LT wrote a blog post about one of his schoolmasters, whom he remembered as a decent man, but recently a different side was shown on a website about the school, where another ‘old boy’ recalled him as having a heavily disciplinary side, which Tim didn’t know of at all.
I went to an all girls’ school, where it was different, of course. No one ever laid a finger on us, it just wouldn’t happen, though caning and so on was still a feature in many schools, I was given to understand. Were girls ever hit in any school? I don’t know. It’s just so wrong now that it can hardly be imagined. I do remember thinking about the subject once – there must have been some trigger for the thought – and I knew that, if ever there were any physical discipline perpetrated on me, I would never return to the school. My parents would have backed me up, too.
What I did remember though was the one time that I was given “lines” to write. It was a gentle school. I don’t remember any punishment ever, except for one teacher’s rather nasty verbal sarcasm. One girl, a year older than I, was expelled for smoking on the premises, but that was another matter. And, I acknowledge, I was a good little girl. I kept my head down, didn’t join in, didn’t argue, didn’t misbehave – and I wasn’t the easiest pupil because I was so disengaged from anything that didn’t enthuse me. But for some reason – probably extreme untidiness and not having done anything but the sketchiest homework – an exasperated teacher gave me 100 lines. So unpractised at doing so was she that she didn’t say what I was to write or when I was to give them in.
That night, deeply irritated, I sat down at my desk at home – a rather nice little mahogany folding writing desk which is now in my sister’s house – and contemplated a piece of paper. I started to write something. By the third repetition I was bored. By the seventh, it being on unlined paper, my writing had started to slope down. I wrote the first half of the next line and it sort of joined up with the second half of the line above.
Very soon afterwards, I stopped bothering and threw the paper away. I never mentioned it to the teacher and she tactfully didn’t mention it to me. I didn’t change my behaviour or attitude – actually, it was History, which I liked and was good at – and that was that.
I do have another memory, which demonstrates the kindness of the school. It was a convent and, one day, I was going downstairs for assembly and there was an elderly nun in front of me. I was in a hurry and she wasn’t and I accidentally trod on her habit and brought her to a snap halt. Of course, I immediately said “I’m sorry, Sister,” and she turned and gave me the sweetest smile. And then, of course, we walked slowly down together. I actually never saw any of the nuns being unkind or losing their temper, they were genuinely good people. Though, as we girls all agreed, weird.