Tuesday, September 28, 2010

School days

Me sitting next to my half brother Peter

Wandering through my Facebook 'friends' I noticed someone was collecting the past history of his family. Now genealogy does not really interest me, mostly because I have a complicated family background and its just too much hard work. I only have three photos from my childhood, one of which is the above. It is the tea or breakfast after my confirmation at the convent.
Firstly it must be stressed I never believed in any god from the year dot, curious from an early age I questioned everything that was told to me, but obviously under the strict rules of being schooled in a time when you acquiesced in what your elders taught you, I was a model pupil!
The covent was a Dominican one and in Brewood, Staffordshire, checking now and the lovely old building and grounds I knew have been replaced by a modern red bricked elite school for girls.
Its the photo that is interesting, it must have been taken in the library or the Mother Superior's study where I had to learn the catechism by heart for the event of the confirmation. On the table four candles for us girls, boiled eggs and thinly buttered bread our feast, with cups of tea in fine china. There is a little tableau in the centre and 'holy pictures' anyone who has been brought up in the Catholic faith would recognise the scene; Hunt's Light of the World I think was probably the bookmark in my new prayer book for the occasion. I am sitting next to my half brother Peter, he wears the grey uniform of Tettenhall College, where he went with my other half brother Barry, so we were all either day boarders or proper boarders at the time.


The ceremony is rather frightening for children, you are, or become brides of Christ under the foolish rituals of the Catholic dogma, the nuns lying prostrate on the floor during the ceremony in the chapel, the photo probably singles out the pure relief we girls would have felt having tea after such an ordeal. I suspect my feelings towards the recent Pope's visit was one of anger for the harm that has been perpetuated in this very paternalistic faith.


You can also tell from the photo that the Mother Superior was very kind, I was a day pupil for some time, but when a family break-up occured became a boarder. Convent life for us girls was strict, our every moment was accounted for, from getting up in the morning and going to chapel, - I had to have special dispensation from the priest to have a cup of tea and biscuit for these early morning rises as I had a tendency to faint if not fed! Through the school day, till that sad moment when the day pupils left and you felt very homesick, then we would have some tea and then back to the classroom for an hour or so of homework. Freedom came in the evening, and was the best time of the day, we could read or sew and would have some supper.
Crocodiling in pairs on Sunday, my first chance to go riding at the local stables, was cruelly brought to an abrupt end one chilly cold morning, when I became ill, and for a couple of months was very sick, and being nursed by the nuns, all I remember of food was toast and Bovril drinks to keep my strength up, I emerged a very much skinnier person than the photo above and I remember coming down the steps in the large hall with a nun to meet my grandfather and his new wife.
Interestingly behind my head is a reflection of some sort of the photographer, though there is no mirror and could be an overlay, or perhaps even a ghost!

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