Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Shoe Post Two

Why oh why, you ask, are we seeing Shoe Post Two when we haven't had the first post yet?

Well, my friends, I have to blame Bettina at Dances to the Beet of Her Own Drum (because I have to blame someone for every mess in my life, and if I can't point the finger firmly it ends up being my fault - and I have to resort to the middle child retort, which does nothing for the reputation of middle children - and there are more of us than you think.). Every Tuesday she hosts "Screw Up Tuesday" and see, I like being able to do two jobs with one stroke. It makes me feel efficient.

So not only is this post the second but the first of the three you have to choose for me to enter in Scribbit's May Writing Challenge on Shoes, but it is also now part of the phenomenon

Now, I am bending the rules slightly (as in completely disregarding the time frame required) to include a screw up from long, long ago...

Those of you playing at home recall that, as teenagers, our mother and father callously threw us to the wolves had to let go of their children and sentenced us to five years in the Red Roof Jail seek educational opportunities for us far, far away.

Thus, came the day when, aged thirteen, I joined my big sister in hell at boarding school.

There were very strict guidelines. Of course, with a little experience under your belt you KNEW how to bend them to your ends, but as a new boarder, as the younger sister of one who wanted her sister to endure the same pain she went through several years before, as the daughter of a rule observer and as a keen conformist myself I packed my ports with the "list" of required items.

The "uniform list" was four white uniform blouses (so perfect for the pubescent girl), three navy six-gore skirts, two navy gym slips and matching bloomers, one white gym slip and matching bloomers, navy tie, navy and gold panama hat, navy and gold blazer, gold beret, white church uniform, six pairs brown ankle socks, one pair white ankle socks, two pairs of beige stockings, navy one-piece racing togs, white volley sandshoes and brown school shoes.

You may wonder at my memory for such a list, given that I can barely remember milk at the shops, but if you, as a twelve-year old on your last moments of freedom last school holidays of childhood were required to hand-sew name-tags on to every item, I am sure that you too could recall the mantra.

I shan't give you the rest of what was packed, but be assured in the vast array of goods for your conformity comfort, advice was you should have "two casual outfits (no strapless) and one pair of casual shoes (no thongs)". Fair enough, they only gave you room for that amount of frivolity but imagine two hundred adolescent girls being reduced to a choice of two for outfits and them only to match one pair of shoes!!

Of course, if you had Shoe Post Part One before this one, you would not wonder at the fact that I really was lucky to have one option available for casual footwear - but we will have to unveil that at the prequel.

Anyway, there was one UNBREAKABLE rule as a new boarder, and that was that you were not allowed out for the first three weeks. Probably from some paper on torture and confinement or something - going cold turkey on freedom. And as a result, many malevolent children doting parents ensured that the third weekend would be a guaranteed leave weekend.

I am unsure of what my own mandatory weekly letters home recorded in those first three weeks - mainly due to the bonfire that I held annually to wipe any memory of school, but I would also like to lay some blame on my mother. She could have kept them all tied up in ribbon for research purposes but instead returned them to me with the spelling mistakes marked in red.

They may, however, have run along the lines of:

Week One: "Dear parents, it is so interesting being at school meeting lots of new friends. I will tell you all about them when I see you next (in three weeks?). Your dutiful and obedient daughter, Jeanie"

Week Two: "Mum and Dad, can I please have some more clothes? The two sets I have are inadequate for my social pretensions. You could take me shopping when you take us out (in a fortnight?). Your loving daughter, Jeanie"

Week Three: "Mummy! Daddy! Its horrible. You must come and save me. Not only do I miss you so much, but I am a social pariah and my one pair of casual shoes are beginning to stalk me. This weekend? Please? I love you and miss you soooo much. Jeanie XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX"

Well, the third weekend crept towards us. The matron read the "leave list" on Thursday night, and our names were on it!!! Oh bliss!!! Oh parents!! Oh, even baby brother!! Oh clothes and shoe shopping (which would be even more poignantly understood if I had Post One up and running)!!!

I packed. We were to be spending the weekend at the beach. In went the (navy racing) togs and towel. In went my two sorry casual outfits, pyjamas, toiletries and books and I closed the port with a sigh of sweet anticipation. I could almost taste the freedom only one short day away.

When our family came to collect us, we were ready (in full uniform including woolen tie and top button done up) with our ports on the terrace, eager and drunk on anticipation.

Mum and Dad splashed out for us - we had Chinese for dinner. We were staying at a Motel. And that, my friends, is where my luck ran out.

To give you a historic snapshot, while my parents were not skint times were hard in the cattle industry. The term was "dirt rich", and with the double expense of daughters at private boarding school (even if one of them saved them a little with a scholarship), lashing out on an extra 700km trip, dinners out and motel stays to indulge their princesses - well, let us just say that they preferred the free entertainment option of swimming at the beach to trawling the shops with an, up until this moment, reluctant middle child looking for fripperies.

As luck (and it was luck - do not assume there was ANY forethought at all, because I was truly that clueless) would have it, the ONE THING I had failed to do in packing so eagerly was to include that skanky pair of casual shoes.

Ha - surely my parental unit would indulge me with that little fact laid on the table!

So I laid it out - and got a "here is a life lesson in remembering" (that unfortunately I still haven't quite grasped) retort.

Nothing like sand in your brown school shoes at the beach for the next two days to create understanding of the necessity of such a life skill. (Well, to and from the beach over the prickly grass).

Ever "slipped" into your brown school shoes to go for a walk through a tourist village?

Try being a thirteen year-old nerdy, dorky girl suddenly noticing all those that were not nerdy, dorky or girls all around with those clodhoppers on your feet. It can really DRIVE a point like that home.

I am okay now. I have had therapy for instances such as this in my life. But I still shudder to remember that first weekend of freedom, and the true pain involved.

For those of you who have suffered with me and got to the end of that dirge, leave a comment and this week, I will give away a poetry book (that actually includes two of my poems) to a random commenter - consider it my gift, not graft!


Debby said...

Poor Sarah Crewe had an awful time at boarding school too. I guess we all now understand the phrase, "Ignorance is bliss". What a high price you paid to be brilliant.

I remember how awful it was to never fit in. We were poor as well. I was not allowed to wear stockings. I wore white knee socks until I was 17...and this at a time when girls were not permitted to wear slacks to school. (The thought of this still makes my girls laugh) The worst part of all of this is my parents would not allow us to shave our legs. So you had a girl who was dressed with clothing from the 25 cents a bag sale at the annual polyester palace, and the white kneesocks with gorilla legs...
*retreats to suck thumb in a dark place*

BB said...

Deary me... that WAS sad.

I COULD counter it by sharing how I had my only personal treasures actually stolen from me within the first fortnight of the same school confinement, and had to lie with one (broken, plastered) arm hanging out of the bed and propped on a side table for weeks... but that would be stealing your thunder! And if you didn't have such angst and thunder, there would be no poetry...

Just so you know, I didn't wish any of my bad experiences on my baby sister - and I am dreadfully sorry she had to wear lace-ups to the shops.


mommamia said...

Jeanie-I love reading your blog. This story reminded me of my own parents. Life lessons had to be learned and teen feelings were not taken into account.

Aniqa said...

Oh Jeanie and shoes - Where does it end?

Some of you may have guessed that Jeanie and I shared a house (or two or more) in past lives so I have too many Jeanie stories to relate.

But there really is an ongoing thread of her and shoes. Now I know where it all stems from.

There is one story that begs to be told though. For a while we had an English lass staying (well living really) on our lounge. Her finances were rather low so she was looking for a way to finance the purchase of new shoes.

Jeanie had a rather feral pair of old ugg boots (that she'd had from her school days, so this is pertinant). This footwear had an odour that could bring a room to a standstill - probably, as Jeanie informed us, as she'd worn them to and from rowing practice and they'd been soaked more than once or twice.

For some reason (that we could never fathon) Jeanie had some kind of sentimental attachment to these woolly boots that we needed to end. Purely for hygiene reasons, I promise.

Anyway, a shoe shop near our home was offering a $10 trade-in on old shoes. Seemed the perfect solution. Girl living on our lounge decided that she could use the discount on a new pair of shoes and we saw an opportunity to rid our home of said rancid footwear. So off she went to the shop with icky boots.....

Just a slight problem, the shoe shop refused to accept the boots (due to afforementioned problem) and would only give half the discount -for the same reason.

It took a matter of months before Jeanie actually realised her fav winter boottees were missing, but we had a much happier living environment and she did see the funny side of the story when she wanted to know why we were laughing as she turned the house upside down looking for her pet uggies.

Debby said...

Jeanie's boots get the boot was a funny little glimpse.

Lin said...

Oh boy, sending your letters back with the spelling mistakes marked in red! You mother was/is hardcore!

As for the shoes: I assume barefoot all weekend was not an option for a nice boarding school girl?

Lin said...

Oh boy, sending your letters back with the spelling mistakes marked in red! You mother was/is hardcore!

As for the shoes: I assume barefoot all weekend was not an option for a nice boarding school girl?

Alison said...

Spell checked letters? Oh no.
My feet (and face) are so burning for you. I would have bought you new shoes!

Anonymous said...

oh, now THAT is funny!! LOL

Pencil Writer said...

Jeanie--I do enjoy your posts. And, I have to thank you for listing other blogs to visit. Because of you, I stumbled onto Scribbit's spot and discovered that we have a link of sorts. My grandfather (and other family members) were/are acquainted with her and her father. Small world. thanks for the link. And all the smiles you engender.

jeanie said...

Debby - please take my boarding school stories with a grain of salt. They were not quite equal to those portrayed by Frances Hodgson Burnett! However, I feel for the "girl who was dressed with clothing from the 25 cents a bag sale at the annual polyester palace, and the white kneesocks with gorilla legs..." - thanks for coming out of your corner!

Bush babe - yes, you win hands down the horrible start to boarding school even WITHOUT mentioning the emergency appendectomy, post-operative adhesions or forklift transportation to a plane.

mommamia - hindsight is a wonderful tool that we really don't appreciate as teenagers.

aniqa - thanks for stealing the third blog post of the shoes series. As you had 70 pairs of shoes I would have thought that donation from your supply rather than taking away from me my almost living pets!

Lin - she was, but we have perfect spelling (and a horror of sending her anything written) as a result!

Alison - thank you for your offer if you were my mother!

kelly - I thought of your shoe obsession when I started this shoe blog journey - I am the OPPOSITE end of the spectrum.

pencil writer - that is amazing. Six degrees of separation just get truncated with blogging.

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