Tag Archives: school days

One Down, Three To Go

Success sign

Another milestone in life.  Yesterday was the last day at school for my Number One grandson.  Apart from going to sit four or five exams, his connection with school days is over.  And now the rest of his life, with all its adventures and excitements is opening in front of him.

This is one laid back almost 18 year old kid.  When I saw him on Wednesday he was getting ready for the leavers’ dinner,  unfazed by the fact that this huge change was about to take place in his life.

How exciting the next few years will be for him as he discovers an independent lifestyle through university and his other activities.  Since he got his own car a year or so ago, he has become fairly independent of his parents, but now…..

And I wonder how his late grandfather would react to this strong, charming young man who was only a toddler when he last saw him.  Would he be proud of how his grandson has grown and is maturing.  I am sure that the answer would be a resounding yes!

So go forth into the world young man, knowing that anything and everything is possible.  It’s your choice what you do from here on and what you make of yourself.  But know always, that you are greatly loved my No 1 Grandson.

Our grandchildren accept us for ourselves, without rebuke or effort to change us, as no one in our entire lives has ever done, not our parents, siblings, spouses, friends – and hardly ever our own grown children.
Ruth Goode
, author, 1905-1997

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Back to the Real World

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.


Leather sandals circa 1945

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.















Hats On

Two women on beach

They were so pleased to discover next morning that they still had on their hats.

When Maisie Benton-Smythe, more properly called the Countess of Waverley and her good friend Juliet Drummond awoke that morning, they found themselves on a deserted beach.  Both clothed in their afternoon outfits complete with hats.  They were very pleased to realise that they still wore their hats.

Maisie who was born Matilda Barrington-Jones had married the Hon Reginald Benton-Smythe many years ago when she thought he was the answer to a maiden’s prayer.  Well, in some ways he was.

He was the heir to the Earl of Waverley and on his father’s death would become the 9th Earl of Waverley so if she married him she would then become a countess.  Quite a leap for her.  Her family had fallen on comparatively hard times because of her grandfather’s addiction to the gaming tables.  Her father had taken what little was left and attempted, rather feebly one must say, to turn the family’s fortune around.

So it fell to Maisie to find a suitably rich, read frightfully rich, husband to elevate the family back to its original status.  Maisie duly met and married Reggie, but that will be the subject of another story.

Back now to Maisie and Juliet on the beach.  What were they doing there?  How had they arrived there as no cars were in sight?  Although as neither woman drove there would have had to be at least one chauffeur in evidence.

Neither woman had any answers to these questions.

However, in her usual practical manner, Juliet determined that first they had to find a tearoom for a cup of tea and perhaps if they were lucky, some breakfast.  The tearoom would also of course, have lavatory facilities where they could wash their hands and attempt to look a little more presentable.

The two women raised themselves from their sitting positions on the sandy beach, brushed sand off each others clothes and headed in the direction where Juliet felt sure they would find some habitation and hopefully a tearoom that was opened.  And what time was it?  As neither woman wore a watch they were not sure.  Perhaps they should be ordering luncheon rather than breakfast.


Image courtesy Jenny Woolf

At last a suitable establishment was sighted and it did indeed have tea and food and a lavatory.  So those first things attended to, the women sat down to discuss what and how.

First things first.  Where had they been the day before that ended in their arrival at the beach?  Both, as already noted, were wearing afternoon frocks so presumably they had been out to tea.  This raised further questions; where and with whom?

As they drank their tea and feasted on scones, cream and jam (yes it was afternoon by now) they set their minds to work.

Maisie had a faint recollection of a card lying on the silver tray in the entry hall inviting her to take tea, but with whom?  Since Reggie left to live in the London townhouse, these invitations were becoming fewer.  Mostly they were from old friends, many of whom had yet to learn of the parting of the ways.

So with the help of Juliet, Maisie went through the names of the most likely contenders.  They thought that it might have been The Hon Cecily Corkery but then remembered that she was currently in The Azores with her latest toy boy.  husband.  So who else?  Jane Abercrombie or Penelope Fitzherbert but then almost at the same time, they thought of Imogen Carruthers.  These three were the scourge of the teachers and staff at their school Marringham Hall, where they were named The Terrible Trio, sharing a dorm and planning all sorts of mischief.

So was it Imogen?  She too had recently separated from her husband, although of course, it was very hush-hush and so very proper.  No word must escape of her adventures with the gardener’s son or his with his father’s accountant.

So what had happened?  Maisie now recalled picking up Juliet on the way to Imogen’s house.  On arrival she had dismissed Higgins the chauffeur, telling him she would telephone the house when she was ready to be picked up and taken home.

There followed tea in the usual way but then Imogen suggested that they raid Percy’s wine cellar.  The three women trooped downstairs to the cellar and spent the next few hours trying the various wines that Imogen’s husband had put up.  They really had a great time, reminiscing about Marringham Hall and the fun they had there.  Then they began to discuss both Reggie and Percy in distinctly disparaging ways.  They were really enjoying being together again when Imogen (who had always been the leader of The Trio) suggested a run to the country estate where they could be fed and get beds for the night and so refreshed after a good night’s sleep, they could return tomorrow.

Jaguar sportscar

No sooner planned than they were off in Imogen’s racy little Jaguar roadster.  It was a squeeze but of course, this only added to the thrill of being driven by an intoxicated 30-something blonde.  They set off with Maisie sitting in the dickey-seat and all three women holding onto their hats.

The country seat of the Carruthers family was sited in Surrey just outside Horley and so it took little time for them to make the journey.  Mrs Amberley the housekeeper, was most surprised to see the three women and hurried about making beds and making sure that Cook had something reasonable for supper.  The women by now were relatively sober but of course had nothing with them in which to change for supper.  Mrs Amberley was suitably shocked by both their appearance and behaviour and determined to take it up with Sir Percy at the very first opportunity.

So after a perfunctory wash and tidy the three women sat down to supper.  Imogen of course, declared that more wine should be brought from the cellar and insisted on going to choose it for herself.  Unfortunately for Imogen,(who as earlier remarked was relatively sober) who had consumed a fairly large amount of wine already, she was not very steady on her feet and subsequently fell down the cellar stairs landing quite heavily on her shoulder.

Meanwhile, the other members of the Terrible Trio were unaware of what had happened and were tucking into the food prepared by Cook.  But after a while Maisie realised that Imogen had not returned to the dining room and went off in search of her.  Imogen’s weak cries alerted her to the cellar and when she saw what had happened she summoned Mrs Amberley who in turn summoned Mr Amberley who in turn called 999 to summon an ambulance.

The ambulance duly arrived and poor Imogen was carted off to the hospital leaving the remaining members of the Terrible Trio on their own in a strange house.  Realising there was nothing else to do, they finished their meal, drank some more wine and toddled off to the beds that had been prepared for them.  The next morning would be time enough to check on Imogen.

And how did they end up on the beach then?  Watch this space for the next episode.

Related Post – Choose Your Friends

The Most Handsome Man in the World

I have written before about my love of words and poetry.  In an earlier blog I talked about some of my favourite poets.  Among them were Robert Frost and Rudyard Kipling.

At school we had an English teacher (Miss English by name) who was reputed to have been engaged to Rupert Brooke the poet who wrote:

IF I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
There shall be  in that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,        
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less  
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

W B Yeats (the Irish poet) described Brooke at the Most Handsome Man in the World.  Photos show that possibly was correct at the time, although of course, as years pass thoughts on handsome and pretty change.

Rupert Brooke

via Wikipedia

At school we took at face value the story of the engagement and the marriage that never came to be because of the death of Rupert Brooke.

However, I recently came across a book about Brooke at the library entitled Rupert Brooke, Life, Death and Myth.  I learned that he was educated at Rugby where his father was a housemaster and then went on to win a scholarship to King’s College, Cambridge where his uncle was the Dean.  Here he read Classics followed by English Literature and became involved with the Marlowe Dramatic Society where he met such luminaries as Virginia Woolf.  Woolf described him as:

 ” . . .all that could be kind and interesting, substantial and good-hearted . . . he had such a gift with people, and such sanity and force . . .”

And it was this gift with people that found him a member of the large group of intellectuals and writers that Woolf named ‘The Neo Pagansand it was in this group that Brooke became ‘enchanted’ with a young woman Noel Olivier.

Brooke fell in love with the 15-year-old Olivier when he was 20, but it appears that the love was not reciprocated.   Noel Olivier kept their letters but she steadfastly refused to have them published until after her death.  The letters were  then published by Pipi Harris under the title Song of Love.  They show an exchange filled with  romantic longing, self-reflection and  self-discovery.   Brooke discusses his depression, makes threats of suicide and writes of a love affair with Katherine Cox, whom he rejected as “unclean” after she responded to his sexual advances.  He becomes angry,  possessive, whining and insecure while Olivier is feisty, more level-headed and determined to pursue her career in medicine.  She rejected his proposal of marriage which perhaps played a part in his subsequent physical and mental breakdown.

He was most definitely a confused young man.  There are tales of his involvement in  the homosexual Cambridge secret society “the Apostles”.  Of course, at the time homosexuality and bi-sexuality were not admitted to by polite society, and so addicted to secrecy, he was loved by both men and women, and was himself highly sexually ambivalent.

So in all of this I now (some 60 years later) reject the claim that our Miss English was engaged to be married to The Most Handsome Man in the World.  But oh how it made our teenage hearts beat with sorrow for this couple and the woman doomed to live out her spinster’s life dreaming of what might have been.

Incidentally, this woman introduced me to the great poets of England and elsewhere and I while  Rupert Brooke has fallen from favour over the years I still enjoy reading his poetry.