Just discovered: a stash of exercise books with essays and stories written in the 1950s. So many gems, thanks to our very old-fashioned teacher who had strict rules: ‘But’ must never begin a sentence; subjunctive essential; and big words and fancy adverbs and adjectives always welcome. I got red ticks for ‘ irreconcilable’ ‘judicious’ ‘aromatic’ and ‘ a delightfully big garden’. She emphasised the importance of links between paragraphs, and several of the essays have ‘A-. Good links!’ as her only comment.
Her essay titles, seriously meant, produced some hilarious or sarcastic results. Two of the best:
‘A Netball’. ‘The netball, like its brother the football, is round and usually brown…’
My essay on ‘Walls’ concludes: ‘With the aid of a dicitonary, some history books, some encyclopaedias, an architect and an experienced builder, a whole series of volumes could be written, suitable for wall-lovers to read in bed.’
We practised writing different kinds of letters: ‘Dear Sirs, Please send me a brown skirt, waist measurement 25″, as advertised in the “Daily Mail” price £1-19-6d. I enclose a cheque for the latter amount plus 1/- to cover the postage…’
And here’s one requesting ‘a testimonial’ from the headmistress. It concludes, ‘I must take this opportunity of thanking you and the rest of the staff for all you have done for me in the shaping of my character and the training of my mind while I was at school. I shall always have pleasure in looking back at my life at our school.’
Not sure I’d say amen to that.