Letters from the distant past

Share your memories and stories from the Hertford Christ's Hospital School, which closed in 1985, when the two schools integrated to the Horsham site....

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Letters from the distant past

Post by Jenny Pardington » Thu Sep 20, 2007 1:29 pm

On the DR Memorial thread I mentioned that I'd still got the old attache case stuffed with letters and said I might search it out. Well, having said it I then couldn't wait to find it.

So, here's the first one I pulled out. I'll leave the writer anonymous because I haven't asked her permission, but all other names are their real ones. It's very long, but I love the 1950s language and the breathless angst
Ward 8, CH, Herts. March 27th (not sure, but I think it's 1960, though could be 1959)
Dear Jennifer,

We've won the Sports' Cup! Isn't it wonderful. We beat 7s by 1 1/2 marks. Elizabeth O. (Ed. note, Elizabeth Onley) was wonderful. She got an awful pain after the 220 (she was second, Jane Norcock made a record) for various reasons, and the chucking was next but one after it. Anyway, she did it. She couldn't see straight when she chucked the first one, but it was her best, and, obviously, she won. Rosemary C. came 1st in the High Jump Class 2, Delphine came second in the Class 3 and, being Delphine, broke a pole! Liz tied 1st with Sarah Battye in the Open. Sarah Ram won the netball shooting Class 2 and went up the Inf. straight away afterwards with swollen glands (mumps???!!!?) 8's came 2nd in the relay, 2s won.

By the way, Peggy came down! She looked jolly nice, too. She's got some new specs, sort of (Ed. note: a drawing of something now worn by Dame Edna Everage) only not as exagerrated as all that. (Sorry! I don't think I've spelt ex....... quite right!) She had a grey woollen dress with a highish (though not very) neck, and a full skirt, and a straight green coat. Her hair was more or less the same, and she hadn't got very much make-up on. But she hasn't changed a bit, really she's exactly the same as she was when she was here. I thought somehow that she'd have changed, but she hasn't at all. She same and talked to me a bit, she said, oh well, never mind what she said. Oh dear, I really shall have to improve. She said I was lucky you were taking an interest in me, and I agreed with her there. Oh, shut up - I mustn't get sloppy whatever I do. Sorry, please excuse the outburst.

How's your letter list going? Don't bother about me if it's still impossibly long, I can wait. I'm glad your mother's a bit better now. Oh, by the way, I think it's possible that I may have gone up a little in Philippa's estimation. You see, I went to Ashbourne on Wednesday, and I ended up playing against Philippa. Well, the first few times that she got the ball I stood back and watched and then I thought why shouldn't I have a bash at tackling her because I could always sue her for damages if the worst came to the worst. So I did. Anyway, I turned several thousand times but noone bothered about that, and I think I must have put her off a bit (not by my wonderful playing, of course). I think if I was in the UVIth and notorious for the hardness of my hitting and my good stick-work, I'd be a bit non-plussed to see an insignificant (?) UIVth flying at me. One thing, she's jolly soft to bump into (luckily). At the end of the game she said "well played" (or something to that effect) and, well, anyway, I hope she doesn't think as badly of me as she used to.

Oh, I had a wonderful interview! Yes, honestly. I went in fear and trembling and by the time she'd got halfway through I couldn't control my grin any longer! She said I had a scientific mind (?) and that I ought to have been top of Geography and mind I am next term ("Yes, Miss West" says Innocence Y!) and oh, I know, I ought to be more like Bruce's spider and I mustn't glory in my misdemeanours and peccadilloes (or did she say armadilloes? I always get those two mixed up). She could have given me a foul one, but she didn't. She gave me a jolly nice one, and, as Peggy said, I didn't deserve it!

Clare's OK now, or more or less at any rate. Nobody likes to say anything about you when she's around. Of course, old Tactless here's dropped a few clangers, but everything's settling back to boring normality now, well perhaps not quite, because it's so near the end of term.

(Ed. note - will miss out a short chunk that's very personal to the writer)

By the way, I plucked up courage and went down to DR about something on Wed. night, it was awful. I worried solidly all the way through Lenten Addresses, I couldn't hold up my hymn book because my hands were shaking so much, and then I got down there, and I needn't have worried, because DR was terribly nice, and she's helped me a lot.

Oh, I got the book eventually, but I've got to pay another 1/- as it's 3/6. In the end Margaret asked Mrs Davies to get it for me and she did! I don't know! Susanna's taking it home for me if I don't leave it at school. I daren't take it home. Mummy was shocked when I mentioned that I'd read it last year. I don't know what she'd think if she knew I'd bought it!!! (Ed. note: I can't remember what dreadful book this might have been). I must stop now, and thanks (with the rest of 8s) for the charming (!!) card.

P.S. Sorry if everything about the sports has already been said in Angela's letter!
Jennifer Bore, 5's and 8's 1953-1960

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Post by englishangel » Thu Sep 20, 2007 2:46 pm

WHAT was the book, you could have told us!!
"If a man speaks, and there isn't a woman to hear him, is he still wrong?"

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Post by Ajarn Philip » Thu Sep 20, 2007 6:36 pm

Jenny, I know I'm a fella (well, obviously...) and a Horshamite, but may I say how much I enjoyed reading that. Obviously it takes time to type it out, copy it and post it, but it's not time wasted, I promise. More, please!
I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiffsquiddled around

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Post by Jenny Pardington » Thu Sep 20, 2007 7:24 pm

englishangel wrote:WHAT was the book, you could have told us!!
Well - I did put an Editor's note that I can't remember! There's a possibility that it was Eyeless in Gaza by Aldous Huxley - we were going through a bit of a Huxley phase and I know this one was a real eye-opener to my letter-writer. Though I really don't know! But if it had been anything more explicit I can't believe Mrs D. would have bought it for her.

And I'll dig out another tomorrow, Phil! Glad you enjoyed it.
Jennifer Bore, 5's and 8's 1953-1960

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Post by Katharine » Fri Sep 21, 2007 12:18 am

Those names for sports brought back memories - Jane Norcock was 6s and sprint champion. Sarah Battye lived in Thundridge which was one of my father's parishes, I think her mother was his churchwarden. Elizabeth Onley wa a superb violinist and went on to be a professional musician. Surely Philippa, fearsome on the hockey pitch would be Philippa Randall (6s), UVI in my first year, 1959-60?

I'd forgotten we called it interviews when DR came into the houses near the end of term.
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Post by Angela Woodford » Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:22 am

Katharine wrote:I'd forgotten we called it interviews when DR came into the houses near the end of term.
Those interviews!

On those nights, we'd do prep in House. There was the ordeal of being totally tidy and polished for the occasion. Starting from the bottom of the House, we'd come out from the dayroom (God, is it my turn?) wait in ascending twos or threes propped up against the radiator outside the Housemistress's study, where DR would be sitting inside in the Housemistress's armchair; utterly formidable.

I'd always feel alarmingly sick. I so hated it when the girl ahead of me came out of the Study in floods of tears, or, in answer to the whispered urgent "how did you get on?" replied "She said I was totally selfish!" "She said I had a false laugh!" "She said I should give up one subject!".

Then you knocked after a minute. It was the done thing to say "Good evening Miss West" on entering and "Good night Miss West" on departing. It was possible out of sheer nerves to get the two salutations mixed up - she'd then make the brusque correction, which kind of got the whole thing off to a bad start - the small queue outside the door would anxiously be reminding each other of the required sequence as they waited.

I'm actually feeling a shadow of that gut-wrenching anxiety as I type; decades later.

You had to stand meekly in front of the seated DR - no question of sitting to discuss your progress in a constructive way. It was agonising - well, the process was agonising, even for those who had a good interview. On one occasion she just began "Miss Blench thinks you're dreadful". "Yes Miss West" I said. The blunt approach made it impossible to articulate just why I knew Queenie to think me dreadful.

(And I was dreadful. The more I was considered dreadful, the more I clowned about, making a huge joke of my dreadfulness.)

One term I'd been commended for play in a tennis match. DR mentioned it, and I brightened. At last! I'd been competent at something! "I didn't know you were any good at a sport" she said. "Good night Angela". Exit, close to tears.

I note that, even though Jenny was given a good interview, she and her friend Peggy thought that she didn't deserve it and was terrified on going in.

I did love the letter, Jenny! Thank you.

I too wondered what that terrible book was! I seem to remember maybe 1969 - 70ish, a book called "The Passion Flower Hotel" circulated amongst a select few. It was the most daring account of girls' boarding school life that I'd ever read! I'd also read Mary McCarthy's "The Group" in Streatham WH Smith. I never bought it - I didn't dare!

Munch
Last edited by Angela Woodford on Sun Sep 23, 2007 10:03 am, edited 3 times in total.
"Baldrick, you wouldn't recognise a cunning plan if it painted itself purple, and danced naked on top of a harpsichord singing "Cunning plans are here again.""

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Post by Jenny Pardington » Fri Sep 21, 2007 7:30 am

Katharine wrote:Those names for sports brought back memories - Jane Norcock was 6s and sprint champion. Sarah Battye lived in Thundridge which was one of my father's parishes, I think her mother was his churchwarden. Elizabeth Onley wa a superb violinist and went on to be a professional musician. Surely Philippa, fearsome on the hockey pitch would be Philippa Randall (6s), UVI in my first year, 1959-60?
Right on all counts, Katharine! Elizabeth was a particular friend of mine and we did keep touch for a short time after we left CH, though I only seem to have a couple of her school-days letters. Because she was an RAF pupil (her father, who had also been a professional violinist, was killed in the Dam Busters raid) Barnes Wallis used to come and take her out from time to time and I sometimes went with her. She was also amazingly good at all sports.
Jennifer Bore, 5's and 8's 1953-1960

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Post by Jenny Pardington » Fri Sep 21, 2007 8:01 am

Here's another one - undated, but I think I was in the infirmary at the time. The writer (S.A.W.) was in 3's and we kept up a massive correspondence via various trusted messengers.
J.M.B.
This will arrive via the fire escape with any luck. I hope you are feeling better today. My legs are madly stiff and I can hardly put one in front of the other, due to an excess of sports practice. A.M.W.P. has just brought your note in - merci beaucoup.

DR gave us a moving lecture on improving world morals in confirmation class this morning. The way she puts it our paths are going to be beset by immoral young men waiting to pounce on us. Quite honestly I can't see that we can make much difference because most of us will probably never have to make the decision anyway. She also informed us that it isn't at all unpleasant being on the shelf but there wasn't much ring of truth in her voice. I suppose she would have liked to get married but I can't fancy her as my mother.

Music club last night was quite good. The pianist was excellent and the singer somewhat out of the usual run of squawky females that fall to our lot. The program (sic) was varied and well chosen: some Chopin, Debussy, Beethoven & Lizst with some English songs and lieder and then two operatic arias to finish with. There was rather a mix-up about the bouquets of droopy looking daffodils, but in the end all went well.

Valerie and I went to Early this morning and I like the service much more than the others. The words sound so much nicer. I never really listen to what they mean during the service, I just listen to the sound of them. I love the "Lamb of God" bits and the Nicene creed. I only wish I could write things that sound impressive but they never turn out somehow. Religion is a very satisfying thing but I can't tell whether it is the religion itself or just the words that are calming. I never really think of what it actually is, I suppose in a way I'm frightened to in case there isn't anything there but there must be I'm practically sure. Sorry I'm just rambling on thinking my own crazy thoughts. I go a bit funny sometimes.

I hope you can read this awful scrawl. My writing has gradually deteriorated throughout the day. I felt in a writing mood this morning and I have written a chapter in each of my current five novels and in the last one (an imbecilic satiric school story) you can hardly read the famous last words of the heroine as she goes into the cricket match. My unfortunate parents have yet to be written to and I reckon it will take them all week to decipher my short note.

I am lying on my back on my bed writing this and Julia's cacti are giving me menacing leers from the locker. Neobi, the Christmas cactus has a smug complacent smirk on her face that makes me want to run up the curtains. She, mistaking the season, produced a large red flower about three weeks ago and is still smirking about it. Frank (short for Frankenstein) regards me with suspicious hate ever since I threw my towel at Ju and knocked him off the locker.

My pen has run out and I am reduced to the indignity of borrowing the Dod's biro. Anything rather than going downstairs to get more ink.

P.H.S. (Ed. note: Miss Smith, who we all adored) came to chapel this morning wearing her red hat but that was about all I could see of her as we were at the back. We had a narrow escape on Friday. When we went into 2's Flossie arrived at 20 to 9 exactly 2 minutes after Jane and I had departed. P.H.S. was very nice and we talked for about 10 minutes on various subjects. She is thinking of organising a chess club if enough people play so get out your chess board. She likes Marlowe's music too. We sang her "What do you want" as she said she's never heard it, a fact I find difficult to believe.

I can't think of any more news - trivial or otherwise - except that my horns are exceptionally beautiful today.

Come down soon. I have no-one to talk to on Sunday evening.

Love S.A.W.
Jennifer Bore, 5's and 8's 1953-1960

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Post by Angela Woodford » Fri Sep 21, 2007 9:15 am

Jenny, you must have been in House, and your friend up t'Imf! You say "come down soon". One went up t'Imf and then back down. Or was the letter to you and not by you? Hmm, strong coffee time.

You wouldn't have taken your friend Julia's cacti up t'Imf with you? And you must have been pretty fit to have done all that sports practice and had a session with DR on World Morals that morning....

Immoral young men waiting to pounce! :wink:

(I was ill-equipped, after CH confinement, to deal with pouncing, but, after an excessive intake of Syrup Stodge, Sausage Hotpot, "Spong" with various custards, Spotted Dick, etc, I was not in any immediate peril! :cry:)
"Baldrick, you wouldn't recognise a cunning plan if it painted itself purple, and danced naked on top of a harpsichord singing "Cunning plans are here again.""

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Post by Jenny Pardington » Fri Sep 21, 2007 10:24 am

Angela Woodford wrote:Jenny, you must have been in House, and your friend up t'Imf! You say "come down soon". One went up t'Imf and then back down. Or was the letter to you and not by you? Hmm, strong coffee time.

You wouldn't have taken your friend Julia's cacti up t'Imf with you? And you must have been pretty fit to have done all that sports practice and had a session with DR on World Morals that morning....

Immoral young men waiting to pounce! :wink:
Yes Angela - you've got it the wrong way round - these are all letters to me, not the ones I wrote, of which I guess there are no traces. Hope the coffee helped!
Jennifer Bore, 5's and 8's 1953-1960

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Post by Ajarn Philip » Fri Sep 21, 2007 12:13 pm

What I want to know is, did S.A.W. ever finish any of those (5!) novels she had on the go? She obviously relished writing, as you can tell by the letter.

And... erm... what are/were her horns?
I know exactly what words I am wanting to say, but somehow or other they is always getting squiffsquiddled around

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Post by Mid A 15 » Fri Sep 21, 2007 12:45 pm

Jenny,

I agree with Phil.

These letters are fascinating. More please!
Ma A, Mid A 65 -72

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French vegetables and tins of biscuits.

Post by Jenny Pardington » Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:32 am

Here's another, slightly shorter, note from S.A.W. I do wonder what she's doing now - most of her letters to me are written during class so it's a wonder she learnt anything! Of course, the same applied to me when writing the replies.....
J.M.B. Salve
Back to the treadmill once more. Oh what a horrible thought. This term seems to be packed with all the things that I love - sports, Singing Comp etc. I have come fitted with wonderful resolutions about being good, not talking where I shouldn't and not being rude. Viewed in the cold light of day I fear these will hold no water. Oh that I had been born an angelic type - it would be so much easier.

We have just had the harrowing experience of a Latin lesson with Queenie. Now we are going round the form naming French vegetables. I have made three valuable suggestions (all unfortunately in English) of asparagus, carrots and corgettes (sic). We are going to read "The Three Musketeers" in French and she informs us with a pleased smile that it will be very difficult and I can see myself sitting doing something else while it passes over my head in sweet oblivion. People say on my report that I do not concentrate. They cannot have seen me in a lesson like English when I get so immersed in my own concerns that I don't hear a word that's said. Perhaps it's as well they don't see me.

Did you know that your clock is 10 mins slow? We got back to ward last night and spent our time slinking round doors avoiding Miss Robertson. I should think I'll make a wonderful foreign spy if nothing else. Anyway I got up to bed unnoticed clutching a decidedly sticky bar of chocolate. I left a tin of biscuits out on the table by mistake but I didn't dare go down and get them as Bobby was having Aunty Dot to late supper cum tea.

I must stop now as the lesson ends. Sleep well (if possible on a school bed) and remember your prayers. My toes get quite blue in this cold weather but it is so good for my soul.

Au revoir mon amie, S.A.W.
Biscuits? In a tin? I certainly don't remember such luxuries - but perhaps S.A.W. had brought them from home as this sounds like the first day of term? Aunty Dot was our occasional alternative name for D.R.
Jennifer Bore, 5's and 8's 1953-1960

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Post by Katharine » Sat Sep 22, 2007 8:52 am

Why were the sports held in the Spring Term, surely Summer would have been more appropriate?

By the way, Jenny, I have been wracking my brains and trying to imagine looking across to the 8s table and think I can just about remember a Jennifer Bore at the top end - I was the very bottom end of 6s table then!
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Post by cj » Sat Sep 22, 2007 9:22 am

How old do you think you might have been while this correspondence was taking place? It makes fascinating reading, but then all the Hertford memories do. It's a different world.
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