Being the new girl in a new school

We found a new home after a few months of moving back from Australia. With that it meant a new school.

A short walk up a hill from home took me to a form of hell. The school was OK, most of the kids were OK but the teacher hated me. From the moment I opened my mouth.

I can’t begin to tell you how hard it is for a 6 year old to try to fit in. I was slapped with a ruler and told not to speak with such a ridiculous accent. She’d ask me questions just so I’d have to answer and she could slap me. I was too scared to say anything at home because I thought it was my fault.

Of course when children see a teacher bullying they are going to think it’s the right thing to do. So not only was I getting hit with a ruler but one girl decided to pinch me. It might not sound like much but it bloody hurt and I was covered in bruises. I was torn between the classroom and the ruler or the playground and the pincher.

Eventually my mother noticed the pinch marks and eventually that was put a stop to. Eventually the accent got slapped out of me too so the teacher didn’t really have an excuse to slap me anymore.

I hated that school. Actually I hated the school after it too. I never felt like I belonged there. I felt slow and stupid. Not helped by the fact that I couldn’t tell the time or do simple sums. I was put in the ‘special class’ for maths and I spent most of the time looking out of the window wishing I was somewhere else.

The strange little girl who didn’t belong.

Back to the UK

The four of us arrived back from Australia, all tanned and healthy looking and all with different views on our brief time living there. We were also homeless. Our family home in Berkhamsted had been sold because Australia was meant to be permanent, but like most things in life, it wasn’t.

My brother, who was 16, was sent to live with my Uncle and Aunt. We moved in with my Godmother but not all Godmothers are fairies! Ah no I suppose it was grand but it wasn’t home. As a 6 year-old who had a lovely room moving into a cramped bedroom with your parents is a bit strange.

This house in Hemel Hempstead had a strict routine. There was a rota to clean out the range and do the shopping and there was a meal rota. This meant every night of the week you knew what you were having for dinner and there was a lot of fatty, gristly, mince meat involved. To this day I can’t eat mince, it turns my stomach.

The shining light in those first weeks back then was Martin. My Godmother’s husband and a big bear of a man. He taught me how to do the pools, how to read the form on the horses. He told me everything was ‘cat’ from the weather to his missus and everything in between. He told me I was a grand lassie, apart from my knees, there was nothing wrong with my knees but I still have a phobia about them. I know it was just Martin’s way of making me smile.

I briefly went to Highfield School and loved it there. It was quite a cool thing to be a new girl with a strange accent in that school and there was a bit of a clamour of girls wanting to be my friend. After a few weeks we moved into our new house and the story continues.

The Early Years

When I was two we moved to Australia. It was back in the days when it cost next to nothing to move and my parents both worked for Kodak so they transferred their jobs from the UK to Australia.

It wasn’t all plain sailing as some of our furniture ended up somewhere in the ocean, the rest of it took weeks to arrive. Kodak had arranged a bungalow in Lalor, Melbourne for us to live in so there we were in a lovely house, in a hot country with no furniture.

We’d only just arrived to the house when there was a knock at the door. Bizarrely a cousin of dad arrived, with his family, to introduce themselves to us. Bearing in mind this was way before Facebook we had no idea how he knew we were there! It was very strange inheriting a whole Australian family, and there were a lot of them – seven in total, the house felt very cramped. They lent us some bits for the house until our wandering furniture arrived and I remember lots of visits with them.

Other things I remember:

The cultural diversity of where we lived. So very different to the UK but fantastic to meet people of other nationalities. I remember having dinner with the Italian family across the road. It was fantastic food in a loud environment. There was always some kind of noise coming from their house.

I remember playing Kerplunk with the Mahood family and spending many happy afternoons with them. In and out of the swimming pools that were the norm in the gardens of our street. I could swim when I was three, just took my armbands off one day and off I went.

My first day at school. My teacher was called Mrs. Robinson and I thought the Simon and Garfunkel song was about her. There was fruit and nap time and everyone was smiling.

Almost getting swept up by a whirlwind. We were walking to the bus stop and this freak wind came out of nowhere and off I went. My mum grabbed my leg and pulled me back down. I thought it was great and couldn’t understand why she was so upset.

We had a little dog called Sandy who had puppies. I got up early one morning and fed them chocolate milkshake…on a white carpet! This didn’t go down well at all in the household!

Random creatures coming into the house. Spiders of course and scorpions. I had a net over my bed to keep them and the mosquitoes out. One day a parrot flew into the house and perched on my mother’s shoulder, chattering incessantly, as she was cooking dinner. I think the parrot almost ended up being the dinner!

Christmas in the sunshine. It’s the strangest thing celebrating Christmas in your bikini. My mother insisted on cooking a full blown traditional Christmas dinner. I think the rest of us would have been fairly happy with a BBQ. To add to the atmosphere we had an inflatable snowman but it didn’t feel like Christmas or not as I know it anyway.

Other things I remember; finger painting, miniskirts, the Age of Aquarius song, parties – with the men in one room and the women in another, Tupperware, Popsicles, Disney on Parade, David Cassidy – sigh.

It all seemed like a lovely way of life, most of the time. My mum wasn’t happy though. She moved to what was meant to be a better way of life and ended up working nights. When dad went to work in the day she had to mind me so she really didn’t get any rest. She missed her mother, there were very rare phone calls, possibly twice a year because of the expense. She knew if her mother got ill (and she did quite often) that she couldn’t go to see her.

After four years the Australian dream was over and we packed up and moved back to England. This time we flew back with a stopover for a few days in Singapore. I can vividly remember the Tiger Balm Garden and I’d love to go back there again. We also had a brief stop in India but didn’t get to leave the airport, I did get a yapping dog and a laughing bag though.

Back to cold England. A tanned little girl with a strange accent wearing a mini dress and long white socks. An outsider – the story continues.



The Birthday Party

When I was about ten I was on my usual summer holiday to my Nan’s house in Galway. It was never the most interesting place to be, it was dark and smelt of turf, the windows were small and let in very little light and my Nan was a strange character.

She never really liked me and I suppose the feeling was mutual. I didn’t understand her love of religion and reading the death notices. She didn’t understand my love of roller-skates and reading Enid Blyton books.

One day a bit of excitement arrived in the form of an invitation to a party from a girl down the road. I was really looking forward to it and when the big day came off I trotted  armed with some kind of pink looking present.

I lived in England so parties were quite a big deal there; party dresses, sausage rolls, fairy cakes, pass the parcel – it doesn’t sound like much now I write it but for a ten year old it was the height of sophistication. So I had high hopes for my first Irish party. I have to admit I was a bit shocked. There were no sausage rolls, no parcels to pass and although the sandwiches were quite dainty the filling was tomato.

Not to worry I thought there were sure to be party games. There wasn’t.¬† In fact apart from me and the birthday girl there were no other guests apart from the fairly harassed looking mammy of the house and a couple of grandparents. We were having fun chatting though until the death notices came on the radio and we were told to whist by the older folk. Death notices seem to have been quite a big thing in my childhood.

When the death notices were over the birthday cake was produced. I don’t remember it having any icing on it but what it lacked in colour it made up for with candles. It was the thickest sponge cake I’d ever seen and tasted vaguely of strawberries and onions. An unusual combination to say the least.

The party was over and I went home, well to my Nan’s home anyway. I got the third degree; who was there, what food was there, who said and did what. If I’d thought she was that interested I’d have taken her with me. The Angelus bells started ringing and my Nan started praying, the conversation was over – for that day anyway.

A new blog

Some of you might know the Magnumlady blog which is my primary blog but I decided to start a new blog just for writing. Some of the posts will be memories, some random thoughts, some short stories and some poems. There’ll be a bit of everything though so please join me on my new blogging journey.