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The Manor School Chronicles 1977-1982: Part 3

The third part of Andy's recollections of his days as a pupil at the Manor School on Arbury Road.

I used to get up when I heard the 'eight 'o' clock buzzer'. It was actually a factory siren or hooter at Pye's in Chesterton, and was heard as a high pitched distant wail in Arbury. It wasn't at all a buzzing sound, but we called it that anyway. There were two or three of them early in the morning for different shifts.

I always had Weetabix for breakfast. Well, actually I had 'Bisk Wheat' or some such non-expensive version from Bishop's in Arbury Court, but it amounted to the same.

After my first day, I left Sharon and Sharon to their discussions of David Soul and Paul Michael Glazer, and walked to the Manor alone. On the journey, I occasionally saw an elderly lady. She used to be walking along Carlton Way towards the shops, and, if she saw me, would always cross the road for a few words. She'd come along in her headscarf and mac, and say: 'I've got a gun in my wardrobe. I'm gonna shoot you.'

She'd first said that to me when I was about seven and on my way home from buying 'sweeties' at 'Stopsiz'. I'd been terrified at the time - even apparently outspoken and brave cousin Sharon, who was with me, was a bit shaken  - but I grew used to the old lady as time went on as she always said it when I saw her afterwards. I don't know if she said it to anybody else!

Arbury was a great place for community spirit, no matter what the detractors might say - the Arbury Adventure Playground, Arbury Carnival, Arbury Community Centre, Arbury Town Park and so on were testament to that fact, but there were mental health problems on the estate (and, indeed, across Cambridge) and the lady was obviously unwell. I grew quite fond of her, and, although I only saw her occasionally, worried about her if an unusual length of time elapsed between our encounters.

I had no idea of her name or where she lived. She looked well cared for though, whether she was coping alone or with support, so that was a comfort. I did try to strike up conversations with her, but was met with a stony stare. In the end, I used to reply with a bright, 'Morning!' - and pass on my way.

On reaching the Manor, I'd go to registration and, sometimes, assembly in the Lower School Hall, with Mrs Firman and Miss Habgood. Miss Habgood was also a senior member of staff at the school. 

I told some of my mates about my Arbury family history, but the response was not as I expected.

'There used to be a farm here where my family lived,' I told them, quite proudly. 'It was called Manor Farm. That's how the school got its name.'

The response was often something along the lines of: 'UGH! That's terrible! You don't mean to say your family lived at Manor? Oh yuck, that's disgusting - poor you!'

So I shut up about it.

It wasn't trendy amongst my peers to admit any interest or liking when it came to Manor.

We called 'play time' 'break' at Manor, and they didn't have a playground for us little 'uns - we played on the tennis courts as I mentioned before. Some of us kicked a football, some of us I stood about and chatted. The girls and boys were usually in separate groups - the boys usually talking about football, Space 1999, and Doctor Who; the girls, Paul Michael Glazer, David Soul, make-up (which they weren't allowed to wear) and wanting to get a new top from Chelsea Girl or some such.

We had no gadgetry to stare at, of course.

Well, it was a funny old time, settling in at Manor: I got to know the school and the teachers, made some friends, learned the routine and was rushed into Addenbrooke's with a perforated appendix.

1977 was the end of an era for Manor. 1978 was just around the corner - a year of huge change...

Part 4 is here


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