Tuesday, October 16, 2012
So we're getting married in the Natal Midlands.
It's a gorge little area nestled between Durban and the 'berg, where I spent the first 18 years of my life. I always knew if I did get married, it would be here. Everything there will always be familiar, it's really just the place I have called home the longest.
Planning a wedding there means I have been thinking about my home and childhood a lot recently. I was last in the Midlands for my ten year school reunion in 2008 (Not feeling old at all...).
One of the big pieces of my growing up in this region was the boarding school I went to. It was about as traditional as any public school in the UK, with the same rituals and rules we had.
My school was considered 'posh' by anyone's standards; I was lucky to go there. It was beautiful, the education is of a high standard, and probably the most important thing - your friends are for life; they're difficult to get rid of. Unless you sleep with their husband or wear Crocs, they're pretty much by your side one way or another.
You gain sisters when you sleep in dorm rooms together for 5 years, battling the rage of puberty together. I miss having a sister more than anything right now. But get comfort from the fact that I gained sisters at school.
Some of the traditions that happen at girl's (and boys) boarding schools have been going since the foundations were laid, and still remain completely unchanged after hundreds of years. I know this, because the Internet told me so.
The only thing that's really changed is that iPods and mobile phones are banned from prep time, and pupils can keep laser printers in their studies.
(Back in MY DAY, there were two girls with cellular phones in my final year - and a laser printer meant you would have to have a computer, something unheard of. 'Electronics' weren't even thought about. Imagine that! When the first girl got a Nokia, it was the hottest gossip around the sports field. We also thought it was stupid, since none of us had one, we wondered who on Earth she'd be calling?)
Anyway, some stuff is exactly as it still is, I hear.
This stuff hasn't changed for, like, 100 years, at my school (or others with the same Anglo nature, I'd imagine.)
Smoochie - this is a room where the head girl gets to study. It's a room that one head girl (in the 80s or something) was caught smooching her boyf. Learning why it's called 'smoochie' is still part of the newbie Cax Test.
When you arrive, you get a nanny. This person creates a large scrapbook for you, using lots of colours and pictures, which is called a Cax Book. (I made a shit one for when I had to do this. Compared to my other friends who could actually draw.)
The Cax Book teaches you all the rules and slang terms and house names and traditions you need to know to pass.
2nd Form - You're the ground on which everyone walks. You're new, your dress is too big, you cry because you're still homesick, you've just started your period. You have to carry books, wait at doors for older forms, not allowed to walk on the grass, not allowed to watch Days Of Our Lives, and go to bed at 9:00pm.
All the Socialists get uptight about this sort of juvenile slavery, but I don't. You know why? For one, it teaches basic respect and discipline. Which is never a bad thing for the brats that never got taught this at home.
For two, swings and roundabouts. When you get to Sixth Form/Matric, you get your hot water bottle filled, more exeats (weekends out) and fagging cards. So it all comes back - you work your way up the ladder until you get the favours returned. That's a pretty fair system as far as I'm concerned.
I'm not sure if my school still calls it 'fagging' - but I know other schools still do. This is what the system is called - the stuff you have to do as a second former.
In total innocence and not even knowing what the more derogatory term was, or even that there was one, common sentences over lunch would be, "So who're you fagging for this week?" Or , "My fag is awesome. She made me a good night card, so I gave her a chocolate." Or "I can't go on a run with you dude. I have fagging duty."
Once we left the warm, protection of school, where pies were served once a week with a dollop of mash, and started mingling with the various boys boarding schools dotted around us, and soon learnt that fagging meant something else other than tasks, and that a blow job wasn't something you ordered at the hairdresser.
(One of the first conversations I had with our head girl, when I arrived at school, was "Natalie...what's a blow job?" earnestly expecting an answer that didn't involve the male genitalia.)
Dainty morsels. Don't know who coined this ladylike little term, but it means "eat something that will probably make you throw up."
It's around about the time you'll do the Cax Test - when you're small and homesick and probably having a character building day - and then someone will mix up all the food you are meant to eat into one disgusting paste. And make you taste it. I got out of eating a Dainty Morsel (stealth mode. I'm good at stealth).
Calling 'Biology' 'bilge.' As ridiculous as it all sounds, it was part of us. And if you're still convinced that those who go to boarding school are traumatised beyond help, be safe in the knowledge that boarders only really [mostly] remember the good stuff.
Ah school. Life was so simple then.