The lady in pink on the 14 to Peacehaven


A lady on the 14 to Peacehaven smiles. From her clothes she obviously likes pink. I sit next to her, ring my son briefly, ring my partner to ask if he can pick me up at the bus stop. I then tell her I hate people who tell the bus all their business and here am I doing just that!

Within five minutes we are talking about grandchildren. My eldest is in his first year at Brighton Uni , having fun but working hard by all accounts. She laughs about how shocked she was when visiting her grandson in Cardiff and seeing all his mates in the house  running round in their jimjams!

It turns out she had lived in Mitcham, she knew Lanfranc High School where I once taught. “Never forgot that school” she says, “all those children and their teachers killed in an air crash on a school holiday.”

My time was much later, I taught English to ‘slow learners’, design and ceramics in the art department, but my main role was to teach travellers on a permanent site nearby and try and integrate them into school! My play about the latter was put on at The Young  Vic a few years later.  I don’t know what it was about that school, the Head – Mr Blackman,  the staff,  the children, the atmosphere? A wonderful time in my life!

But her memories brought it back, the annual  service in the memory of those lost in the crash. The school so sombre for days before and afterwards, those who had been there during that time,  lost in their personal memories.

My stop comes first,  the lady in pink and I smile again and say goodbye, sometimes sad but  magical moments on the no. 14

From the Croydon Advertiser 2012

THE 50th anniversary of the dedication of a memorial cross to the victims of the Lanfranc air disaster was marked on Monday.

The cross was placed on the Holtaheia mountain outside Stavanger in Norway to mark the site where the plane carrying the Lanfranc party on a school holiday trip in August 1961 crashed, killing 34 pupils, two teachers and three air crew.

 ​Unveiling: This picture, taken by Rosalind Jones 50 years ago, shows headmaster Tommy Fowle unveiling the memorial

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