Sitting here in the quiet stillness of my sheltered but tiny garden. I feel that Ihaven’t really told you very much about my old school in Putney. Queen Mary’s Preparatory School for Girls, to give it its’ full title. It was an Edwardian monstrosity, tall, dark and foreboding. It was actually taller than it was wide, as were all six classrooms, and the Assembly Hall. All were shoe-horned into a space the width of maybe three houses in a quiet leafy road well away from the busy high street.
It was here that wisdom was to be imparted into the heads of the few lucky girls whose parents had the slight wherewithal to pay the not too exorbitant fees. The staff were all women, and of a certain age too, and one or two of the really older staff wore their black University Gowns with their College Ribbons around the halter necks.
The classrooms were almost all identical and I can particularly remember green glass conical light shades on long brass chains hanging in regimented rows, each light imparting a six foot wide circle of light, so that on winter days there was as much gloom in the classroom as light.
The desks were also of Edwardian vintage I would say, and were paired together, each classmate permanently shackled to their twin. The sloping desk-tops were also lids to coffin-like boxes where we were supposed to keep our exercise books, pens, pencils, ruler and a bottle of Quink; but they also served as receptacles for each girls’s favourite pastime. Jennie had her stash of Woman and Woman’s Own, I could never quite work out if she had purchased or purloined them from her mother. Gwennie had her penknife, several swodges of damp blotting paper, and various balls of differing size and consistency. My desk was tidy and secreted amongst my exercise books would always be a novel or two, and one of many notebooks for my secret of all secret jottings. Here I would write down words I wasn’t quite sure of the meaning of, which I had come across in a book, or just a lovely turn of phrase, a neat simile or a clever metaphor. Wish I had them now.