1952

Sometimes, instead of a farthing,
they give you safety pins.
Can that be right? I’m sure
it’s what the teacher said.
 
I know it was 1952
because the same teacher, a nun,
announced one morning
that the King had died.
 
We were encouraged to go
to the chapel, to pray for his soul.
A Catholic friend showed me
what you do with the holy water.
 
It was lovely in there –
white, gold, pastels –
as pretty as the scenery
for the last act of a pantomime.
 
It may have been the same day
that I upset my mother
by asking for a rosary.
Soon after that,
 
as we sat down in a theatre,
where I couldn’t make a fuss,
she told me it had been decided:
boarding school, next term.
 
Wendy Cope is an award-winning poet whose collections include Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis and Family Values. In 2011 the British Library acquired her archive of 40,000 emails and 15 boxes of notebooks, diaries, letters and memorabilia. 
Tags:poetry