Thursday, 2 February 2017

Magical summer days at Rickmansworth Young Ladies College.

Magical Summer Days at Rickmansworth Young Ladies College.

Rickmansworth Young Ladies College boasted a fine choir; in its large manicured grounds stood its own small church the organ gifted to the church in the 16th century by Sir Richard De Chauncey. The girl’s voices echoed around the high vaulted stone ceilings as they sang the school hymn the only hymn John Bunyan was credited in writing sung to the Monks Gate melody “He who would valiant be”.

It was not the same words that Tamzin was singing though and the day was nigh when Tamzin was going to find herself in a heap of trouble if she persisted in her behaviour. I must admit her words did follow closely to the original words though. Tamzin’s version follows.

She who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster,
Let ‘er in constancy follow the Master.
There’s no discouragement shall make ‘er once relent
‘er first avowed intent to be a pill grin.

Singing the last line of the hymn terribly off- key she sang “she’ll labour night and day to be a pill grin” her intent could be mistaken of just awful singing.

Tamzin said she was particularly tickled about the bit about Giants, Hobgoblins and foul fiends. Be that as it may no doubt it was why she was never picked to join the choir.

It was midsummer and we were in bed by 10 pm. The sun’s rays managed to find the gaps behind the curtains and reflected the sunshine off the ceiling making it difficult to sleep.

Rhonda could not contain herself any longer.

‘Did you hear about some idiot tying Helium party balloons around the necks of the swans in the village pond?’

‘No Rhonda and I don’t care I am trying to go to sleep’ whispered Patience.

‘Well you should care, how are the swans going to feed off the bottom?’

I realized this was not going to be an early night.

‘Well can’t someone remove the balloons?’ I suggested,

‘Well no, because they run away as soon as you approach them’ replied Rhonda.

’Well why not tranquilithe them firtht?’ Elspeth had decided to join the conversation.

‘What with Elspeth?’ questioned Rhonda,

I could see what was going on here. Rhonda was determined to keep this conversation going as long as possible.

‘Tranquilither Gunth’ said Elspeth.

‘What thort of Gunth Elspeth?’ I asked.

‘Bridgette will you thop it’ said Patience irritably.

‘No, I am really interested’ I lied.

A scuffling in the ceiling interrupted Rhonda’s delaying tactics, ‘Hang on what was that?’

There was silence as the girls strained to hear the noises.

‘Perhaps it is the ghosts’ said Rhonda.

‘Shush, listen’ whispered Patience.

There was definitely something moving about in the ceiling.

Rhonda’s summation sounded reasonable ‘Doesn’t sound like Ghosts to me, there again has it not been proved beyond all reasonable doubt that ghosts do not make noises, I mean I have not read of any study done on this subject have you?

Rhonda was not going to leave this subject alone or allow us to get to sleep.

‘Rhonda I am not listening to you anymore’ whispered Patience.

I think Rhonda understood and that was the end of the matter.

‘Get your colloquial French notes out’ ordered Miss Pringle, ‘Oh I should alert you Marmalade has gone missing’

Marmalade was the terribly spoilt school cat. He spent most of his days luxuriating on the couch in the bay window in reception, in the winter he could be found underneath the warm radiator on a cat bed in the office. Rhonda reckoned he was as old as Miss Sefton, possibly older.

Miss Pringle continued ‘I have sent Briggs to look for him, so girls keep an eye out for him as you know he does not as a rule go wandering that is why we are worried about him’.

The last time Marmalade’s general well-being had been brought into question was when Miss Pringle warned the girls that Marmalade did not like Liquorice allsorts, Chocolate or saucers of Sherbet as part of his regular diet; she said it makes his hair fall out. Rhonda disputed this, not directly to Miss Pringle of course but to anyone who would be silly enough to listen to one of her impromptu and riveting lectures during lunch time.

‘Miss, I think Marmalade is in our dormitory ceiling’

Here we go; it is Rhonda going off half-cocked again but as Rhonda previously pointed out ghosts don’t make noises, well not real ghosts maybe someone masquerading as a ghost might. Rhonda was an attention seeker and I hoped when she put her hand up she had a little more than unsubstantiated suspicions on the whereabouts of Marmalade.

‘What reason have you got for saying that Rhonda? Miss Pringle asked.

‘Well we heard noises coming from our ceiling last night’

‘Right I will alert Briggs, thank you Rhonda, right colloquial French textbooks out girls’.

In my best French translation I inquired of Miss Pringle about my Aunts pen that she lost in the garden and the time of the next train to Marseille, the location of the nearest Police station and could I be directed to the Ritz Hotel where I ordered two Café sans Lait and a Mille-Feuille,

Rhonda meanwhile ordered the À la carte menu not too well done, avec chips et sprouts. Miss Pringle’s eyes glazed over as she shook her head, no doubt wondering if her years of teaching had been a complete waste of time. I averted my eyes to my desk and blushed crimson. We were released into the warm embrace of the late afternoon sun.

As we headed for the playing fields we passed reception when we caught sight of Marmalade in Brigg’s arms, covered in dust with his head covered in cobwebs like a bride’s veil.

As I approached reception to check my mail I saw a group of Gypsies being attended to by one of the office staff. I learnt that they had found young Jane Campbell wandering in Peckham Woods. It seems the class had stopped for a comfort stop and later moved on leaving Jane behind a tree. On trying to catch up she had taken the wrong path and got lost and was found by the Gypsies, which accounted for their presence in reception.

When I was recounting this event Rhonda inquired if they were selling pegs or did they want to purchase Jane because if they did they would need an awful lot of money seeing who her parents were, or were they just seeking compensation for finding the lost student? Fortunately at this point the school bell sounded which gave me the excuse to dash off.

All boarders were expected to return home during the summer school break. Those remaining being the gardeners, who tended the large gardens, mowed the huge playing fields with a maintenance supervisor and a couple of his men.

The morning of the summer holiday break had arrived, the scent of rhododendrons hung heavily in the air as did the smell of freshly mown lawns. The concourse in front of the building was full of animated students with parents inquiring of the teachers of the academic progress of their offspring while their young irreverently climbed the statue of Lord Horatio Grantham joining him on his horse. It resembled Victoria Coach Station, but it was expensive cars rather than buses that lined the manicured drive to the Gatehouse. 

They were sheer magical summer days at Rickmansworth Young Ladies College.