#MayWriteABit 2020 day 14, 15, 16
Catching up again! I’ve had very little inspiration for this sequence, certainly not enough for one post each, so it makes sense to do another combo post.
The main thing that comes to mind are memories of the horrible ages of 14 15 and 16, those awful growing up years, puberty, O levels and first steps into being ‘grown up’.
So, vaguely in order, some recollections:
I went to a girls’ grammar school, which was about 10 minutes walk from my house. I was academically very good, but not socially [not unusual lol] and had only one friend from primary school. Always coming top of the class [well mostly] made some people dislike me even more, but I already expected that from primary school, so it only occasionally got to me. I learned that being funny made me more acceptable so I got good at telling jokes, the ruder the better!
I still enjoyed school, I liked learning…apart from Chemistry! By the time I was 14, we had made our O level choices, and I dropped all the sciences in favour of languages and art. I can’t help it, I love Latin and French. I used to love Physics as mentioned before, but dropped it because I’d had some childhood illness [mumps I think] which kept me off school for a few weeks, and I didn’t get the score I was used to in the end of year exam. I couldn’t handle failure, I’d had no experience of it up til then. [Plenty since!]
Nowadays, bright kids do a LOT of subjects at GCSE, as the school’s reputation rests on figures…in the 70s, most did 5 subjects at O level or CSE, and even at grammar school we only did 8. I was still told by future employers that this made me over-qualified for the clerical jobs I interviewed for! I can guarantee you that GCSE content is way lower than the old O levels, at least in maths. I can show my A level students questions from 1976 and they just sit there, jaws dropped- especially when I tell them we did not have calculators then.
I never had a boyfriend. Socially awkward + parents who don’t really socialise much + girls’ school + physically immature did not make for many contacts with the male of the species. I remember a few excruciatingly embarrassing school discos where we hooked up with our ‘twinned’ boys’ grammar school. The pretty girls with boobs got asked to dance, I stood at the side and felt like crap. I remember going ‘up town’ with friends on Saturdays, and we’d do all the usual silly girl stuff, trying on hats in the ladies’ department and giggling til we got thrown out, sampling makeup we couldn’t afford, and following boys around. Sigh.
I took my O levels in the long hot summer of 1976. I recall some bright sparks teaching each other how to faint so that you could guarantee at least one interruption as a girl keeled over in her seat during every paper. After the exams, I went for my first ever no-adults holiday with a group of four other geeks. We spent MONTHS arranging it, and headed off on a coach to a neighbour’s chalet near Prestatyn. We felt very grown up and daring, but were being watched over the whole time by the couple next door of course! No telephones, a TV with poor reception, sun sea and sand.
Two of my pals turned out to be rather braver and wilder than the rest of us, and brought some blokes back to the chalet. Two wiser souls fled, and I was too shy and naïve to reject the advances of the ‘spare’ bloke very efficiently. It was cringey, but could have had a more serious outcome I suppose. As it was, he declared himself ‘in love’ and hounded me for about a year afterwards, sending long weird letters, and way-laying me some weeks after when I was back in the chalet with my mum, brother and sister. I got rid of him eventually, but I still wince at the memory of being wooed to the tune of ‘Combine Harvester’ by the Wurzels. I kid you not.
It was while I was on that 2nd holiday with my mum and sibs that I had to phone home from a phone box to get my O level results.
I FAILED GEOGRAPHY!
I still grumble about it- the teacher had weirdly taught us all the wrong topics- we had some explanation given about there only being limited resources and the 2 geography teachers had shared them out so we each got taught different things, which sounds decidedly odd. The only question our group could answer was on glaciation. I remember desperately trying to spin my solid knowledge of glaciation to answer all the other questions: ‘There is no evidence of glaciation in this aerial photograph of a coal mining town. If there was, you would expect to see….’ We were offered a free re-take the following year, but I sulked and declined, and took Spanish instead. At least I left school with my expected 8 O levels! A levels however…that’s another story.