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 Post subject: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 20 Mar 2017, 14:53 
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First of all I hope it is in order to post this when a lot of the postings now are in book chronological order.

I have just finished reading Problem though and so much about Joan interested me. I wonder to what extent her problems were caused by her upbringing as opposed to flaws in her character? Not going to bed before she washed, the inappropriate dresses approved by her mother, the perm and make-up were obviously more her upbringing than Joan.

Could somebody at the school not have explained nicely using the excuse that what was done at a boarding school and done at home were different. Maybe they did.

Joan does seem to have character flaws - bullying and jealousy. She would have been the girl all parents hoped their daughters would avoid.

What too about boyfriends? Was her behaviour just in keeping with her character? Surely even some upper class girls were keen on boys at an early age?

She did stick the school though and does seem to have got on fairly well. Fundamentally though some of her outside characteristics remain. Would Joan really still have been talking in the same way several years after she went to the school as she did at the beginning?

I did not realize until I re-read this book that Jack more or less forced Mary-Lou to take Joan on and that Mary-Lou was still only 15.

Also what about Rosamund? Exactly how well did she fit in? We are told in Theodora that she had rather stood alone apart from Len.

Talking about Theodora there is absolutely no hint of Margot having a problem with Rosamund. It even mentions at one point she smiles a welcome to Rosamund.

I liked all of the triplets in this book. They were nice and natural.

In a way this was a golden age for EBD. She had the triplets old enough to play a proper role. She had Mary-Lou as well as the current Head Girl and prefects.

Would love to know what others think.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 20 Mar 2017, 15:57 
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No problem starting any sort of discussions :D . The books are being discussed in chronological order, but there's no problem discussing other things too.

Rosamund does say that what's done at school isn't the same as what's done at home, and that Joan can always wear her new dresses at home, but the general attitude seems to be that there's only one correct way of doing things and that that's the way things are done at the Chalet School, which is what I find quite frustrating about this book. There also seems to be an attitude that being interested in boys is vulgar and not something which Proper CS Girls do. Elma Conroy, in Oberland, has got a boyfriend, but she has previously attended another school, and her dad owns a cosmetics company with a tacky-sounding name, so she's clearly not quite "one of us". Peggy, who's the same age but is a Proper CS Girl, is not interested in boys ... even though her own mum, Mollie, was "barely eighteen" when she got married. EBD could have had a character from the same background as the other CS girls who was interested in boys and wore make-up, but chose to make it a social class issue, and I do find that quite annoying. As you say, there are girls of all backgrounds who are interested in boys from an earlier age than others. It's dealt with much better, IMO, in Adrienne, when Janice, Judy and Ailie discuss the subject of boyfriends and say that they'd rather concentrate on tennis and other hobbies and generally having fun with their friends for the time being.

I don't think Joan ever gets the credit she deserves, and generally gets a raw deal. She's unpleasant during her first half term there, but doesn't really do anything wrong afterwards. We're told later that she wants to help pay for her sister's school fees, as her parents have spent up by then. She also helps some of her smaller classmates across a flooded river in Richenda. But everyone's still negative about her - Rosalie Dene, who's hardly a bitchy person usually, makes some really nasty comments in one book about Joan's background and upbringing, and Richenda takes an immediate dislike to her (Joan, not Rosalie!) because of her "cheap prettiness". And I think anyone would have stopped to listen if they'd heard their own name, and would have been extremely upset to discover that two people who had been friendly towards them actually thought that they were a horrible person and were just pretending to be friendly as some sort of project to reform them. That's very badly put, but hopefully it makes sense :lol:. Margot had absolutely no excuse for eavesdropping on Joey and Rosalie's conversation about Ted, but no-one makes half as much fuss about it as they do about Joan's eavesdropping.

I wish Jack had told Mary-Lou to mind her own business, but Mary-Lou was the one who raised the subject in the first place, to be fair.

The issues between Margot and Ros seem to have been invented retrospectively, to back up the storyline in which Margot becomes jealous of Len's friendship with Ted. All the friendships in that group get mixed up ... Len is friends with Ros in Problem, then in Richenda she's friends with Ricki and Odette, and Ros isn't mentioned, and then in Theodora she's friends with Ros again, and Ricki and Odette are friends with Con!

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 01:43 
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Alison H wrote:
Rosamund does say that what's done at school isn't the same as what's done at home, and that Joan can always wear her new dresses at home, but the general attitude seems to be that there's only one correct way of doing things and that that's the way things are done at the Chalet School, which is what I find quite frustrating about this book.

All the friendships in that group get mixed up ... Len is friends with Ros in Problem, then in Richenda she's friends with Ricki and Odette, and Ros isn't mentioned, and then in Theodora she's friends with Ros again, and Ricki and Odette are friends with Con!


I always got the impression the trips were in one big group of friends who all hung out together but did not have a one 'special' friend unless it was needed for the plotline!

I never liked the way Joan was made to stand out from the very beginning when the girls immediately judge her by raising their eyebrows at her hair and dress.

Though Ros does make an effort to help her fit in by explaining the 'dress code' to her, perhaps it needed someone older and more sympathetic to explain from the beginning. She was probably never going to listen to Ros!

Cheers,
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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 09:40 
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When I was young, Problem was my favourite of the 'modern' CS stories. I identified with Rosamund as the one thing I wanted was to 'belong' at school. But in reality I was more of a Joan, in that whatever I did I never got it right. Didn't matter how hard I tried.

Joan, bless her, comes to the school with ideas that do not fit with the CS norm. Her name is ordinary, her dresses and make-up are too sophisticated for the CS, her hair is permed, for goodness sake! Her approach is dismissive and sneering. Once she gets the CS approved mentality, her shortcomings are always held up, she is so obviously 'not one of us' that it is never allowed to be forgotten. I think she had a very lonely time at the CS.

When she is made Lady tidyness, or whatever it was, she appears pleased. But even the first time I read that I was aware that EBD was casting her as 'servant - class'. If she had been made stationery, or flower monitress I wouldn't have noticed.

Later in the series she is always described as 'Big Joan Baker' still not fitting in where most of the girls are small, slight, dainty, pretty, etc. Even her heroism in plunging back and forth across the river to help others gets very little credit.

What exactly is cheap prettyness anyway?


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 16:23 
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I don't think that any of us could define that term, Scrabble.

And in the Welsh books, some of the girls are described as going to bed in hair curlers.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 16:28 
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Jennie wrote:
I don't think that any of us could define that term, Scrabble.


I don't think it's very difficult to define at all actually. Just google "trollop", find an image, and mentally tone it down a little....

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 16:53 
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cestina wrote:
Jennie wrote:
I don't think that any of us could define that term, Scrabble.


I don't think it's very difficult to define at all actually. Just google "trollop", find an image, and mentally tone it down a little....


That's kind of how I viewed it!
"Problem" was one of my early reads, aged about 16. Having been brought up in villages, going to local schools, I could really identify with both Ros and Joan; Ros was who I wanted to be, wished I had her chance of going to school abroad, yet Joan was partly me, wanting freedom, disliking being preached to by well-meaning villagers (as a wayward vicar's daughter, that was my life).
Though I didn't really like her (Joan) I did feel sorry for her in many ways, she found herself in an environment she didn't understand and couldn't relate to, and no-one was willing to help, they just couldn't see life from her point of view as it was so alien to most of them. Ros had a more peaceful and malleable character so fitted in better, but Joan felt like an outsider and no-one really tried to help in any meaningful way. It was all about reforming her, rather than understanding her.


And as for the "larks with Vic Coles"; I've read many discussions over whether Vic was male or female. Reading "Problem" at the age of 16/17 with part of my character mirroring Joan's....I never had any doubts, Vic had to be male, unfortunately making Joan even more alien from the Chalet girls. No offence meant to anyone, but we had girls in our village who attended private school, we only saw them in the holidays, and as a vicar's daughter I was supposed to mix with them on village social occasions. But they lived in a different world, had different interests, went to all-girl schools and had nothing in common with us comprehensive school kids. They were the "posh girls". Looking back I can empathise with Joan in a way that escaped me at the time. If I had been pitchforked in among those girls 24/7 I would have been as unsettled and miserable as she must have been.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 21 Mar 2017, 21:56 
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Audrey25 wrote:
In a way this was a golden age for EBD. She had the triplets old enough to play a proper role. She had Mary-Lou as well as the current Head Girl and prefects.
I'm glad you mentioned that, Audrey, because as an adult reader I noticed something that slipped by me as a teen - the Head Girl and prefects in Problem seem to me to be singularly ineffectual. The thirteenth chapter of nineteen (so well over half way through the book) is called 'The Prefects Wake Up' and it amounts to them realising that Mary-Lou is trying to do something to help Joan, but apart from Katt Gordon coaching her at tennis after Miss Burnett has noticed Joan's potential, it hasn't even occurred to any of them to make the slightest effort. And although the rest agree that they shouldn't leave it all up to Mary-Lou, and they'll keep a look out for a chance to help, that's about where it stays...

scrabble wrote:
When she is made Lady tidyness, or whatever it was, she appears pleased. But even the first time I read that I was aware that EBD was casting her as 'servant - class'. If she had been made stationery, or flower monitress I wouldn't have noticed.
When was that? I thought they didn't have any of that sort of thing in the Swiss branch.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 01:28 
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No, Noreen, they don't seem the most sparkling lot of prefects, do they? I didn't take much heed of them in the previous two books - Mary-Lou and Genius - but I did notice that in Problem Betsy is studying on a Saturday afternoon. She was also the one to give Joan her Head's Report. Normally we would see an ordinary prefect doing this with the Head Girl supporting her, so interesting that Betsy couldn't get the better of Joan. Betsy was always portrayed in earlier books as being really clever, so I wonder is it possible that she could have been a Head Girl along the Marilyn "work must come first" Evans brigade.

I always think EBD mixed Julie and Betsy up when it was remarked at the time of Julie's engagement that it was the end of her training as a barrister. Julie, a barrister?!!!!
I like to think Betsy became the barrister.

As someone else said I also always thought Vic Cole was male.

Regarding Joan's make-up and even to Bride wearing make-up, plus the finishing school girls, was make-up more of a 'thing' in the fifties than in the mid-to-end sixties/early seventies? Probably just memory but I was at a comprehensive school from 1965 to 1971 then worked with a lot of girls in an office and I didn't bother with it then and I don"t remember anyone being heavily made up.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 02:00 
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I think part of the issue with Joan is that she's deliberately set up as a contrast to Rosamund, as a sort of example of deserving working class vs undeserving.

Rosamund is dainty and modest, with smoothly braided hair and girlish dresses, Joan is cheap and coarse, with permed hair, makeup, and sophisticated dress. Rosamund is soft-spoken, with her faint working class accent quickly lost, Joan is loud, slangy and swears. Rosamund is shy and worries about what people think of her, Joan is brash and not easily intimidated. Rosamund is a hard worker, Joan slacks. Rosamund is obedient, Joan rebels. Rosamund is at school because she was spontaneously awarded a scholarship, Joan because her father gambled. Joan 'talks about boys', Rosamund is innocent minded.

You can see it in the brief glimpses of their home life too. Rosamund goes straight home to eat home-made cake in a dainty kitchen with her mother, Joan heads off with unsavoury friends, wolfing down store bought cake. Rosamund's family washes regularly and says their prayers, Joan's doesn't. Rosamund's mother learned nice ways from her well-bred employer :roll: , Joan's mother worked in a shop.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 05:05 
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Audrey25 wrote:
I always think EBD mixed Julie and Betsy up when it was remarked at the time of Julie's engagement that it was the end of her training as a barrister. Julie, a barrister?!!!!
I like to think Betsy became the barrister.


Maybe both do? But Julie is definitely the one mentioned who wants to follow her father's footsteps and be a lawyer/barrister.

Pollyana wrote:
No offence meant to anyone, but we had girls in our village who attended private school, we only saw them in the holidays, and as a vicar's daughter I was supposed to mix with them on village social occasions. But they lived in a different world, had different interests, went to all-girl schools and had nothing in common with us comprehensive school kids. They were the "posh girls".


I guess that's what it might have been like for both Ros and Joan when they went home for holidays.

A few people here have commented how different it must have been for Rosamund to fit back in with her old lifestyle but wouldn't it have been just as hard for Joan to go back to her old gang. I don't think Vic would have been very interested in hearing about Joey Maynard!

I wonder if they associated with their old friends at all when at home or they just stayed within their family circle.

Cheers,
Joyce

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 08:38 
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The person who annoys me most in all this is Mrs Gay, who says that the Gays were once "very poor people", even poorer than the Lilleys. I doubt that the hard-working, respectable Lilleys considered themselves poor, and I'd imagine they'd have been very offended to hear that anyone else did. Then she goes on about how the Gays were so poverty-stricken that they couldn't afford to send Tom to Welsen, an exclusive Swiss finishing school, and so she was going to have to stay at the British branch of her exclusive private boarding school instead. And that is Mrs Gay's idea of poverty - and apparently she thinks that made the Gays worse off than the Lilleys. What planet was the woman on?! Especially as, as a vicar's wife, surely she was used to meeting people who were genuinely poor!

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 10:29 
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Audrey25 wrote:
Regarding Joan's make-up and even to Bride wearing make-up, plus the finishing school girls, was make-up more of a 'thing' in the fifties than in the mid-to-end sixties/early seventies? Probably just memory but I was at a comprehensive school from 1965 to 1971 then worked with a lot of girls in an office and I didn't bother with it then and I don"t remember anyone being heavily made up.
Despite some of the extremes of late 1960s cosmetics, I think the big difference is that 1950s/ early 1960s make-up was much more noticeable and much more artificial looking, even if all you wore was face powder and lipstick - it was often more heavily applied, especially in the hands of amateurs/ beginners, the powder didn't necessarily match your skin tone and the lipstick was invariably bright red and glossy, sometimes with nails to match, as in Joan's case. Think Marilyn Monroe!
And there are some (fairly restrained) examples here.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 11:00 
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They do always seem to be wearing very bright red lipstick in pictures from the '50s :lol: .

Part of the problem with all of this is that the rules are not made clear. We don't know whether the prospectus didn't explain the rules about make-up and clothes, or whether Joan just hadn't bothered to read it, but she evidently doesn't know that make-up isn't allowed for girls under 16 ... and this is on a Saturday night, not for lessons, so it's not unreasonable that she thought it'd be OK. A similar thing happens in Oberland, when Elma and Pamela and some of the others are playing cards on a Sunday - and that's even worse, because there is an official rule about girls under 16 not wearing make-up, whereas there are no official rules about playing cards on Sundays and the girls are just supposed to know that People Like Us don't do things like that. And presumably there's no formal rule banning girls from talking about boys :lol:, but Joan is still told off about it by someone ... Hilary? In a different way, the same thing happens to Eustacia and Thekla, who don't understand the unwritten rules about not sneaking on someone else but owning up when you're at fault.

Anyone starting a new school or a new job can easily fall foul of unwritten rules - don't get me started on the fuss that people make over using the "wrong" cup or parking in the "wrong" space :lol: - and it's horrible being made to feel that you're a bad person for breaking a rule that you didn't even know about. There's an ongoing attitude at the CS that people should know all these things automatically, which is fine if you join the school at 10 and are not used to anything else, but not if you join the school at 14.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 12:30 
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I find the whole make-up thing interesting. Certainly no one at my school was allowed to wear make-up, however old they were. (I left in 1959).

And to my certain knowledge, not one of my friends started to wear make-up in the holidays either, until they had left school. And several of us didn't bother then, and almost haven't until the present day.

I cannot bear the smell of any powder, lipstick or any other cosmetic and now I am grateful for that since I reckon that is why my skin looks younger than that of some of my contemporaries.

And I was comparing my centenarian neighbour on Saturday with Vera Lynn who we were watching on TV. Decidedly raddled I thought her. I quizzed R on her makeup habits during her life. Same difference and as a result she has a remarkably unflawed skin for someone of her age.

It would be interesting to compare an 80 year old Joan with Rosamund at the same age!

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 13:49 
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cestina wrote:
And I was comparing my centenarian neighbour on Saturday with Vera Lynn who we were watching on TV. Decidedly raddled I thought her. I quizzed R on her makeup habits during her life. Same difference and as a result she has a remarkably unflawed skin for someone of her age.

It would be interesting to compare an 80 year old Joan with Rosamund at the same age!


How strange Cestina - I saw Vera Lynn on TV and thought how marvellous she looked for someone of 100, still wearing make up at her age.
Just goes to show that there are many ways of looking at something...

I agree though that Mrs Gay seems to reinforce the point that the Lilleys are the right sort of poor whilst the Bakers are definitely the wrong sort.
I do think we forget how in the 1950s all and sundry could make comments, particularly to the young, that today would not be acceptable. My Mum tells the tale that she turned up at Church one evening wearing lipstick and the Minister (or Youth Leader I can't remember which) sent her home to 'take that muck off your face.' She was 17 at the time and within two years she was married!

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 17:15 
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Apparently one of the worst things for your skin is smoking - which at least isn't one of Joan's habits. I'm almost surprised that it isn't (it was very much a sign of being more grown-up at that date), but perhaps she was considered to have quite enough against her already.

I agree that Joan does get a bit of a raw deal in later books (though for instance she's far from the only girl described as 'big') - but my sympathies in this book are mainly with Rosamund, who is both shy and inexperienced in boarding school ways. She doesn't really want to be there in the first place but is persuaded by Mrs Gay, and knows that it's also what Mr & Mrs Lilley want her to do. Joan is a much more confident personality, and is at the CS very much by her own choice - in fact we're told that she refused to consider anywhere else, in large part because she wants to resume her domineering and unpleasant relationship with Ros.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 17:39 
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Good point :D. I feel so sorry for Ros at the start of this book. No-one discusses it with her. She's told by her headmistress that it's all been decided, and that's the first she knows about it. Then she gets home to find Mrs Gay having tea and cake with her mum, and they both tell her that the decision's been made. She's too polite to object in front of a guest, and then Mrs Gay starts rushing ahead with going on about taking her to London to get the uniform. No-one even asks what she thinks or feels about leaving a happy home, a loving family and her friends and going to a strange place where she thinks she's going to stand out like a sore thumb. Then she's guilt-tripped by Mrs Gay's tale about being so incredibly poverty-stricken that they could only afford to send Tom to Carnbach rather than Welsen. I know it's done for dramatic effect, but the Lilleys are obviously such caring parents that it seems odd that they didn't even discuss it with her first.

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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 19:33 
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Absolutely - on the other hand the Lilleys want their children to get on in life, and not many parents in their position at that date would either face down the vicar's wife or imagine that the child would be anything other than delighted, as they would have been themselves, or at least think they would have been. Come to think of it, in its way it's probably the equivalent of what Mrs Lilley had had to do herself at Ros's age when she went into service. And then they see it as breaking Joan's hold over Ros, and I can't blame them for that.


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 Post subject: Re: Joan Baker/Rosamund/Triplets/Problem
PostPosted: 22 Mar 2017, 23:27 
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I feel sorry for the Lilleys because they are so humble and yet they were probably a much nicer family than the average CS family.

To do with "getting on" is often not just to have the necessary money but also to have the attitude and confidence. Even although Mrs Gay was the wife of the vicar, Mrs Lilley could well have turned down the scholarship for Rosamund because it was venturing into the unknown. My grandmother turned down bursaries for my aunt because no-one in my family had experience of further education.

Jennifer contrasted very well the difference between the families of Joan and Rosamund. Also, by Mrs Gay asking for the leafy cake recipe, the point was being made that although the Lilleys were lower down the social scale they still had something to offer even the vicar's wife. I know this sounds horrible but you know what I mean.

The CS in Switzerland was a marvellous opportunity but I wonder if Rosamund would have been happier in a more local, good, weekly boarding school?

Mrs Gay though could also though have thought that Rosamund didn't deserve any less than Tom.

I wonder what type of school would have been best for Joan?


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