Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Attending Boarding School - Seniors

Back in February, I wrote a Blogpost all about my arrival at boarding school (which you can read here) and promised to write a second part where I talked about my teenage years within the school. Considering that it is the 5 year anniversary since I left the school plus I went back to visit the other week (it made me ridiculously nostalgic) I thought now would be a great time to talk about those latter years.

When you are in year 10, you enter what is called The Seniors. And this gives you a number of privileges which you didn't have in your first three years. The main ones are as follows:

Wearing tights
This might not seem like much but up until that point, part of our uniform was that we had to wear yellow socks. They were itchy and hot and somewhat ugly so to be able to wear tights (or black pop socks in the summer), was a great privilege which all the girls looked forward to.

Allowed into other houses after dinner
In the juniors, you have tea at 5.30 and roll call (register) at 7 followed by prep (homework) at 7.15 and bed not much later. So after you were accounted for at the roll call, you weren't allowed out of the house again until the following day. However, as the seniors had much later bedtimes, when their prep finished at around 9.15, they were allowed to go and visit their friends in other houses.And you were allowed to sign out during prep as well to go to the library or to the music school or the IT suite or wherever. Just a little bit of extra freedom.

Use of senior kitchen and the in-house washing machine
The junior kitchen was always always disgusting somehow. Not entirely sure why. So to be able to use the private senior kitchen within house to make tea and toast and chat around the table, was great. I remember that every break time, we would all congregate there to have a quick cuppa and a chat and fight about who was going to do the crossword that day.

It was also amazing to be able to wash your own clothes, weird as that sounds. The school obviously had a central wash. But if you did it yourself, one you didn't have to ruin your clothes by adding name tags and two you didn't have to ruin them by getting them shrunk. The school wash basically burnt all our clothes and you knew if you put a pair of jeans or a jumper in there, it would never fit you again. So it was great to be able to wash your own clothes.

Allowed into the local town of Horsham
Up until this point, the Juniors were only allowed to wander around campus unless they were accompanied by a teacher. It wasn't too bad, because we had a Tuck Shop to buy chocolate and sweets and there was a sports centre with a café in if we wanted anything more (which most of the time we didn't). But when you entered year 10, you were allowed into town, once a week on an afternoon of your choosing. To be able to get out of the school grounds and have a little bit of normality was great. And even better if you were friends with a teacher's kid so you could get a lift and didn't have to pay for the bus.

These privileges grow as you do, mostly in that you get to stay up later. And then in sixth form, you get to go to the little on campus club and drink alcohol (heavily moderated of course but we would also sneak more in and then pretend we were lightweights).

In our final year of sixth form, we moved from the house where you spent the previous six years living, into what is called the Grecians Houses. This was a mixed-sex boarding house which you shared with just your year, so you got away from all the annoying younger kids. And you were treated much more like an adult.

You had many many more freedoms. For instance, you were allowed to bed whenever you wanted (although you had to be back in the house at 11), you were allowed into town as much and as late as you wanted, allowed into other people's bedrooms (which was very strictly forbidden in younger years) and they turned more of a blind eye to drinking. In many ways it was like a tame version of university halls.

Many of my fondest memories come from that year and even though the year was so so stressful with A levels and university applications, we had some hilarious times.

It is quite hard for you to get into trouble in Grecians. Apart from if you got paralytically drunk or was found in a 'state of undress' in a boy's room after hours. They pretty much treated you like an adult, but that first night in the Grecians house, we managed to get into trouble. As I said, we were allowed to bed whenever we wanted, they didn't come and put us to bed or anything. But there was a kind of unspoken rule that after you signed into house at 11, you went upstairs and either went to bed or worked quietly in your room at your discretion. You weren't really meant to be in other people's rooms or any of the social areas.

But obviously on that first night, we hadn't seen much of each other during the two month summer break and we were super excited. So after we had signed in, we all congregated in a room to catch up. And then for some stupid reason, at around 11.45ish, we decided to make a cup of tea in the little kitchen that was shared between about 10 people. We could have probably been subtle if we had been quiet and hadn't switched the light on. But we were neither of these things, so the housemaster came storming upstairs to tell us to get back into our rooms. We must have been the only Upper Sixth Formers in history who got sent to bed.

Considering how tired we were the majority of the time, we spent a remarkable amount of time, trying to avoid sleep. It was rather distracting having all your friends in one place. We, very often, would all pile into one bed and watch films late into the night. And then wake up hours later, very stiff because we had attempted to fit three people into a single bed (our record was 5, although one person did fall out, so I guess it was 4.5).

Occasionally we had a PROPER sleepover. Up on our floor we had a spare room, so every now and then, we would ask the cleaner to unlock it for us. And we would pile all of our mattresses into the room so they covered the floor, buy a load of food and wine, and have film nights or just chat. Slightly childish for 17/18 year olds, but it was great fun.

We did actually very much value our sleep though. Towards the end of my final year, I became so knackered, that I was napping about three times a day. I had perfected the art of the power nap so well, that I managed to sleep in our twenty minute break between classes at 11 and feel refreshed. And then, I would take another before lunch which gave me about 15 minutes, and normally one in prep (about 7pm) for 20 minutes and then I would go to bed at 11ish.

I actually became pretty ill that year, numerous times due to not enough food/sleep and too much stress. But somehow, I managed to escape the clutches of swine flu that swept through the school (as well as the whole country) that year. I still have no idea how I managed that.

Most of my 'illnesses' were self inflicted though. Drinking was rife in the final year. We were in fact allowed to sign in a bottle of wine, which you were meant to share with a friend. So everyone would do that, then drink a further bottle on their own upstairs and pretend that the resulting drunkness was due to being super lightweight. Which could actually be believed for most of us were a little underweight and weren't given big enough portions at mealtimes. I can remember one time, having my room inspected by the housemistress because she was suspicious that boys were hiding in there. So she opened up my wardrobe and I almost died, not because I did in fact have a boy in my room after hours, but because I had four or five wine bottles at the back. Luckily, she only glanced in and missed them.

My most ridiculous drinking story was probably the time I got drunk at 7.30am (hear me out). Back when I had received my AS Level results the August before, I had received a C in English Literature, which I was devastated about as I was aiming to study it at university. So I retook the exam in January and a lot was riding on the result. I was ridiculously nervous that morning, so I drank about 3 quarters of a bottle without having any breakfast. Not a good idea. It turned out, I had nothing to worry about anyway and I got the A I needed, but it was too late by then. I was already pissed off my head and I had to go to class. I was literally sitting in history swaying, and then in the mini 5-minute break we had in the middle of the double period, I felt the ridiculous urge to puke. My classmates said I literally turned green, so I just walked off back to house and snuck into bed to sleep it off. I don't think I missed much anyway. My history teacher was pretty crap.

Somehow the needing-to-puke-from-drinking was an ashamedly common occurrence during that final year. Right up until the very last morning. On our final night we had what was called Grecians Ball which was the equivalent of a sixth form prom. We didn't have one in year 11 so we had been waiting for this evening for 7 years and it was always a beautiful affair. The dresses were always stunning, we had a wonderful three course meal, a lot of dancing and then finally we would spend our final morning, going up a nearby hill and watching the sun rise over the school. It was lovely. And of course, there was a lot of alcohol involved. Right from the Pimms we were given while we were getting ready, the wine throughout the dinner and the after dinner drinks we bought. I was still drinking up on the hill too.

This wouldn't have been a problem but as part of the end-of-school regime the next day, (or later that same day, considering we went to bed at about 6am) was a Leavers Service where all the leaving sixth formers lined up and collected a Bible. I was feeling rough before I even entered the chapel, but with the whole school piled in there, it was hot and I just felt worse and worse. But I didn't want to leave and at one point I genuinely thought I was going to be sick all over the floor. I didn't know whether that would be worse, or walking out in front of everyone would be more embarrassing. But luckily, I did neither, my reputation as a 'good girl' stayed intact and my time at Christ's Hospital was officially over.

Summing up my life at CH is impossible. That school was my home for 7 years and I had experiences (both good and bad) that no one could understand unless you were there with me.

So what I will say is this. Don't ever judge my parents for 'sending me away'. It wasn't like that at all and I had the craziest, best childhood in that place. It was idyllic in some ways and I wouldn't change it for the world. It made me who I am today and I know I was the luckiest girl in the world to be able to attend this amazing school.

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