Thursday, May 05, 2005

The strangeness of school...

Whilst driving home to my parents house for the weekend, my older sister and I started to reminisce about our first Boarding School. She was 8 when she started and then I joined her 3 years later when I was 7. When I tell people that, they almost always seem aghast that we were 'sent away' so young. I really don't see it like that. For me, at least, it was this huge adventure. My sister would come home at the end of each term with some wonderful stories about what they had been up to. Midnight Feasts, Playing in the small wood at the end of the Field, being in trouble for talking after 'Lights Out'. I just wanted to get there and join her too. Also, a friend of my mom's daughter was starting at the same time as me, so I at least knew somebody my own age.

My time at
St Christopher's School, (when I think back on it now, 10 years later) was amazing. I made some wonderful friends, who I am still in touch with now, and the memories I have from there will be with me forever! So, as my sister and I were talking, we decided that all our memories should be written down, so that we'll always have a 'hard copy' of them...So that's what I'm going to do. Forgive me if this post doesn't flow so well, I'm just going to type as I remember, then sort it later!

I don't know where to start really, so I guess I'll just go with whatever comes to me.

Being 7 years old and away from home was quite difficult. I was lucky in the fact that my sister was already there, so if I ever felt upset, I could just go and find her, and she'd give me a hug. At that age I was terrified of Thunder storms. I never really knew what it was exactly that scared me, I just didn't like them at all, the bright flashes, followed by the low grumble of thunder, that nobody ever really explained to me. I have distinct memories of sneaking out of my dorm into the corridor, lit only by the security light outside the window, and creeping past the Matron's room at the end, just as scared of her as I was of the thunder. Everytime the lightening flashed I would freeze in terror just waiting for that rumble of thunder to consume all logical thoughts in my head. Eventually I made it to my sisters dorm, which seemed to be about a million miles away, I knocked lightly on the door, to be greeted by a whole bunch of smiling faces as they were watching the storm out of the window. My sisters friends were all really nice to me, as I was 'Lizzie's little Sister', and they all took my under their wings. She came over and gave me one of those hugs that only big sisters can give. Then I went and crawled into her bed, with the covers tight over my ears, trying to block out the terrible noise, while they all sat captivated by the storm. I think I might have got into a LOT of trouble the next morning for being out of my dorm, but I didn't care. For those hours in the middle of the night when I was so scared, my sister and her friends were all there to look out for me!
We had so many strange rules at this school, which only seem odd to me now. At the time, it was just the normal thing to do. At meal times we had a 6th Former at the head of the table. Now, you have to understand that when you're 7 years old, and the 6th Formers are 13, they are SCARY! When they walk down the corridor, you move out of the way. Unless they talk to you, you don't even look at them! They just had this air about them...They were...Well....OLD! Well, that's what it felt like. Anyway, I digress...At dinner they would serve out the food, and you have to have at least a small amount of everything; even if you didn't like it. You could request a small portion if there was something you didn't like, but you HAD to eat it (even the grossest of foods like peas and Frankfurter Sausages and tinned tomatoes). Once all the food was eaten, and it was time to clear the table, the Kitchen Manager, Miss Brent - who herself was incredibly scary - would ring a hand bell, and that was it...No talking...At...All. Complete Silence. Quite why, I'm still not sure about, but that's the way it was. None of us were ever daring enough to test out what would happen if you got caught trying to have a sneaky conversation! The silence didn't really achieve anything, I don't think, it's not as if we were too busy talking to get on with things...I don't know.
I think my most vivid memory of this school is the smell. When we arrived back after vacations, having been away for about 1/2 months, the first thing that hit you when you walked in the door was the smell of floor polish mixed with something else that I don't think I would be able to describe even if I had smelled it only yesterday. Nobody knew what this mystery smell was, but it was school. The dread that had been building up in the 1 1/2 hour car journey there was suddenly whisked away with that smell, replaced by the excitement of seeing friends again, finding out which dorm you were in, then running up the stairs to 'bag' your bed before anyone else, finding out which meal table you were on, and which form teacher you would have for that year. Even just thinking about it now, 10 years later, brings a smile to my face and the same butterflies in my stomach. Oh to have those days back....Just for a little while.
There is so much more I want to say here, but I think that's probably enough for the time being. This post is probably more for my benefit than anyone else's, as it won't mean much to them...But I've enjoyed writing it, and I hope you enjoyed reading it.


Smithee said...

I did enjoy reading it. As different as our early school experiences were, there are aspects that are very similar. I went to a small, rural school in the US during the day, and home to my family every night. But I still had the fear of the unknown, the "big" kids who were as intimidating as they were fascinating, and my big sister there to take care of me if I needed her. I look forward to hearing more.

Rach's Big Sis said...

xxxxx & a big hug