Verbena Brighton started school at the age of five with her elder brother and two sisters. At the opening of “Chapter Five- Starting School” Verbena states that she was reluctant to start. The first chapter opens with a description of School uniform. She wore a little mauve coat with a fur collar, a grey frock, white pinafore, thick black stockings and black boots. This dress sounds very adorable for a five year old girl. Verbena’s fascination to detail about clothes is useful for anybody who is interested in the history of fashion. This would be considered unusual for working-class children.
Verbena Brighton recalls in loving detail describes the building of her primary school which conveys her fondness for her school. She even states the types of flowers that would be displayed on the school room windows . She includes a song which had stayed in her mind. Brighton describes the fabulous aspects of nature that herself and her siblings would examine on their walks home from school. I would consider Brighton and her siblings very lucky to be surrounded by luxurious meadows, as opposed to children living in inner cities in working- class life.
Verbena gives a consistent account of happiness throughout her childhood. This shows us that not all working-class families laboured in abject poverty or struggled all of their lives. Verbena’s memoir also demonstrates that some families in the 1920’s were becoming fairly affluent. Coming from a family of twelve, it could be suggested that Verbena benefited from being the youngest child. This is evident when Verbena describes her splendid attire to start school, perhaps her older siblings had begun work and there was more money within the family.
As Verbena Brighton describes her primary school memories with songs, lunchtime stories, games they would play at break time. Her memories are portrayed as pleasant and ‘idyllac’, the term in which she previously used to described her childhood as. Her school, only one mile away from her home was set in between beautiful meadows which Verbena Brighton vividly describes. Throughout her memoir, Brighton describes religious songs sang in school and prayers done throughout the day giving an insight to religion in working-class school life.
Verbena describes the institution in detail from the grounds it was situated in to the structure and layout to the building. This amount of detail suggests that Brighton was writing for future historian purpose, allowing researchers to identify her school through her description. Her attention to detail is very useful for somebody, like myself researching her memoir as it evokes imagery of what her school would have been like in 1920’s.
It is clear to the reader that Verbena Brighton is very well educated, due to her lack of spelling and punctuation errors and her level of writing. She opens Chapter 2 with a poem, with rhyming patterns present.
“Oh I shant forget the day that I was born
It was a cold and frosty winter’s morn
The doctor said I was a chubby chap
And then the nurse she put me on her lap…” (p. 7)
It is clear to see her level of education when she includes dialect in her memoir. When she is quoting her family speaking, or other people for that matter she includes dialect, giving the reader an idea of their strong Norfolk accents. Her ability to write without including any dialect shows her advanced writing style which indicates Verbena Brighton’s level of intelligence and ability to learn.
In the published version of her memoir Nuts ‘n May, I discovered that Brighton had published it herself. This demonstrates her education and determination to get her memoir published for others to read.
Verbena and her sisters are the three girls which are central on the back row, of this picture.
Pictures: Brighton, Verbena Nuts ‘n May (Brighton: Norfolk) 1990