I heard Pink Floyd’s “A Brick in the Wall” yesterday on the radio. And so now I have the phrase “If you don’t eat yer meat, how can can you have any pudding?” rolling around in my head. It is the only thing I could come up for the letter “Y” in this 2018 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Of course, this begets the question – what do I have to say about “…you can’t have any pudding.” I am not going to write about the British schooling system, because I know nothing about that. I could tell you about boarding school life in Australia – I do have knowledge of that, or at least what it was like in the late 60s, and early 70s.
This may seem like a shameless plug for my book – which really it is. But since the book is not completely written, and by the time it is, you will have most likely forgotten that I ever did this to satisfy my “Y” post.
The following is an excerpt from the book I am working on presently “Dreaming Through Time”. It is about three girls, attending a boarding school in Australia in the late 1960s, who are simultaneously visited by a very wise ancient aboriginal man in their dreams, and the adventures they experience and the knowledge they gain while dreaming through time. The setting for the excerpt below takes place in the Dining Hall.
If we behaved badly we went to the Headmistress’ office. She meted out all punishment. Or so we thought. She had a line of canes hanging on her wall across from her desk. The person who was guilty of some infraction was required to select the cane of their choosing and receive several wallops on their bottom. I had been sent there once for poking someone with a compass because they had annoyed me so much, but I didn’t get any wallops, I just sat and talked with Ms. Watson, the Headmistress, about how I should not do things like that, and how if someone annoys me I should just smile primly and walk away.
I really liked Ms. Watson, she smelled like dogs and gardenias. She had two Corgi’s that smelled kind of doggie, they were always at her side. I suspect she owned Corgis because that is the kind of dog the Queen had, or maybe she just loved that breed. But they went everywhere with her, in fact they were in the Dining Hall at her side this morning, waiting for little bits of bangers to plummet to the floor, not that much food plummeted anywhere in the Dining Hall, that would be most unladylike.
When we were all finished with our cups of tea, Ms. Watson rang the little silver bell to get our attention. One wouldn’t think the slight tinkling of a little bell would be enough to attract the attention of 150 girls in a large Dining Hall, but it was. There was a great shuffling of bodies and jodhpurs as we all turned toward the Head Table to give her our undivided attention.
She stood regally up at the Head Table looking at all of us, waiting for the hall to go completely silent. She was diminutive in stature, and always wore tweed, even in the hot summer months. She reminded me of Queen Victoria, with her slightly plump face, and the way her upper eyelids seem to hood her eyes. She had the bluest of eyes, the blue of the Australian sky on a winter’s morning, so blue they were almost midnight blue. As kind as her eyes were generally, with a slight squinting of those same eyes, Ms. Watson could make you feel she was looking into your very soul. Nothing got past her, she knew all the tricks and could see through a fib in a second flat. She was very clever though, because she wouldn’t call a student out on a lie, she let them dig themselves in deeper and deeper, and then point out the flaws in the story.
“As you are all well aware, a bush fire broke out behind the dormitories last night. The fire has subsided and we are in no danger at all. Thank-you to all of you for acting quickly, notifying the Matron and getting to the Auditorium promptly. Our daily schedule will proceed unaltered.” She paused momentarily and then said, “Does anyone have any questions, any concerns that might need to be addressed?”
Everyone kind of shuffled their feet and murmured how they didn’t have any questions, while looking at the girls at their respective tables. At my table, all students were staring at me, as well as the Math Professor, who kind of inwardly groaned with her eyes, if that is something one can do, because they knew if anyone was going to ask a question, it would be me. So as not to disappoint any of my table mates, I raised my hand, ever so slightly. The occupants at my table groaned, but secretly in their eyes, I could tell they couldn’t wait to see what I had to ask.
Ms. Watson, with her eagle eyes, espied the motion from our table, and leaning slightly to the right, while standing on her tippy-toes said, “Ms. Phillips, is that you?” which of course she knew it was me, but she wanted me to question my own sanity for thinking the asking of a question was something done by a person with their faculties still about them.
I answered, “Yes Ms. Watson, it is I.” That kind of made me giggle, I felt like I was in some Shakespearean play, with French Horns quietly playing in the background, and antelopes loping about.
“Do you have a question, Ms. Phillips?” Ms. Watson said. One thing you learned quickly at boarding school, if a staff member said your name over and over again, after each sentence, you could pretty much be assured they were becoming very annoyed with you. I pressed on.
“Yes Ms. Watson, I do have a question. I was wondering who that man was in the window.” This elicited a great shuffling of jodhpurs and a low grumble of murmuring throughout the Dining Hall.
“What man would that be, Ms. Phillips? I could see, even from the distance I stood from Ms. Watson, she had slightly stiffened by this question. The room went silent.
“The man in the window of the dormitory. The man that seemed to come out of the bush fire and move so quickly. Where did he come from and who is he?”
“I do not know about this man? “ She quickly looked at her staff at the table with raised eyebrows. I could see a very light shrug of shoulders, a tilting of heads as if the other staff members at the Head Table knew nothing about this man.
I continued. I figured I had walked the plank, so to speak, and now I must take the plunge. There was no turning back.
“Yes, the ancient Aboriginal man, with the white clay all over him, and the floating, side to side way he moved. It was if he was magical.” The other girls, who I had knew had seen him as well, mumbled quietly in agreement. They too had seen the man. Why was this ancient man flitting about behind the dormitory, in the midst of a raging bush fire?
“Perhaps it was just a Kangaroo, escaping the fire.” Ms. Watson said.
Well, having lived my whole life in Australia, I was pretty sure I knew the difference between a Kangaroo and an Aborigine. But I also knew that I wasn’t going to get anywhere with this questioning, the wall had been put up by the staff at the Head Table, a wall of silence because they knew nothing. I let it go.
“Yes, perhaps that is all it was.” I sat back down. Everyone at my table looked at me with relief, all silently grateful that I had realized my line of questioning was silly.