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 Post subject: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2019, 09:05 
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I was reading "Shocks" this afternoon and as I read about the railway journey to Cardiff & Swansea, then (motor) coaches to Carnbach then on to boats, and with the pupils divided into groups, I was reminded me of the various descriptions of the pupils of Hogwarts heading to school for the start of term.

Another thing which I've been pondering today is why would your parents send you to the Chalet School? Presumably it was to be well-rounded - academic subjects, but also needlework, cooking, manners, sports and character? Certainly they seem to drop lessons at the slightest excuse.

The Chalet girls seem tremendously tall! Daisy is 5'9", Tom 5'11 and one of Tom's cohorts (I forget who) is 5'8"! These all seem unusually tall girls, although those born in the 1980's and onwards seem to reach this height easily, in my school in the 1970's there were no girls more than around 5'8" - and there were around 600 of us!

My final thought for today is that as far as I recall, EBD never married and had a family. I wonder whether this is related to how so many of her characters are obsessed with husbands and babies?

Anyway, just a few thoughts. Today I had the luxury of travelling for work, with a stack of Chalet School books with me!


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2019, 10:50 
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Welcome to the CBB.

I agree that the CS girls seem extremely tall - even by modern standards. I suppose that making them so well grown emphasises how good the school is at nurturing them.

I'm not sure there is a clear reason why people would send their girls to the school. In some cases it's down to family connections or the relationship with the San. Certainly the school must have had a reputation for looking after its pupils. There's a lot on offer and a girl can get an all round education and specialise in what interests her. I doubt it would ever have been a cheap option, even pre Switzerland.


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2019, 11:11 
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Welcome to the CBB!

If you were looking for a private boarding school, I don't suppose any option would have been cheap, but, as Jacynth's auntie says, it would have been far cheaper than the likes of Roedean or Benenden, and the emphasis on health must have appealed to some parents. And a lot of them have links via friends or relatives.

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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2019, 11:33 
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Welcome to the CBB
Wasn't EBD tall? She does like her favourites to be tall. The triplets are, even Con who is the only one small enough to play the Fairy Queen is over 5' 6" (Triplets). The occasional small girls are dainty such as Peggy and Verity.


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2019, 12:03 
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I'm not sure it's true to say there were no tall girls earlier in the last century. The girl in my form who eventually became Head Girl (in 1964) towered over most of us - she was brilliant on the hockey field! - and her closest friend wasn't much smaller. I would say they were both taller than Daisy. And looking at the whole school photo which I still have, there were quite a number who stood tall among we smalls. One of my closest friends from uni is 5' 10" - same era as above.

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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 08 Oct 2019, 20:08 
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The original School takes pupils locally. It makes sense for those pupils because they can live at home. Some of those go on to become boarders. There are a handful of people who arrive because they are visitors to the area (Juliet, the Stevens) and there are people who have a connection to Madge and Mademoiselle (Joey, Simone, Grizel, Evadne, Mary and Rosalie). The School grows through those contacts.

Then the San opens and the School is convenient for the children of parents at the San. At this point what might be regarded as the specialist function of "good for delicate children" starts.

When the CS moves to Guernsey, again it becomes somewhere that takes local children and it has a remnant of former pupils.

It isn't really until the School goes to Plas Howell that it needs to be competing with other schools. The pupils basis becomes a little odd. Why are there American pupils? Nobody would be choosing to send their children into a war zone rather than keep them in the much safer USA! The School is still recruiting locally but there doesn't seem to be much reason for choosing this school (and the wartime travelling) for people like Gay - the CS is offering nothing different from the average school in academic terms.

It's really when the CS goes to Switzerland that the pupil basis becomes truly odd. It covers a UK syllabus so would appear to be unsuitable for most "continental" girls. It's not particularly useful for the San as it doesn't supply education for the most likely age groups of children. There's no local attendance. It's going to be considerably more expensive than educating your daughter in the UK (and there is a branch of the CS in the UK if there are really advantages to a CS education as opposed to any other).


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 10 Oct 2019, 23:34 
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The average height for a woman in the 1940s/1950s was 5'2"/5'3", so the taller Chalet School pupils were definitely exceptions.

I love the fashions from those days and I have a selection of 1940s women's knitting patterns. They're tiny, suggesting that women were altogether smaller in those days. I think some of it was down to poverty, resulting in poor nutrition. Perhaps by making her girls tall and presumably well built, EBD was highlighting the fact that they were middle-class and comfortably off?


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Oct 2019, 03:21 
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Statistically, having three girls in a form of about 25 be 5'8" and above would be unusual.

In the UK days, I could see the Chalet school being a good choice for parents who wanted a boarding school that wasn't too expensive, but had solid academics, a balanced curriculum (not too academic or sports heavy), a range of activities, a strong but ecumenical religious component, and an emphasis on health and social service. During the war, being away from major cities could have been a draw too, for safety purposes.

In the Tyrol days, they mostly had San contacts, local girls, girls whose parents travelled a lot or were abroad, people who wanted to get rid of troublesome daughters, and word of mouth contacts from other students.

The Swiss student body doesn't make much sense, though. The school must have been fairly expensive, what with the COL in Switzerland, travel to and from Switzerland, skiing and fancy half-term expeditions and swimming pools and private chapels and so on. They don't really serve the posh boarding school in Europe crowd, the UK system had changed significantly since the school was founded (making for better options without needing boarding schools), they don't take local girls, and they even turn down San related girls if there isn't space that term.

Also, the school in the late UK days was almost completely composed of families who had joined the school when it was a fairly normal UK boarding school. I can't buy that most of the parents would be fine with sending their girls to Switzerland at significantly increased cost on a single term's notice, particularly less than two years after the last time the school moved.

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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 11 Oct 2019, 07:42 
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jennifer wrote:
Also, the school in the late UK days was almost completely composed of families who had joined the school when it was a fairly normal UK boarding school. I can't buy that most of the parents would be fine with sending their girls to Switzerland at significantly increased cost on a single term's notice, particularly less than two years after the last time the school moved.


Not to mention paying for a new uniform and all the winter sports gear! I find it very unconvincing. People like the Trelawneys had had no connections with the school when it was in Tyrol: if they'd wanted to send their daughters abroad, they'd have done so in the first place - and, with the nervousness about the Cold War, a lot of people may have been nervous about their children being in Central Europe, even in neutral Switzerland.

I think EBD tries to make the school all things to all people in the Swiss years, and it isn't convincing. There's a big culture clash with Miss Bubb, because the Chalet School does not prioritise academic achievement. That's fair enough, and was made clear from the first book. Someone like Marilyn Evans, whose priority was to do well academically, would have been better off at a different sort of school: no institution is going to suit everyone. But, in the Swiss years, the school is supposed to have very high academic standards and yet no-one seems to do any revision for exams, and lessons are routinely interrupted for ski-ing, rambles or play rehearsals.

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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Oct 2019, 13:36 
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I think EBD was trying to recapture the spirit of the Tyrol books by having the CS in a mountainous country, but while it worked in the '20s, it didn't so much in the '50s and '60s.


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 12 Oct 2019, 14:33 
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Maybe it's easier to start from scratch. When the school reopened in Guernsey, there were very few of the original pupils left, and, because of the gap between New and Exile, we'd hardly seen Robin and Daisy in a school setting before. Even in Oberland, half the pupils have come from other schools. In Barbara, established characters like Mary-Lou's gang are just plonked into a completely different setting. Even Barbara herself is from a family we already know.

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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Oct 2019, 13:05 
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For me, it’s not that the Swiss setting doesn’t work, as such, it’s more that the school was there for such a long time - or, rather, EBD wrote just so very many books set on the Platz.

During the Tyrol years, then Guernsey and Armiford and the Island, there are occasional gaps in the timeline allowing new groups of pupils to come to the fore, there are moves after a few years, things to freshen up the story. But once we get to Switzerland, it is a relentless 3 or 4 books per school year, for what, 8 years? And after a while of this, EBD has clearly exhausted the setting in terms of plots, particularly given the isolated nature of the Platz, and just needed to move the school on to somewhere new, or find some other way of shaking things up a bit.

It would have been relatively straightforward to invent a reason to move the school again, whether back to Tyrol or to a different location in Switzerland or whatever, but instead we get some very inward looking books, and story after story with new girls with ever more improbable back stories...

I think after Coming of Age, when everyone visits Tyrol, would have been the perfect time to start the process of moving the school - to somewhere with a lake, and a small village or local town. Wouldn’t have to be Briesau, there are plenty of other lakes in Europe :D


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 Post subject: Re: Shocks for the Chalet School
PostPosted: 13 Oct 2019, 13:50 
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Caroline wrote:


I think after Coming of Age, when everyone visits Tyrol, would have been the perfect time to start the process of moving the school - to somewhere with a lake, and a small village or local town. Wouldn’t have to be Briesau, there are plenty of other lakes in Europe :D

Yes, they could have gone to Lake Macha, about an hour from Prague, and added Czech to their languages. Good luck with that girls!

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