I encourage you to browse through some of the other bloggers in this 31 day challenge (above link) – there are 9 different categories and you are bound to find something that interests you. The category I chose was Too Awesome to Categorize, because I didn’t know which category my writing fell into.
I am doing a writing course at the moment. We are studying memoir right now, and I want to share some memories of my boarding school life in the UK. I guess it’s a form of prison break/inner release for me. I wish I had a picture of me in my brown winter school uniform, or even my gold and white summer dress, or my Sunday best, to post here. That was the time when cell phones did not exist, and when it was days/a week before you could see pictures taken from a camera.
I was at a British girls boarding school for 3 years between Grades 9 and 11. The first year was the worst. Apart from adjusting to the change in climate from tropical Barbados to the cold of a small seaside town in the south of England, the homesickness and school work, I was in the form where all the grunge work was designated to. We had to lay out the hall chairs every morning for school assembly, and on Saturdays for the lectures or films. We had to take it in turns to stand up in front of the whole school and read the news. We were supposed to pick out news points of interest and read them, along with the daily weather. It worked out that every school term each grade 9 girl would have to read the news twice. Each time it was my turn was worse than the last. I dreaded every moment. Standing up with my legs shaking, wet, clammy palms and attempting to read what I had extracted from the newspapers was overwhelming. I tried to swap or beg someone to take my place, but it did not work. For days, even weeks before my turn came I would worry and imagine the worst, not being able to speak, and having to face my peers afterwards. When I did it, it was usually quite bad with many stammers. (I had a stammer as a child which I eventually grew out of) My feeling of relief afterwards was usually overshadowed by some girls mimicking and teasing me, which almost felt worse than the actual act of standing up to read. Now, as a 51 year old woman, I have got up in front of larger crowds to speak, and although the lead up is often nerve-racking, it has become less of a big deal, especially with a mic, and I don’t have to worry about any teasing, instead, rather a lot of encouragement comes my way.
Better memories of boarding school life were being ‘let out’ on Saturdays to walk to the town where I bought my favourite thing, vanilla fudge, a quarter pound, from the corner sweet shop. Also, I bought stamps to write my weekly letters to my parents with the weekly allowance we were given by house matron. I loved receiving letters from my mum and I enjoyed writing them too. Letter-writing was a chore for some of the girls. The only times I could speak on the phone to my parents was when I was on the two ‘exeat weekends’ each term when I stayed with guardians or my cousin in London. There was one time when the coin-operated school phone booth was jammed, and girls were lining up to use the phone for free. I got my turn too.
There was no cyber-bullying or social media trouble to get into. Instead regular bullying happened, and in my 6-girl dormitory the first term there was one. It was like she had a split personality, one minute she was kind and happy and the next minute scowling and picking a fight. The worst ‘run-in’ I had with her was right after church one Sunday when she called me a hypocrite for saying something that she interpreted as a curse word. I tried to defend myself and her voice got louder and she said some very mean things to me. Although I was very shy and had trouble making friends, I had made one very good friend who stuck by me and kept me strong and sane. I also had an older sister who had her own room and privileges and I would often visit her in the out of bounds 6th Form quarters, hiding behind the curtains when the house mistress came knocking on her door.