Kathy Martin’s life story (2)

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.
Accra, Ghana

Accra, Ghana

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!

BOAC tin

BOAC tin

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
  • Neil Armstrong

    Neil Armstrong

    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!

My life continues next time

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11 Responses to Kathy Martin’s life story (2)

  1. Yvonne Gidlow says:

    Dear Kathy, I was recently looking to show my daughter where I went to school and came across your blog, so I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch. I remember you very clearly along with several other of my boarding school friends. I always remember you as a very kind and considerate girl, and popular within the class. I also remember you had a very pretty face and, may I say, you haven’t changed that much. You mention that I was strange and had a fetish for washing my hands. I’m flattered that you remember me. I cannot comment about being considered strange as you obviously have your own views, but for the life of me I cannot remember having a fetish for washing my hands (was school life that dirty I wonder?)
    I never realised you were bullied at school but I did start a year later than you. I started with one other new boarder who left after two weeks because she was so unhappy. I also remember being bullied and you were particularly kind.
    Anyway onto more interesting things. I have to say I enjoyed reading about your life and I was so sorry to hear about your husband who seemed to be a wonderful person. You were very lucky to have found each other and to have had such wonderful times. Like you I have one daughter and a beautiful granddaughter, and my daughter is expecting another baby in July. I have been married to my husband David for forty years. We have had a great life working abroad, and we have lived in Surrey for many years. I would love to hear from you. Much love Yvonne Gidlow (nee Davis).


    • alikathy says:

      I must start with a MASSIVE APOLOGY if my memories of you were upsetting to you! No cruelty was EVER MEANT! Just my memory – possibly distorted over time?
      Would love to get in touch again – are you on Facebook? I am as Kathy Martin. Happy to hear you have also been married to David for 40 years. Love Kathy


      • Tony says:

        Hi Kathy,

        I would love to get intouvh with u about Jan Rietdijk there are many questions I have about him.

        Please let’s be intouch my number in Cape Town South Africa is 0027620585110. It is a matter of urgency.



      • alikathy says:

        Unfortunately, I am very sorry to say that Jan died several years ago now. My email is 19alikat47@gmail.com


  2. Tony says:

    Hello Kathy.

    I have sent you an email thank you.


  3. Avia Guilmant says:

    Hello Kathy,
    I have just found your blog, reading it did make me laugh and brought back some vivid memories. I was in the same year as you and ‘a day bug’ as we were affectionately or not so affectionately known. Probably something to do with the level of teenage girls’ hormones I expect – we could be a bitchy lot!
    I was the quiet one who couldn’t read (now known as dyslexia) was good at art and games. I seem to remember we were both in the netball team.
    I can remember the names of all our year group and their young faces. I agree with Yvonne, you haven’t changed much from your photo. My mother and older sister went to the same school. Mum used to go to all the gatherings, she had very happy memories of the place. I don’t think I ever fitted in, I was horse mad and didn’t particularly liked being moved from a mixed school to an all girls school.
    I do remember being dragged out in front of the whole school by a sister Stephanie and hauled onto the stage to be admonished for wearing the ‘wrong’ tights. The knock on effect of that public humiliation was far reaching.
    I couldn’t wait to leave at the end of the five years with my three o-levels! A spectacular fail with a grade 9 in English Lang. and Religious studies. I later got a first at uni for my dissertation and am now an atheist!
    I live in Brighton with my long term partner and between us we have three sons, a daughter and five grandsons.
    Lots of love,
    Avia (Guilmant.)


    • alikathy says:

      Glad you enjoyed reading my blog about my school days!

      Also, happy you have enjoyed your life and like me an atheist!

      My daughter had just celebrated her 18th wedding anniversary and her son will be 15 just before Christmas. Unfortunately my darling Alistair died on 1st November 2015, just short of our 40th wedding anniversary on 27-3-16.

      However, I still love living in the TRNC (Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus) we moved here in May 2006! Never could adapt to the awful weather in the UK!

      Have not kept up with anyone from school on Facebook as I was extremely unhappy there!
      Keep enjoying your life and family
      Love Kathy x


  4. Avia Guilmant. says:

    I have just read more of your’s and Alistair’s blogs,(so sorry to hear he died, he sounded like an amazing person.) My comments must have appeared rather flippant.
    What an extraordinary life you have led, you must be a very strong woman to be able to share your experiences with the world. I have a great deal of respect for people like you.
    I was married for eighteen years to a man who had a serious drink and drug addiction. Twenty seven years ago, to the day, I met the love of my life and with his love and support I turned my life around. My life started at fourty, I went to university, became a Grandmother and for the first time in my life made my Mother proud of her second daughter.(I have three sisters.)
    The convent worked for some, the bullying turned me into a nervous wreck, which wasn’t helped by having a bi-polar mother and later a chemical induced mad husband! I am pleased to say that at last I have a semblance of self confidence and despite the dyslexia I am writing a novel.
    I understand you have MS, my oldest and dearest friend Carolyn who was in our year also has MS, she too is an amazing woman.
    Love Avia x


  5. Celia Barker says:

    Dear Kathy,
    I also came across your blog when google searching for our ‘beloved’ convent. I remember you, Avia, Euphemia, Philippa, Ursula… and a few others although I can’t say I enjoyed being a pupil at the school. Unlike you, I could escape and make my way home every day. I remember almost being expelled for playing ‘consequences’ in a study period and having the piece of paper confiscated. It seems MMP and Mr BO weren’t too pleased about being in the locker room together……….. I can’t remember who my co culprits were but the memory of being hauled up to MMP’s office is still vivid in my memory
    My husband, John, and I visited Cyprus last year, the first time I had visited since we left the country of my birth when I was one year old. I thought it was inexcusable not to revisit where my family lived for a few years (Famagusta, albeit the part cordoned off). John and I married almost 7 years ago and live mainly in Italy- sometimes in Wimbledon and I have a small holiday home in the Peleponnese. It was interesting to compare Cyprus with mainland Greece, which I know well.
    I am sorry to hear of your loss. My late husband, Mike, died in 2000 when our daughter was 14 years old. I understand how devastating it is and how life changes.
    I will dive into other parts of your blog and send you my best wishes. There were such bright and intelligent girls at the convent but it seems most found their feet despite the Canonesses of St Augustine, not because of them.
    Celia (Barker)


    • alikathy says:

      How wonderful to link up after all these years, although if I am honest I can’t remember your face after all these years!
      Thanks for your kind words! When you say country of your birth presumably the undivided island of Cyprus!
      I am on Facebook and have become friends with Avia! My younger sister Angela still lives in Hastings and is FB friends with far more ex-pupils!
      I had NO desire to get back in touch with people who bullied me so much as a “fattie”!
      Best wishes to you and if you want to email me direct my address is 19alikat47@gmail.com


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