Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Rickmansworth Young Ladies College or The Ghosts of Denham Hall..

Rickmansworth Young Ladies College or Ghosts of Denham Hall.

My name is Bridgette Campbell, I attend a very expensive and private Anglican Girl’s College presently known as Rickmansworth Young Ladies College, formally known as Denham Hall. It was originally the ancestral home of the Second Sea Lord of the Admiralty and 3rd Duke of Sussex, Lord Horatio Grantham he might have made First Sea Lord if it was not due to a careless, impetuous indiscretion with little or no heed to the resulting consequences with the daughter of the First Sea Lord, young Esmeralda. 

His exploits at the Battle of Trafalgar are thankfully better remembered rather than his nocturnal dalliances with this young lady.  Well that is the story the senior girls used to tell the new students.

I will make a single exception here and refer to the Rickmansworth Young Ladies College as Denham Hall in deference to its rich history. Denham Hall was built in the 17th century. Adjacent to the Hall was a small chapel and cemetery. Denham Hall was an imposing stately mansion built in the Gothic style, rich in history and rich in ghost stories put about by successive first formers new to the school. It is now a private boarding school for young ladies whose parents are the captains of industry, leaders of men a few who had managed in the most part to avoid the courts. 

The college is so private that I was the only girl there. Sorry that was a poor attempt at humor.

I digress, I remember the man saying we are not watching a hologram he said we are living in it. Is our perception of reality just a Grand Illusion? I hope so. I was blessed with a vivid imagination although mother disagrees and says it is more disturbing than vivid so I would like to crank this illusion up a bit. For example with the threat of oncoming winter I would like to leave each year with the Swallows and head for the sunshine, does that make any sense?

This was one of a number of random thoughts among many I had as I waited outside Miss. Sefton’s office for Tamzin.

You see Tamzin had been reported to the college principal by an alert villager who witnessed her riding on the cross bar of the grocer boy’s delivery bike. Thankfully our moral well-being was well taken care of. Tamzin told me later that the principle Miss. Sefton reminded her that the moral and spiritual well-being of the girls had been placed in the care and trust of the college and that fraternization with the opposite dare I say it SEX or was it species, was strictly forbidden and was completely counter-productive to our studies.

Rhonda is currently my second best friend and I would like to state categorically here and now it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the fact her mother sends her regular food parcels. I remember thinking perhaps this generosity was atonement by her parents who mistakenly thought they had accidentally booked their daughter into a Russian gulag, who knows?

It’s not that the food was bad at Denham Hall it is just they never gave us junk food rich in salt, sugar and fat, and lolly’s in all the primary colors, supplemented by commercial grade pap. As far as I was concerned it was the only failing the school had, which I suppose did not detract from the school achievements, academically speaking.

I headed with a hurried step to the science room to inform Rhonda hoping she would treat the news of the arrival of the parcel with utmost urgency.

We had a village tuck-shop and girls suffering from sugar withdrawals could take advantage of the school crocodile walks which took us into the village and past the little sweet shop where a girl fleet of foot could dash in and purchase a Sherbet Fizz or a bottle of Tizer without being observed by the rostered teacher.

Sunday’s were very special days. The whole school would march down to the village to St Mary’s Anglican Church when the weather was fine for the morning service dressed in our best school uniforms; blue pleated skirts carefully tailored two inches below the knee, white blouses and blue blazers, wearing our white panama hats and white gloves. Rhonda once remarked that the performance reminded her of a dressage event at her local pony club.

We were by comparison to other private colleges a wealthy place of learning. Patience always referred to our college as Denham Hall, Pty. Ltd. It was Elspeth that pointed out that the school was so wealthy it was “lithted on the thtock exchanthe”. We were continually reminded we were genteel young English ladies, born of well to do privileged families whose allegiance was to England, its way of life, customs, history, flag, the King and the Empire; well when we used to have an empire, that is.

Parents open day was a sight to behold. In the car park prestige cars were parked cheek by jowl the combined value would have fed a small child in Africa for hundreds of years, maybe thousands, who knows?

Denham Hall had gained something of a reputation at sports too. I remember quite clearly the swimming competition against Pixie Hill Camp, a government school. We had what is referred to as a ‘ring in’. What the Pixie Hill School coach was not aware was that Rebecca Tate also held the southern counties junior freestyle record for 100 meters, and was no slouch when it came to Breastroke either. Our coach Miss Frenzi thought it was pity to alert them.

She was a great believer in the old adage, what they don’t know won’t hurt them. She reminded us it’s a dog eat dog world out there and only the strong survive.

Miss. Pringle was my favorite teacher. She was the English teacher and Deputy Head. Her eyes used to light up, or perhaps glaze over whenever I approached. My friend Tamzin thought it was terror, be that as it may.

In the quadrangle during the lunchtime break I put forward the hypothesis to Miss. Pringle that archeologist may have got it all wrong. They wrongly assume that because the height of the doors of our ancestor’s houses was much smaller than they are today they must have been only about 4 foot tall. Not so I suggested; as our front door is almost seven foot tall, one day in the future the archaeologist will again assume wrongly the people’s height averaged 6 foot 6 tall. So I postulated that’s a good word by the way that by the same reasoning our ancestors might not have been five foot tall…at all, but only one foot tall. I should add here that Miss. Pringle was only 5 foot 5 inches tall.

It was at this point the conversation was cut short when Miss Pringle suggested I go to the playground and play with the other girls which were a pity as I wanted to discuss if Squirrels dream, or why dogs chase their tails but Badgers don’t.

Miss Sefton was our headmistress. She always smelt of moth balls. I put her in her late sixties; Patience currently my very best friend put her in the early hundreds. She always wore dresses that would not be out of place in a Barbara Cartland novel, that’s Miss. Sefton not Patience. Her glasses were held captive by a gold chain. I was mesmerized by the huge cameo brooch she wore, visions of the Queen Victoria and the Empire sprang to mind.

In the dorm we discussed at length if Miss Sefton ever had a male friend and if so were commitments of a permanent or personal nature ever discussed or rings exchanged, was she ever given a Christian name and did she have a childhood.

I would like to mention Mr. Crisis the Science teacher but when I mention his previous employment to non-residents of Denham Hall that he came from Proxima Centauri and at present he is on a sabbatical at Denham Hall I am accused of story-telling. He got into a lot of trouble recently when he accidentally took Rhonda off to his home planet by mistake.

Mr. Crisis was a total pain he was always showing off. One day in the science class he hypnotized Brittany into believing she was a Cocker Spaniel. I don’t think she ever came out of it.

A horrible rumor circulated that later was found to be untrue that she forsook her family and struck up a strange relationship with the gardener’s dog. On open day I overheard her parents discussing whether or not they should get her micro-chipped. Actually to be honest I am not sure if they were referring to Brittany or their family dog.

Mother on hearing of Brittany’s tragedy and being somewhat of a fatalist shrugged her shoulders raised her eyes to the ceiling and said to father at the dinner table “Ah well, nothing is certain in this life” Who could argue with that rationale?

Elspeth also wanted to join our gang; trouble was we had trouble understanding her. She told us her parents had made an appointment for her to see a Thpeeth Therapithed; she said his name was Doctor Perthy Thpenther. Using what I understood was speech therapy I had tried to get her to repeat words like disassociation and obsession.

So I conclude with the question who was the ghost that Phaedra said she saw in the Chapel, was it the ghost of Horatio still searching for his beloved Esmeralda?