After my foray into fiction writing, I have returned to the real world with a bump.
When writing about the Terrible Trio (Maisie, Juliet and Imogen) I got to thinking about school and school days. So I Googled my old school, John Howard in London to find that it has completely changed. It is now an ‘academy’ and its name has been changed to Clapton Girls Academy.
When my two sisters and I attended the school there were about 450 pupils, all girls and now I read that the role is up to 900 (still girls only) and more than 50 languages are spoken at the school and 70% of the students hold English as an additional language. When we attended I don’t think there were any girls whose first language wasn’t English. How times have changed.
When we three attended John Howard there were strict conduct and dress rules. No running inside, outdoor shoes had to be changed into indoor shoes when entering the school building; and the uniform was an indescribable brown tunic with custard yellow blouse. I think we wore brown polished leather shoes in winter. For gym we had an awful green romper suit; we had a brown beret and blazer for wearing in the street. Woe betide anyone caught not wearing the beret in a proper manner (as determined by the sixth and seventh form and/or prefects). I can’t remember what the summer dresses were like – perhaps green with white trim. And we wore leather sandals with these.
Oh and I do remember that plimsolls aka gym shoes had to be dyed brown. (Well this would surely have killed those shoes anyway.) Poor mother having to dye three pairs this ghastly colour.
There was a magnificent oak staircase in the main entry hall, but only staff and prefects could avail themselves of it. The rest of us, the hoi polloi, had to use the back service stairs. Oh, the joy in being made a prefect and the first time we could use that staircase!
I haven’t thought about school for many, many years but today after looking it up on Google I decided to become a member of the Old Girls Society and so I have joined.
We had a scary (for the young girls anyway) headmistress who was called Dr Hunt. I do believe that even other staff members used her title – no informality here. She had a magnificent study that overlooked the playing fields and the school grounds and she would sit in her chair and survey her kingdom. In her way, she was a very powerful person.
I attended that school for 7 years. There I learned my love of the English language and its literary greats. I learned to respect authority and to take responsibility for myself and my own actions. They were good years for me and I wonder if today’s young women will say the same when they get to be my age.