Kathy Martin’s life story (2)
By Kathy Martin…
My life story continues!
At the beginning of the summer term, 1962, Angela and I started as boarders at The Convent of Our Lady, Filsham Road, St Leonards-on-Sea & Hastings:
- My 9th birthday being given a grown-up doll, called Paula, with “boobs”, which was promptly confiscated and given to Mummy to take home, as it was seen as “unsuitable” for a 9 year old!
- My birthday cake was an over-iced, white sponge cake; very sickly and refused a piece, only to be told that I was “an ungrateful child and that there were children around the world who would be very grateful for it”! (Remember thinking “well post it to them”!)
- I was a plump child and have many memories of being teased (bullying these days) by my schoolmates
- Often cried myself to sleep
- On a feast day being given a glass of pink “Adam’s Ale”, years later found out that it was water with a dash of cochineal, but we thought it was very special!
- Strong memory of being caught talking after dark and being taken by Sister Francis to the toilets, where she pulled up my nightie and proceeded to beat me with a horse whip, the short one with a leather tongue at the end; VERY PAINFUL! Mummy and Daddy refused to believe this incident happened!
- Being a private school we did not have to pass our 11 plus exam, as we would all move up anyway, as a consequence, the school did not coach us for it and we all failed!
- Did reasonably well at school, usually being in the top 3 or 4 in class of about 15 girls.
1962 Daddy was posted to Accra, Ghana after we left Nairobi Angela & I started boarding school, so we used to fly back to Africa for our Christmas and Easter holidays, on BOAC (now BA) and they provided all school kids with things, like the BOAC tin in the photo, to help keep us amused on the flights!
A few names that I recall are:
- Alison Tierney (a beautiful girl who wanted to be an actress)
- Yvonne Davis, her parents where abroad in the army, lived in Malta, she was strange and had a fetish about always washing her hands
- Euphemia Morgan, a Liberian girl, whose grandfather was the president of Liberia
- Louise Douglas, a half-caste Fijian/Scottish girl, very beautiful, with jet black hair
- Susan Shaw, a diabetic girl, who was teamed up with me, when she arrived in the first year of senior school, and we shared a double room for many years. She came on holiday to Accra with me and remember her very fair skin getting very badly burned. Her parents lived in Warsash, near Southampton and I spent many half-terms at her house and we often went out on their large yacht! Her father was a successful architect.
A few teachers who I remember well are:
- MMP (Mother Mary Peter, the headmistress) who, when I saw her at an old girl’ day said she always remembered “the Gardner girls” with affection!
- Sister Theresa who was the first nun that looked after us in her dormitory; she was a little woman, like a bird, but, although strict, was very fair.
- Sister Francis, as mentioned before, was a tyrant and am sure she enjoyed punishing us!
- Sister Sandra was still a novitiate and we, in the 5th form (O’level year) tried to convince her to get out while she could!
- Sister Lucy was strict disciplinarian and our biology teacher, who had no sense of humour (but, this was my favourite lesson, so got on very well with her)
- Matey, was the matron and she was a lovely old lady; with a very shaky head!
- Mr Bagnel-Oakley (affectionately known as BO) was our maths master and was easily distracted from the lesson in hand to talk about stars, the universe and a multitude of things. He was amazed, as was I, that I scraped a pass at my maths O’level!
Managed to get 6 O’levels – English Language (grade 5), English Literature our books were “My Family & Other Animals” by Gerald Durrell and the Shakespeare play was “Julius Caesar” (4), Biology (3), Maths (6), Geography (6; despite our syllabus being completely wrong) and History (6)
Other memories of school:
- In the 6th form, was the house captain for St Augustine’s and really enjoyed that!
- Sports Days were something NOT enjoyed and remember one year having to enter something was put in for the 400 metres (at least it was the whole way around the playing field) and I disgraced myself by coming last, by a very, very long way!
- Had to stay one year of the 6th form, but was not doing A’ levels, took 2 O’levels: Art (grade 2) and Classical Literature (3) to give me something to do! This was because couldn’t start college until I was 18 and Daddy didn’t want me doing nothing for 2 years.
- Something else we did, to raise money for some charity or other, was to perform a dance routine to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge over troubled Waters” LP. I was not on stage, but was the stage manager cum choreographer etc, and to this day there are still certain tracts that evoke memories of that stage show.
Events from our summer holidays in England include:
- A “battle” between a group of Mods (young men in anoraks who rode scooters) and Rockers (the Harley Davidson type) outside our house in Filsham Road
Sitting up late in 1969 watching Neil Armstrong landing on the moon
- Long walks across the “sea of grass” to The Plough at Crowhurst, where Mummy would drive over and pick us up. This is completely covered by housing estates now.
Summer holidays, Mummy and Daddy came back to England and we lived in the house they bought near the school, namely Jardini, Filsham road, St. Leonards-on-sea, Hastings, East Sussex.
As the eldest was responsible, at a very early age, for the rest of the family! An “Aunty”, provided by UAC, always saw us across London, but invariably I seemed to know more than them, as to what we were supposed to do, I must have been an obnoxious/precocious brat!
Bridget and Michael went to junior school in Accra, until they were old enough to join us at boarding school in England. Michael had a very miserable time at his first boarding school and was not happy, I guess the alternative was not possible, for us to have schooling in Accra, but it certainly messed up the way we turned out as adults!
We had a couple of houses in Accra, when Daddy was promoted, we moved.
- A minor earthquake lasting less than a minute but still a scary experience
- The only time sat on a horse was one Christmas, when the police came round, terrifying, as the horses were enormous!
- Michael, aged about 4, came in to the house with blood pouring out of his head, he said he had fallen, but we found out years later that he had been throwing rocks into the air and a rock had landed on his head!