Mr Curtis was talking to Mrs Dart one morning as we sat down after singing God Save the Queen.
"They're putting a new wing on the Roman Catholic college in Gladstone."
Whether it was a "Catholic" college or "Roman Catholic" college was an important terminological distinction in a little country town in 1950s Australia, but that's a story reserved for when I get round to writing about religion in the fifties in a tiny country town.
"The Stella Maris College," she said. "I heard about that." ...which wasn't surprising as her father was Regional Director of Education for Central Queensland.
I was in Grade 4, aged 7, going on 8. Yes, I started school early, but being in Grade 4 meant the transition, in our two-roomed school, from Mrs Dart's Grade 1, 2 and 3 room to Mr Curtis's Grades 4 to 8. That made me the youngest kid in the big room.
Old Jim, as we called him, turned to us.
"Does anyone know what 'Stella Maris' means?"
I shot up my hand. No-one else was keen to have a go.
"It means 'Star of the Sea'."
Old Jim was obviously pleased.
"How do you know that?"
"I read it in a book, Sir."
"Ah... a book." He turned with a knowing smile to Mrs Dart. "You see? His mother went to Grammar School."
It was true that she had, and that I had read it in a book, but what I didn't tell him was that I knew the Latin under slightly false pretences. It wasn't that I'd met up with "Stella Maris" in some lofty tome.
|"Tofu" I reckon.|
In one respect their education had been slightly askew. The eldest of them knew a good name, he said. He'd seen it in fancy writing on a sign down at Birchington on an earlier holiday.
The Stella Mavis.
Stella meant a star and Mavis – well, he wasn't exactly sure. They all agreed it was a jolly ripping name and the Stella Mavis was launched.
And they had lots of adventures in the Stella Mavis catching international spies and criminals who can't outwit English Public School kids, no way.
But you see, that's how I got to know "Stella Maris" was "Star of the Sea". Explaining about the Stella Mavis somehow took away the triumph of it all. I wasn't going to do that. If Old Jim thought I had been pouring over Latin texts at the age of seven, who was I to tell him?
And that's how I came to be thinking about roots.
I told you I'd get to it. All will be revealed in the second (and final) part. But right now the vital startup drive on this computer is making seriously ill noises, and I have to turn my attention to that!
roots (1) | roots (2) (final)
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