Companionship and Other Wars

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My second year at the convent was a lot more pleasant in some ways and rather unpleasant in others, but let’s start with the pleasant. During the Christmas break, the convent had enrolled a few more boys, mostly in the grade school, four in standard one, and two more to join me in standard two. So finally I was able to have a friend at school. For some unknown reason I cannot recall his name, but I can still picture him, a short, squat, dark head boy with his face perpetually split by a grin. He had a disposition that was always sunny and nothing but nothing could in any way make him sad. I have always wondered why the convent decided to enrol boys and the only reason that I can think of is that there were unfilled places in the school, so to maximise the school’s income a limited number of boys were admitted, only as far as standard two. I would like to think that having had me at the school for most of the previous year must have allayed the fears that boys are a corrupting influence.

The down side to having fellow male students was that I was not unique anymore and the matric girls of that year did not spoil me as the girls of the previous year had. Another slightly different thing was that the standard two teacher, was not a nun, she was a civilian who had not taken the vows, so could not be expected to be filled with God’s love and patience that most of the nuns seemed to have in abundance.

 I am not saying that the nuns were not strict or that any transgressions of the law were not swiftly dealt with by having a wooden ruler slammed over the back of the hand, extremely painful in winter, but the nuns were also infinitely forgiving. Once a punishment had been swiftly admonished, you were totally forgiven, the slate wiped clean no matter what was written into your student file. Civilian teachers seemed to never forget any transgression, no matter how small or petty, transgress often enough and resentment or a label was attached to the unruly unfortunate.

My new teacher and I got off on the wrong foot from the start and the situation only went from bad to worse over the year. It’s strange that 1968 is the only year that I am unable to remember names of people that I met for the first time during the year, names of people that I met before or after that year are as clear as yesterday. I have the feeling that Avery and what he had done is responsible for many things that occurred that year, and for the amnesia that befuddles that year.

Avery was to visit us twice that year and then never again. So back to, let’s call her Miss Trenchpole, the teacher as portrayed in the movie ‘Matilda’.  She was a very pretty woman with blond hair and a very pleasant face, unfortunately she was as hard as nails. The very first thing that I did to annoy her was to not answer the question that she had addressed to me by name and decided that I was ignoring her, worse I was testing her authority.

To be fair she was not to know that I was partly deaf as my ears were still healing and it would be a few years before I had about eighty per cent hearing in my left ear and about ninety per cent in my right ear. Maybe if I had explained the problem to her at the beginning things would have turned out differently, but as there were now other boys in the class with me I think I did not explain because I did not want to show any weakness and difference in front of them. I wanted to be as normal as possible. She also had a pitch and tone of voice that made it extremely difficult for me to understand what she was saying, even though I sat right in front of the class her idea not mine, all the boys had been placed up front for some reason known only to her.

The most memorable time that I really annoyed her was the time that I added a star to a piece of homework, I was banished from her class for a week and had to spend the time in the playground alone during lessons and ostracised by my fellow pupils during breaks. I think it is called being sent to Coventry, a very effective form of punishment. To keep myself occupied that week I carved her face onto a piece of sandstone, which somehow she found out about, as it was not a very flattering sculpture she was more incensed than ever. It was to be a year that I spent more breaks in the classroom doing extra work than I ever spent in the playground.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

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