Sunday, 18 June 2017

Not One of Us

Dear Reader,

                                                                                     Greensleeves


I have read numerous articles about boarding school lately, and all its horrors. An author and journalist, Alex Rankin, has written a book called "Stiff Upper Lip" which tells numerous tales of woe, of beatings, of cruelty, of bullying, of not having enough to eat and the dreadful homesickness felt by the boys, and years later by the girls, when they were sent to boarding school.

I was sent to boarding school when I was seven and stayed at different ones until I was sixteen.  On the whole they were enormously unpleasant but by far the worst one was a convent I went to aged eleven, situated in Paris.  It was grim and cold and the nuns were strict and cruel.  I always thought after reading "Jane Eyre" that the Lowood Institution for poor girls, would have been almost civilized compared to my convent.  I slept in a dormitory with about forty other girls and we were allowed a bath once a fortnight.  A nun slept with us to see we couldn't escape, I assume, and morning prayers were at 6.30 am in the freezing chapel.

After getting very ill I was brought back to England and sent to a school in Ascot, Berkshire.  I did make a friend there so it wasn't so horrible as the last three I had been to, but I left with few happy memories of childhood, the teens, and boarding school.

                                                                            *

My husband is now out of Intensive Care and, Thanks Be to God, seems to be on the mend.  The last few weeks have been frightening and horrific, but the sun shines today and hope springs again in my heart.

                                                                            *

Not One of Us

A small figure at school in
a hot, strange land.  The
children left her alone,
she didn't speak their language
or know their games or rules.
She was not one of them.

Winter now and an English
boarding school, where the rules
were known, but not by her.
She was clumsy, wore spectacles,
couldn't tie her tie, dropped the netball,
couldn't master dance steps gracefully
to the music of "Greensleeves",
was not as asset, wouldn't do.
She was not one of them.

She simply asked,
why do the safely-grounded
hear the beat of a terrified heart
and seek to silence it?  Is the beat
too loud, something not understood,
something to frighten?
Are things better when the group
destroys the alien in it midst?

She never knew,
she was not one of them.

                                                                                *

With best wishes, Patricia

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

So pleased to hear things are looking better. How many of us hold these sad memories of boarding school. Your poem speaks volumes for us all. Thank you. Xx

Rebecca said...

Isn't that a sad line about silencing the heart rather than trying to help soothe it? Sorry that it was such a hard time for you.
I remember thinking Lowood School was just so awful it was obviously the work of fiction! But, no, your school was worse - how terrible. It's the opposite of how children should be treated isn't it?

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