By the time I was thirteen, I had been at boarding school for two years and had become a bit of a comedienne. I knew that being the classroom joker was not the brightest thing to be but I was fuelled by an inner rebellion, which I seemed unable to subdue. However, the inevitability of Saturday morning detentions helped me to cope with the interminable homesickness and made the weekends pass quicker.
I must have thought I was pretty funny outside the classroom as well. I cruised around the dormitories at night, flogging my stand-up comedy routine, even if I didn’t fully understand half the jokes in the more risqué part of my repertoire.
At least I was providing a distraction after lights out for everybody else who, like me, would just be lying in the dark and fantasising about our bedtime routines at home.
Tucked up in our nice, warm, comfy beds, tummy full of hot chocolate, the family dog curled up at our side, the sheets smelling of a pot pourrie of home sweet home and your mother murmuring sweet nothings before kissing you softly on the forehead then turning out the light.
The nighttime reality at my boarding school, which had been used as a barracks during the Second World War, was that we would fall asleep, listening to the sounds of our stomachs rumbling in our cold, barrack-style beds, the hot water bottle having long since chilled. We might actually have slept in the same beds as the soldiers but, at least the mattresses twenty-five years on were new, but we certainly felt the cold the squaddies would have experienced during the night.
Why our parents chose to send us away to school at eleven, was beyond me and I never forgave mine for it but, given my father experienced boarding school from the age of four and my brother at the age of eight, at least I enjoyed the comforts of home for a little longer.
My boarding school years turned me into a rebel, not a scholar and it is something that I have deeply regretted all my life, but I strongly believe that the eleven-year-old me just wasn’t mature enough to deal with being abruptly cut off from the safe haven of my childhood surroundings. But thank goodness that my sense of humour prevailed and helped me come out the other side.