Monday, 8 September 2008

Blue blazers & bunsen burners




It was one of those morning this morning, bright and crisp, a definite nip in the air and the smell of Autumn, of seasons changing that brought with it all the excitement and mix of emotions I remember from going to school. My daughters have been back at school for a couple of days now and our heads are full of new routines, teachers and timetables. Such a relief as a "grown up" to know that you don't have to go through all of that again and yet, when I look back on my schooldays, albeit with very rose tinted spectacles, I remember it as a time of fun, good solid friendships, of growing up amongst friends you could trust secrets with and of course the hard work that would often lead to moments of hysteria as we trawled along the corridors with book laden bags trailing beside us.



Yesterday I had my nose buried in this book. ( the pencil case in the photo was mine, I bought it in France when I was sixteen and used it for the last two years at school, it's funny how important buying new pencil cases for school is). Ostensibly about the school songs that were adopted and written by girls' schools, it also brought back so many many memories for me. I went to an all girls school and at times it felt like I was living in an Enid Blyton book. From the age of 11 to nearly 19 I wore my navy blue knickers, knee high white socks, blue uniform and the regulatory airtex PE top and gym skirt. In my first year I learnt to sew my initials onto my blue science overall, have the heels on my shoe measured to make sure they weren't more than 2 inches, learnt the words to our two school songs which I still remember and for the life of me I still don't know what the words to one of them meant (it was in latin) and why the other was the famous Harrow song "Forty Years on" which seemed to be all about a match of football. I remember that we questioned neither of them as we walked around the school buildings (inside and out) on the school birthday singing them.
Big sister has her school photo today and I did half heartedly mouth some words to her this morning (more for my sake) about her uniform looking smart. It made me giggle to think of her having to wear the obligatory tunic that I had to wear until I was 15!



I made friends with my best friend on the very first day of school. It was a sunny day and we were taken outside for our art lesson to sit and draw "something from nature". We sat and chatted and continued to do so for the next seven years. We learnt to light our bunsen burners together and stand in horror as our friend dipped her finger in the mercury(!), we cleaned out the ovens together in Domestic Science, we stood together on the freezing hockey pitch and quickly learnt to get on a good team, volunteer to be in defence and then have a good quarter of an hour to gossip whilst the rest of the team were hurtling around with those very scary hockey sticks.



We got our first Saturday jobs together, travelling up to London at the weekend to earn some money to go out together again in the evenings. We learnt what it meant to be loyal to your friend, to support your friends when things weren't going that well and we learnt that if all the crockery is confiscated by the teacher when you're in the sixth form block, you can still heat up soup in a hidden kettle but that the veggie bits will get stuck in the spout! So we started as little girls with bunches and nerves and we left as we started wearing our blazers and still scared of those bunsen burners - taller and wiser with a love for our school that to this day I haven't lost.



I hope that my daughters will look back on their school days with such fondness. Of course, there seemed to be exam after exam, never ending homework and tears before bedtime at home worrying about the next day's test and I still have those exam anxiety dreams to this day. What I can see now, and couldn't see at the time, was that my school gave me the chance to remain a child for a little longer. It was old fashioned, looking back it seems very old fashioned, but it made us feel safe. At the weekends I might have been clubbing in London but on Monday morning I turned up to school, uniform in tact and no hint of make up. Yes the lure of the boys school up the road grew stronger every term and the rides home on the bus with them grew ever more interesting, but I am so grateful to most of my teachers for filling my head with wonderful things.



I will never forget our wonderful French teacher who had the foresight to timetable extra french lessons in the sixth form that mercifully meant we couldn't do PE, our dotty science teacher who invited us round to tea and showed us all the dead animals in her freezer, the geography teacher that literally filled me with dread as soon as she walked into the room (you could hear the whole class quake) my English teacher's love for the Bronte sisters and her reading us Wuthering Heights in her beautiful Yorkshire accent and our German teacher who had only to walk into the room to reduce us all into a hysterical mass. Yes, that's what I remember most, the constant stifling of giggles, the lowering of eyes to avoid contact with a friend who was laughing so much the tears were rolling from her eyes and standing beside the goalposts on the hockey pitch on mornings like today with our backs to the rest of the match, huddled together to share the weekend's news.

42 comments:

MelMel said...

Hello!
Good day?
I have very kind parents, sister and hubbie who buy them for my birthday and Christmas pressies.........Bicester is also good and usually i wait tfor the sale...or trade!
xxxx

Primrose Corner said...

That was a beautiful, beautiful post. You've brought back so many memories of things I'd forgotten. We had to parade in front of a picture of the queen on St George's day and her birthday. We had to practice curtseying or bowing if you were a boy for what seemed hours! My children think that's just weird. School songs that made no sense and being locked into classrooms if anything male entered the building. That remains one of my biggest phobias being locked in! But the friendhships and the belonging ..... ahhh! Good times - my glasses are fogging up..... Jx

MelMel said...

Really enjoyed reading your blog...wish i had some fond memories of school....i'm gald you had a great time there, i always wished school was like St Clares and Malory towers......but it wasn't....so when i came home i would get my nose into one of Enids good old books and lose myself...happlily!!!!

xxxx

Kitschen Pink said...

Well hurrah to all that! Here's to old fashioned schools where children stay young and innocent that little bit longer! t.x

julia said...

I remember the excitement of my first secondary school "Adam Ant" pencil case. I went to a mixed sex school so it probably wasn't quite as old fashioned as yours but if we were caught kissing boys at the disco we were sent to separate corners for the rest of the evening! Oh, and the French teacher's husband always used to dance with all the girls which we thought was great, not sure if she did!
I loved school and look back with such fond memories, I hope I can pass this on to my two.
Julia xx

Simone said...

I am giggling like a school girl reading this post, especially the bit about having the crockery confiscated in the sixth form and cooking soup in the kettle! One thing I remember from my all girls secondary school is a girl fainting after our biology teacher showed a video of his wife giving birth!!!

Country Bliss said...

Lovely post, you've just reminded me of the smell of bunsen burners!
I don't think children are allowed to stay young these days, which is so sad!
Yvonne

driftwood said...

precious memories!

Diane of Crafty Passions said...

Loved your post brought back many memories for me as well.
Have a good week
Diane

Cowboys and Custard said...

Well... this could so easily have been a day in the life of this schoolgirl.. Mrs Custard. The science overall, aertex shirts, navy blue knickers, cookery lessons with a slightly bemused teacher who despaired of my culinary mishaps.
I was thinking of my secondary school with mixed feelings only yesterday and one of my overriding memories was the smell of the science lab.. singed hair!!
I loved reading your 'best days of your life' post ... Encore!!!
Dxx

attila said...

I went to an all girls school and it was HELL! I do recognise some of the things in your lovely bit of writing here, though.

Thimbleanna said...

What a wonderful post Kim! You have such a good memory -- my school experiences are all a big blur. Except for 8th grade home ec, which was my favorite. It sounds like you had a picture perfect childhood!

Jennie said...

What fantastic memories you have of school! I only remember staring out of the window a lot. In fact when my daughter went to my old school for the open day (she is now at the same school I was)I didn't have any idea where anything was :/
I loved that post.

Katherines Dream said...

I had a rotton grey blazer, I would have been much happier in a navy one. I have some fond and some not so fond memories of school. I did a bit of a thing for pencil cases though - remember the fluffy ones? My leather was ruined as I had scribbled boys names all over it in biro or felt pen! I still have it.
I went to a mixed school...I will let you in on this secret - I wore two pairs of knickers...I was terrifed of the boys!
Cx

kristina said...

What a gorgeous post. I think you have far more right to the name Jolly Hockey Sticks than I do :) K x

dottycookie said...

A lovely post, Kim. I wish I had such fond memories of my all girls school - it wasn't awful but I don't feel terribly nostalgic for those days!

This Vintage Life... said...

Whay a nostalgic post...you certainly could be talking about a Blyton novel. I have lots of memories of my schooldays, not all of them as lovely as yours. Mostly they consist of rushing to the shop during break to buy Jackie and Smash Hits and then spending the biology lesson reading them by propping up our bags along the front of the table so as not to be seen! Mr.Bailey knew though!
Deb x

silverpebble said...

This is a wonderful post - I so enjoyed reading it. I went to a very similar school (was it a GPDST school?) and do have both fond but also anxiety-filled memories of my days there. I too have exam-related dreams still, and they get mixed up with current worries too - I had one recently in which I hadn't revised for my A levels because I'd been looking after the baby - horror!

Elizabethd said...

Oh, I remember it well!

Wild Rose said...

Hi Kim,

What a terrific post. It brought back all sorts of memories for me too. I also went to an all girls' school and the rules seemed quite ridiculous at the time, but it was a special time of friendships long lost, but not forgotten.

Having moved around a lot during my life, I am no longer in contact with any of my school friends, but I do have fond memories of the pranks that were performed on some of our teachers ~ all quite tame by today's standards!

Marie x

Margaret Cloud said...

I liked your trip down memory lane, it was very interesting, and to be able to remember all those things.

Linda said...

Hi Kim,
What a lovely post, I'm always teeling my boys that this is the best time of their lives, life gets harder and more stressful as you get older, but they just roll their eyes and say "yes Mum so you say". Hope you are having agreat day.
Cheers Linda

flutterbypatch said...

Hi Kim, thanks for calling in. I've haven't visited you before but spent ages looking and reading and will be calling back for sure.
I come from a family of teachers and from birth my life revolved around summer, Christmas and Easter hols with half-terms between. I still split my year into terms and get a sinking 'back to shool' feeling and 'breaking up' euphoria. Does anyone else I wonder? Eli

flutterbypatch said...

Hi Kim, your blog really started my brain buzzing about school days. I mentioned you on my blog today and added a link to Ragged Roses (hope that's OK). Once you start remebering it seems like only yesterday doesn't it? Eli

ShabbyInTheCity said...

Kim! So different in many ways from what I experienced :) I think you got probably a better education. We didn't have to wear anything in particular as long as it wasn't revealing or printed with bad words. No cooking lessons either.
French class was wonderful! But it was the algebra teacher who never knew the time. (we ran her clock forward and got out 20 minutes before gym)
I loved your post as always!

Gingham and Flowers said...

What a lovely and nostalgic post. I love the autumn because it reminds me of going back to School and fresh notebooks and new starts. I always feel far more inspired in Autumn than the new year. I don't have fantastic memories of secondry school as I went to a vast place with 2000 pupils where I felt quite lost. But my memories of primary school are very fond. I may have the rose tinted specs on too. I particularly loved this term, scrunching through the leaves on the way to school and the slow build up to Christmas with Hull Fair and Guy Fawkes on the way. Thanks for the reminder of the happy school days.

twiggypeasticks said...

What a lovely post. When I look back on school days, we did have a lot of fun usually at the poor teachers expense!
Twiggy x
PS I STILL get excited wandering around the pencil cases/pencils/folders in Woolworths :)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Such a wonderful read! You brought back lots of memories. I was a giggler too!

Alison Boon said...

A great post, lots of memories roused. A hint of Enid Blyton too all Mallory Towers and St Clares. Thanks for sharing.

Rosie said...

Sounds like you had a fabulous time at school. I wish schools were like that these days.
Rosie x

Petticoat Lane said...

Beautiful post, full of happy, happy times....Took me back to reading Mallory Towers!!
How lucky you were to have such lovely school memories.

French Knots said...

What a lovely post, brings back lots of memories. My, all girls, school sounds very similar - science overall, navy blue knickers and a straw boater in the prep. We sang Jerusalem and longed to be in the 5th year to get an exeat one lunch time per week to walk into town. Ahh fond memories!

Lucy Bloom said...

How lovely to have such happy memories of school - mine aren't I'm afraid, a very ordinary Comprehensive and no extraordinary memories, glad when it was all over! I did enjoy this post though!!
Lucy x

A Bun Can Dance said...

What a thought provoking post, I loved reading it. Isn't it fascinating that no matter how old we get, with our without schoolchildren, as soon as September arrives the memory slips back to school ties, blazers and leather satchels? One of my favourite memories of secondary school was the summer day when our German Teacher took us out to the field over the road to have a German picnic - my first experience of pumpernickel!! I loved that experience. Many thanks for your lovely post and pictures, it is a delight to log on! Best Wishes, Denise

Isabelle said...

Lovely post, quite reminiscent of my school, though I'm a lot older than you. But when you're a teacher, going-back-to-school time has quite different associations...

Counting Your Blessings said...

I do, I do so miss my school days. I also attended a private school but it was right across the way from my parents house. They still live in that house and I still look wistfully across sometimes =)

I don't, however, miss homework, uniforms, NO DANCING, or not having a car ;) Beautiful post. Blessings... Polly

periwinkle said...

Such a lovely post - you have such a way with words. I used to love Mallory Towers and would beg my parents to send me to boarding school !!
lisa x

Country Cottage Chic said...

What good memories!
I also attended an all-girls school & in my day we had to wear hats - a straw one in summer & felt in winter, with the school badge on front. Light blue belted dresses in summer, & in winter light blue blouses, blue pleated skirts (not to be more than a few inches above the knee!), black tights (opaque, not sheer), black lace up shoes, blue cardigan & blue blazer. None of these polo shirts & trousers that the girls are fortunate enough to wear these days!

Garden Girl said...

What a lovely lovely post Kim. My best friend and I used to both be defence in the hockey for the same reason, and you brought back fond memories of freezing cold days and very short hockey skirts, standing by the goal and eying up the lads on the rugby pitch opposite!Navy blue gym knickers and royal blue, itchy knee high hockey socks..I can still smell the muddy damp smell of a plastic bag with dirty hockey boots in to this day!
My friend set fire to a piece of fabric with her bunsen burner, dropped it onto the plastic bin in fright where it melted and then dropped onto the plastic floor tiles...you can imagine the chaos I'm sure..!
Thanks for making me smile after a very long day!
anna xxx

Shirl said...

Thanks for sharing - you are so lucky to have such fond memories of school.

Greedy Nan said...

Do you know I think we may have gone to the same school so it's strange we should also both end up in Sussex. Interesting to know if it's true.

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