By the time I was twelve, I had been away at boarding school for a year and had become a bit of a comedienne. I was the classroom joker. Not the brightest thing to be, but I was fuelled by an inner rebellion, which I seemed unable to subdue. So, I took my anger out on the system. In some ways, the ensuing 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 really 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 otherwise be lying in the dark and fantasising about our bedtime routines at home. In my case… tucked up in my nice, warm, comfy bed in sheets that smelt of a pot pourrie of home sweet home. My tummy full of hot chocolate and my dog curled up at my side.
The nighttime reality of 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 long since chilled. We might actually have slept in the same beds as the soldiers but, at least the mattresses were new, but we certainly felt the cold the squaddies would have experienced during the night.
Why bother to have children if you send them away to boarding school? I never forgave mine for it but, I had a cushy time of it really. My father was sent to boarding school at the age of four – nothing short of barbaric – and my brother at the age of eight; at least I was allowed to enjoy the comforts of home for a little longer.
My boarding school years turned me into a rebel, not a scholar which 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.
Thank goodness that my sense of humour prevailed and helped me come out the other side.