I have another blog, now more or less discontinued, called Notes on a Family. I wasn’t so much concerned about a wide audience, as about recalling my family and personal history for my children. It’s one of my regrets that I never talked enough to my parents about their own past. To my Polish father, who came over, like so many of his countrymen, during the war. To my mother: a clergyman’s daughter. He himself was Cambridge educated, despite being raised in poverty in a large family. Why did I never ask her how that came about? I was born in Yorkshire, but spent most of my childhood in London. All of these stories are told in my blog, and others too.. Here’s one from 22nd May 2016, for Fandango’s Flashback Friday.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER SCHOOL
A few posts ago, I told you about my first London school. It became pretty obvious to my parents that it simply would not do. But still … I was a Bulge Baby, born, like so many thousands of others, shortly after World War II ended. There was still enormous pressure on school places. My mother had found a good job teaching classics at Mayfield School, a Girls’ Grammar School in Putney, so really needed a place for me in a Putney school, so we could travel to and from school together.
There were no places.
Finally, they found somewhere. It wasn’t a state primary, though, but a tiny, old-fashioned private school, Ebley House School. Even for the time, its fees were modest.
It was a funny old place, run from a church hall, because its original premises had been bombed during the war.. The head, Miss Egleton seemed a rather frail old lady, with wispy hair gathered into a skimpy bun. The only other teacher I remember was Mrs. Coate-Bond, whom my mother thought rather racy, as she read the left-leaning Manchester Guardian.
The ‘babies’ or kindergarten class, were in the vestry, and the rest of us were divided into two groups, Lower Transition and Upper Transition, and worked at opposite ends of the hall. Once I passed the 11+ and got to grammar school, I realised what an old-fashioned seat of learning it was compared with the lively places my new friends had been to. I remember some of the lessons:
We copied line after line of this stuff, with scratchy steel dip-pens which at the least provocation spattered unwashable ink onto our books and over our cardigans.
PE: We didn’t change out of our ordinary clothes, but stood just as in this picture here, doing star jumps, running on the spot and similar. No games pitches, therefore no outdoor games.
Monday mornings after break were worst. The boys went off to …. hang on, I have no idea what the boys did. The girls did embroidery. Tray cloths. Every single week. We gossiped instead, of course. It took weeks and weeks to complete a cloth. At the end of every class, we’d line up and show what we’d done that week. It was always a total exaggeration. The only times we were compelled to put a bit of effort in was on those rare occasions when we had to start a new cloth off, and we really couldn’t pull a fast one about our achievements. Like every girl in the school, I loathed Monday mornings. It put me off sewing for life.
Most of the other lessons were reasonably conventional for the time. I enjoyed English, spelling, maths, singing, and scripture (though I wondered for years why a good man like Jesus would promise to make his disciples ‘vicious of men’). At play time, my earnest little friends and I wrote, illustrated and put together magazines with an extremely limited readership ( just us, I think). In my final term, I wrote a dashing tale in which boarding school chums (modelled closely on the girls in Angela Brazil‘s school stories) got the better of a dastardly burglar. It was performed at the school prize-giving.
In the morning, I travelled to Putney with my mother, and at the end of the school day, walked over to Mayfield to return home with her. When I was eight, though, she got another job teaching Classics at Fulham County School. By then we were living in Victoria. So every day I walked to the station, crossing two busy main roads. I caught the Tube, the District Line to East Putney, sometimes changing at Earl’s Court.
Then there were two more busy main roads to navigate. I was a nervous little thing, but it never occurred to me to be frightened of this journey, which is not one the average eight year old would do alone these days, I think.
It wasn’t a stunningly exciting education. But I was happy enough. Apart from the time when I missed almost a whole term because I was in Isolation Hospital. But that’s another story.