Attempting to make it as a writer

Posts tagged ‘nuns’

Restrained Opportunity

I was not a model pupil.

Although I was not a naughty child I did not willingly fit in to the pre-formulated pathway the nuns at the convent had planned out for me.   Coming from a catholic background meant I was a “special” pupil and it was their sole purpose to convince me to follow them in to the church.  My aspirations refused to be restrained in their restrictive direction.  The nuns did have other acceptable callings for me; nursing, teaching and if all else failed housewife.

I would never take away from any of these wonderful caring and selfless vocations that take far more from a person than just intelligence.   I needed more choice and even then lacked the good grace to just conform for a peaceful life.  I was determined to leave my mark on the world.   My literacy report year in year out complained;   “She has such a vivid imagination but needs to spend less time in

such a vivid imagination

her mind and do what is asked in the question.”  I am still blessed with that wonderful imagination but now I use it creatively and one day will be awarded by seeing one of my books in print.  If the nuns were still alive now I would send them all a signed copy.  Unfortunately with no new novices joining the convent, the school closed as the nuns departed this world.

Looking back now I feel sorry for the head teacher, she tried so hard to persuade me to quash my desire to become a mechanical engineer, to keep me on the path of righteousness and steer me towards the servitude of others.    I did get away with so many rebellious defiant actions although today these would be termed as independence, initiative and inspiration.  The head did succeed in some ways; I never became an engineer.  I left school as soon as I was allowed for my own home based gap years.  Dutifully I learned to be a secretary at my mother’s insistence that I at least had something to fall back on.   Then spent a glorious year earning and spending, partying and enjoying all the freedom I then had.   Finally I did go into nursing but what the school had not prepared me for was life; real, hard and emotional life.  I didn’t stay!

Like many mothers across the country it will be another momentous heart wrenching July as my son moves schools, the preparations have already started.

We were invited to take Mini Son to an open evening at the local Top school to show him around.  Taken into the hall with hundreds of other parents, nervous 10 year olds and a few older students milling around; we were told how transition would work with his current school.  Following the initial introduction we were split into groups and two sixth formers led us around.   Unfortunately No 1 Son had too much homework to join his classmates and there was never any promise that he would have been our tour guide had he been available.

Having two boys already there we have been through this evening twice before.     There were parents of mini son’s friends who found it all new and overwhelming that their eldest would soon be moving on.    I remember the first evening we had come with No 1 to visit.  It seems only yesterday and somehow I must have missed it but he has been right the way up through the school and now settling into sixth form has his next step; university in his sights.

Standing in a neat group at the edge of the climbing wall; a teacher invited the children to step forward and have a go. A shyness that I had not seen before descended over the friends, the chatter ceased and the class mates stepped subtly behind their parents.   I pushed Mini Son forward slightly whispering that he should try.  Once he had taken the first step he was overtaken by the torrent of eager friends racing to get to the top first.

Shyness abandoned he gelled with the music teacher who was delighted when he discovered Mini Son is learning the saxophone.  Mini Son in turn was bursting with enthusiasm to find the tiny recording studio and drama theatre.    Finding his own way over to the pottery wheel he began turning it and demonstrating to the other young faces how to use it.  He has never to my knowledge used a potter’s wheel although he has made clay cups and pots at primary school.

He may not be my first but I felt that same pull of emotional heartstrings as I watched my youngest race around the complex trying his hand at setting fire to the strips of liquid soaked accelerant.  The awe erupting over his delighted face as the multi-coloured flames leapt into the air.

Moving over to the generator I watched Mini Son hold a shining silver surface.   As we watched and the other children round us began laughing his hair stood to attention mimicking the wonderfully eccentric Dr Emmett Brown from the Back to the Future series.   Still mad professor like he was guided to a pile of tiny screwed up paper balls the size of peas, which I had assumed were bits of paper bored pupils had played with instead of listening. As the now excitable group round him watched; the paper balls began juggling around and leaping up towards his extended hand.

I have no worries about him fitting in and loving the facilities available to him as he completes this momentous year of transition.  It will be me that will find it hard to say goodbye to primary schooling after 12 years.  Letting go and allowing him to take his own faltering steps into this wide world.  I know the school will equip him better to deal with the future than mine did.

Looking back at my schooling maybe school and I might have not have had such an antagonistic relationship if there had been a few more facilities to stretch my creative imagination.  Where would I be today with my independence encouraged, my initiative rewarded and my inspiration fuelled?


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she has too vivid an imagination

Teatime Treats with Tiggy

Victorian Attitudes

Behaving at school!


Times are a changing!

I guess for adults reading this your age will change your recollection slightly.  When you recall your school days some like me; will be filled with horror at the tunnelled opportunities and others will remember the expected respect and obedience.

I was limited to find a profession I would be happy following while at school. I eventually settled on wanting to be a nurse; it was a good respectable career, it also turned out to be one of the few acceptable jobs Sister Edward Mary our esteemed head would allow.  Coming from a medical background I was already comfortable with blood and gore.   The nuns at the school disguised themselves as teachers but in reality;  secretly were trying to recruit potential novices and I ticked all their boxes; except compliance.  So if they really couldn’t persuade me to be a nun, there were a few options left; housewife but I needed to find a husband and in our ultra protected girly environment that was never going to happen.   Teaching was an acceptable profession but as the availability of A’levels was decidedly inadequate; teaching was also a non starter.  Actually I had wanted to go to university to do Mechanical Engineering.  Even now I can see the tiny Sister Edward Mary wither visably at the sheer horror of it.

I did want to be a writer even back then but creativity was drummed out and it was certainly not a suitable calling for a young innocent catholic girl.   Stories with any imagination were rewarded with low marks and punishment for the insolence and lies told within them.  To be fair I spent a lot of time in punishment for other things I now consider very unjust.  Thankfully by that time castigation had moved from corporal punishment to sitting in the head’s office.    In my later years I now empathise with the likes of the Bronte sisters writing under the name of Bell and Mary Anne Evans who most people will only know as George Eliot.   Now it will not be disapproving  society perceptions that prevents my novel being sent away and published.

I, being the eldest of a dynasty of little catholics, three of whom were girls and would follow me through the school, gave me particular kudos.  The school struggling to survive and having to turn to non-catholics to keep the numbers up meant all “little birds” (catholic children) were particularly special to all the nuns which equated to most of the staff.  We were as spirited as other children but as long as we appeared penitent at the right times we could get away with a lot more.  I was particularly special, I was not really naughty but found myself removed from certain lessons where a clash of personality may ensue.  I ended up studying Latin with the aforementioned little nun, thus increasing my unique position in the school,  and opening up more channels to rebel.

Rebellion was slight and never malicious.   Life was too stern for that and you took your chances if you did step out of the deep accepted furrow of acceptable behaviour laid out ahead of you.   I probably still bear the scars mentally if not physically from rulers across my hand or chalk hitting my face.   I became rather practised at avoiding the blackboard wiper, which the girl behind me never quite forgave me for.   It would not actually occur to those of my school generation to talk back to an adult, or to be caught doing anything that could even be construed as really naughty.  We would not only be punished then but also with no questions asked be punished at home as well.

Times have changed a lot and some of it for the better.  Children can certainly enjoy their schooling and they have so many opportunities to really make it the best time in their lives.    They are involved in decision making and given the opportunities to discuss and make informed decisions ranging from projects at primary school right up to the myriad of courses offered at A’level, college and work experience.   Praised and encouraged to work hard, to express themselves  and to utilise the wonderful resources available, youngsters today have so many prospects to enable their lives to be enriched and their opportunities endless.

There is and always will be poverty which is as apparent now as it was in Victorian days.  There will always be adults who abuse and hurt children just as there have always been and no amount of freedom for the children to highlight it will prevent it happening and may keep it underground for longer.

Mini Son is studying Victorians at the moment in school.  He has found it hard to accept the barbaric treatment of boys in those days.  His class are going on a school outing and will be taken to an education museum where they will dress as Victorians, the teachers going with them are dressing up too and the venue will be set up as a school with the old desks and chair in the corner.

They have obviously been told how hard schools were in those days as he told me this morning that if the school caned him, he will sue….!

We enquired why he thought he would be caned and were told, “if I am naughty at school they put you on a chair and make you look at the corner and if you are still naughty they cane you”.  We suggested he behave during the trip and there would be no risk of him being punished.  Instead of promising to do as he was told he informed us seriously “I will sue, mummy if they cane me”.

I asked if he knew how to sue.   It involves sending a letter; he needs to practise his riting to send the letter, his reading to understand the reply and his rithmatic to count all that money.

How times have changed.

















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