Saturday, March 31, 2007



I shouldn't be putting up a new post as I am meant to be chasing the dust, spiders and the old bones belonging to Gus. However, taking a look at the bookshelf in the bedroom (Ikea's cheapest!) has put me off. It's not all that big, but the books are three deep on each shelf and it's about time that the books at the back made their way to the front for an airing. Even the top of the bookshelf is full - reference books, gardening books and Mac for dummies in large quantities.

And my dear old bear. I shouldn't call him old, as he and I are the same age! He used to growl, but seized up many a year ago. I can't remember the makers' name as it was on a hind paw which over the years has disintigrated and the lable has disappeared. Perhaps I might find out something about him on the Internet...

So digging through the pile of books, I thought I might write about one or two of them next week. My problem is that once I start going through my books, I decide perhaps I will have a quick read, so spring cleaning might be compromised!

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I was going to post a blog this morning as I was feeling quite grumpy. However my daughter rushed in yesterday afternoon in a panic as her babysitter for my six month old grandson had stood her up at the last minute, and she was on the late shift. Babies, however dear, and blogging do not go together. And of course I can no longer remember why I was feeling grumpy - probably because my small sleep allowance was significantly reduced with The Baby.

Oh yes, I was also feeling grumpy having read in this morning's Figaro that the boss of Barclays Bank earned £34 million squid last year, which I find totally scandalous. No-one can be worth that money. Can they? Perhaps I am jealous - imagine, I could have his job for a year, or even six months, and then retire most gracefully!

And it started snowing at 630 this morning and I am fed up with the non-snow this year - last year we had heavy snow until the middle of May and then suddenly within two weeks it had melted and spring arrived. This year we lurch from thick snow to no snow within 48hours and just when spring looks as though it might arrive - wham, another snow fall.

The Daughter and The Baby left earlier, I was just about to take the dog for a walk and the 'phone rings - my 'dear' ex for his bi-monthly counselling session. My ex and my mother are very similar - they are both total hypocondriacs and I get hours of descriptions of their illnesses - both of them assume that I am fine and well and healthy and off they ramble; thank goodness I have a solid constitution - perhaps I should pluck up the courage and tell them I have some awful illness and see how they react - they might even hang up! Serves me right for being too wimpy to stick up for myself, and that makes me grumpy, too.

So the day was lost - the only positive note was that my little black friend eventually got a good gallop and I came home in a much better frame of mind!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


After last night's pub quizz which saw Gigi winning the first prize, a little information on the Crown from the parents used to own this pub in the 1960s. The Crown is one of the oldest pubs in England, and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book, although it would appear that it really got going on a permanent basis in the 13th century when it was enlarged and probably improved. It is on the old London to Portsmouth road and was a staging post. It was said that Elizabeth I stopped off there for a quick pint, but if she really went to all the pubs that now say she stopped there, the poor woman must have been on one continual pub-crawl throughout her life!

As a child living there, I loved that pub, and my brothers too. We actually lived there for a certain time until my parents bought a house nearby and could then re-let the two bedrooms we occupied. In those day, the Crown was very fashionable and a very busy place - on the weekends it was heaving as the 'bright young things' came down from London for the weekend, often on their way to Goodwood for the horse or motor racing. We actually saw little of this, as unless the bar was quiet at lunchtime, we were not allowed in and in the evenings we were packed off to bed (remember those days when you had to go to bed when it was still light outside?). We also rarely ate in the dining room, but had our own little room nearby. If this was used as a private dining room we were then allowed into the main diningroom for lunch which was a great treat. The starched tableclothes, the linen napkins splayed out in a fan shape, the grissini, the butter cut into fancy shapes - we thought it was marvellous. Don't forget we are in the '60s and dining in England at that time was prawn cocktail and fillet steak and if you were really extravagant, crepes suzette cooked over the lamp at your table!

The Crown had a ghost - we were convinced of this. We never saw it but there was an area upstairs that was always cold and chilly and I used to run through that part of the house at great speed. Once in a while I have a vague dream involving that corridor - it's very weird.

The village in those days was still a rural English village. On the edge of the Green there was still a working blacksmith's forge and I used to lurk in the doorway watching the smithy shoeing horses - I was absolutely terrified of him although he was probably a harmless old boy, but the atmosphere in the smithy with the bellows working flat out and the smell as the hot horseshoe was placed on the hoof have left a lasting impression.

The event of the year was Guy Fawkes and weeks before the event the villagers would start building an enormous bonfire on the Green. On the night literally hundreds of people used to attend and of course in those days there were fireworks going off all over the place which is now banned. One year the chimney in the 'Lounge Bar' caught fire and there were great sparks coming out of the chimney - how the place didn't catch fire, goodness knows. Amongst the clients in the overflowing bar, the firemen were running hoses through the pub trying to put out the fire - it made our evening!

We also had Morris dancing on the Green, although I only saw it once; Morris dancing was by then virtually non-existant until revived in the '80s.

I went back to the Crown about 15 years ago and it was so, so sad - it had become a sort of burger joint and was a disgrace. I returned a couple of years ago with my brother and joy! It had had changed hands, restored to its former glory and we had some halfway decent food. And the sedan chair which had the public telephone in it was still there! I think it has recently changed hands again but am not sure - from a recent photo I see that unfortunately the outside has been painted a sort of butter yellow which gives it a rather plastic look and the gorgeous wisteria that shaded the front of the pub in the summer is no longer there...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I'm sure you won't know the name of the village. It's in England, of course. A clue : amongst my 'blogger friends' Roads is the only one that might be able to answer! Another clue : it's a pub. I noticed that this is my 49th blog, so on blog number 50 the winner will be announced!

Monday, March 26, 2007


About six years ago whilst still living in my tumbled-down farmhouse in the wilds of France, a friend said to me one day 'An English couple have bought the house down the road from you'. The news filled me with a certain amount of dread. The unwanted little village houses in the area were being bought up at an alarming rate by English people profiting from the Ryanair link to Carcassonne - they appeared for long weekends, their suitcases filled with Baked Beans and Heinz Salad Cream and would be seen wandering round the local supermarket comparing the price of 'rouge' in loud voices.

So off I trot dutifully to say hello (being the only English person in my commune) to see if they needed any help or information. And I was welcomed with open arms by Peter and Jane (not their real names - I don't think they read my blog and I know they won't mind me telling their story, but still). Peter and Jane were in their late fifties, Peter having taken early retirement after a heart alert. After a year of organising, searching and selling their four-bedroom house in Sussex, they moved. The house needed quite a lot of work doing to it, especially installing central heating, and I think the first year was a pretty exciting time for them, getting the house and garden into shape, and struggling with their French.

For of course, the language was the major problem - both of them had school French, but this doesn't get you far when discussing the installation of central heating with a tradesman who a) doesn't know a word of English and b) has a very pronounced accent du sud! In between working on the house, they attended probably hundreds of hours of lessons learning French. It did pay off, but I would say that it took them three years.

If they had been welcomed into the French community earlier, they would have learnt French far more quickly. But where we lived, the locals do not mix with the 'foreigners' - 'foreigners' being anyone not born within 20km of where they live.

I take my hat off to them, as they tried so, so hard to get their new life up and running. But despite all Peter's organisation and calculations, there were three things they had forgotten. Firstly, they were suddenly thrown together 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year which is trying for any couple when cut off from their roots; secondly where we lived, absolutely nothing happened, the local cinema was thirty minutes drive away and Carcassonne is not exactly the cultural hub of France; and thirdly, they left behind in England their two grown-up girls.

And that was the downfall - their daughters would pop out on holidays and weekends, but then their elder daughter had her first baby and Peter and Jane's first grandchild, and the distance suddenly seemed to double. I knew in the back of my mind that they would go back and so when they told me a month ago they were selling the house, I wasn't surprised. And of course now the problem arises that in their six years away the house prices in England have whizzed up much faster than in France, so they are going to have to seriously downgrade.

The story of Peter and Jane is probably not exceptional - there are many that go back after a lot of blood, sweat and tears trying to make a go of it. I miss them a great deal but probably will see more of them when they get back to England than since I have moved to Switzerland.

Friday, March 23, 2007


...thus the third and hopefully last blog today.

Below is the link for the Hugs advert that is running in France at the moment - this is the full length version.

I can't link it so have put it in Blogger Friends as 'Hugs'


All those applying for a passport for the first time in England, will now have to 'pass' a test to make sure they are who they say they really are. The answers to the questions I suppose will be included on the passport chip. The price of a passport will go up a staggering 30% (at time of writing).

Below is a list of a few of the possible questions that may be asked, published in the Telly the other day. I cannot answer questions 4, 5 and 8. I am English and haven't lived in England for 25 years - I had a NI number once upon a time - does it still exist, am I entitled to it (doubtful), how do I go about inquiring. Car registration number - we have so manys goddamn numbers to remember that are more important. Bank sort code - ?

1 What was your mother's maiden name?

2 When is her birthday?

3 In which town was your father born?

4 What is your National Insurance number?

5 What is the registration number of your family car?

6 What is the occupation of the person who countersigned your application?

7 How long have you known him/her?

8 What is the sort code of your bank?

9 How long have you lived at your current address?

10 Where did you live before that?

Say, for example, I am applying now for my first passport. I am asked for the registration number of my car. Okay, I learn this by heart for Question Time. Within the following ten years, say I change my car three times ... is my passport chip updated or am I supposed to remember the registration number of the 2007 car. I arrive at JFK, and my car registration number doesn't correspond, what next - thrown into prison, put back on the next 'plane?

Since the increase on security checks in London's airports, I have missed two 'planes - simply by being stuck in a queue. Hundreds of flights leave within minutes of each other, but there are only four security checks open, dealing with hundreds and hundreds of people. Despite doing exactly as one is told, one handbag, no sharp instruments, liquids in plastic bags etc. etc. etc. one still has to take off your coat, take off your shoes, empty your pockets, be frisked and risk having your bag rifled through, even if it has been through the Xray machine. On my last but one trip through Gatwick security wanted to confiscate my fountain pen (yes, one of those old-fashioned things that leak ink everywhere) as I could have stabbed someone in the eye. A bit of a hoo-ha ensued and I think the handcuffs were not far away - fortunately there was the beginning of a riot behind me as people waited so security decided it was easier to let me through...

On my last trip London to Geneva I checked in three hours before the flight and still found myself doing a sprint for the 'plane (everyone clapped as I boarded - how many hours did they check in in advance?).

So now we have to add Question Time to the check in times - soon going across the Pond will be quicker on the QM2, and a damned sight more civilised!

And finally, a super grump about the countersigning of passport photos - it is IMPOSSIBLE to fit all the information required on the back of a passport photo. Fortunately I am not classed as someone who can countersign a photo, otherwise the person applying would have to have an A4 size photo in order for me, with my big, round handwriting to be able to fit in that so and so has been known to me for x years and that the photo is a likeness and my name, full address, qualifications etc. etc.

There we are, that feels better!


Next weekend my son and a group of friends are off to la Clusaz skiing. A weekend of 'Ride and Ragga'.

I haven't yet discovered what Ragga is - when I ask if I could listen to some, the reply is invariably 'You'd hate it Mum, not your style at all' - translate as 'You're much to old to listen to Ragga'. This is probably quite true, but is part of 'keeping the dialogue going with your adolescent children' scheme of things, so instead of listening to some on the Internet I try and get my son to lend me his iPod for a couple of minutes to hear what Ragga is all about. So far, this hasn't been successful, but I doubt Ragga will turn my life around, and my hearing will stay intact for a few more years if I don't have an earphone plugged in whilst I hoover or take the dog for a walk!

What has amazed me is that the boys have actually managed to get their act together and organise everything. Although I have a fairly organised child, I still get things like 'I need such and such a book for tomorrow for the lycée'; this at 9 pm. (just go and get a shop opened up for me) and recently 'I need a passport size photo - can you do it for me tomorrow Mum?' HOW? Okay, this is boring stuff - a weekend away skiing with a group of friends is far more fun!

So for the princely sum of €100 per person, they have got a coach to ferry them there and back (one of the boys' father has a coach company), they have negotiated their ski passes by getting group rates, accomodation in a Youth Hostel and food. I'm sure it will be more than basic, but they will have a wonderful weekend as they have organised the whole thing themselves without any parental intervention. I reckon Sunday night he will be back, totally 'starved', with a rucksack full of smelly socks and teeshirts and with enormous bags under his eyes through lack of sleep!

So, proud as I am that he and his friends have managed to organise something by themselves, I realise suddenly that my 'baby' is no longer so - and that makes me feel a little sad and a little older! Pass the earphones!

Saturday, March 17, 2007



Like many of you in warmer latitudes, we too have been having lovely spring weather here. Unfortunately the now emerging earth is not covered in daffs and snowdrops; normally at this time of the year we still have a couple of feet of snow in the garden - our spring flowers (and the early summer ones) all burst forth together in May and June. The few deciduous trees that we have show no sign of leaf buds yet and this is probably a good thing as tomorrow the weather changes and we move back to winter. Arctic temperatures, northerly winds and between 40-70cm of snow for Sunday night.

Fortunately the children bought me an enormous basket of narcissi for the Ste. Louise, so as the snow falls, they will remind me that somewhere fairly near it is springtime!

In the background of the photo you will see a tapestry cushion - I admit to being a tapestry fiend! Absolutely hooked - once I get going I can't stop. Actually I have four on the go at the moment (very dangerous as none get finished!) and I haven't looked at them for some time. I took them out earlier and have decided that until I can work out in the garden again I shall finish at least one of them. Like gardening, I find doing tapestry very therapeutic and apart from choosing the colours and threading the needle, the mind goes totally blank!

My grandmother taught me tapestry when I was young, but I have nowhere near her patience and production - she did tapestry seats for all the diningroom chairs, my grandfather's desk chair, a long footstool - there was no stopping her. Of course she eventually had to stop as her eyesight became too bad and I think actually that from that moment she started going downhill mentally. She rarely watched television, and I thought that if I watched less (not that I watch much) I too would have finished my four outstanding cushions!

My father could knit socks (so I was told) - do any of you have hobbies that are no longer 'fashionable'?


... n'est pas, Colin B?

I'm just leaving a heading here as later on I might post a new blog, which might or might not be interesting, and instead of it getting filled with in-fighting, I have left you a space on my soapbox! Personally I have no remarks to make on your new posting.

Friday, March 16, 2007



I remember when it was announced that England had won the race to hold the 2012 Olympic Games, my French friends said 'Thank God' and my English friends said 'Oh God' and it would appear the early prophesies are coming true. So far the budget stands at a staggering £9.3 billion. £9.3 billion? It looks like a typo, doesn't it? If I hit the nought button correctly this figure reads as £9,300000 000000 (I think!) and we are still five years away from the opening. I'm wondering whether they shouldn't be christened the Googol Games as the zeros just seem to be added on in a pretty willy-nilly fashion.

Much of the money is coming out of the Lottery (yet another stealth tax), so many projects that were hoping for Lottery financing are now quietly moving to the back burner. I am all for the Games, don't get me wrong, but I cannot honestly see how such a budget is justified, especially when one reads in the English press the measures being taken by the latest penny-pinching government to save a few quid. Only today in the Telly there was an article that refuse should only collected once a fortnight. What are they trying to do - bring back the Plague? Walk through any town in England the night before the refuse is collected - the bins are overflowing and if the litter was bagged, it has been torn apart by foxes.

With a bit of foresight, what a shame the 2012 Games were not held jointly by France and England. By 2009 the railway link between London and Paris will hopefully be finished so the travelling distance between the two cities has never so fast. We don't have to have all the atheletes in one place all together - the Winter Olympics in Turin were an example of this. We could have had the opening ceremony in London and the closing ceremony in Paris and shared out the various competitions between the two countries.

I reckon that if there were a referendum in England as to whether England should go ahead with the Games, I imagine a lot of people would vote for giving the French £5,000000 000000 to take it off their hands!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I am just trying to create a new blog, using Mac. It is very much in its infancy (it fact I would say that it is foetal at the moment) but I shall publish the link here to see if it takes you to where it should...


As I cannot link this (not on a Mac anway) I shall try putting it on 'My blog friends' so that clicking 'My new blog' should take you there directly.

PS This link doesn't work and neither does it work on MY NEW BLOG, so forget it! I have a Mac problem here soemwhere.

11.50 Colin had to copy and paste to get to my new site - I have been fighting for the last hour trying to get this link sorted out. EVENTUALLY I have just realised that the URL I posted under MY NEW BLOG was wrong and instead of typing in web.mac etc. I had typed www.mac

All this messing around - anyway you can now go to the blog links and it should send you to the new site. OUF!! So now that is sorted I shall start work on the new blog.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Over the last couple of days I have installed NeoEarth and NeoCounter on my blog and a lot of fun it is proving to be! This morning I had a visitor from Croatia and one from Romania. Now, how did they find my blog? I have no idea as I have no contacts in either country. Unfortunately, they didn't leave a message - so if you read this, whoever you are, please stop by and say hello! I also have people from 'Europe' - where is that?

The system is not very accurate as when one first installs NeoCounter there is automatically a list of countries that have visited one's site - if the system is to be believed, there are loads of people in England that read my blog, but only a few read it on NeoEarth.

ColinB I know has been thinking of using this to root out the 'anonymice' that plagued 'us' the other week - as I have said to him, the system is amusing but not accurate. When I registered, the site decided I was in Bulle, which may well be where my ISP server is located...I live an hour and a half from Bulle! Apart from my Swiss ISP, I also have a Mac ISP, so I wonder where that is?

Anyway it is an amusing gadget and a great time-waster!


What about blue? Less aggressive?

Monday, March 12, 2007


MétéoSuisse told me today that it was a day to be intelligent, the risk of migraine was zero and the day was perfect for outdoor activity - but the UV factor was 5, so loads of suncream was needed! Yes, apart from forecasting, MétéoSuisse also tells you how you should feel and what you should do with your day! A real cliché isn't it?

So armed with all this information, feeling highly intelligent, migraine-free and active, I set off with my wee small friend and his lead (and his poo bag). We huff and puff up a mountain - the house is at 1500m, the mountain at 1900m, the climb is pretty steep but arriving at the top, I felt so good and intelligent! On the way home we went through the golf course, which becomes a ski slope in winter. I'm sure that it must be a lovely course to play if you are a golfer as the views are wonderful. The snow was trash - la soupe. But it must have been about +15 this afternoon which is very warm for here at this time of the year. The snow is melting fast and there is still another six weeks to go before the end of the season; last year we had our best snow at the beginning of May when the resort was closed so guess who was driving children up the mountain as far as the car would go so that they could ski down?

On the way down, we passed skiers with very red faces who obviously hadn't read the UV warning and at one point I saw two girls in shorts, barefoot and eating ice cream - guess their nationality!

Although it was an intelligent day, I forgot to take my camera with me in order to photograph some breathtaking views, so I suppose me and me dog will have to re-walk the route tomorrow!

Saturday, March 10, 2007



Well so far it seems the black blog is not having too much success - Gigi even said it even made her feel suicidal! But I shall stick with it for the moment or otherwise try and move to wordpress which is a much classier site!

Just thought I would add this photo of a Christmas decoration I saw outside a house; very easy to do and most effective I thought - a 'slice' of Christmas tree with branches at the same level at the bottom, tied together at the top and filled with fir cones...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What do you think of the blog in black? Do you find it easier to read or not? It comes up very well on my laptop and the photos, for what they are worth, are much sharper.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Sarah over on her blog (sorry I can't link you to it directly here but you can click on my links at the side) is having problems with her 'Resident Ado' which many of us have either been through, are going through or will go through. My problem at the moment is not with the next generation but the precedent generation...

About three years ago my brother and his family, myself and my family and my Mum thought it would be a good idea to pool our ressources and buy a three generation/three family home. We worried estate agents, we trawled the internet and visited houses until we were so tired we couldn't remember what we had visited. We saw a couple of house that would fit the bill, but somewhere in the back of our minds, I think we knew that once the excitement died down, it might not be such a good idea after all. All the children were over the moon with the idea and wanted us to buy every house that had a swimming pool! Long story short, we all managed to find something wrong with the houses that were on the possible list, and gradually the idea fizzled out.

My Mum who is 78, has lived alone now for the last ten years since her companion died. She is in good health apart from glaucoma which has suddenly hit her, and has only recently been diagnosed. She lives in a dear little house and has some very good, helpful and charming neighbours. She still drives (too fast), enjoys going out and socialising, so all in all, she has nothing to complain about. Brother number 2 and I joke at times that she will sell the house and move into a home when the cat dies (he is now 13). The sale of the house would allow her to go into a very nice home and leave her income for incidental expenses, so she is in a lucky position.

Two months ago, the elder of my brothers died, which of course was traumatic for all of us, but particularly for Mum, who lost her eldest son. This is not in the order of things and must be the worst thing that can happen in a parents' life. Last week she started making 'noises' about me moving over there - buying a larger house with a granny flat, and of course, there begins my dilemma.

I cannot expect her to come and live in Switzerland - I can't take her away from where she has lived for the last 40 years and she would hate the winter here (even though the winters are far better than in England!). I cannot leave with my son still in school - I had a battle getting him out of the Swiss system and back into the French Baccalaureat, so I cannot expect him at the age of 16 to be dumped into the English system - the only solution there is to send him to the Alliance Française in London, which apparently is terribly 'recherché' now and the waiting list is impossible; he would have priority over the English children as he is French and has been educated in the French system all his life, but even that is no guarantee of a place...

I know that Mum is going through a terrible time at the moment and is desperate for her children; I know that things will start to get a little easier for her and that the loss of my brother will slowly become more bearable, but the problem concerning the rest of her life is not going to go away. She is frightened that she will sooner or later lose her sight and therefore her independence, so it either means a home or her living with either myself or my brother.

Even if she moves into a 5* home, it is a home none the less, and the idea of my mother being treated as a 3 year-old and being totally dependent on 'strangers' seems awful. But can I live with my mother? I know none of you can answer this question but perhaps you have coped with the same kind of problem, or are about to - if so, I would appreciate some feed-back.

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Switzerland invaded Liechtenstein on Thursday night! With their Swiss Army Knives to the fore, they crossed the border in Liechtenstein, a little country that doesn't even have an army! A map-reading error was responsible for the invasion, during night manoeuvres, and of course as soon as the mistake was spotted, the Army retreated. The article in the Swiss press made me laugh, but I'm sure that complaints will be made in high places.

All Swiss men over the age of 18 have to do military service, unless they have a medical reason. Every year they must go back into the Army for three weeks, mainly for rifle practice. Reservists are called up for the 3 weeks until they are in their mid-30s or until they have done approximately a year of military service. For those working, they are paid 80% of their salary by the Confederation during their re-training periods. They keep their uniform and their weapon at home, complete with 50 rounds of ammunition, which is to be used only in self-defence getting to a base, should war be declared. The entire Swiss army can be mobilised within 12 hours, should there be a war.

Of course, jokes about the Swiss Army, their penknives, etc. abound, both here and in other countries. However, I feel that perhaps there is just a tinge of jealousy somewhere. Being a rich country, the Armed Forces are extremely well-equipped and approximately 70% of the population are for military service. Being a Confederation, when new equipment is needed, the question is put to a referendum and the citizens vote how and if their money should be spent. Recently 57% of the population voted for the buying of F-15 fighters.

There are of course those who are against keeping up an Army (and a small elite Air Force), arguing that the men would be better deployed in the police force, or that expensive equipement could be rented from the commercial market, if needs be. However, the Swiss that I have talked to about this seem to be fairly pro-army, and accept that doing military service is part of the price to pay.

Once a month the air-raid siren goes off in the village, just to test it is still working. This is only used nowdays as an avalanche warning that might affect the village.

Until a couple of years ago, all Swiss houses had to have a fall-out shelter incorporated into their house; it had to be stocked with basic food, water etc., and the population were asked to make sure that nothing had passed its sell by date. We have a bunker in our chalet, which has now been converted into a bedroom. We still have the door which looks exactly like those in bank vaults and is so heavy it takes two people to shut it and there is also a shutter for the window made the same way, but it isn't on a hinge, so seems to weigh even more than the door - this is now dumped in the garden, as no-one can lift it!

So jokes there may be, but comforting to know that here one probably needs no more than a Swiss Army Knife!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


...oh, no, they weren't!

Last night I had a dream/nightmare about school. This fortunately doesn't happen too often, but was probably provoked by finding some letters the other day that I had sent to my father when I was at boarding school. Goodness, what a load of rubbish! Pages of waffle about 'best friends' with ridiculous nicknames, who, of course, I no longer even remember. The school timetable and the menus are still engraved on my heart, all these years on. After three hours of class Saturday morning we had Letter Writing from 11 a.m. for one hour. It was obligatory to write to one's parents, and if you had time left over, you were allowed to write to other members of the family or friends - if that 'friend' was on the list of suitable receivers of letters furnished by parents at the beginning of each term! We were not allowed to seal the envelopes, as the letters were censored before being sent.

Incoming mail had to have the senders' name and address on the back of the envelope, otherwise it was opened and read and all parcels were opened, just in case some parent thought of smuggling in SWEETS! Letters were distributed after lunch and after supper (remember the days when there was a morning and an afternoon delivery by the Royal Mail?).

Letters were our only contact with 'the outside world' and so, of course, used as blackmail. If we were, either collectively or individually, rowdy or misbehaved, mail was stopped and given out the following day...

There was no telephone for us to use and non of the common rooms had TV apart from the 6th form, and that was limited to an hour in the evening, and a member of staff would choose the programme. If there was nothing suitable, they didn't watch TV! During my time at school, I saw two programmes - the first landing on the Moon and the funeral of Winston Churchill. Our knowledge of what was happening in the outside world was limited to one copy of the Telegraph posted on the general noticeboard and even that was censored - offending articles were cut out, meaning that a large chunk of a non-offending article on the following page was missing! The paper was put up at midday and taken down at 6pm. During that time we had a half an hour of free time before tea, but had to change from day uniform to evening uniform, and if you were on the bath rota, the chances of reading the paper were next-to-none. One paper for 200 children with only a few minutes to read it - most of the time we gave up.

We had one exeat per term which ran from Saturday midday to Sunday at 6p.m. Those that lived the other end of the country either went to stay with a school chum going home for the weekend, or stayed at school. I hated the drive back to school, sitting in the back of the car feeling miserable, with 'Sing something simple' on the radio, as no-one could think of anything to say. A quick goodbye, and then back to the endless, hospital green corridors gleaming in the neon lighting, into supper which on Sunday night was a lump of Cheddar cheese, and a lump of pressed dates and an orange. To this day I cannot eat dates.

My brother too has awful memories of boarding school; he too dreams of it at times. However, I think, and hope, that we were the last generation that were treated in such a Dickensien manner - my half-brothers had a much easier time.

My school eventually closed down when I finished the 5th form. I went past it in the autumn - it is now a secured residence full of mock-Georgian houses - things don't really change much, do they?

This is a photo of the façade of my school - it never looked so smart in my day; this photo was taken by an Old Girl a couple of years ago, now that it has been converted into des. res! In my day the drive up to the school was full of pot-holes, straggly pines, overgrown cupressus, lanky laurel bushes - now it is all landscaped and very grand!