Showing posts with label Catholic convent schools. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic convent schools. Show all posts

Friday, 18 January 2013

Let it Snow

Snow and icy conditions certainly make cocooning the most inviting option and tomorrow I am planning a satisfying session of marmalade making and bread baking, having spent most of today tramping cross country to the lovely foodie pub in the next village for a bowl of hot, spicy soup while thawing out by the fire and reading the newspapers.

With schools closed across the country, I was thinking of the heavy snowfall in South Yorkshire where I grew up, during the severe winter of 1963.  At least a foot of snow fell overnight but, nevertheless, we got up before first light as usual, dressed in our freezing cold bedrooms, breakfasted and went out into the thick snow well wrapped up against the biting cold and waited patiently at the bus stop for the first of the two buses I took every day across the city to reach my Catholic convent school; a journey of over 6 miles.  Amazingly it arrived eventually. Those were tougher times and people just carried on regardless.  We didn't get far however as the bus got stuck on the first of the many hills we had to negotiate on the journey and, delighted, we returned home for a day of snowballing and snowman making with mugs of hot chocolate by the coal fire.

The reckoning came the next day by which time, amazingly, the roads had been cleared and transport was back to normal, despite the heavy snow still lying in drifts all around.  The nuns kept us under a strict regime of humiliation and tongue lashings and we lived in daily dread of being singled out, annihilated by an icy look, seared by a harsh word, made to stand isolated in front of the class for a sharp character assassination.  The survival strategy was simply to keep our heads down, not to be noticed.  So, each girl who did not make it into school the day before, and there were many as we came from miles around, had to stand up and explain to the class exactly the circumstances that prevented her from making the epic journey.  The feeling was that we should have walked to school, even if it took us all day.  I still remember how, a very shy child, I was quaking in my shoes, waiting for my turn to justify my awful transgression!

Friday, 2 March 2007


"I forget to pray for the angels
And then the angels forget to pray for us ...."
Leonard Cohen

My indoor shoes are quite enchanting. Black leather pumps with a small heel, peep toe and two bows perched jauntily on top. I love coming home and slipping my feet into them - so much more civilised than slippers.

I need to change my shoes when I get home because every winter I live stranded in a sea of mud in the depths of the country. To get out of the front door, I have to hop gingerly from one baked clay terracotta tile to another (my make- shift path) until I reach what passes for my drive, but is just a slightly harder mud path that leads to my car. I never actually reach the car without acquiring a rind of mud on my shoes. It is not recommended to leave the back door at all without a pair of Wellington boots in which to schlurp and schlock through what, in summer, is my back garden. I live on the water table on poorly drained clay soil.

The last time I needed indoor shoes, I was 11 years old and a new arrival at my Catholic convent school in Yorkshire. They were truly ugly things - the colour of pea soup and shaped like boats, secured to my reluctant feet with a strap. Together with thick national health glasses, bottle green pleated synthetic knee length skirts and bad hair cuts I, and my fellow pupils, were completely and utterly de-feminised. But I suppose that was the point. Perhaps that is why I am so feminine now. A reaction against so much ugliness and suppression.