It was our last year in primary school, and our winter break came with our last attempt at the Nativity play for the parents.
A new girl had moved to the area. Gemma had only been at the school for around three days before we were due to perform the play. All the roles had been assigned and it was looking like the new girl night be left out.
And then, in a stroke of genius, our teacher decided to give up her own role of narrator and give the part to Gemma, our new friend.
The role of narrator consisted of two full pages of A4 print – an unthinkably large amount to recite, but Gemma was ballsy; she would shine in the role, two pages was nothing, she was in control. She had a lot of swagger for a ten year old.
The spotlight found her and in seconds flat, she was shaking. The teacher encouraged her from the wings (or more accurately, from the side of the stage where the music stands were kept), and gave her the line – “Jesus was born in Bethlehem..”
Gemma turned white, swallowed hard and proclaimed, “Jesus was born in Bethlem.”
Bethlem was the name of the local mental hospital in Croydon.
The parents fell about laughing. The teacher nearly passed away. And with every year, those of us who witnessed it, tell the story.