Category Archives: Guest post: other

Crime and Punishment: memories of school

My husband and I had an unusual experience recently. We visited his old school, along with about 60 other men in their 60s and above. There were also a few other wives. Let me explain why we were there, and the impact of the visit.

New Use of School Premises

In the early 1950s, he went to a boys’ grammar school. In the UK, this is a state high school for boys aged 11 and over. It was located in the extensive docks area near Tower Bridge in the East End of London. Most of the boys were from local working class families, but the school had a good reputation and they studied hard.

In the late 1960s, the school re-located to another part of London and the premises were used for various other educational purposes. It eventually fell into dereliction. The area, in the meantime, changed beyond all recognition and is now full of restaurants and office buildings spilling over from the business district in the City of London.

A few years ago, the school building was bought by an Indian luxury hotel chain called the Lalit. It was given a complete makeover and is opening for business shortly. As part of the hotel opening, all alumni of the school and their wives were invited to a reception to see how it had changed. We were feted with champagne and taken around the building.

The old assembly hall had become an elegant dining room and the ordinary school rooms had become well appointed guest rooms. There were also the usual places associated with a hotel, including reception rooms, a bar and so forth. Everyone agreed that the renovation had been an excellent job. It was splendid to see.

Memories

While we trooped around the premises, the men exclaimed about the changes of use. They said things like “This used to be the physics lab!” and exchanged memories of being there.

There were memories of sports events, exams, the way assembly was run, particular teachers and eccentric classmates. Conversations started with “Do you remember…?”

But by far the most common memory was of having been caned by the headmaster. This is known in England as “six of the best.” One man remembered a stool he had to hold onto while he bent over to be thrashed. Another, presumably a bit of a tear-away, proudly claimed to have had over 150 lashings over his time at the school.

My husband said that he had had only one caning, for admitting that he had taken a second pudding, or dessert in American English, at lunch. He had not been the only boy to do so – just the only one to admit it.

Nobody remembered the head with any affection.

Women’s Memories

An equivalent group of women of a similar age, wherever they are in the world, are likely to have very different memories of school. Punishments might still be a strong component. Indeed, it brought back my own memories. I was generally a very well behaved little girl, but I still remember being called in to a head teacher when I was about eight for loudly singing the well-known Christmas carol about three kings in its inappropriate form. The words included something about a rubber cigar.

We girls were beaten much less frequently than boys, I am sure. However, we were told off, given detention and generally forced to undergo some unpleasant activity in an effort to make us behave. And corporal punishment continued in some places for a long time, as my daughter-in-law, who left her school in a small town in Louisiana in the 1980s, informs me.

These memories sit in the back of our heads, rarely aired. But when they come out, they are very strong.

This was originally published by Sixtyandme (http://sixtyandme.com/discipline-and-detention-looking-back-at-school-in-the-1950s/)

Why downsizing is so difficult

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When I was young, I would look at old people living in big houses and think it was all wrong. Young families needed their space, so why didn’t they just move on and let others have their houses? And anyway, wouldn’t they prefer a place that was easier to manage?

Ah, yes. If only it were that simple. As we of older years well know, moving anywhere is a very major decision and a very difficult one. Perhaps some find it easy, but I have yet to meet them. It is a huge upheaval, both practically and – perhaps more importantly – emotionally.

Practicalities

Downsizing means finding a new place to live. Do you move to a new area to live near your children or simply to gain new experiences? That means leaving behind all your local knowledge, such as the best shops for your favourite food. You may well miss the neighbours – the people who look after the cat when you are away or even help out when you are ill. Such support is not easily replaced.

There is also the question of what kind of house or flat you move on to. You expect it to be better, but you also know there may be hidden problems. You may find you miss having that extra room. Or the walls are too thin and the neighbours noisy. Or it is harder to get around by public transport.

Looking through your past life

But most difficult of all, downsizing means sorting through all your things and throwing or giving a lot away. To young people, such sorting may seem like nothing more than a lot of boring afternoons spent going through old stuff. To us, in contrast, it means confronting some heavy emotional issues.

Many of the things you own have a significance for one reason or another. Some may remind you of your childhood or earlier years. Some may have belonged to your late husband or your parents or even grandparents. Going through these things means thinking about your life and what was important in it. Getting rid of them means saying good-bye to your past. These are very difficult tasks.

The good side

Of course, there are many good reasons to move. By buying a smaller place, you will invariably release some equity, enabling you to pay off your mortgage or otherwise cushion your future. Or it might provide capital to allow your children to put down a deposit for a home of their own. It will also be cheaper to run and easier to clean and maintain. It may be newer, brighter, and more in keeping with your current and future circumstances.

Making the decision

All in all, it is a very difficult decision. You may want to act when you are young enough to weather the upheaval. You don’t want to be faced with a move just when your spouse or partner has died.

Thus, a lot of us will conclude it is an excellent idea to move on, but maybe it could wait a few more years. If that is you, you are not alone.

This was originally published by British Seniors (https://www.britishseniors.co.uk/life-over-50/guest-authors/why-downsizing-is-so-difficult/)