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 Post subject: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 20:10 
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Starting in the Sixth
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I already mentioned this book by Julie Welch in the Kindle thread since it is in the October sale at 99pence but I thought I would give it a thread of its own since reading it has been such a weird experience for me.

I suspect that the same would apply to those who were at school in the fifties and sixties, especially if they were at boarding school, as I was (1953-59)

As I read the first part of the book, it was as if I was reading my own words; much of what she writes is what I say in my talk "Pull your socks up Angela, the English schoolgirl in fact and fiction". The peculiarities of the rules that encompassed us, the power of the prefects, number of photos on dressing tables, the ban on hair washing, the daily rituals, the enforced polite behaviour at mealtimes, pashes, abseiling down from the third storey during a fire practice - indeed, nearly all that she covers, I went through in much the same way.

As she moved up through the school (Felixstowe College) things began to separate out a bit; we were certainly never as taken with boys as her group seems to have been, nor can I remember such extreme embarrassment about the time of the month, but again much is very familiar. I wondered whether the boy thing was as a result of the two school generations difference between us - she started in 1961 - but that wouldn't account for the increased embarrassment.

If others read it, I would be really interested in how much is familiar. I always thought we had such truly bizarre rules, clearly there was a pattern after all.

There is even a young science master, hounded out after a brief term or two. I found myself wondering if it was the same unfortunate man but decided the ages just didn't fit! (Who in their right mind appoints a young man, in his first job, to teach biology to pubescent teenagers? Two different headmistresses apparently!)

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 20:48 
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I've got it but haven't had chance to read it yet. I've been wanting to read it since I read a review of it in the paper when it was first published.

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 20:58 
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^ What she said :wink:

It does sound interesting, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 03 Oct 2017, 21:10 
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I've ordered a copy, but won't get it for a week or two, I suspect (not available on Kindle over here). I will be very interested to see how it compares with my own boarding school experience (1951-58).


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 04 Oct 2017, 23:17 
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Who in their right mind appoints a young man, in his first job, to teach biology to pubescent teenagers? Two different headmistresses apparently!

And a headmaster. We had a young, attractive, male biology teacher at my mixed grammar school in the late '60s. He'd have been sacked today, for more than one reason.


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 07:39 
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A rumour went round our (all girls) school that the new male geography teacher was incredibly good-looking and that the headmistress had been in two minds about whether or not to appoint him. He was not even remotely good-looking. And he must have been at least 45, which seemed like 100 to us. We were very disappointed :lol:. We did have one male biology teacher, but he was one of the oldest teachers in the school, not very attractive (lovely bloke, just not very attractive) and didn't teach the younger forms who did the "personal" stuff :lol: .

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 08:41 
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A quick question: Will I still enjoy it if I didn't go to boarding school? I went to my local primary school (shock, horror, a village school) and then a mixed grammar school in the 50s - 60s.

Will now investigate if I can get it here.


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 09:04 
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I'm planning to read it, and I didn't go to boarding school :D .

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 12:53 
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Starting in the Sixth
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thefrau46 wrote:
A quick question: Will I still enjoy it if I didn't go to boarding school? I went to my local primary school (shock, horror, a village school) and then a mixed grammar school in the 50s - 60s.

Will now investigate if I can get it here.

If you went to school in the 50-60s I think you will enjoy it, though it having been a co-ed school will have given you very different experiences. We were chaperoned whenever there were any boys around - for example one housemistress used to arrange informal tennis matches for seniors with the local boys' college. Whilst we were on court, there were no staff in sight. If it started to rain, and we sheltered together under the trees, we were surrounded at once by staff.

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 05 Oct 2017, 13:42 
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It sounds exactly like my own school life in a convent grammar school from 1957-1965, cestina, so I must but it. Boys? At the mere mention of such, you were requested to talk about something else - at once!

I do recall the embarrassment over periods, but, at my daughter's junior school in the eighties, the top form decided it would be fun to rummage in people's satchels, remove sanitary pads and scatter them everywhere. I can't imagine that happening in my time, or what the nuns' reactions would have been if it had.

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 02 Nov 2017, 17:11 
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I'm in the middle of reading this, but am having a busy week so haven't finished it yet. I love the description of the midnight feast :lol: . The one thing that spoilt the CS was that they didn't have midnight feasts!! I'm quite intrigued by the idea of Julia Welch having gone through school being known as Danny - after Danny Blanchflower, the captain of Spurs - because there were two other Julias in her class, and now feel that EBD should really have had several characters known by the names of footballers, rather than by "short" versions of their own names.

The rules are definitely throwing me a bit, though. My day school had some rules which seemed silly, but they were about things like not using the staircase which led to the area where the staffroom was, even though it meant the other staircase getting ridiculously overcrowded. I'm rather bemused by the idea of a school banning girls from asking someone to pass the salt or pepper, and saying that they had to ask if someone else wanted the salt or pepper and hope that the person would then pass them on :roll:. And I get the "pash" idea because it's covered in A Head Girl's Difficulties and some other books, but I didn't realise (unless Julia Welch's school was exceptional?) that it was all so ritualised. I cannot ever in a million years imagine one of the younger kids at my school going up to one of the VIth formers and kissing them. I'd be interested to hear if people do remember that happening at their school.

I quite like the fact that she wasn't from a family which had traditionally sent its daughters to boarding school, but that she wanted to go because she thought it'd be like Malory Towers or St Clare's - and that she says that people always ask her if it was like schools in books. It says a lot about just how influential GO books are!

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 02 Nov 2017, 17:45 
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The not being allowed to ask for stuff at the table is spot on. As juniors, we were paired each week with a different senior who sat opposite us and we moved daily, as a pair, round the (oblong)table so that we sat between two new seniors, but with the same one opposite. The seniors were charged with monitoring and reporting on table manners which included making polite conversation, not shouting across the table at someone diagonally opposite to you, and ensuring that your neighbour had everything they needed. Asking for anything was strictly forbidden (unless it was to give it to someone else).

So if the "butter" was not in front of you and you needed some, you were required to say politely to one of your neighbours "Would you like some butter?" even if they had smeared their bread all over already. You then had to hope that they would respond "No thank you, would you?". If not, tough, and your only consolation for your butterless bread would be that they too would be pulled up on Sunday night for "bad deportment".......

Our pash system was not formalised like hers and the sheer idea of kissing someone you had a pash on, makes me reel back in horror!

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 02 Nov 2017, 21:30 
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cestina wrote:
Asking for anything was strictly forbidden (unless it was to give it to someone else).

So if the "butter" was not in front of you and you needed some, you were required to say politely to one of your neighbours "Would you like some butter?" even if they had smeared their bread all over already.


This was featured in a TV documentary a few years ago. We tried it out that weekend with friends who'd mostly also seen the programme. It drove us bonkers after one meal, but is now a standing joke whenever we're together for a meal.

Of course there is always one of us who politely says "no, thank you" then returns to studiously consume their food. :D


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 03 Nov 2017, 22:09 
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cestina wrote:
The not being allowed to ask for stuff at the table is spot on. As juniors, we were paired each week with a different senior who sat opposite us and we moved daily, as a pair, round the (oblong)table so that we sat between two new seniors, but with the same one opposite. The seniors were charged with monitoring and reporting on table manners which included making polite conversation, not shouting across the table at someone diagonally opposite to you, and ensuring that your neighbour had everything they needed. Asking for anything was strictly forbidden (unless it was to give it to someone else).

So if the "butter" was not in front of you and you needed some, you were required to say politely to one of your neighbours "Would you like some butter?" even if they had smeared their bread all over already. You then had to hope that they would respond "No thank you, would you?". If not, tough, and your only consolation for your butterless bread would be that they too would be pulled up on Sunday night for "bad deportment".......



There's a school story that features the system of not asking directly for anything but can't remember which. Might possibly be Miss Pickle (Constance Mackness). Someone explains to a new girl calling her "Miss Newey-with-the curls".


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 04 Nov 2017, 17:53 
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cestina wrote:
thefrau46 wrote:
A quick question: Will I still enjoy it if I didn't go to boarding school? I went to my local primary school (shock, horror, a village school) and then a mixed grammar school in the 50s - 60s.

Will now investigate if I can get it here.

If you went to school in the 50-60s I think you will enjoy it, though it having been a co-ed school will have given you very different experiences. We were chaperoned whenever there were any boys around - for example one housemistress used to arrange informal tennis matches for seniors with the local boys' college. Whilst we were on court, there were no staff in sight. If it started to rain, and we sheltered together under the trees, we were surrounded at once by staff.

Thanks, Cestina. I've only just read your answer - I forgot to subscribe to the topic! I've found the book in a Kindle version and it's on my wish list but it's more expensive here.


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 04 Nov 2017, 19:19 
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It's gone up here now as well - it was a monthly offer I think. There is some discussion going on about events in it on the current Richenda book thread....

Another book to look out for, though it's at £5.99 at the moment (it's only recently published), is Terms & Conditions: Life in Girls' Boarding Schools, 1939-1979

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 04 Nov 2017, 19:42 
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Having Miss Ferrars as Form Mistress
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Have just finished this and it brought back so many memories - I am a contemporary of Julia. My school was a direct grant grammar school and I went there as a day girl as I had passed the 11+.

It was two-thirds day girls and one-third boarders and the boarders definitely considered themselves as the elite. I went there at a time of change - we had our own version of Miss Bubb - she changed the emphasis from being a school for young ladies to one focussing on academic success. The shock-horror when a day girl was appointed as Head Girl for the first time! From the mists of time the Head Girl was always a boarder and her Deputy was a day girl.

We had black bags - not grey - but always wore them for gym. Grey divided skirts and red aertex shirts for games. Those divided skirts were so flattering to the young female figure - not!!

We did have pashes but, as far I know, they didn't involve kissing. It usually involved a Junior rushing up to a Senior and saying "I'm struck on you" and pushing a chocolate bar or sweets into said Senior's hands and then rushing away blushing like mad.

The dress code was strict. Tunics had to be no more than one inch above the ground when kneeling. Berets in winter for every day use, bowlers for special occasions - I got into trouble for steaming my bowler into the shape of a cowboy hat - it never recovered. Panamas in summer later changing to boaters as Julia's school did. Black stockings originally and then when they became fashionable we changed to beige - yuk! As soon as hair touched the shoulders, it had to be tied back. This usually meant in bunches which stuck out like two shaving brushes on each side of the head!

We had our own fair share of eccentric teachers. The biology teacher could not abide fringes and would creep up behind unfortunate pupils and fasten their fringes back with a Kirby grip. The physics teacher's experiments always went wrong - she was the Tommy Cooper of her profession. We had such a high turnover of maths teachers it was a miracle than anyone passed O Level.

School dinners with such delights as Boiled Baby, Frog Spawn, etc. No choice then - like Julia a legacy has been that I can eat almost anything.

At the time, I was not particularly happy there but now can appreciate that it was a very difficult time for the school and the staff. The older girls loved the previous Head and her gentle, ladylike ways and rebelled against the new Head and her stress of the importance of exams. The staff also must have found it disturbing.

The school has survived and is flourishing. It's now fully independent, day girls only and has a junior school as well. It's still single sex. However, there is a lot of interaction with boys from local schools in drama, music, etc. The pupils I have met in recent times have nothing but praise for it.

Apologies for long post, it's been a trip down Memory Lane!


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 04 Nov 2017, 21:13 
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Enjoyed your post lizco. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 07 Nov 2017, 16:05 
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Finally finished this. I'm not sure what the Chalet School or Malory Towers would have made of the end of term party with boys and fast cars and a band! But quite a bit of it was standard teenage girl stuff which you get at any school and which seems to be missing from the Chalet School world, and maybe that's part of the appeal of the CS books. Julia Welch's best friend said that she always tried not to fall out with anyone because she knew that being a fat girl made her a target, so she wasn't really on a level playing field, and I can remember feeling exactly like that. We never get anyone in the CS books worrying about weight, or spots, or bra sizes, and there are very few instances of people falling out with their friends. And, of course, no-one at the CS ever worries about failing exams or not getting into university, and boys are never mentioned! But there's a lot of that in this book, and it's the same at most schools, day or boarding ... except at the CS :D . Oh, lucky CS girls!!

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 Post subject: Re: Too Marvellous for Words....
PostPosted: 08 Nov 2017, 11:13 
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Having Miss Ferrars as Form Mistress
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Audrey25 wrote:
Enjoyed your post lizco. :)


Thank you Audrey.


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