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      • Native Language:
      • Finnish
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      • Finland
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    They never gave me the present

    The village school, when I came to it, was at its peak. Universal education and unusual fertility had packed it to the walls with pupils. Wild boys and girls from miles around --- from the outlying farms and half-hidden hovels way up at the end of the valley --- swept down each day to add to our numbers, bringing with them strang oaths and odours, quaint garments and curious pies. They were my first amazed vision of any world outside the womanly warmth of my family; I didn't expect to survive it for long, and I was then only four.
    The morning came, without any warning, when my sisters surrounded me, warpped me in the scarves, tied up my bootlace, thrust a cap on my head, and stuffed a baked potato in my pocket.
    "What's this?" I said.
    "You're starting school today."
    "I ain't. I'm stopping ' ome."
    "Now, come on, Loll. You're a big boy now."
    "I ain't."
    "You are. "
    They picked me up bodily, kicking and bawling, and carried me up the road.
    "Boys who don't go to school get put into the boxes, and turn into rabbits, and get chopped up on Sundays."
    I felt this was overdoing it rather, but I said no more after that. I arrived the school just three feet tall and fatly wrapped in my scarves. The playground roared liked a rodeo, and the potato burned through my thigh. Old boots, ragged stockings, torn trousers and skirts, went skating and skidding around me. The rabble closed in; I was encircled; grit flew in my face like shrapnel. Tall girls with frizzled hair, and huge boys with sharp elbows, began to prod me with hideous interest. They plucked at my scarves, spun me round like a top, screwed my nose, and stole my potato.
    I was rescued at last by a gracious lady --- the sixteen-year-old junior teacher --- who boxed a few ears and dried my face and sent me off to The Infants. I spent that first day picking holes in paper, then went home in a smouldering temper.
    "What's the matter, Loll? Didn't he like it at school, then?"
    "They never gave me the present!"
    "Present? What present?"
    "They said they 'd give me a present."
    "Well, now, I'm sure they didn't"
    "They did! They said: ` You're Laurie Lee, ain't you? Well, just you sit there for the present.` I sat there all day but I never got it. I ain't going back there again!"
    Could you please explain the text in bold to me.
    "stuff a baked potato in sby's pocket" Was this some kind of custom for a kid in the old days, when he/she started school??

  1. rewboss's Avatar

    • Join Date: Feb 2006
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    Re: They never gave me the present

    "had packed it up to the walls"
    The image is that there were so many pupils in the school, they were packed in like sardines in a can -- they were even pressed up against the walls. This is, of course, an exaggeration -- an example of what we call "hyperbole". In fact, the meaning is simply that the school was running at full capacity.

    "stuffed a baked potato in my pocket"
    I don't know if this was a tradition, but I guess this was intended to help keep Lee warm on the way to school. It could also have been his lunch.

    "went skating and skidding around me"
    This simply means they skated and skidded around Lee. The use of the construction "to go" + -ing form helps to reinforce the idea of a lot of children all surrounding Lee, skating and skidding around in a confusing manner.

    • Member Info
      • Native Language:
      • Finnish
      • Home Country:
      • Finland
      • Current Location:
      • Finland

    • Join Date: Jul 2005
    • Posts: 180
    • Post Thanks / Like

    Re: They never gave me the present

    Thank you very much Rewboss

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