“Mrs Dragons, Stanley’s spoiling our skipping game!” 

An oft heard piece of tittle-tattle aimed at my mum during her patrols of the Oakfield Infant School (OIS) playground in late 1970s Gateshead. Her role as dinner nanny at the Low Fell nursery exposing the Leeds lady to the regular telling of tales, in particular other pupil’s disclosure of a young pupil called Stanley’s mischief.

Mrs Dragons, the moniker bestowed upon my mum by a bunch of 5 year olds during valiant attempts at pronouncing her surname (Strachan). At least I’m assuming that was the root cause of her unintended nickname. Not these tots genuinely christened her with the pseudonym by deemed her behaviour to be that of a hostile fire breathing dragon.

Much of the Dragons family (errrrr….. I mean Strachan) tea time table chatter contained yarns of Little Stanley’s’ exploits during Oakfield infants lunch hour. My mum (Maggie), unable to laugh at the time of admonishing the scamp for his midday misdemeanours, awaiting her return to the privacy of her family home to express mirth at the wee fellas earlier shenanigans.

Maggie always prefixed Stanley’s name with the word little. I believe this was a consequence of the fact he was smaller than his peers; not to differentiate the scallywag from other infant school pupil possessing the same christian name. A conclusion made from knowing there wasn’t a Big Stanley, a Medium-sized Stanley, a Chuffing Massive Stanley or indeed any other Stanley roaming the tarmac playground of OIS.

Now in his early middle-age, unless he’s still diminutive in stature, I’m assuming the former Oakfield boy is no longer addressed as Little Stanley. I’m aware I make lots of assumptions in my narratives, but surely in adulthood he’s now more likely to be known in The Black Horse (if he drinks there) as Big Stanley, Medium-sized Stanley or Chuffing Massive Stanley.***

*** – Other adjectives to prefix the name Stanley are available.

I’m unable to recall any of the many anecdotes about this incorrigible scoundrel, cascaded through much mater’s laughter at the family dinner table . All I can really remember is this young boy was a force of nature whose frequent mischievous antics were the Strachan’s soap opera fix on an evening. Not a very good soap opera, but one worth a watch if you were enamoured by the sight of audacious young kids and intransigent dinner nannies.

A show that’d possibly have the following theme tune;-

My mum loved working as a dinner nanny, a role giving her carte blanche to spend an hour scolding kids for their tomfoolery (all perfectly acceptable back then), along with the chance to utilise her ‘go to’ calming instruction of “Steady now.”

She could be a fierce-some lady in the face of what she deemed as a child’s impertinence. Perfecting the ability to control juvenile insolence with a stern glare and simply barking out the word “Ey!!”; or alternatively the terse command of “Now think on!!”

That being said Maggie wasn’t as strict with the school kids as she was with her own offspring, who were often on the receiving end of corporal punishment. On one occasion her physical admonishment even extending to capital punishment. Well, to be more accurate, punishment in English capital London; when I was in receipt of a good hiding on the banks of the Thames after attempting to push my brother Ian into the river!