to the big school.  It stayed on that desk until after the birth of my son and then was moved onto the bookcase in the hall so that he, when the time came, would have easy access to its bounty.

Before that balmy June in ’75 there were two dictionaries in our childhood home, my father’s was a big tomb with a tooled green leather binding which I was constantly being sent to when I asked him how to spell a word – he couldn’t spell either.  The other belonged to my mother, it was smaller bound in brown leather I seem to recall and much more worn which didn’t strike me at the time as odd, even though she was the one who could spell, for she is a wordsmith a walking talking thesaurus.  (Despite my brother being only a year above me at the same school I don’t remember him getting one when he left the village primary but maybe he did, maybe his lay treasured yet unseen in his room where little sisters feared to go.)  Regardless now I too had the prized treasure of my own dictionary not bound in rich deep leather but in bright red card.

Something to pour long and hard over discovering new words but chiefly for trying to find out how to spell that elusive word which didn’t quite look right, or was underscored in red in work returned to me.  It is difficult to find a word you can’t spell in a dictionary which requires by the very nature of a dictoinaries dna the need to know the order of the letters in said word to find it amidst the columns of its compatriots – especially when the word you are searching for is ‘ceiling’ under ‘s’ – yes I spent a long time looking for that but must admit to never having forgotten again that ceiling starts with a ‘c’!  Mostly however it was needed for the ‘i’s’ and ‘e’s’ – the rule never works when you need it to; ‘b’s’ and ‘p’s’ – didn’t know back then I had dyslexia; and double letters in words – how many ‘c’s’ in necessary, how many ‘s’s in Mississippi; and did I mean their or there, were or where, know or now the list went on and on but you get the picture, without the need for me to continue.  Oh the countless hours I would have saved had computers and their spell  and grammer checks been around back then.

Which brings me to my other childhood memory, that of my piano teacher who I can see clearly when I close my eyes, whose voice I can hear counting out a beat to the swing of the metronome but whose name I can’t recall at all.  I swear her favourite phrase was “There is no such thing as impossible”.  Well it certainly seemed to be to me as I struggled with a piece of music until in desperation I would declare it was “impossible”.  Then she in turn would utter her degree and send her nimble fingers melodiously over the black and white keys a couple of octaves higher giving irrefutable evidence that, impossible, it most certainly wasn’t.

So I got my old dictionary from the shelf it now sits on mostly unused except for the occasional scrabble game dispute and on the once black and white page took the picture that heads this post – no such thing as impossible?  The camera never lies, or so they say but maybe in this case it does, for those words from my childhood have echoed through my life when things seemed impossible but usually turned out to require a different approach, a bit more effort or simply a helping hand.


14 thoughts on “Black and White

  1. I do not remember getting a dictionary when I left primary school (possibly because my spelling is/was better than yours 😛

    Our Piano teacher was Mrs Taylor. She lived just above the Primary School.



    • 90% of the time I found the word, about 8% of the time I found an alternative word which was better and the other 2% made me scream excatly your sentiments.


  2. I accidentally posted this comment with your next post – obviously it is related to this one. I was given a pictorial dictionary when I started infant school, a more detailed children’s dictionary at the start of junior school and a grown up pocket dictionary for grammar school. I’ve just had a quick look and we seem to have three full shelves of dictionaries. Why?

    A couple of points to remember how to spell necessary – it is like a good shirt one Collar (C) and two Sleeves (S).

    For Mississippi how about this story>
    A bus stops, and two Italian men get on. They seat themselves, and engage in animated conversation.
    The very proper lady sitting behind them ignores their conversation at first, but her attention is galvanized when she hears one of the men say, “Emma come first. Den I come. Two asses, they come together. I come again. Two asses, they come together again. I come again and pee twice. Then I come once-a more.”
    “You foul-mouthed swine,” retorted the lady indignantly. “In this country we don’t talk about our sex lives in public!”
    “Hey, coola down lady,” said the man. “I justa tella my friend how to spella Mississippi.”

    And finally for all non-spellers

    Owed to the Spell Checker!

    Eye halve a spelling chequer
    It came with my pea sea
    It plainly marques four my revue
    Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

    Eye strike a key and type a word
    And weight four it two say
    Weather eye am wrong oar write
    It shows me strait a weigh.

    As soon as a mist ache is maid
    It nose bee fore two long
    And eye can put the error rite
    Its rare lea ever wrong.

    Eye have run this poem threw it
    I am shore your pleased two no
    Its letter perfect awl the weigh
    My chequer tolled me sew.


    • Lissa when you have dyslexia the word games to remember how to spell don’t always work either that’s why despite all the ones my teachers and mother taught me I still can’t spell.
      And on the old spell checker two which have always amused me from a very early spell checker I had on an electric typewritter with a small word processor in it were – Bathsheba was turned into bathtub and Hades to Haddows (a chain of off licences in Scotland)!


Please leave a comment if you wish.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s