Saturday, March 28, 2009

The battle of Trafalgar

My apologies for the last post. I think I did prove to myself that I was indeed, and still am, exhausted.

But this is not the reason for my post - no.....I have just finished watching a very old film "Lady Hamilton" while doing the long neglected ironing. (The ironing pile was almost as half as tall as my washing machine....) It was released in 1941 and I loved every minute of it, from the painted scenery behind the studio built bay windows, to the bad English accents.

Why I am writing about this has nothing to do with my love of old films. It has to do with the thought that came to mind when Lord Nelson (played by Laurence Olivier) died at the end of the battle of Trafalgar. It was an amusing death scene. Lord Nelson had, through the course of the film, lost an eye, an arm and, during this battle, been shot in the back through his spine. He died as a consequence of that shot through the spine BUT only after he heard that the British had won the battle of Trafalgar.

Olivier, being the excellent actor that he was, turned one eye - the good eye, while maintaining a dead look in the lost eye and died. It was excellent acting.

But this death scene reminded me of a reenactment I witnessed at my first Victorian teaching position.

I worked, for 18 months, at Trafalgar High School at the beginning of my teaching career. I owe this school a great deal as they reignited the knowledge that I am a good teacher.

One day I read that there would be a reenactment of Battle of Trafalgar by the Year 8 (I think - can't quite remember which year level) on the top oval at 2.30pm.

I was intrigued and also a little confused. I thought the Battle of Trafalgar was fought on the sea. Fighting on the top oval? I would see.

At 2.30 an announcement came on for all staff and students to come and watch the historic reenactment. We got to the oval and were posted around the sides (which I should hasten is not an oval - more a rectangle). The teacher in charge (sorry that his name escapes me) explained that the French and Spanish would be coming from the street side of the oval and British from the other.

Out came the students -1 class on either side. They prepared for battle by stepping into their carefully painted cardboard boxes and strapping the ropes over their shoulders. Some were large enough to carry two or three sailors. Most had only one on board.

The teacher called them to arm themselves and there was movement below the top level of each box. The teacher got the kids to line up facing each other across the green I mean brine......the buzz around the crowd grew.

At the call the kids ran full pelt towards each other. Once they were within striking distance the ammunition came out. Water balloons and flour bombs. The dust from the flour created the feel of smoke from the cannons. The water ??????

In terms of historic accuracy it left a lot to be desired. The British fleet lost.......which I think had something to do with the fact that kids didn't follow the basic rule that if you're hit, you cannot compete any further as you're probably dead. French and Spanish kids were knocked down but got back up and battled on as, they told me later, they hadn't got rid of all their ammunition. I also believe that many of the 2 and 3 manned boats anarchy reigned. One kid was hit but the other one/two kept dragging them along.

Boats were destroyed and bits of cardboard went everywhere. Scrap from the ammunition lay on the ground. The kids started to battle for the sake of frivolity.....

At 3pm (it was a quick battle as it didn't really get started until 2.50pm) we were all dismissed by the principal - who looked a little concerned. At this stage the year 8s were a little out of control and didn't really want to clean up after their battle. Arguments broke out amongst the kids as to who actually had won.

I walked away not really what I had witnessed but I know I haven't laughed so hard in ages and it is something I will always cherish.

1 comment:

Vanessa said...

Laughter can be the very best medicine. Hope you get some rest and rejuvenation.