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Maria Starflower straightened her jacket, smiled at the ocean of small faces peering apprehensively at her, and somewhat nervously proceeded to commence her first day as a teacher.

"Okay, Polly." She pointed at a small girl who reciprocated with a cheerful smile. "Please stand up and tell the class about the first day of your school holiday."

Polly jumped up excitedly and skipped to a large chalkboard which seemed to exaggerate her small frame. She had heard all about her new teacher from America and, although nervous, was delighted to be the first in her class to be called out.

Maria smiled and asked her to proceed.

"Well, Miss, my first favourite day was to the battle cruiser; we had lunch and."

"Oh, you mean the famous HMS Belfast on the River Thames?" Ms Starflower interrupted her flow of speech.

"No miss, I think it was called The Mary Rose, my uncle Bert owns it, it was on a river we had such a great time, my Dalmatian Dotty was allowed to come as well. We had a lovely lunch; people on boats were waving at us."

Ms Starflower smiled at her pupil's enthusiasm, visualizing Polly's family all sitting on a gigantic ship sailing down the Thames. She knew although it had been a giant step, coming to England had been the right thing to do. If the rest of her class were as delightful as young Polly, she was going to enjoy her stay.

The next day, Maria stared ahead, lost in her own thoughts. It appeared that her pupil Polly was not as truthful as she had first thought. Several of Polly's classmates had emphatically related that Polly's uncle did not own a battle cruiser, so it was hardly likely that her story the previous day was accurate. Nevertheless, having no idea why the young child would wish to fabricate such nonsense, she was more than interested to hear what she intended to say next. Polly delighted that she was being chosen again, proudly made her way to the blackboard, cleared her throat noisily and proceeded to tell her story.

"Well, miss, my uncle and aunt took us to see the Monument." She stared at her teacher proudly. "That's where the Fire of London started. My aunty did not like the apples, though." Polly giggled, recalling her Aunt Brenda's red face. "Said she was too old for them."

Maria Starflower grunted but let Polly continue.

And in the afternoon we went to Hyde Park and had a picnic. My aunt gave us an apple pie she had baked." The youngster licked her lips, remembering her treat. "And my uncle Bill gave us some bees to go on the boats."

"Polly, that is quite enough." Her teacher stared at her angrily. "I expect all of my class to tell the truth."

"But I am telling the truth, miss." Polly objected. "We had a right good bubble bath."

"Polly, please sit down.” She stared angrily at the rest of her class. "Uncles that give children bees to play with on boats and bubble baths in The Serpentine." She could feel her face reddening. "Whatever next?"

The next day Ms Starflower stared hard at her pupils, wondering why young Polly would wish to tell so many lies. She had spoken to the other teachers who had assured her the youngster was normally very well-behaved. Perhaps, they added helpfully; she was going through one of those stages that children go through. However, Maria had her own ideas. She was beginning to think the child resented her and was attempting to make her look foolish.

Okay, Polly. Please tell us about another day of your holiday." She stared at Polly sadly. "And please think about what you intend to say. "We only want to hear the truth."

Polly walked slowly to the blackboard, having no idea what her new teacher was talking about. It had taken her a long time to write her essays, and she was disappointed that they had not received the acclaim she had expected.

"Well, miss." Polly eyed her teacher nervously. "My dad took my brothers and me to a safari park. We had such a great time; we saw zebras, elephants, big cats, and we had ice lollies and pizza."

"Oh, Polly, that sounds a lovely day out." Ms Starflower interrupted, relieved that she was not hearing another of the child's strange stories.

"Thank you, miss, it was." Polly continued more confidently. And then my dad had some pig's ear, and we all had a race down a frog."

"Polly, that is enough." Maria tried her utmost not to shout. "Please sit down."

Maria Starflower checked her watch for the umpteenth time, wondering if Polly's father would make an appearance. She felt uncomfortable calling him to the school but felt she must quickly nip his daughter's habit of telling strange stories in the bud. It was not healthy for a seven-year-old child to lie so glibly.

"Oh, I am so sorry."

A loud voice disturbed her thoughts.

"I tried to ring, but I realized I had left my dog in the jam jar."

Maria stared at a pair of twinkling eyes.

"You see, I got the bus."

Polly's teacher could hardly believe her ears.

"Are you saying, Mr Woods, that you keep your poor dog in a jam jar?"

Suddenly she started to understand why Polly was a little strange. "In this hot weather, as well."

Lenny Woods eyed the woman curiously. Polly had told him her teacher asked strange questions, and he could now see what she meant. Shrugging his broad shoulders, he determined perhaps that was how American teachers behaved.

"Well, I will get to the point." Maria sounded nervous. "I am afraid that Polly is not doing what she is asked. Possibly there is a problem at home; however, I cannot condone her ridiculous stories." She looked embarrassed. "She is disrupting the whole classroom.” Maria Starflower painstakingly explained how Polly had insisted her uncle owned a battle cruiser and, although her aunt did not like apples, had insisted on feeding her family with them. Not to mention taking bees on boats and her father eating pig’s ears. Wearily, she added that although the child obviously presumed her stories funny, she set a bad example to the rest of the class. As a new teacher, she could not condone such behaviour. Hoping to receive some words of reassurance from Polly's father, she was horrified to see a wide grin etched across his face.

"Mr Woods, do you find this bizarre situation humorous?"

"Oh, I am so sorry." Lenny stuttered his words. "But it is funny." Attempting to keep a straight face, he hastened to enlighten Maria Starflower about Cockney rhyming slang.

Having learnt that battle cruiser rhymed with boozer, which was the alternative name for a pub, she allowed herself a relieved smile. When Len explained that apples and pears were stairs and bees and honey was money, she herself could not stifle a giggle. A bubble bath, of course, was a laugh. Whilst pig's ear was beer and frog, and the toad was the road. Apologizing to the startled teacher, he explained that Polly's late mother, and himself, always conversed in rhyming slang. A habit their daughter readily copied. Especially, when she tended to get a little nervous. Smiling, he explained that having a new teacher all the way from America had probably excited her a bit. Adding that she was just as probably attempting to make an impression, he promised that he would talk with her about it. Maria, feeling a little silly, realized she still had a lot to learn about teaching. Children in London were certainly different from their peers in New York. Scolding herself for being so hard on the child, she resolved to apologize the very next day.

"But Mr Woods, what is a dog and jam jar?"

Len Woods grinned from ear to ear. "Well, a dog and bone is a phone and jam jar is a car." His face lit up the room. "I get nervous as well sometimes." He stared at the bemused teacher. "Perhaps," he continued hopefully, "we could take a trip to the battle cruiser. I could teach you some more of our strange lingo."

Maria Starflower smiled contently. Her stay in England, despite

the initial misunderstanding was getting better by the minute!


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