‘The school was intended for delicate children and the teachers were gentle and encouraging.’ (p. 10)
Following her difficulties at school, Jean was moved to an open-air school and writes much positively of her time there and it is lovely to know that she ended up happy with her education. ‘There were no examinations and we were allowed to progress at our own rate,’ (p. 10). The open-air school Jean differed greatly from the mainstream she initially attended. ‘My health returned to me during my stay at the school and I was sorry to have to leave when we moved’ (p. 10). In her memoir, Jean suggests that her poor health was due to her original fear of school. Fortunately she would secure a place at a different open-air institution after the family moved which I write about in my post on Illness, Health and Disability.
During her time at school, Jean tended to compare herself to other children. There are often recollections of harsh comments that have stayed with her over the years. Other children were unfriendly: ‘On being informed by Mary that I was her sister the snobbish kid looked at me in disgust. ‘‘Is that dirty little girl your sister?’’ she said in tones of utter disbelief.’ (p. 9) We begin to feel extremely sorry for Jean, as not only did she have a hard time, but the brutality in which she often faced, has stuck with her into her adult life. We also get another insight into the appearance of the ‘pretty, dainty child’ (p. 9) which is Mary. It is apparent that Mary is a factor when it comes to Jean comparing herself to others. Mary is a smarter, prettier, tidier young girl, but despite this, Jean speaks fondly of her sister, yet it cannot have had a positive impact on her childhood that her grandfather and some friends continually compared her negatively to her sister.
Education and schooling is prominent within Jean’s memoir. I believe this is due to the hard time she had within her education; mainly the consistent canings, her fear of her cruel head teacher and her trouble with academics, particularly arithmetic which her first school, St. Michaels, ‘seemed to care more for than any other subject.’ (p. 7). It appears to have effected Jean in her later years and she presents herself as insecure: ‘one day I fell off the railings on to the path below breaking my nose and a corner of one of my teeth. As I grew older I bitterly regretted this accident as it did nothing to improve my appearance’ (p. 9). Jean already saw herself as ugly, perceiving herself as even more so after her accident, which reflects a lack of self-assurance. It is evident that Jean has spent her later life in a similar mind to her youthful-self. Her first school had knocked her confidence: ‘I shall never forget the humiliation I suffered during that time.’ (p. 7) It is unclear exactly when the memoir is written, but it is certainly decades after her life in the lane. This statement provides evidence to how significantly traumatising her initial institute was.
It is extremely interesting to have an insight into what education and schooling was like in the 1920s. It distinctly differs from the time we live in now; mainly for the best. It allows you to feel unbelievably lucky to have grown up in an era where corporal punishments were not legal. The recollections of her school days were my favourite part of Jean’s memoir. They capture her personality, her childhood and her later worries. We get a true sense of Jean Court within these extracts, something I really hoped for when beginning her brilliant tale of her childhood on the lane.
188 COURT, Jean, ‘Living in the Lane’, TS, pp.11 (c. 10,000 words). Brunel University Library. http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/9485
School in the 1920s. [IMAGE] URL: http://www.vil.mark.il.us/html/school_1920s.html