Miss Webster’s spectacles

Miss Webster played the organ at our chapel, and the piano in the classroom for Sunday School.

She lived next door to the doctor’s house, with her mam, who was a very old lady.  I knew my mam was thirty-one, so I worked out that Miss Webster must be old, but she wasn’t; she was just old-fashioned.

She wore cardigans that matched her sweater, like my Great Aunt Ethel, but Miss Webster’s were tighter, and she wore tweed skirts and stockings.  I only once saw her wear a pair of shoes with heels.

She had two pairs of spectacles, both of them on chains round her neck. She wore one
pair while she was playing, and the other pair sat on her bosom, then she swapped them over when she got down off the seat.  The pair she wore while she was playing were tortoiseshell with thick lenses.  Sometimes, we had to stand by her to turn the pages of her music bred spectaclesook.  None of us could read music, so she would nod when it was time to turn over.  Her green eyes were huge and blurry through the lenses, and she could sometimes look at you hard, and be a bit scary. Her other glasses were red, with sweeping wings that went right up into her hair.  Her hair was lacquered stiff, so when she pushed her spectacles up, her hair moved with them.  She would pat it back down, carefully, every time.  She smelled nice, though, like my mam did when she was going out with my dad on Saturday nights.

The last time I saw her was at the Chapel Anniversary.  All our parents and aunts and uncles came along to see us perform. We all sang hymns together, then we each had to recite or sing something of our own. Sunday School was all about practicing for weeks before that Sunday, and Miss Webster played the same hymns and songs over and over until we were as good as we were ever going to be.

That Sunday, she wore a pale yellow silky dress, and her shoes matched, and they had heels.  She slipped them off under the organ seat, and worked the pedals in her stockinged feet.

After lunch the next Sunday, we went to get our coats to walk to Sunday School, and Mam told me we weren’t going, and we  didn’t need to go back.  She said we were too old for it now.  That pleased me because I hated walking there on Sundays, especially in the winter, when I wanted to lie in front of the fire and watch old films on television.

At school on Monday morning, I told my friend Ann that I wouldn’t be seeing her at Sunday School any more, and she started to laugh.

“ There won’t be any more Sunday School,” she said.  “My dad says the Chapel will have to close now; the minister, Mr Pickering, has left his wife and run off with Miss Webster”.