Shy child at the age of eleven
As I get older, I find myself looking back on my life a lot and often I wonder why I behaved in a certain manner at a particular time.
I tend to analyse things - normally when thinking of where I went wrong and how I could have done it differently!
One of the factors in my life that had a far-reaching effect was my attitude when I was at school.
At junior school, up the the age of eleven, I was very shy.
I was intelligent but quite a "geek", if I'm honest! I didn't mix well with other kids due to my shyness and had grown up mainly with my nose in a book, rather than playing on the park.
When I first went to school, at the age of four, I could already read and write, as mum had taught me.
However, my school taught a phonetically-based system of reading and writing called ITA (Initial Teaching Alphabet). The theory was that if kids learned to read using ITA, it would be easier for them to move on to traditional spelling and grammar afterwards.
I found it hard, because I had to "un-learn" all the correct spellings that I knew already and learn ITA. I believe by the mid-1970s, this system of learning had largely died out, which was a good thing.
But after my mum tried to explain to the school that I could already read and write, thus making ITA unnecessary for me, I think I got a reputation as a bit of a "swot" (one of the favourite insults of my childhood).
This label stuck with me throughout my whole time at junior school, particularly since I was totally useless at sports (I had no co-ordination at all) so I just got stuck into my academic work and kept my head down.
Teacher made me help my fellow pupils in class
By the time I was in my final year at junior school - aged ten or eleven - I was forging ahead with my class work and had completed the whole year's syllabus in maths by the end of the Autumn term.
I loved learning in those days and always had an "A" grade for everything. I was always top of the class and also earned the nickname "teacher's pet", which I didn't like, but I couldn't help the way I was.
In those days, there was no chance of progressing to a higher level of work, or sitting exams early. Instead, my final year teacher had me helping the struggling pupils in my class with their maths. They were mainly little boys and this in itself caused me problems, as they saw me as the "enemy" and in league with the teacher! They preferred to fool around rather than learn and nothing I said would have convinced them otherwise.
So I completed junior school with excellent grades, but with few friends nor social skills, having endured taunts from my peers for most of my school life.
Delight at being accepted at single-sex grammar school
For this reason, I was genuinely happy when mum and dad had me sit the scholarship exam for the local all girls' grammar school.
I passed this with no problems and looked forward to being able to carry on learning in peace without the taunts from the boys in my class.
Deep down, I would have loved to have been sporty and popular instead of brainy (or would have liked to have been all three) but this wasn't to be.
Many of my classmates were going to comprehensive school and I never saw them again, although a couple of other girls from junior school also passed the scholarship for grammar school.
Of course, mum and dad were very proud and anticipated my being a high-achiever. Neither of them had been lucky enough to have the chance to go to university, both having left school at 14 and started work full-time. So they hoped for a different life for me, one in which I could carve out a professional career and want for nothing.
Harsh discipline struck in my first term
In my first year at the grammar school, I was still a shy little thing, although I formed some close friendships with a couple of the other girls in my class and it was much more fun than junior school had been.
However, the discipline system kicked in just weeks into my first term.
One lunchtime, while walking through the refectory (where we dined) with my school dinner, I tripped up. I fell over my own clumsy feet and accidentally threw my whole meal, including baked beans and chips, down the back of a sixth-former as I walked by looking for a table.
I was overwhelmed with embarrassment and apolgised sincerely. She wasn't best pleased, as she had to take off her school jumper, which was covered in baked beans down the back.
I scurried off and didn't even go and get another dinner. I just wanted to make myself scarce.
I was punished with a detention
Later that afternoon, I was called out of class and told I must go and see the headmistress. I was unsure why.
This was always a sobering occasion for any pupil, since our school buildings were an old 19th century mansion house which had been converted into classrooms. The headmistress's office was on the ground floor of the oldest, gloomiest building. Waiting to see her, I was seated on a chair outside her office, a feeling of impending doom enveloping me.
To a shy 11-year-old, she was quite a scary character. She was a tall, thin lady, who was probably about 60 at that time, although she seemed ancient to me. She had very short, severely-cut, grey hair and wore thick, black-rimmed spectacles and tweed suits. She spoke in a very authoritarian manner to pupils and instilled quite a fear in me at that time, I have to say.
Being called into her office, I was grilled about the incident in the canteen and asked why I had thrown my meal over a sixth-former! I presumed it was obvious it was an unfortunate accident. However, I was given a detention for my behaviour, as if she thought I had done it on purpose!
I was so shocked. I had always been impeccably behaved at junior school and had never done anything which warranted a punishment in my life.
Punishment didn't fit the "crime"
I remember feeling outraged at getting a detention for an accident and having to stay behind for an hour after school a couple of nights later. I felt it was totally unjust, although it did achieve a little notoriety for me among my classmates, as I was the first pupil of the new intake to be awarded a detention.
I was doing so well in all my classes and now I had a blot on my records for nothing.
Another ongoing issue was the school uniform. I understood uniforms were there for a purpose. I had been told by my parents it was not only so we looked smart, but was also to ensure the less well off kids were not made to feel inferior by richer classmates swaggering in wearing all the latest designer clothes. I thought this was fair enough.
However, I felt my school took it to the extreme! We were expected to buy our uniform from one of two school uniform suppliers in the town centre. The blazer and hat were very distinctive and could not be purchased anywhere else, unless you had a hand-me-down from an older sister or relative.
The skirt was navy blue and we were expected to wear grey, knee-high socks, black shoes that were totally flat and even very large navy blue knickers! Everything to me was horrible!
By the time I was 11 or 12, I was the same size as my mum, who was 4ft 11ins tall. I also took the same size shoes. It was the 1970s, when platform shoes were all the fashion, so I had been wearing mum's shoes at the weekend! It was a massive culture shock for me to have to wear the most horrible, clumsy shoes I had ever seen in my life.
Not wearing the correct uniform led to a detention
I soon found out the perils of not wearing the correct uniform, however.
One day at school, the teacher went round all the girls and measured the length of our skirt! If it was more than a couple of inches above the knee, it was considered not suitable for school. Those whose skirts were too short - deemed improper - were initially sent home with a letter for their parents advising their skirt was unsuitable and that a new one must be provided.
Repeat offenders were given a detention, or sent to see the head teacher.
I didn't fall foul of the short skirt rule - I was so short at that time that my skirt was either below my knees or on my knees, so I didn't have that problem.
However, in my second year, I recall I stopped wearing the regulation shoes and instead persuaded mum and dad to buy me a pair with a small wedge heel, which was the fashion of the day. Even in my final year of junior school, I had worn wedge heels and they didn't affect my academic performance at all!
But when a teacher spotted me, I was called in to see her and was told they weren't suitable for school, because they were too high. I argued that I had seen the sixth-formers wearing massive platform shoes - some with a six inch heel and two inch wedge sole - so wondered why I couldn't wear a relatively low-heel wedge shoe?
However, because the sixth-formers were older and "young ladies", there was more lenience with their uniform. I was still "a child" and therefore had to wear the regulation clothing.
No amount of reasoning, pleading or cajoling would persuade any of the school mistresses to relax this rule.
So it was back to the regulation shoes for me and I detested them.
Every time something happened along these lines which involved a dressing-down for what I saw as a minor deviation in clothing, I felt a little more resentment building up, as I was still a very high achiever academically and was doing very well at school. I was generally well behaved and never did anything deliberately naughty.
Yet rather than focusing on the positives - such as the fact I had scored 99.6 per cent in my end of term maths exam and was top of the class - the fact I was wearing shoes with a two-inch heel seemed more important.
I possibly thought too much about everything and questioned the rules, as plenty of my peers went through school without questioning anything, never got in trouble and did very well.
But I found it hard to do this and always had to ask why we were required to do a certain thing, when to me it seemed to serve no purpose and didn't detract from our academic performance.
I had all the regulation uniform, my hair was smartly tied back and I was a grade "A" top student. So why did my shoes (which were the regulation colour, black, regardless of the wedge heel) matter so much? I seriously didn't get it.
Resentment at the rigid rules
At that time, I wasn't too rebellious, although gradually, more resentment began to set in that I wasn't being allowed to grow up. I was 13 years old by this time and hated being told I was "still a child" and therefore not allowed to wear pretty shoes! It sounds very silly now, but at the time, it was important to me.
I remembered my mum saying she had left school at 14 and had her first job in an office, so if she had been considered an adult at that age, why was I still a kid at 13? It's ironic that as we grow older, we long to be young again, but when we are young, we can't grow up fast enough.
However, the main problem with my uniform was the hat. It was a bright purple bowler hat and we had to wear them at all times out of school. As soon as we left home to walk to the bus stop on a morning, we were expected to wear our hat. If we weren't wearing the hat and were unlucky enough to be spotted by a teacher on their way to school, there would be a detention waiting for us when we arrived!
I didn't actually have a problem physically wearing the hat, as it wasn't uncomfortable or anything, although looked pretty silly with the white elastic under my chin to stop it from blowing off in high winds! However, it was other kids' reaction to it which bothered me.
Constantly teased about my hat
I used to catch the bus home from school - the old, yellow, "hop on, hop off" double decker. When we got on the bus outside school, it would have stopped previously at the comprehensive school further up the road. The other kids used to mercilessly take the mickey out of the grammar school girls, calling us "snobs" and trying to knock our hats off as we sat on the bus!
Sometimes, our hats were thrown out of the bus window, or our school scarf was tied to the back of the seat, so that when we tried to stand up at our stop, we were nearly throttled!
I found that not wearing my hat led to less taunting from the other school children. So I used to screw it up in my bag the moment I got on the bus. However, I sometimes got caught out as I alighted from the bus by a teacher driving past and I received the usual reprimand or punishment for being outside school without my hat.
However, wearing the hat was non-negotiable. It was to be worn at all times to and from school and that was that.
Strict disciplinarian teacher spoiled my enjoyment of English lessons
The next bone of contention for me was my manicured nails. I used to file my nails every day. They were medium length (nothing too long or outlandish) and I took a lot of care to make sure my hands always looked presentable.
This stemmed from having suffered from eczema for years as a child, when my hands were a disgrace. It even spread to underneath some of my nails.
I had to wear gloves with ointment sometimes because they were so bad. So when I grew out of it as I hit puberty, I was so thrilled at being able to have my hands on show that I took a great pride in my nails.
One day, I decided to put some clear nail varnish on. It was a nail-hardener product and not particularly glossy or anything.
At the time (in my third year) I had just chosen which subjects to study for my O-Levels and English was among them, as it was my favourite subject. During my first two years at grammar school, my English teacher was a lovely woman who was very easy-going, pleasant and smiled all the time.
But all that changed when English became one of my O-Level subjects. The teacher then was a rather scary woman who had a reputation as being a very strict disciplinarian. I recall she was very starchily dressed in dark-coloured suit with sensible lace-up shoes and her short hair was always rigidly stuck to her head. She wore glasses which perched on the end of her nose and she peered over them, never smiling.
Her classes were always deadly quiet and there was no talking whatsoever allowed, unless she had asked a question. Instead of enjoying English literature as I used to and looking forward to reading the books and the debate in the classroom, I started dreading going to the lessons, hoping I wouldn't be asked any questions and perhaps fall victim to her wrath. I found her patronising and did not like the way she spoke to us.
I have no idea why I found her so scary, because as an adult, with hindsight, I realise she was just a person like me. I'm sure everyone says this, but how lovely it would be to go back to school and do it all again with the attitude and knowledge I have today. I wouldn't be intimidated by anyone.
But in those days, what she said was the law and woe betide anyone who stepped out of line!
I was pulled out of class for wearing clear nail varnish
On this particular day, when I was wearing clear nail varnish at school, I recall the English teacher spotted it about half way through the class and came over to my desk very purposefully, asking to see my hands.
Immediately, she told me that wearing nail varnish wasn't permitted and she sent me to the staff room, where I must ask one of the other teachers for the nail varnish remover. I felt very cross and belittled in front of my classmates as I skulked out and by the time I had removed the polish, the lesson was over and I had missed half my class.
I found it ridiculous that such a small thing, to me, was such a major issue which had caused me to miss a lesson I used to love.
Physical education lessons were a nightmare for me
As I progressed into the fourth form, aged almost 15, I began to have serious issues with the strict regime at my school.
It was nothing to do with my appearance at this point - it was centred on the PE (physical education) classes, which were a total nightmare for me.
I have never been good at anything athletic.
I had no co-ordination when it came to sports and things were only getting worse at secondary school.
I was horrified to learn that every Tuesday afternoon, we had a three-hour PE session, to be spent in the gym, or playing hockey during the autumn and winter, or tennis in the spring and summer terms. I enjoyed tennis, but the gym sessions were sheer hell.
I was so clumsy, I was unable to use even the simplest of apparatus. I couldn't climb the ropes, nor could I climb the wall bars. These were just a non-starter for me and I lost track of the number of times I was left hanging on to the rope, about 3ft above the ground and unable to climb any higher.
We used to have to queue up to use the mats to perform either a forward or backward roll, or a headstand or some other discipline. I could do none of them and just used to stand at the back of the queue, ensuring everyone else went in front of me and avoiding my turn in the hope nobody would notice.
I knew I would make a total fool of myself and I used to feel sick with nerves.
The worst piece of apparatus in the gym was the vaulting horse. I had seen some of the girls effortlessly flying over it, some with a handstand or a flip on top. I was so envious because it took me all my time to actually clamber on top of it, let alone perform any gymnastic moves once I had got there.
Teacher would not let me get off the vaulting horse
The worst occasion for me was when I was spotted standing at the back of the queue of girls waiting to use the mats and apparatus. I realised there was to be no escape on this occasion.
The gym teacher told me to use the vaulting horse, which involved my running up to it as fast as I could and supposedly flying gracefully through the air. However, when I reached it, I had no idea how to mount it and after an embarrassing few minutes dragging myself on top, I sat there like a fish out of water, not knowing what to do and just wanting to get off again.
But the teacher was having none of it and instead, I spent a painful 15 minutes, in front of the whole class, making a total fool of myself while the teacher tried to physically lift my legs to make me perform some gymnastic feat on top! I felt physically sick with nerves and hated every moment of it.
I think the assumption on the part of staff was that anyone who didn't want to do PE was lazy, as it was a compulsory part of the curriculum. That wasn't the case at all. Had they told me to go for a run round the school field ten times, I would have gladly done that to ensure I had taken part in some exercise. But my body just wasn't built for cavorting about in the gym!
At this point, I thought, time and time again, as I sat on the vaulting horse being put through total embarrassment, "What purpose does this serve?"
I knew that when I left school, I would never go near a vaulting horse again (and indeed I haven't!) and I knew that my inability to climb a rope, or do a headstand, would have no far-reaching effect on my future and what kind of career I would have. So why on earth did this teacher find it necessary to put me through three hours of sheer torture every Tuesday afternoon, which made me feel like crying at the end of the session?
I wondered why they couldn't give me something more suitable to do - such as a run, for example.
I felt I was simply being bullied into doing something totally alien to me, which made me very unhappy, just because it was the rules. There seemed to be little understanding of what it was like to be 14 or 15 years old and being made to feel belittled and look a complete fool in front of classmates.
I was subject to jibes from a teacher
At roughly the same time, I made a rash decision to have my lovely long hair cut off. I had never had it cut since I was little and it was half way down my back.
But my cousin (two years older than me) had just had a fashionable, short haircut and I wanted to look like her. With hindsight, this was a mistake, as I didn't like it and wished I hadn't had it cut. But it was too late for tears.
At the time, I was starting to like punk and indie music and I had my hair cut into one of the fashionable styles of the day - it was very short and cropped at the sides, but longer on top. At the weekend, I wore it gelled up on top, but for school, I wore it smooth on top and just brushed down. I didn't think it looked particularly outlandish and it was just short.
I recall one of my teachers started taking the mickey out of me when I walked into class. Looking back, I do think this was very unprofessional of her!
When she saw my hair, she said to me, from the front of the classroom, as I sat at my desk, "What happened to your hair? Did you forget to have the top bit cut?"
Of course, everyone looked round at me and started giggling. Presumably, she thought she was being amusing. However, it turned into an ongoing "joke" and I was often asked, "Have you not had the rest of it cut yet?"
At this point, I was still doing very well academically and worked hard. But every single incident - whether it was the strict discipline, the hellish gym lessons, the niggles about the uniform or being singled out and having the mickey taken out of me - gnawed away inside and made the growing resentment that I kept bottled up get harder to hide.
I began playing truant
In the fifth form, I began to change quite drastically in terms of my attitude.
I was dreading the start of PE and gymnastics again and just couldn't face it. I had endured years of embarrassment and just wasn't prepared to do it any more.
I don't know how we managed this, but three friends and I did not attend a single PE lesson for the duration of our final year. The curriculum demanded that on a Tuesday afternoon, we were supposed to alternate, on a weekly basis, between three hours of hockey, three hours of gym or three hours of library studies. I didn't mind the library studies, as I found them useful. But no way was I going to endure any more gym sessions, which I saw as a waste of time.
Reading magazines and drinking pop was more fun
I have no idea how this happened, but the four of us did not attend any of the sessions after the first few weeks and somehow, we were not found out.
For these Tuesday afternoon sessions, 90 pupils in total were involved (30 from each of three classes in the fifth year). Maybe with the large number of girls involved, it wasn't noticed that we weren't present.
So instead of enduring the vaulting horse and the climbing ropes, or shivering on the walk to the playing fields at the local park to chase around after a hockey ball, wearing the horribly short gym skirts that were compulsory, we would hide out in the cloakroom.
We stocked up on bottles of pop (Cresta strawberry drinks) and lots of sweets (crisps and chocolates) plus a few teenage magazines and then sneaked down to the cloakroom, in the basement, where we found a quiet corner and sat among the coats to read and have a giggle until it was home time.
It was the first time I had consciously done anything to break the rules, but I had developed the attitude that if a rule seemed pointless and nobody would tell me why it was enforced, then I was morally right to break it.
Eventually reported for playing truant
However, we became too confident, after getting away with this for many weeks. It seemed too easy.
We decided one day to actually leave the school premises and go for a coffee in town when we should have been in class. Looking back, my grades had started to slide a little at the start of the term. I hadn't been looking forward to going back to school after the summer holidays, as I was dreading being reined in by the strict discipline regime again.
The sad thing was that I never got up to anything really naughty prior to this. I was just growing up and questioning things and I hated being told, "You'll do this because it's the rules and I'm telling you to," when I couldn't see any point whatsoever in doing certain things.
I think this was actually the turning point in my education - a time when I finally went off the rails.
On the day in question, we waited till after lunch, when we thought everyone would be in class, then sneaked down the side of the refectory building, one by one, darting out of the gate and quickly over the road, where we cut through the streets to avoid walking past the main school buildings.
We were so thrilled when nobody saw or challenged us. We walked into the town centre up one of the main streets, Central Drive, until we reached Lewis's department store, where we went in Miss Selfridge's Café and had coffee and biscuits. We had a browse round the fashion department and then caught the bus home at the usual time.
However, we had not anticipated the outrage that our truancy would cause after a member of the public, driving along Central Drive, had spotted us strolling along in our distinctive uniforms and had telephoned the school! She had asked the headmistress if it was usual for "her girls" to be out at 2pm on a weekday afternoon walking into town!
A week's detention followed
Arriving at school the next morning, I was stopped by my form teacher the moment I arrived and told to go and see the headmistress.
My friends and I were given a massive dressing-down and were told how we had brought the school into disrepute. We were each given a week's detentions. I received the rollicking of my life and suddenly, I had become a "naughty" pupil almost overnight.
It transpired that after the member of the public rang the school to say she had seen us out in our uniforms (minus the hats) all the class registers had been checked and it hadn't taken them long to work out which pupils were missing. Two teachers had gone out looking for us in their cars and had driven round the streets for the remainder of the afternoon to try and catch us out.
So the next day, our teachers were aware exactly which pupils had played truant and our fate had been decided.
I rallied against the rules and regulations
I wish I could say this had been a turning point in my life and the moment I realised my attitude was deteriorating and starting to affect my schoolwork.
But sadly, this wasn't the case.
At the start of this Hub, when I mentioned I always tried to work out, with hindsight, where things had gone wrong, I think this was certainly the moment when I let my education slide. I wish now that I hadn't. But I finally rebelled against years of strict discipline and thought, "Fine ... if they've labeled me as 'naughty', I shall be!"
I know I must have had that rebellious streak within me all the time - as plenty of girls never rebelled and did very well at school under the same discipline. So I can't blame my school for my conduct, as it was my choice to behave the way I did.
However, I have often thought that if only the little things at the beginning had not happened - such as going through sheer hell in the gym every week, or being given a detention for accidentally spilling my lunch over someone - maybe I wouldn't have built up such a massive resentment for the rules over my five years at grammar school.
I found I had less interest in my class work and my grades started to slide drastically. Over my first four years, I had achieved more than 95 per cent in most subjects, my lowest grade being 84 per cent in geography, which I found dull.
But by mid-term in my fifth year, I was averaging about 65 per cent in a lot of subjects and I really didn't care. I just wanted to leave school as quickly as possible. I had no intention of staying on to the sixth form to sit my A-Levels.
Thank God I still had a little ambition and intended sitting my A-Levels at all - but at the local technical college as a student, rather than as a grammar school girl.
Pierced ears led to another reprimand
During my final term, when it was almost the summer holidays, when I was leaving school, I had my ears pierced. This sounds pretty tame now, but in those days, we were not allowed to wear any jewellery at all for school.
My short hair had grown back to a bob which was almost on my shoulders and I usually wore it down, so it covered my ears. However, in the summer, when it was hot, I put my hair in a ponytail one day. I was 16 by this time and considered myself a young adult.
However, the first time one of my teachers spotted my earrings, she immediately told me to remove them because I was breaking the "no jewellery" rule. I was not wearing huge hoop earrings - just a small pair of gold sleepers, which I didn't think were noticeable. I was sitting at the back of the class anyway. But my eagle-eyed teacher spotted the earrings from a distance of about 25 yards and I received a public reprimand and was ordered to remove them!
I said that I couldn't, because I had only just had my ears pierced and I wasn't supposed to take the earrings out for a couple of weeks, or the holes would start to heal up. But the teacher just reiterated I had to remove them and that I should have waited till the summer holidays before having them pierced.
Yes, I should. But the rules had stopped mattering to me and I just resented them.
After this incident, I cut a hole in the top of my school bowler hat and pulled all my hair out the top of it like a Mohican for the journey to and from school. I thought to myself that I was still wearing the hat, so technically wasn't breaking the rules and couldn't get a detention. I guess I was challenging someone to stop me so I could point this out. But I was never stopped and there were no repercussions.
Examination grades were not good
I was supposed to be studying for my O-Level examinations at this time and I did do a little revision in the evenings, but not half as much as I should have. I just seemed to totally lose interest.
Looking back, I completely wasted the wonderful chance my parents gave me in sending me to grammar school.
I attended all my exams, but whereas at one time I had been expected to get an "A" in most subjects, I did not do well.
I achieved good grades in maths, English language, English literature and physics, but in my other four subjects, I received a "D" or an "E". Although on paper this was a pass, it was understood that anything below a "C" was not good.
Luckily, my grades were just enough to get me into technical college to study for my A-Levels.
On my last day at grammar school, I have to say I felt a "pang" at leaving, but I was looking forward to going to college so much that I wasn't too upset.
During the summer holiday, it was my school's annual speech day at a venue in the town centre and I went along, with my family, to collect my O-Level certificates on the stage. It was like a mini-version of a graduation ceremony. I was wearing my school uniform for the final time.
As I sat in the auditorium, quite excited (as I knew my family was in the balcony, proudly looking forward to seeing me going on stage) I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned round and looked into the emotionless, unsmiling stare of the English teacher who had made my lessons so unappealing.
She said in a disgusted voice, "Are you wearing MASCARA?" with the emphasis on the final word, as if she was horrified. Yes, I was.
She told me I must go to the ladies' cloakroom and clean it off, adding, "You won't be going up on stage to collect your certificates if you don't!"
I couldn't believe that at the age of almost 17 and having left school, I was still being treated like a naughty infant by this person. I just shook my head and refused. I thought, what would she do ... drag me out kicking and screaming?
As the ceremony was about to start, she walked off back to her seat on the opposite side of the aisle, looking very annoyed. Her annoyance was nothing to compare with the anger I felt inside that she had said this to me after I had left school, at what was supposed to be a happy and celebratory occasion!
I thought, who on earth would notice, as I went on the stage along with hundreds of other girls, whether I was wearing a couple of coats of mascara? I felt in despair!
Return to school years later
Once I had collected my O-Level certificates, I felt I had finally severed all ties with school and I didn't think I'd ever go back.
Yet as time passed and I matured, I often felt strangely nostalgic about school and realised the things that had adversely affected my moods while a pupil really hadn't mattered that much. With hindsight, I wished I had just done what countless other girls did, kept my head down and done well in my examinations. But I had to rebel against the system and in doing so damaged only my own future chances of success.
In the year 2000, I read that my school had closed down.
Mum had persuaded me to join the Old Girls' Association, against my will, when I left and oddly enough, I became glad that I had. We were invited to have a final look round the old school before part if it was demolished and the remainder converted into flats.
Mum and I returned to the classrooms and it was actually a very emotional day. I saw old friends and teachers as we were permitted to walk round the school for the final time. I went in the refectory, where I had received my first detention after spilling my lunch over a fellow pupils' back. I stood in the gym, where my life had been so miserable for my entire time at grammar school. I went in every classroom, from the first year one, where I had sat as a shy little child at the back, to my final year classroom, where I had lolled about, not really interested and just waiting for the bell to go home.
It made me very reflective and nostalgic and I wished that I had tried harder at school and modified my attitude.
School reunions continued for several years
After my school closed down, I continued to go to the Old Girls' Association annual reunions, where I met many old friends and we exchanged news.
I also met many teachers, who just seemed like normal human beings, of course.
I could not believe some of them were the people who had terrorized me for five years! It's funny how, with hindsight, we see situations in a different way.
The only memories we had of our schooldays were fond ones and even situations which had seemed upsetting at the time now seemed funny as I thought to myself, with some embarrassment, "Did I really behave that way?"
Eventually, I stopped going to the reunions when my own particular friends no longer attended, although even now, I wouldn't say I'd never go again.
I believe school life has changed since my era. I see schoolgirls now wearing earrings, make-up, hair extensions, short skirts and non-uniform shoes ... and I hear older people complaining about them and saying they look a "mess".
But I think, good luck to them. You're only young once and when you're in your teens, it's a time for expressing yourself and following fashion and being happy. I believe you can work hard at school and express a little individuality.
I'm still a rebel at heart, although today, I channel my somewhat forthright attitude into useful causes, such as campaigning for animal welfare and helping abandoned and abused animals as much as I can.
But often, I wonder how much effect the strict discipline of my schooldays had on my later life? And if I would have worked harder had I been allowed "off the leash" a little, thus not triggering the rebellious streak which adversely affected my education? I guess I'll never know.