Today is father's day here in UK. Yes I had a father obviously (LOL) but I didn't really know him till I was in my teens. After my mother died in 1945, he remarried and I was adopted by my grandparents. My name wasn't to be changed so a new surname was added to my birth name, this was a request of my mother.
All was fine until my grandfather died when I was 6. I suppose a lot of how my grandmother behaved was because of lack of money, but I was often the brunt of her violent temper. While my grandfather was alive he often stood between me and Mam. He called me 'cariad' welsh for darling. I missed him more than anyone could have guessed.
If people ask me about my childhood, I say it was pretty miserable, except for my one aunty, my mother's sister who also lived with us. She treated me as a daughter and if I have anyone to thank, it is her for my start in life. She paid for my piano lessons and when I didn't make the grade to go to a Grammar school, she got in touch with my father and between them, they paid for me to go to St Clare's High School for girls, a convent. I wasn't RC but you didn't have to be and being there was the best years of my teenage life. Although most of those years I wore second hand uniform, and do you know what, I didn't even notice!
We had never heard of the convent, but one day at the beginning of the summer holidays, my aunty came cycling home from work in the middle of the day. 'Put on your Sunday dress and clean socks,' she said, wheeling my bike to me.. and off we peddled. It was about 2 miles to get there and we had to be there by 2:00pm.
Her friend had been in the shop to tell her that the convent was opening their doors to non-Catholics, you just had to past a test. To say I was surprised when the door opened to reveal a woman dressed in a nun's habit is an understatement, I was just a bit afraid. 'Do your best,' said my aunty, 'and cycle home when you're done.'
I sat in a room with four other girls; there was a straight arithmetic paper, then a writing paper. A lot like the 11 plus paper I had just failed!! But at the end, we were allowed outside in the garden for 10 minutes, then the nun in charge gave us each a sealed letter and were told we could go. The other girls went out to their parents, all waiting in cars!! This was 1952, the only people I knew who had cars were Drs! I got my bike and peddled home.
But I got in, I passed the test, probably by the skin of my teeth, but it opened doors for me that I would never have dreamt of.. I wonder where Peta, Christine, Penny, and Louise are today, they were the other girls taking the same test that day. We stayed friends all through my stay in that school and in 1954, my aunt paid for me to be a weekly boarder. It was wonderful, so different to my miserable home life. I loved every minute and at the end of it I had 10 'O' levels, called the School Certificate in those days. I grew to love that first nun I met, Sister Mary Bernadine, as though she was my mother. Nothing she asked me to do was too much trouble; I cried buckets when I left, but did go back to see her when I finished my nursing training. She commented on how well I looked and grown up, well I was 21.. 'not at all like the wee scrap she first met,' she said.
The school was bought by a consortium 12 years ago and 2 years ago it closed. I was very sad to read that.
But before it closed a few years back, when in my home town, DH and I went to see it. We walked up the drive, right up to the large country house that was the main school, no one stopped us to enquire what we were doing. It was very changed. Then we walked to the large house that was part of the boarding school and I peered into a ground floor room that I shared with Terri, Mair, Michelle and Anne. How small it looked but it was often filled with screams and laughter, we had such fun. Sometimes I went to sleep chanting my French verbs with them, or reciting a Keat's poem. Such happy, happy days. I will always be grateful to that Aunty for paying for me and for the love I received in that school.
(Signing off today with my birth name)