back to school?

On Friday night I am going ‘back to school’… that doesn’t mean travelling back to Folkestone Technical High School – but I am off to a fancy dress event of that name. However, it does concern me. I have my uniform ready and wonder if I will be transformed back to the slightly wayward 15-year-old that still lurks in my past, once I put it on.

Testing out the outfit it was worrying how easy it was to know exactly how it should all look – something cross between St Trinian’s and Grange Hill – with a fairly short skirt, white shirt with sleeves rolled up, tie loose at the neck, because my top button must be undone. And in that simple sentence I would have already broken three school rules! Don’t get me started with the holes in my fishnet tights or the height of my heels. I also won’t go into the consequences I faced for breaking those very rules at Folkestone Tech.

What is it about school uniforms – no matter what they stipulate, students have a solemn duty to flout them? I remember our terrible school cap. It was brown corduroy. Infact, I still haven’t got over my dislike of brown, since that was mainly the colour I was forced to wear for five years – and that included brown socks, brown skirt, brown jumper/cardigan and would you believe it… brown knickers (yes they did check – it was an all girls school!). The ‘pièce de résistance’ was the hat. The brown corduroy cap, so hated it was reserved for pupils in the first two years (years 7&8 in new money). For the first few months I wore it happily like many of my fellow classmates – well ‘happily’ might not be the right word. Let’s say dutifully. Then the second year came. I was far too cool to be caught wearing my cap on the mile long walk from the bus stop to school. I ducked out of view from prefects, ready to balance it on my head if we saw one passing – or even a teacher who had very unreasonably decided to walk to school. Tired of this pretence I told my friend I was going to ‘lose’ the cap – kind of deliberately. The 13-year-old theory being – if I had no cap, I couldn’t be forced to put it on. In the school car park I spotted a light blue car by a tree and placed the hat strategically underneath one of the wheels. That’s it – sorted. I no longer have a cap and therefore can’t wear it.

The next day I sauntered into school capless. And the reply to the lurking prefects was, “Sorry, I’ve lost my cap.” First lesson was maths with the gentle Mr Honey. This friendly old chap beamed at us as we walked in and after setting us some problems on the board and a truly delightful lesson – as delightful as a maths lesson can be – he called me to his desk at the end, as the rest of the class filtered out on the sound of the bell.

Oh dear, I thought, what trouble am I in now?
“Rachel,” he said, “Have you lost your cap?”
I nodded sadly, “Yes, Mr Honey, I lost it yesterday. Think I must have dropped it on the way to school.”
He beamed and dropped my crumpled cap onto the desk. “I found this by my car – your name label was inside.”

Thanks mum, for sewing name tags in all my clothes! I picked up the cap and smiled sweetly, thinking, next time I will tear out the flipping name tag!

Anyway, tomorrow night there will be no cap – unless I can find a suitable alternative. But I don’t think I can vouch for my behaviour once I slip into a school uniform again.



all in a flap

Sleeping diagonally across the bed is one of the good things about being on my own for the week. It’s nice to think that if I wanted to be a star fish while I sleep, no one is going to complain. Other good things are no meals have to be prepared for someone eating more calories than me. On the down side, I am hungry, but have no excuse to cook, and no amount of green tea is helping.

Another issue has turned out to be the doors. I’m not afraid of doors, but I am scared of leaving them open. I’m also a bit worried about the windows and am so glad we have net screens that can be pulled across any open gap. This may sound like paranoia, but let me explain…

On Saturday, one of us had been packing bags, and I was carrying a tray of food in from the terrace when something flew past me. I thought I had imagined it at first, or that it was a very large fly. I was wrong. As I glanced up to the wood lined ceiling a bird was circling above my head. I like birds, but I really don’t like birds in the house, especially ones that swoop and threaten to flap in my hair.  If I had an emergency panic button it would have been pressed at that point, instead I shouted for help.

Attempts were made to wave arms and encourage the trapped swallow out through the two open doors, while I stood hiding behind a curtain with my arms on my head. The bird continued to circle and occasionally  trying to find a way out by hitting the beams or corners of the ceiling, but never getting low enough to find the doors. After some time I decided drastic action was needed and fetched the long handled pool net. I had hoped to scoop up the bird like a butterfly. Unfortunately the long handle in the small room ended up being more like a Laurel and Hardy movie as various ornaments, windows and heads were clouted by the end of the pole and the bird continued to fly and flap out of reach. The clock was ticking and one of us had a plane to catch. I had visions of declaring the lounge ‘out of bounds’, while a flock of birds began nesting in our dresser and I spent the week marooned upstairs. The alternative was to let the kittens do their worst.

Just as we were running out of time, the bird itself ran out of steam and suddenly landed on a beam and snuggled itself between the beam and the ceiling. An attempt was made to encourage it into the pool net, but this was unsuccessful again. Eventually, it took a chair and someone with very long arms, who reached up and placed his hands very gently and slowly round the bird. Amazingly it didn’t struggle and a few moments later it was safely freed outside. Meanwhile, I ran around shutting doors and windows and generally securing the house from unauthorised bird entries.

It was only later, once I had calmed down, that I thought about the bird in a complete flap and panic as it circled the room. We couldn’t help because it was too frightened and flapping too much. But when it eventually stopped struggling and allowed someone to gently help, it was set free. There is definitely a lesson in there somewhere for me.

I’m enjoying watching the birds swoop and dive outside, but the screens are staying firmly on the doors, especially while the resident ‘bird catcher’ is out of the country!