Off topic

In my final year at my Balham primary school, apart from the playtime bell ringing, the favourite part of my time there was when the teacher announced: ‘It’s time to work on your topic’.

A ‘topic’ was a project which lasted several terms and had nothing to do with hazelnut-covered chocolate.

In 1967 there were thirty of us in the class (I was one of the few not called ‘Susan’) and our topic was to write about a county.  There had been thirty-six English counties, so the chances of getting Rutland (and consequently no work) was high.

I got Middlesex.  I wanted Kent as I was, even as a ten-year-old, a massive fan of the County Cricket Club and obsessive about cricket generally – which became horribly obvious as my topic progressed.

Two years earlier Middlesex had officially stopped being a county.  Surely better than getting Rutland?  No, new county boundaries meant for nothing in SW17 (not part of Westmoreland).

I could have written about Harrow School; Chiswick House or the 15th Century font in West Drayton; I chose solely to write about Middlesex cricket.

My topic could have included facts about Hampton Court and its inhabitants and history; I chose to write about the inhabitants of Lord’s (not even in Middlesex).

Leading up to my Eleven-plus, rather than plumping for Thomas Cromwell, I wrote (at length) about Fred Titmus.  I even referred to the English Test cricketer probably being a better offspinner than Katherine of Aragon.  

So, not so much divorced; beheaded; died; divorced; beheaded; survived, more stumped; run out; caught; stumped; run out; hit the ball twice.

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