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Below is an extract from my book 'The Little Window' (presently in preparation) concerning my time at St. Mary's Convent. To learn more about St. Mary's Convent you can visit their Web site.

ST MARY'S CONVENT IN THE 1950s.
(Taken from my book The Little Window)

That Autumn of 1953 was when St. Mary's Convent thrust itself into my haphazard life to shape me into a convent girl. Hitching up my thick, lisle stockings, I hurried along the Avenue towards the green door in the wall. My stomach was queasy and I needed two hands to turn the brass door knob; in spite of the countless girls stepping through, it had to be closed carefully behind each one!

I have sharp memories of those years - Judith, my friend and I taking our place side by side in the dark, old school, sitting in the corner classroom to the left of the ornately carved staircase. Our Form always had to be quiet as this room was next to Reverend Mother's study.

Across the linoed landing, beside the statue of the Sacred Heart, I revelled in Latin and Ancient History. As Miss Malone gave a spirited rendering of Themistocles' speeches, I sat staring down into the Italian gardens, dreaming of Athens, Sparta and freedom...

We tip-toed on through the years, quaint figures in our gingham starched pinafores, until Miss Malone was replaced by Miss Grant, whose academic gown swept upon the polished floor as she recited Virgil to her class, held spellbound by her classical pose, her tight black curls, her high-necked yellow blouse and black stiletto heels...

Still wearing our unbecoming pinafores, we walked, shying from the rain, across 'The Ramp', which is now enclosed by buildings joining the old and new part of the school. Along that narrow concrete platform, magnolias grew in profusion, filling the air with fragrance. Several times, 'The Ramp' was the venue for an outdoor Prize Giving; the teachers seated along it and their pupils arranged on rows of chairs on the facing lawn.

Together we sat on the lattice bridge, made of silver birch; in groups we climbed on the ornamented well on the Top Lawn until Sister discovered the 'crime' and, later, trooped in white dresses to sing 'The Hallelujah Chorus' to celebrate the building of the New Hall. On summer afternoons, we marched over the road to practise complicated routines to impress our parents on 'Parents' Day'. Under the amssive spreading tree, we bowed and jigged and 'Stripped the Willow' in our country dancing...

The event of the Spring term was our Retreat. It divided classroom friends of other religions, making us feel special and important. As they worked at their lessons, we prayed, but we had to keep silence as we walked through the woods with our prayer books, feeling like nuns in all but name. Afterwards we sat, breathless, in the Chapel, listening to the gaunt Jesuit missioner and emerged, chastened and silent, passing our non-Catholic sisters, giggling away happily on the stairs. Finally, the Retreat was over. Sated with sainthood, we bounded downstairs boisterously to be met by a pale and disapproving Sister sacristan carrying a pile of starched and perfumed altar linen.

Such eccentricities are not easily forgotten... I have only some dark memories of that rich education, when someone snapped my pencil or hid my shoes, but I always found my sandals and sharpened my crayons again. What I did find were a few true friends. So these childish sadnesses did not matter as there were always challenges, fresh problems to solve and the promise of final honours.

The Price of Beauty

The Price Of Beauty