Memories Of School - a Memory of Ashford.
I was a boarder at WGS from 1957 to 1964 and it doesn't live in my mind as the happiest place in the world - but there were plenty of girls who did love it, I remember. I was only thinking of it yesterday, Remembrance Sunday, because that was the one Sunday of the year we were arranged around the War Memorial in the centre of the town to sing "Oh God our Help in Ages Past"... same thing every year. The War Memorial bears a large stone angel, clutching at her voluminous gown with one hand and was known by us as 'the angel with the broken suspender'.
We walked in a 'crocodile' to the Parish church three Sundays a month and the fourth to St Hilda's Church - where we were handed a little paper book entitled "Our Bounden Duty", (I've still got one somewhere!) Morning and evening every other day we had a fifteen minute service in our own chapel - which was my favourite place in the school .
The dormitories were long and draughty with very high ceilings. We were allowed two baths a week - and not after games - and I think we all probably smelled pretty frowsty. One clean pair of knickers a week, but two vests ... why?!!!
The headmistress in my day was Miss Alderson, whom we called Lucy - she was emotionless and without imagination; most of the staff were elderly females with large breasts and face whiskers, but the school favourite was 'Emily'; Miss Ellis; who taught music and had been at the school since just after World War 1 (I think). Emily smoked like a chimney and had a rather smelly dog, played golf with vigour and ruled with an iron rod, but at least she was 'fair!'! More than can be said for most of the others. I actually think I would like to go back to boarding school now and see what it's like, fifty years on. In our day we were still stuck in the claws of Victorian prudery, absurd punishments and pointless rules. When I returned to the final Speech Day before the school closed I was impressed with the general freshness of the feel of the place; girls with ambition and proper get-up-and-go. The only single piece of career advice I ever received was a chilly glance from Miss Alderson and the remark, "yes, well, you like reading, don't you? Perhaps you should be a librarian!" So I went on to be a secretary, a mother and finally a novelist (and that last bit has been great fun).
No, I don't look back on my schooldays with warm delight, and boarding school did not live up to the expectations of 'Chin up, Chest out Jemimah' school-girl literature of the time ... (I think I might have liked St. Trinians, actually), but at least with the passing of the years I can look at pictures of the place and be faintly nostalgic.
A memory shared byon Nov 11th, 2013.
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