The school I went to was pretty poor, frankly. It was a nice little school for nice girls, especially Catholic ones, which I wasn’t. The reasons for us going there were – well, it’s easy to come up with a theory, but how am I to know whether it’s accurate? My sister, who is five years older than I, was down to go to Sherborne, but my mother reckoned that Lowestoft was better for her health (she had sinus problems and still suffers from severe hay fever; Lowestoft was reckoned to be good for lungs and there had been a TB hospital on the sea front) so cancelled that. Then she met a girl who went to the local private school, in Southwold, and didn’t find her manners up to scratch, so decided that she’d rather we went to day school.
The local one was okay, but not great, at primary level and fairly rubbish later on. I suggested, really quite politely, in later years that my parents weren’t too bothered about education for girls, it would have been different if we were boys. My mother was affronted, but it was true. It was a different world, half a century ago. I have additional thoughts on the subject, but they are better kept to myself. I am frank, but rarely disloyal.
Having said that, I didn’t mind my school, and was perfectly content there. I wasn’t stretched, but I read a lot – I read encyclopaedias for pleasure, which I’m sure some of you did, but I doubt that many do now – and I did okay. Science was almost non-existent, which confirms my view that my parents didn’t think that education for girls mattered (my father studied science at university and was a mathematician too – in fact, he was that person that may not exist any more, a polymath, as his knowledge of literature and the arts was wide-ranging too) and the maths teachers were rubbish. Anything I knew was learned from my father. I remember one Geometry lesson where the teacher got stuck in the middle of a problem and, finally, a kind and clever girl (not me) finally got up and solved it on the blackboard. We were such nice girls (I’m not kidding, my class had the reputation of being the least trouble in the whole school) that we didn’t even hold it against the teacher – not so much through kindness as because we didn’t really care.
I’m talking about the late 1960s. It wasn’t cool to be too enthusiastic, and we must have not been easy to teach. Well, I wasn’t, at any rate. I was dreadfully shy, but I was also pretty arrogant, and not a team player in the least. I listened and thought, but I didn’t join in. Actually, the Head of the high school says of me now that I listen without saying much, and then come in with a killer comment at the end. I dunno about that, but I am better joining in with a small group than a large one, and I do like to think around the subject. However, the reason, in those days – and this is a confession, darlings, one that will be the despair of the teachers among you – that I thought that it was daft to give away a good idea. Listen to the others, think of a different angle and then put it in an essay. No one else would get the credit. Hah! But also, a lack of pushiness came in. Even if I’d wanted to say something, I’d have been talked down by someone else. Maybe (this refers back to an earlier post, asking what would have brought out the best in Z), if a teacher had cultivated me slowly and carefully, giving me confidence and not letting me get away with silence, it might have worked. What I said to the Head was, get me to write it down. I think better through my fingers, though nowadays it’s typing rather than via a pen.
PS – A rival for Woolydogs? – double take