A Rocking Horse at Boarding School, Oil colour on canvas, 48 x 36 inches. © C. English.

A Rocking Horse at Boarding School.

During the early 60’s at boarding school
I remember an incident. It involved me
And several children on a rocking horse.

From the present day perspective it is
Unbelievable to think such a rocking horse would be a toy.
Yet there it was, in what was called ‘the play room’.

The horse was large and sturdy, built to last. In retrospect it just did not
Occur to any one that the contraption was an ‘accident waiting to happen’.
Was the horse a cherished relic of some one’s past?

Perhaps an item pretentiously put there to represent a thing
One would expect to find in the so called ‘play room’;
A concept so out of fashion.

The school staff were elderly, their valves and perspective
Were more Edwardian than an age of today.
Most were widows or spinsters having lived through both world wars.

Would this explain the extra ordinary lack of concern for the dangerous situation
The rocking horse presented? Or was it considered safe
For a child to play on the horse; maybe only under strict supervision?

A sociologist might know the answer.

Because of the horse’s height, it would make an awkward climb.
Anyway, because of the unsteadiness it was just too dangerous
To sit on the horse’s back. Who would dare sit on the red saddle?

The out stretched legs were bolted on to a plat formed rocker base;
At each end was a strut to hold the horse’s legs together.
This was a perfect place for a child to sit.

And so! We did. A child each end.
One on the plat form, if not, there were two.
Each of the horse’s legs – a handle bar to hold.

One day, a reckless individual managed to climb up
And clung on to the neck of the horse
While sitting on its back.

Without a thought I and other children clambered on the rocker board.
Beneath the horse’s legs a child sat at each end.
A see-saw rocking motion began; slowly at first.

Inevitably, the momentum gathered speed, the rocking horse
Was uncontrollable, suddenly, what was fun became fear.

Relentlessly out of control, the horse’s velocity quickened and then……

©Christopher English