In reading Luke’s blog, memories were stirred. One of the things that came back was the culture in which I was raised. Having lived in America now for nineteen years and becoming partially assimilated into the Borg, it was nice to be able to identify with those values in which I had been raised.
A few months ago, I finally started going to see a therapist to try and put my life back together again after the events of last year at work. It was my therapist that identified to me that I was being bullied at work. It is kind of interesting how this bullying follows me around. I, of course, had labeled it differently. There were two major parts to the events that happened. The first part I had thought it was poor management decisions. I thought the decisions were very unfair and poorly thought out. The second set of incidents that were happening I thought were abusive. I thought it was a scheme to get me to leave. Or could it be that people were so blind to the actions of this person. I felt controlled, put down, micro-managed, insulted, set up so that whatever I did was wrong. My husband had never seen me go to pieces like this. We had been married for eleven years and he had never witnessed me behave like this before. I was frustrated. How after all the work I had done to get my life together, could this happen yet again?
My mother was frustrated when she came to visit and saw what a state I was in. ‘Why haven’t you gone to HR?’ She said. Why hadn’t I gone to HR? Well it was simply because HR does not represent the employees in America. HR is there to protect the employer. That is common knowledge in Corporate America. The second reason was, here we are again, how do you prove emotional abuse? At the end of the day, it would all come back on me - that there was something wrong with me.
My husband got extremely exasperated with me as I vented to him frequently about new incidents. He wanted to protect me and was angry that I was getting hurt. He was also frustrated with my responses to the situation. Besides not sticking up for myself, he was irked by my continually expecting a particular response from the said persons. ‘Haven’t you realized that they are not going to change? They are not going to respond in the manner you want no matter how hard you try.’
So exhausted, I went to the therapist to try to figure out how to move forwards. This is my journey.
Reading Luke’s blog and reliving my own culture, I just wonder if the way we were brought up led us to have these very high expectations of people. I have always thought people would be kind, truthful, help the underdog, be fair, execute justice, keep their word, acknowledge hard work and effort, be true, have integrity and so forth. Did the world change? Or were we just set up for failure?
A Very Clear Choice!
I began attending Fareham Park School half way through my first year as a junior in January 1969. Those months were a blur; the only thing of significance that shone through was reading about the Griffins. I loved these books and they grabbed my attention. I believe I started a game on the playground, as I got bored at playtime. One had to travel only on the painted netball lines and could only change directions at a junction. When I played this with friends, one would have to try and catch the other person.
I was in Mrs Harts’ class for the second year of junior school and have only two memories .... the blue National Health Glasses I had to wear to correct my stigmatism and the boy who sat next to me, who always seemed to step into dogs muck and then scrap it on the bar under the desk. It smelt foul and was very unpleasant, not just for me but for the rest of the class. I remember Mrs Hart getting very upset about the smell; we were told to own up to who had stepped in the dogs muck again; no-one put their hand up. So then there was the search at the end of the day; Mrs Hart went around table by table, searching and letting each table go; we were always last. The boy would get yelled at; maybe she wanted him to own up at the beginning. For sure after repeated performances of this, she would know who had done it? I would sweat it out, hoping that she wouldn’t think that I had done it (although I think I did do it once by accident). Funny how I would think I would be in trouble for something I hadn’t done. Maybe I got into trouble at home a lot, for things that I was supposed to have done? I do remember the boy’s name but I wouldn’t like to hurt his feelings.
Life in Mr. Hebron’s class in the third year of junior school was going along well, bar the milk that we had to drink before going out to play. Oh that milk was so foul. It may have been cold when it arrived, but by the time we had to drink it, it was warm and oh it made me gag! I think it was the result of a National Programme to ensure good nutrition for all children. I was fortunate in that my parents were able to provide good food for my sister and I and that was one of their priorities. Other children were less fortunate; their parents had other values; the paycheck was spent down the pub, before the bills were paid and the family was provided for. The idea to help provide some of children’s nutritional needs in school with the Milk Programme and free school dinners, is admirable. I advocate the community helping each other and not deserting the people in times of need.
Playtime was fun, with the other girls in my class. We played two ball on the walls of the school; continued to play the ‘line’ game on the painted netball courts on the playground; and learned how to clap our hands in different ways with each other, at the same time as singing small songs, such as:
“A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,
To see what he could see, see, see.
But all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.”
This one ditty was pretty apt, as we lived in community where a lot of the men were in the Navy. We were used to our dads going off to sea or being deployed in Scotland or Plymouth for periods of time.
Then half way through the year, things changed. They changed because I made a choice. A choice that I would not change if I had the opportunity over again. A new girl came to school - half way through the year - just like I had in my first year at junior school. She and her family had moved into the area. Others seemed uncomfortable around her. She wore glasses and was socially awkward at the time. She sat at our table; I think I was conscious of how other people felt around her, but I did not feel that way. Something inside of me knew that something was going to change, if I continued to be friendly to her and become her friend; I felt like it was the right thing to do.
One day we suffered at our table trying to down that warm, off-tasting milk, chatting, and then went out to the playground together. As we walked out, the girls that I had always played with, hindered our path and confirmed my gut feeling, that things were not going to be the same ever again. You know, I have never regretted that decision to make friends with the ‘unpopular’ girl. She was an excellent friend whilst we lived in Fareham and then went our separate ways after college. My only regret is having lost contact with her when I moved out to the States. I moved, then moved again and she was moving at the same time and we lost each other’s address. I wish she had written to me at my mum’s address; she still lives in the same home we moved into in 1969. Her parents had moved away from their home and I didn’t know where they had gone.
My friend and I hung out together even when we weren’t in the same class. I went around to her house often. We would type on our typewriters writing story after story together and then reading them to each other. I was fascinated by the organ in her house. She lived near Blackbrook Park which was a decent walk from my home. It was safe enough in those days, that I could walk to her house by myself, at such a young age. There is no way I would ever have let my children do that same walk on their own, at the age I was doing it. My friend had two older sisters that were twins; they were about twenty years older than my friend. Both her sisters and her mum were very eccentric and flamboyant; her dad was a quiet man. It was quite intriguing for me to watch them interact and a little intimidating, as I was not used to the behaviours and didn’t really know how to respond to them.
One of the things that I remember doing at school with my friend, was sitting on the field in the summer, near Fareham Park Infant School and eating our packed lunch. She always had two or three packets of crisps with her and was always generous enough to share with me. My mum only bought plain crisps then; sometimes cheese and onion or salt and vinegar but mostly plain. I recently realized that my mum actually likes plain, lightly salted crisps the best, that’s what she buys as a treat for herself when she comes out to stay with us. Now that I have twigged they are her favourite, I’ll get them in for her. My school friend introduced me to smokey bacon, prawn cocktail and Bovril crisps. It was very exciting for me to try these. Crisps are one of the things that I miss very much in the States. The chips out here don’t have the same texture or flavour.
I remember sitting on the grass in the playing field, eating Bovril crisps with her, the day after my mum had the 'birds and the bees' chat with me, the night before. I was ten years old; I remember feeling quite bewildered and unfocused that day, staring at others playing on the field but not really seeing them; thinking what my mother had told me was quite bizarre and could it possibly be true? I think my mum had to have the ‘chat’ with me because that year, we had several movies at school ranging in subjects from accident prevention, germs, and having babies. Actually the films were really good and I wish my children had seen them. I still am conscious of not leaving things on the stairs in case someone falls over them going up or down and all the germs that one can leave on a dish cloth!
My final year at Fareham Park Junior school saw me in Miss Trill’s class as a fourth year. Miss Trill, who was affectionately called ‘Bird Seed’ or ‘Budgie Seed’ was an older lady about forty (well that’s what she seemed to be to me). She had very dark hair and I was a little afraid of her. I learned a few years later that she had married, which was a great surprise to me. I must have had some presumptions about who is marriageable, for it to have been such a surprise. I’m quite embarrassed to have had those thoughts all these years later; why shouldn’t she have the chance to be happy? In that class, I remember a humanities system that we used. I can’t remember the name of it, but it was color coded. As you got through the levels in each color, you moved onto another color, with a greater degree of difficulty. You had to read the text on the card and then answer questions on it. It was nice to get onto the levels that were a little more challenging, but I also remember getting stuck and not having a resource to go to. Miss Trill was a little bit fierce. I remember once that we were being taught how to address envelopes. She taught us that it had to be the following format:
Mr. and Mrs. initials surname
number and name of street/
We were tasked to address the envelope to our parents. I checked my work two or three times before I stood in the queue to show Miss Trill. I was pretty shocked and humiliated for her to tell me that it was wrong. Mystified I returned to my desk. I read it and reread it; I couldn’t see where it was wrong. I knew I had to go and show her again and this time try and ask her how it was wrong. Shaking, I stood in line; she was very quick to tell me that it was still wrong. I disliked the sharpness in her voice, but I had to ask; I knew that she would be annoyed. I plucked up the courage and asked her what was wrong with it. Sharply she looked at me and said ‘You have put ‘Mr’ twice;’ I was stunned; why hadn’t I seen that I had done that? I walked back to my desk very cross with myself, very embarrassed and humiliated. Let’s just say that Miss Trill’s voice was loud and sharp. How could I have missed that? Once back at my desk, I looked at the envelope again; I got ready to correct it, But I looked at it and looked at it; I could not see that I had written ‘Mr.’ twice. Then the light bulb went on! My dad’s initials are M.R. That’s why it looked like I had written ‘Mr’ twice. So now I have to line up again and let this scary teacher know that it is correct! I know I was shaking in my shoes .....
The fourth year also brought more recognition of being part of a team. In Fareham Park Junior School, every class in each year were divided into teams, which were named after the patron saints of Britain: St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland - colour blue; St. David, the patron saint of Wales - colour yellow; St. George, the patron saint of England - colour red; and St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland - colour green. Each of these patron saints have a day during the year when they are remembered. If you were in the Brownies or the Cubs, you could wear your uniform to school on those days. I was always in St. David’s house during my years of school. Some students were put in different houses during their sojourn there, but I was always in St. Davids and St. David is who I supported. We worked in teams getting house points for work that we had done. During my years, St. Davids and St. George were always the top two houses for points and were always in competition with each other each week. Even in sports we were in our teams. I kind of let my team down in PE as my arms and legs didn’t seem to coordinate, unless I was in the swimming pool. We played a lot of rounders. I remember sports day. I also played netball.
The other wonderful thing that I liked to do in junior school was country dancing. We used to do it in class and then we had some extra time to do it at lunchtime; after everyone had their school dinner. Now school dinners, that’s another thing. I got chosen to help serve the school dinners; I loved it when I was putting the jam or sugar on someone’s rice pudding, but felt awful when I had to serve out the mince. The mince at school was terrible. I don’t know how they could cook it so badly; it made me retch; it was even worse than the warm milk! I helped serve schools dinners during my fourth year; during that time, the school kitchens were renovated and they had to bring in an outside caterer. Their food was totally amazing and I often would go up for seconds. Because I served school dinners, I also got to have one free. This meant a change from the sandwiches that I used to bring in - or worse yet, the cold toast and jam. I don’t know why my mum would think that cold toast with jam on it would be tasty. I have always liked hot toast and still do. Love my food hot not tepid! Or in the case of toast, cold .....
Anyway, back to country dancing; I loved to do the Victoria Reel and the other dances. Because I was tall for my age and there were a lack of boys, I often had to be the boy in these dances, but I loved to dance them; there was something satisfying about dancing with a group of people, in a systematic way.
The final thing I thought I would mention about junior school was that we took the eleven plus. For those of you not familiar with this, there was an intelligence test that was given in the fourth year of junior school. From the results of this test, students were then filtered into three types of schools. If you did well in the test, you went to a grammar school when you left junior school. If you didn’t do well, depending on other aspects of the score, you either went to technical or secondary school for the next five years. I did read somewhere, that there was another test given earlier in junior school, so this combined score contributed to the decision of where, your post junior education would be. The tripartite education system had been existence since the mid 1940’s. I do remember sitting in the school hall taking this examination.
Now I could get on my hobby horse about this, but I will leave that for another time. Suffice it to say, that I would have gone to the grammar school if they hadn’t built the new Fareham Park Comprehensive. I’m actually glad that I attended this school and this type of education, as it suited my learning style and my personality better. We were the first year through this school, being built around us as we went. This was really good for science, as teachers could dissect the rats they caught on the building site (so glad they didn’t ask us to do that)! We were quite fascinated with the pregnant rat. We also got to see a pair of cow’s lungs; and thank goodness for clarinet lessons - as I missed them cracking open the fertilized eggs and seeing the headless chick running around. I felt so sad for the chicks that died and the cut up rats.
We had sky blue PE skirts, tracksuits, white collar tops for PE and black leotards for gymnastics and dance. We used one of the larger classrooms for PE; by the third year we had the gym, the running track and the dance/drama studio.
Have to say that my time at Fareham Park Comprehensive School was pretty boring! Most of the time, I read the book that I had brought in, as teachers struggled to make my class quiet enough to teach. I was in class K through out my five years there; my friend was in P.
The first couple of years there were fine, but by the third year, I was getting bullied. Girls from my class would wait for me and try and push me down the stairs and hit me with wooden spoons in cooking. My mum came up to the school and had a word with my tutor. She told them that I would only take it for so long and then probably lose my temper and someone would get hurt; she didn’t want me to get into trouble for that. I’m thankful for my mum’s confidence in me, but I wouldn’t have actually lost my temper; I wouldn’t have really known what to do in those kind of situations. I knew that I didn’t want to go to school and that I was frightened and had no control over the situation. I was so glad to move on from that school and go to college; academically it was more satisfying and I felt safer. Ironically, the girls that bullied me were the first ones to come to me for help when we were doing our ‘O’ levels and CSE’s.
Sadly, the bullying has appeared in its multiple forms again and again in my life. Even this last year, it has reared its ugly head in the workplace. I know that wherever I go, it will happen again, so this time I am not going to run away from it and am endeavouring to change my behaviour in response; again, another clear choice. Hopefully, it will have excellent benefits as did my choice to be friends with the girl in my third year at junior school.
#Fareham Park Junior School#