Thursday, April 03, 2008

Education and life on the balcony- Ann (1950-54)

Ann and Florence with their astronomy charts

It was Mari Jenkins who reminded me about my early love of nature during our time together on the balcony.

“You used to know the names of all the birds and stars. I was always very impressed,” says Mari the other day.

It’s true. My knowledge of popular culture was nil on arrival at Craig-y-nos ( I had no idea what a pop song was) and remained so, but I had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the teeming wildlife around me, thanks to years spent living out on the balcony with a ringside view of nature. During the day I had all the birds to study and at night the stars. I was literally lying in nature’ laboratory.


Florence shared my interest in astronomy and I often wonder what happened to her.

In Springtime my locker top was a veritable laboratory with big jars of slugs, snails and tadpoles, and even a bell jar given me by one of the orderlies.

But there was no question of sitting the 11 plus, which some children did in Craig-y-nos. For the first couple of years I had been too ill then Miss White made the discovery that I had no formal education .

I had attended Llanbedr village school only intermittently before entering Craig-y-nos as a 9 year old due to endless bouts of pleurisy.

Eventually I did start school: St Michael's Convent Abergavennny, at 14 years of age, the local secondary modern school having been deemed “ too rough”.

I was lucky in that my family could afford to pay the modest school fees otherwise like so many former ex Craig-y-nos I would have gone to the local secondary modern school for a year and left.

My knowledge of natural history and astronomy didn't count. Could I do my tables? No. Because I had no formal schooling in the accepted sense of the word I confused this, and so did my teachers, and family with being stupid, below average intelligence.

School was not easy. LIke so many other former child patients have already commented on, we were always the odd ones out; older than the rest of the children and not allowed to play games or take part in any energetic activity .

So it came as a bombshell when the exam results were announced at the end of my first term in school and everybody, including myself, gasped.
I was top of the class.

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