Ofsted decide to pay a visiti to the Chalet School with disasterous results
St Scholastika's House Characters:
06 Jul 2017 Updated:
15 Nov 2017
1. Chapter 1 by Milly
2. Chapter 2 by Milly
3. Chapter 3 by Milly
4. Chapter 4 by Milly
5. Chapter 5 by Milly
6. Chapter 6 by Milly
7. Chapter 7 by Milly
8. Chapter 8 by Milly
9. Chapter 9 by Milly
10. Chapter 10 by Milly
11. Chapter 11 by Milly
12. Chapter 12 by Milly
Miss Annersley laid the letter to one said and gazed unthinkingly at the wall for a few moments before pulling herself together. "Come on Hilda" she said to herself "don't be a spineless jellyfish - reread it, it will all make sense."
On second reading it made as little sense as before but this time she managed to register that some kind of inspector would be visiting the school early next week and a report would be produced. Ah well didn't sound that serious, all they'd probably want was a quick word with her, a few nice cakes and a cup of tea... and maybe some lunch. .... she smiled as a brilliant idea struck her.
She called in Rosalie and asked her to check which class had domestic science next Tuesday morning.
"Upper 4th". Perfect. "Rosalie would you let Hilary know that I'd like them to produce a special three course meal for the staff table. We'll be having a couple of visitors and I'm sure they'd love to try the girls cooking."
"Who are they?" asked Rosalie with interest.
"Someone from a company - odd name - hang on, oh yes Ofsted, apparently we should be registered with them or something so they want to pop in and inspect and do a little report, meet us probably and just get acquainted with the girls. Bit rude really, inviting themselves but sure it can do no harm so we may as well show them our usual good manners. After all they're coming all the way from London to see us. They've sent us a big folder of stuff but I expect they just want us to buy their stationary and books you know what these marketing companies are so I've popped it in the incinerator......."
A sharp intake of breath from Rosalie stopped her in her tracks "Ofsted... are you sure Hilda and you really threw all the paperwork in the incinerator?"
"Of course I'm sure do you want to see the letter?" asked Hilda handing it over as she spoke.
A moment of reading and Rosalie said "Hilda this is bad news, very bad news -they could close us down."
"Oh don't be so melodramatic Rosalie of course they can't. I'm sure they've just heard what a wonderful education we give the girls and they're coming to pick up some ideas. Pop it in the diary, give Hilary my message and then let Matron know that we'll have a couple of visitors and she'd better get the maids to prepare 2 rooms since one of them is a man so they can hardly share."
And with that, Hilda placed the letter to one side penned a quick response then put the matter of Ofsted out of her mind and busied herself with the sixths forms efforts on "How Nature and magic interact in A Midsummers Nights Dream". By the time she'd finished her marking she'd completely forgotten about the impending visit of Mr. James Connelly and Ms. Julia Verity.
Hilary Burn was feeling disgruntled. The kitchen was hot, the girls were unusually clumsy and the smells issuing from the ovens were anything but savoury. She really was not cut out for teaching domestic science and she hated cottage pie anyway - still at least she wouldn't need to eat it it was for the girls only today.
"Miss Burn" called a voice -shaken out of her thoughts she said "yes Maria"
"Please will you come and check my peelings to make sure I've done it right".
Miss Burn walked over glanced vaguely at the pile wondering why on earth she'd been asked and said "that's fine Maria now tidy it all up".
She thought again about Hilda's edict at the staff meeting "we can't get anyone to cover domestic science this term, so Hilary as you only teach games and things you can do with that for now and the prefects can deal with games and whatever else it is you do - I'm sure they can work out a time table between themselves"
Her weak protest had been swiftly quelled with "we all have to do what's necessary for the school and you had domestic science lessons at school so obviously you're well qualified to deal with it... now next..."
Her reminiscences were interrupted by a knock at the door followed by the swift appearance of Rosalie Dene asking for a quick word. Rosalie relayed the head's message and left Hilary in equal measure horrified and furious. Upper 4th the most difficult form in the school to cook a three course meal... for important visitors... under her supervision -
Even the cottage pie was proving a disaster - she'd forgotten to get them to peel the onions and they'd just shoved them in anyhow. The first batch of potatoes had boiled dry forcing the girls to peel more. The crumble on the apples had burnt and smoked - and this was the efforts of the mainly responsible lower sixth. Custard next,not that she'd ever made it herself but she'd read a recipe book last night and was hoping for the best.
Meanwhile, Matron was staring at Rosalie utterly aghast. A man? You want me to make a room ready for a man? Men don't stay at the Chalet School. Maybe the san could put him up or Madge and Jem or maybe....
"Hello Matron, Hello Rosalie" chimed in a well known voice "I have a free afternoon so I thought I'd pop in and see you"
"Joey thank goodness the answer to all our problems" shrieked Rosalie "you need to find room for a man, and tell us what to do about ofsted and please help us with Hilary she's so cross at the moment"
"Slow down, slow down... never heard of ofsted, I've have to ask Jack about the man I am sure we can squeeze him in somehow - I assume he's a doctor... and what's wrong with Hilary? She's normally so cheerful."
"Not now Hilda's got her teaching domestic science, she hates it and all the cooking is terrible and she's worried about games and gym.. really only some of the prefects like that sort of thing and they aren't happy either I've heard them grumbling and everything is awful and they'll shut the school down unless we do something"
And with that confused outburst poor Rosalie burst into tears and was led away by Matey muttering "there, there don't cry, I'll put you to bed with some hot milk and you'll feel far better after a few hours sleep.
"Well" proclaimed Jo out loud then thought to herself "Something's obviously wrong with Rosalie, perhaps the heat has addled her brain... I expect Matey has taken her to her room, I'll pop along and sing her to sleep like I used to with The Robin"... and she quickly followed Matey and Rosalie along the corridor.
A little later, Hilda finished her marking and glancing at her watch realised that prayers would be in a few minutes. Just as she left the office Matey joined her and said "Hilda, Rosalie's not well,I've put her to bed and slipped a little something into her hot milk. Joey's singing to her now. I think perhaps she's overworking, she seems very highly strung....she's babbling about the school being closed down and seems to want a man to stay overnight..."
Hilda interjected "yes indeed, we have some visitors coming from London next week and one of them is a man -they are just coming to pick up some hints about how the school is run. They seem to be an organisation that advises schools so they want to write a report and I expect they'll find lots of things other schools will find useful - anyway we must make haste, its time for prayers."
And so the Chalet school having choked down the cottage pie, blackened apple crumble and suspiciously lumpy custard provided by the lower sixth passed for once a nearly uneventful weekend, unless one records Daisy Simmons pricking her thumb with a needle whilst sewing a nightdress for an impoverished girl of the local parish..
An old friend has been in touch with Ofsted giving them good reason for their visit
John Connelly and Julia Verity grabbed Danish pastries and strong coffee and commenced their usual Monday morning meeting to discuss the week ahead.
"Bit of an odd one this week Julia, The Chalet School - girls boarding school in Armishire, Wales, came over here from Austria or somewhere, set up, not registered with us or anyone else and apparently providing the most peculiar education. Had a letter from some woman in Germany - Thelka something or other saying that its prudish, old fashioned and takes no care of health and safety at all - seems the girls have the most awful accidents and various doctors float about the place drugging them so they can't complain to their parents. Oh and the girls are often expected to teach each other and supervise lessons. It can't all be true surely perhaps she's got a grudge - she did mention she was an ex pupil. I thought we'd better prioritise it so we'll go there today and start inspecting tomorrow. I've cancelled all the other inspections this week as it sounds like it will take a lot of sorting out. They've been sent all our registration forms and preparation documents so hopefully that'll save a bit of time when get there."
Julia sat deep in thought for a moment or two "Surely it can't be that bad - if its true about the doctors we'll need to close it down at least temporarily. Did she say anything else?"
"Yes,the standard of learning is very low because lots of the lessons are conducted in languages the girls often can't speak properly themselves - she didn't expand though so no idea what she actually means."
"Hmmm perhaps because she's German and lessons were in English. Do you think we should post phone next week's inspections as well... may be as well and I'm sure none of the schools will mind a bit of extra time to prepare. Has a hotel been booked for us?"
"No, in fact we had a most polite letter from the head mistress a Miss Annersley inviting us to stay with them as long as required to finish our inspection. Not quite sure she's got the idea of us though as she says she's sure we'll have a lovely time and find lots of hints to pass onto other schools. She also said something about one of the old girls inviting us to tea to meet the triplets and perhaps we could visit the San to see the free bed whatever that means. She sounds a bit confused really which is rather concerning all things considered."
"Very odd, still I'm sure all will become clear -anyway lets finish this grab our bags and go. We can talk about this on the train. Certainly sounds like we are in for an interesting experience".
And so James and Julia took their bags full of forms and suitcases and made tracks to yet another school.
An enthusiastic greeting from Mary Lou but it looks like this is not going to be an easy inspection for John and Julia
Mary Lou and Vi Lucy were promenading in the garden and chattering happily when they saw two strangers dragging suitcases and bags up the drive.
"Oh they must be visitors, lets go and help them with their bags" and being Mary Lou she bounded up to them and pronounced in her usual clarion tones "hello you must be exhausted, its a long walk, let me and Vi help you, I expect Matey will have a room ready for you well if you're expected, oh I'm Mary Lou Trelawny by the way what are your names?" - and with that she almost grabbed a large bag from the lady motioning to Vi to the same for the gentleman.
John and Julia were taken aback. Rarely had they met a child who was quite so forward but they thankfully relieved themselves of their bags and followed the girls up to the front door where Mary Lou hustled them into the entrance hall before telling them to sit down while she got Miss Annersley or Miss Wilson... "who shall I say is calling" she asked.
Julia recovered her breath enough to say "John Connelly and Julia Verity from Ofsted".
Mary Lou looked at her with interest. "Ofsted -what a funny name - what do you do? I expect its really interesting, I want to be an archaeologist when I grow up ... anyway we'd better go and get someone sit there and wait and we won't be long ... come on Vi and they raced off before Julia or John could get a word in edgeways.
Julia gazed around thoughtfully "lovely building, must be ancient. If all the girls are like her though we're going to be exhausted before we know it. Still once we get into things I'm sure it will be fine. 4 o'clock now so just time to get to our rooms and clean up before the senior management team meeting we've asked them to set up for 5pm"
"I hope you're right" replied John, "I've got a strange feeling this is not going to be so easy."
A few moments later, a stately lady entered the hall and approached them.
"Welcome to the Chalet School. I am Hilda Annersley, the head mistress. We hope that you will enjoy your stay and find lots of useful ideas to pass on to other establishments. Let me show you your rooms then you may rest and later someone will collect you for abendessen followed by prayers then if you wish you may join in the dancing. Please follow me. Don't worry about your suitcases they will be bought up shortly" and she glided off leaving them to follow in her wake.
"But Miss Annersley" called John "what about the senior management meeting at 5pm, and do you have all those forms we sent you for us to look at, we can spend some time going through them now".
Hilda turned, a strange look on her face. "Senior management? Well I suppose that's me and Miss Wilson and maybe Rosalie Dene she does lots of the work, but don't worry about that just yet you're sure to meet with them both at dinner. I am afraid I'm not sure about any forms,I'll ask Rosalie if she knows."
"But we sent you a whole file full, you can't possibly have missed it. There were lesson planners for all your staff to give examples on, all the health and safety forms, a safeguarding questionnaire, to name but a few"
Hilda thought for a moment. "Actually yes,I do remember, there was some kind of file, I assumed it was marketing though so I incinerated it all. Really the staff plan the lessons as they go along and if you're interested in health and safety, I'm sure Matron will be happy to tell you all about it. I think she's busy dosing some miscreant girls with cod liver oil at the moment though - hopefully make them think twice before they over indulge on illicit cakes again - anyway Mr. Connelly this is your room, I hope you'll find it comfortable. Miss Verity is next door. As I say someone will be along in a while to take you to abendessen - in fact I'll send Matron then you can discuss the girls health with her as you go,that should save you some time. By the way I've assumed you're both Protestant but for now I am sorry but I must rush to see the prefects about the entertainment for tomorrow evening. I think they're planning progressive games,you'll enjoy that. The staff are supervising prep for once to free them up. Au revoir et a bientot" and with that Hilda walked sedately away.
Julia's jaw dropped... "I think you're right John this is going to be very difficult indeed and what on earth is abendessen and why has she assumed we're protestant and did my ears deceive me or did she actually say she'd put all our paperwork in the incinerator? I don't think we've got much choice but to wait in our rooms for this Matron person to turn up - can't say she sounds very pleasant if she doses the girls with cod liver oil it's vile stuff.
John considered for a moment "No Julia we're not sitting around here. We've only set eyes on two girls so far - lets go and have a look at the rest I think she said they were in prep so lets go and sit in for a bit I'm sure we'll find them if we look hard enough."
"Actually John not a bad idea, lets leave our stuff in our rooms, have a quick freshen up and then explore"
So a few minutes later they began to wander the corridors opening random doors. The first few opened into dormitories - all very tidy with pretty curtains which obviously pulled down to form cubicles. Downstairs though they found a large hall and finally opened a door to reveal a class full of girls with a teacher sitting at the front. They all seemed to be working industriously and the teacher didn't notice them as they slipped in at the back. Then Julia started to move among the girls looking down at their work which seemed to be a mixture of arithmetic and complex French grammar exercises. John followed her example and at that moment the teacher glanced up.
"Who on earth are you" spluttered Mary Burnett "and what are you doing in this school. Girls please continue working while I deal with these interlopers. Remember you are on your honour to behave" and she firmly ushered John and Julia from the room.
John turned to her "You can't treat us like this, we are Ofsted inspectors and we are meant to observe lessons."
Mary glared at them "I have never heard of Ofsted and nobody wanders into my classroom without very good reason let alone complete strangers, by rights I should call the police but I'm taking you immediately to Miss Annersley - you have absolutely no right to be here and I'm sure she will deal with you faithfully. Come with me at once" - and she herded them along the corridor like two naughty children.
Miss Annersley was just returning from her brief meeting with the prefects when she was confronted by an obviously incandescent Miss Burnett and two extremely angry Ofsted inspectors.
"Miss Annersley this is intolerable, the outcome of this inspection could be very serious for the school and you're treating it as utterly unimportant" fumed John.
"No talking in the corridor please Mr. Connelly, if you were a pupil I'd give you an order mark for that". Mary I'll deal with this go back to your class now please and I'll explain to all the staff later. I'm sorry if you've been disturbed... now Mr. Connelly and Miss Verity follow me to my study, we clearly need to lay down some ground rules"
"We most certainly do." muttered Julia under her breath "we most certainly do".
John and Julia get their way and have a senior management meeting
This time Julia was determined to speak first and so almost before they had crossed the thresh hold of the beautiful library that served as Hilda's study she let forth with a torrent of speech.
"Now you listen to me. This school is breaking all sorts of rules. You can not just come to this country and operate without checks and registration. Ofsted have been set up by the department of education to check schools and their standards and that is exactly what we intend to do. If we are sufficiently unhappy we can and will close you down. It is now 4.35 - you have 25 minutes exactly to set up a senior management meeting. We will resupply you with all the paperwork you foolishly incinerated and expect it all filled in properly by 9am tomorrow morning.
For the briefest of moments Hilda's jaw . "Well if you insist - I shall call Miss Wilson and Miss Dene and arrange someone else to take prayers. I'm sure we can sort all of this out though I am most confused. However, it saddens me to say your manners are severely lacking - perhaps a few days exposure to our girls influence will do you good. Now please sit down, I will call for tea and then we shall all have a talk and proceed as I said earlier to Abendessen and dancing. As for your forms, I am afraid I see no need for them - you are welcome to observe and talk to our girls but my staff are busy enough I'm afraid without unnecessary paperwork"
Somehow both inspectors found themselves crushed by the force of her personality. Julia mumbled something about "maybe having to manage without some of the forms" and earned one of Hilda's mesmerising smiles.
She indicted a couple of comfortable armchairs and rung the bell. A few moments later a maid appeared - "Ah Gladys please bring tea for five and ask one of the girls to ask Miss Wilson and Miss Dene to come to see me please".
"Now Mr. Connelly, Miss Verity - we are happy to have you in the school and hope you will have an interesting time with us. It is always good to welcome visitors. However, we must ask that you do not disturb lessons or the girls rest time. We will be delighted if you would do us the honour of joining us for dancing tonight and the prefects entertainment evening tomorrow. It has also been decided that lunch tomorrow will be provided by lower 4th who have domestic science in the morning. I do accept that you are here to do a job, but we hope that you will respect the school's traditions and also that our priority is to educate our girls to the highest possible standard whilst also allowing them plenty of time for rest and hobbies. We expect our pupils to take high levels of responsibility especially as they get older and indeed you will find our Prefects and sixth form take a hand in the running of the school. We are here to create strong educated women who can run homes and take on important jobs with the minimum of fuss. As you may know, we started in Austria but sadly had to leave because of the political situation so you may find some of our traditions different to those you are used to."
Ah here are Miss Dene and Miss Wilson and Gladys with the tea.. now we can get started properly.
"Rosalie, Nell - I'd like you to meet Julia Verity and John Connelly. They work for an organisation called Ofsted which regulates and reports on the standards in schools. I believe they have a number of questions so perhaps we can all sit down and start with those. I hope that this will be a mutual learning process for us all - Mr. Connelly, Miss Verity please go ahead."
The conversation that followed covered issues regarding the qualifications of teachers, questions about health and religious tolerance and numerous questions regarding the focus of the school on maths, English and modern foreign languages.
All of these were answered easily and mainly to Julia and John's satisfaction though comments such as "the San doctors take a deep interest in our girls", "tomorrow is French day" and "we take great care to ensure the girls hump their mattresses every couple of days" resulted in some bemused glances between the two.
Then Julia asked "Now please will you tell us about your pastoral care - who is your school counsellor?"
"School counsellor" asked Miss Wilson clearly flummoxed.
"Yes, who is it that your girls take all their personal problems and issues to. We would like a meeting with them to discuss their views on the girls emotional welfare."
"Hmm said Hilda. "I suppose that's Jo Maynard. Rosalie will you give her a ring and ask if she'd be kind enough to invite our visitors for tea so they can discuss these matters with her. You'll like Jo she really is a foundation stone of the school. Now its abendessen very shortly so we must change."
"Miss Annersley" asked Julia "what exactly is abendessen?"
"Dinner - as I said the school started in Austria so we keep some German words. Tomorrow you will have Frustuck and mittagessen - although otherwise as we said it will be French day. If you have any difficulties at all with that please ask one of the older girls or staff and they'll happily help with your vocabulary and pronunciation."
Unfortunately Julia was at that moment inwardly panicing about what she should wear for dinner so missed the implications of this, though John frowned.
A few hours later Julia and John stood outside their rooms conferring in whispers. "Velvet dresses, country dancing... charming, polite,helpful girls though that American one seemed a bit overbearing, lovely dinner, beautiful building, nice international outlook, music teaching obviously of high standard judging by girls who played piano... but oh so old fashioned.. and we've still to meet the mythical matron - someone said she was overseeing some girls who were sewing sheets side to middle as a punishment. I really don't like the sound of Matron she sounds terrifying."
"Anyway said Julia, time to hump our mattresses -what a terrible expression. Good night John"
"Good night Julia"
Its hard to decide who have the worst morning - John and Julia or Hilary
"Well thought a worried Hilary" as she surveyed the waiting girls - "we can only try". She's been up at least half the night slaving over recipe books and had decided wisely decided simple was best though what their visitors would make of melon and ham, roast lamb served with boiled new potatoes, roasted tomatos stuffed with basil and Eton mess remained to be seen. She had no idea what to make of the inspectors since her attempt to greet them over breakfast (in rapid French) had resulted only in blank stares.
Aloud she said "Maintenant ecoutez. Aujourd'hui nous allons préparer un répas spécial pour les professeurs et leurs invités " She continued in French - please separate into 3 groups of 6. Group one you will be responsible for the starter, group 2 for the main course and group 3 for dessert. This is an important job so please keep to the task girls"
An hour and a half later she surveyed roughly chopped melon adorned with large rather fatty chunks of boiled gammon (she'd quite missed the relevance of parma ham in the recipe) , some blackened lamb which turned out to be blood red when hacked apart, a large tray of crumpled tomatoes vaguely stuffed, some soggy potatoes and some Eton mess that was frankly a mess. The cream smelt mildly suspicious and the meringues still soggy - in fact they'd barely set. The basil leaves weren't quite as she remembered them but were at least green and stuffed into the tomatoes.. but it was done and time was up.
"Well done girls, now please clean up and we can serve this delicious meal to the staff table". Inwardly she resolved that she would replace lunch with a few biscuits and a visit to the kitchen to beg for leftovers today.
"Wonder if she noticed we used salt instead of sugar in the meringues muttered Clare Tolaney to her friend Vivian - or bay leaves instead of basil - wonder why she's teaching us she knows nothing about cooking" "Never mind the vinegar in the cream" countered Vivian. Their giggled comments it might be added in forbidden English were drowned out by the clatter of pans and bowls so Hilary remained blissfully ignorant of what was to come.
John and Julia were having nearly as bad a morning. Hilda had delivered them first to a maths lesson for the fifth- which was conducted in very fast French with occasional pauses for explanations in English by one Madame Lecoutier. This was followed by geography for the third with Miss Wilson again conducted in French - it seemed to be something to do with volcanoes judging from the diagrams on the board and then history with upper second with a now far calmer Miss Burnett - they heard the word "Tudor" and "Elizabeth" repeated a number of times so were able to surmise the content of the lesson.
They barely understood a word and when John ventured to ask that the lesson be conducted in English Miss Wilson turned his question into French and forced him to repeat it endlessly until she was satisfied before pronouncing "C'est bien. Vous devez repeter ceci vingt fois avant de vous coucher".
It was hard to avoid the amused smirks of the girls and both inspectors were effectively struck dumb as any attempt to ask questions in English, was met with "En Francais sil vous plait" followed yet again by the robust treatment dealt out by Miss Wilson.
Mary Burnett just about managed to control her laughter as Julia repeated "Je ne comprend pas" for the fifth time and she recollected Hilda's comments in the staff room last night.
"We have a couple of visitors - a Ms Verity and a Mr Connelly. They are from some government organisation called Ofsted and seem to be under the mistaken delusion that they can tell us how to run our school. They've said they'd like to experience as much as possible of the education the girls are receiving so please don't be surprised if they should turn up in various classes, just keep teaching. Obviously, if they have any questions do treat them politely but remember they want to experience what the girls experience and so in that spirit please don't forget that tomorrow is French day." And with a mischievous smile that would have surprised the girls, Hilda was gone.
The bell for lunch bought the lesson to a thankful end and she sent the girls to the splasheries before taking pity on the inspectors and telling them in English that it was lunchtime in a few minutes and she'd take them along. "We're in for a treat today - the upper fourth have spent all morning making a special meal in your honour so I do hope you enjoy it. We'd better switch back to French now though, we must set an example to the girls.
A dreadful lunch, a meeting with Matron (though certainly not to discuss health and safety) and then its time to observe Mr. Denny's singing lesson
Hilary settled herself at the staff table with considerable trepidation. There was something about the angelic behaviour of Upper 4th that was more than a little unsettling. The meal may not have turned out exactly as it looked in the book but their behaviour and absorption throughout the lesson had for once been exemplary. Miss Annersley's announcement to the table that the meal they were about to enjoy was mainly down to her efforts did nothing to settle her state of mind.
The gammon and ham came first and although some eyebrows were raised at the saltiness (the gammon had enjoyed all of 2 or 3 minutes soaking) it was swallowed down. The lamb was mainly left on the side of the plate - as Miss Wilson commented quietly to her neighbour there was rare and there was extinct. Then there was a choking noise as Julia unceremoniously spat her tomato and basil back on the plate...others with a little more decorum (as befitted Chalet School staff) produced handkerchiefs and emptied their mouths.
"That is disgusting" pronounced Simone "what on earth have you put in those tomatoes Hilary?"
John examined his as yet untasted portion "Bay leaves and plenty of them - I think I'll leave mine if that's acceptable." Most of the staff were so busy choking or smacking each other on the back that his illicit use of English went uncommented though the as yet unintroduced lady sitting opposite him shot him a sharp glance. She looked as if she might have fallen into a vat of starch so crisp were her clothes - he withered under her gaze glad he wasn't one of her pupils.
Hilary hoped that was the worst of it but she'd reckoned without the Eton mess.
Both staff and ofsted inspectors raced from the room heading at speed for the splasheries and seeming to choke. The starched woman awaited their return then stood and said "Please all of your report to my room after this meal and I'll dose you with something to settle your stomachs."
Meanwhile Hilary found herself subjected to Hilda's coldest glare. "Miss Burn please assemble the upper fourth and have them all report to the hall immediately after mittagessen. She switched to English "Mr. Connelly, Miss Verity I am so sorry for this imposition. After you've seen Matron, you may go to a singing lesson - you'll be glad perhaps to know that these lessons are always conducted in English at the insistence of Mr. Denny".
"Seen Matron?" spluttered John who was still looking rather nauseous. He had a particular liking for sweet food so had managed to gobble down two large mouth fulls before the dreadful sensation had hit his taste buds.
"Yes" said the starched lady "I am responsible for the health of staff and pupils in this school and while you are here you come under my care - you will therefore attend my room with the other staff and no arguments unless you fancy a few days in my sick room"?
A noxious dose forcibly administered by Matron was followed by observation of Mr. Denny's singing lesson.
He was a mildly alarming figure. Julia and John were used to teachers and had met some unusual characters but Mr. Denny was beyond curious. His language appeared to stem from the previous century and his long hair seemed quite out of place for a teacher. He was however most courteous towards them, seating them and pleasantly enquiring "whether the kind sir and sweet lady wished to join with the singing or merely sit and enjoy the sound of the sweet angels", They assured him with some relief they had the option that they were happy to observe.
The lesson passed without incident until the class constantly stumbled over one phrase. Mr. Denny turned with a cheerful smile towards the inspectors. "Mr. Connelly please come and join me - this song needs a baritone to anchor the sweet mezzo and soprano offered by the girls. We are so pleased you are here with us today it really is most fortuitous."
"No thank you" said James "I am only here to observe and advise I'm afraid."
"Oh please don't be shy Mr. Connelly. The best advise you can offer these sweet maidens is that of example. Now, Mary Lou please pass him your music and share with another and I will strike the note. Girls Mr. Connelly will sing it the first verse as it should be sung and then you may join in with the rest."
Mary Lou was barely able to smother her giggles but nontheless passed the music to James shot him a very mischievous smile and then said "Mr. Connelly you need to start here - the music shows you what to do."
Mr. Denny moved to the piano and started to play and for a few seconds James just stood there while Julia googled at him wondering how on earth he was going to react. The girls were giggling openly and turning to stare at the now blushing inspector...
He flushed a deeper red, threw the music down with force ( clarion tones were heard to proclaim "that's mine I'll get in trouble if its damaged") and then exploded "I will not be treated this way - I am leaving this lesson immediately and I can assure you I will be reporting you directly to the Head Mistress, come on Miss Verity and he stormed out of the room - Julia trailing in his wake only just managed to prevent the door slamming.
"John they're not taking this seriously -whatever can we do,this is awful how can extricate ourselves from here without looking like idiots and what on earth are we going to write in our report we can hardly admit we didn't understand the lessons when 11 year old girls clearly did?"
"I think a trip to the study is in order - I think they said they were going to organise tea with the school counsellor, perhaps she can help us understand what's going on here."
Rosalie desperately tries to smooth things over
As they made their way to the study they were stopped dead in their tracks by a conversation coming from behind a slightly open door.
"The third were dreadful in tennis this morning. Honestly I couldn't control them, in the end I just got them to run round and round the court until they were exhausted."
"Yes" came another voice "the fourth forms were awful yesterday when we did netball I gave up and just let them cause mayhem. Its alright for Stephanie and Joyce and Kathryn and the younger ones look up to them - they are good at games but the rest of us only ever did what we had to. Why are we teaching games anyway - I'm sick of having no free periods and getting behind on all my research work.
"And I'm way behind on my practise" said a sweet heavily accented voice "I'm never going to get that Schubert right at this rate and I need it for my advanced. I wasting time teaching 13 and 14 year olds gym when I barely know what to do myself."
Julia and John looked at each other similar thoughts running through their minds At last evidence of serious problems AND the conversation was actually in English. It looked like Thelka was right.
"Shall we go in?" whispered John.
"No" replied Julia "lets carry on to the study - we'll make sure we witness some games and gym lessons tomorrow as well as see the counsellor."
"Much longer here and I'll need a counsellor myself"
They proceeded to the study where Rosalie Dene greeted them with a smile. "Have you come to see Hilda? I'm afraid she's a bit busy at the moment dealing with the upper fourth. We have reason to believe that today's disastrous lunch was not entirely an accident and you will be receiving apology notes from all those involved in all three languages. Actually that reminds me, its French day and really we should be speaking that now but I thought you may find English easier."
A disturbed look crossed Julia's face "Three languages?"
"Oh yes - tomorrow is German day by the way - don't worry you'll soon pick it up. Now why don't you sit down and tell me what I can do to help you and I'll order tea and cakes for you? How was Mr. Denny's lesson? - he is I admit an unusual character but he's a wonderful teacher and he gets excellent results from our girls."
Julia thought she'd better leap in quick "Mr. Denny certainly stretches them and seems to insist on a high standard." She left it at that hoping John would decide to stay silent but she hoped in vain.
"He's awful - when the girls couldn't' get it right he tried to force me to join in the lesson and sing a solo"
"A solo?" Rosalie didn't look even remotely surprised...
"Yes he seemed insistent that they needed a baritone to as he put it "anchor the sweet soprano and mezzo offered by the girls". We left the room - singing is not in our job description"
"I'm sorry about that - he's engrossed in his own musical world and can't understand why anyone else wouldn't wish to join him. Please don't take offence he was only doing what he felt best for the girls, he wouldn't have wished to upset you, honestly it probably never even occurred to him that he might but I will ask Miss Annersley to mention to him that it was perhaps inappropriate. Now here come our tea and cakes so lets sit down and talk about what else you'd like to do whilst you're with us. I do understand that this inspection could have serious consequences for the school and working with you really is the best way for all concerned"
John was somewhat mollified by Rosalie's sympathetic approach so chose his next words carefully. "Sadly you seem to be one of the few here who've taken us seriously. We've been frogmarched out of classrooms, humiliated by staff and survived two attempts at poisoning us first by your girls and then by your matron. That said, some of the teaching is clearly excellent (John couldn't bring himself to admit he couldn't actually understand the lessons), the girls overall seem happy and well behaved and for the most part we have seen worse. Your administration and leadership structures on the other hand seem utterly chaotic and are going to need a serious overhaul."
Rosalie took a deep deep breath, counted to ten in her head, smiled and then said "well I do most of the administration here so if there are specific problems perhaps we could schedule a time to discuss them, I am always happy to look at other ways of doing things".. in her head she said do this for the school, they could still close us down .... "now moving on to other things, I've made a list of lessons you might like to observe tomorrow along with their times and classrooms. I've also contacted Joey Maynard and she would be very happy to have you for tea tomorrow. She lives off site so will send her husband to collect you at 3.30pm - he has to visit one of the girls in the sickroom anyway and then she will drive you back later. It will be a nice opportunity for you to have a break from the girls and see a little of the beautiful countryside around here."
Julia studied the list Rosalie had handed her. Miss Dene this list does not include any physical education. "Tomorrow we thought we'd like to observe netball or tennis or maybe gym - healthy bodies, healthy minds and perhaps given today's debacle it would be sensible for us to pop into one or your domestic science classes."
"Yes perhaps that would be wise we will sort that out for Friday" said Rosalie as she hastily scribbled on a notepad "Ask Jo and Madge if Marie or Anna can do lessons on Friday" and with regard to physical education ... let me just check the timetable - she searched desperately for a lesson that did not clash with domestic science - "yes lower third have gym at 2pm tomorrow would that suffice?
"That would be admirable thank you Miss Dene."
"You're welcome. Now lessons are nearly over. Miss Annersley asked if you might be kind enough to pop to lower fourth so that they may apologise to you for their terrible tricks at lunch then may I suggest that you take a break for a while then perhaps join the staff for a while before prayers The girls will be in prep which you may observe if you wish but perhaps you'd find it rather boring since its always held in silence though the supervising prefect helps if the girls require it. Don't forget that it will be prefects evening and we do so hope you'll join us its always good fun. The prefects have arranged food with the kitchens which will be served during the course of the evening.
Julia shot a meaningful look at John "I think a break will suit us well, I am sure prep will do without us for now and it has been rather an eventful day.
They left to receive the apologies of a very subdued upper fourth - writing letters in three languages in their best handwriting along with Miss Annersley's pronouncement that since they clearly preferred savoury food to sweet its all they'd be receiving for a week and that they'd be missing the prefects evening tonight in order to wash up and clean the school kitchen under the maid's supervision had left them feeling very miserable to say the least.
As soon as they'd gone Rosalie snatched up the phone "Jo, thank goodness you're there. We're having an awful time here, please will you lend us Anna for the day on Friday, I need someone to teach the girls domestic science lessons for the day"
"Oh Rosalie, I'm not sure I can spare her I'm busy at the moment, anyway I'm not sure she'd want to teach. I was hoping she'd make me some of her lemon drink and some extra meat pies."
"Jo please ofted want to observe the lesson. If they see what Hilary is doing they will give us a terrible report - look if you lend her to us she can teach the girls how to make lemon drink and meat pies and you can have the lot as far as I'm concerned but Jo please help us. You're having the inspectors for tea tomorrow and you'll see for yourself what a dreadful time they keep giving us. Now you understand don't you that you are the school counsellor and responsible for dealing with all the girls personal problems, listening and offering support"
"Oh if you're so desperate you can borrow Anna, its pretty selfish though Rosalie its not fair to expect me to cope without her when I'm busy. Obviously I understand about the counselling thing - I've been doing it since I was 14 after all. I'm looking forward to meeting them - I'm sure I'll be able to deal with their problems or at least give them some advice. I am sure they feel quite disorientated joining you half way through term and maybe they've never been to a school like ours."
"No Jo I don't think they have, I really don't think they have" - and with a sigh Rosalie replaced the receiver and raced off to find Hilary to ask her to take the gym class the next day and to make herself scarce while Anna took domestic science on Friday.
THe inspectors experience an evening of entertainment Chalet School style
After the two exhausted inspectors had taken a break they proceeded to the staff room hoping that a little adult conversation without the girls present may be a relief. However when they arrived they found that though there was plenty of conversation it was all in French. An obviously French lady who introduced herself as Jeanne Lachennais kindly poured them a cup of nectar like coffee and made some enquiries as to their day.
When Julie managed "Je ne comprend pas" she kindly translated asking if they'd enjoyed themselves and learnt some useful information - then turned their answers into French so that they yet again found themselves repeating phrase after phrase.
"Tres bien, c'est facile? - Demain c'est le jour d'Allemand. Parlez vous Allemand?
She was distracted at that moment by a call for more coffee so John and Julia were left yet again bemused and confused.
A few minutes later they all moved to the hall for the prefects evening. They found that everything had been swapped round and there were small tables dotted about the room each with a number and a small cloth covering something in the middle.
"Four to a table everyone" announced a tall pretty girl from the stage who then switched to English "We've been given permission to speak whatever language we choose this evening. However, I understand that our visitors Mr. Connelly and Miss Verity are struggling a little with French so may I ask those girls sitting with them to use English as much as possible. We want this evening to be enjoyable for everyone".
The girls were craning their necks to stare at the inspectors and many were trying not to laugh. Those who had been in lessons with them that day were especially giggly as they recollected the treatment doled out by the mistresses.
Without warning, Mary Lou darted forward and grabbed James by the hand "come on Mr. Connelly lets sit over here we can talk about our singing lesson". Julie found herself carted off - with far more ceremony by a couple of girls from the lower fifth.
An utterly bizarre and somewhat humiliating evening followed. The inspectors found themselves confronted with tasks as varied as threading as many needles as possible in one minute, completing small jigsaws, translating jokes from one language to another (both did very badly at this), identifying book titles from the briefest of plots, adding up long lists of pounds, shillings and pence, unscrambling anagrams, naming the rivers of South America and putting a long list of kings and queens in order of dates. They found themselves moving back a table almost every time. The girls were all pleasant and carried out polite conversation, many enquiring as to their purpose of visiting, some apologetic for their disastrous lunch and others simply discussing the games in front of them. Mary Lou of course plagued poor John with a long list of questions about Ofsted which she'd apparently found reference to in a library book and to his fury attempted to open a discussion about male choirs and whether he'd like to join one. Despite that, had it not been for their abject failure at nearly every table (Julia's knowledge of South American rivers turned out to be almost encyclopedia worthy) they might have actually enjoyed the evening.
However as they retired to bed Julia turned to John looking worried - "I really don't know what we're going to put in our report. Except what we overheard earlier and we can hardly admit to eavesdropping, there's nothing fundamentally bad here - they're just odd. Certainly no sign of doctors running about drugging people. I think we'd better leave tomorrow evening this is all getting too much. If it wasn't for tea with the counsellor I'd be going after lunch. Oh and I'm sure Miss Dene said something about German day today... does that mean what I think it means?"
"I'm afraid it does. I agree we should get out of here" said John "I dread to think what's going to happen next" He displayed his hands which had suffered greatly as he'd attempted to thread the needles "I feel like the witch in Macbeth "by the pricking of my thumb something wicked this way comes"
I'm not sure where this sprung from and it was never planed as part of the story but the idea sprung into my head and wouldn't go away... so here are the lower fourth - this chaper is short and literally sweet!!
Tired out after their exciting evening, the school (well most of them anyway) and inspectors slept soundly until 3am when they were all awakened by the sound of a huge bang followed by loud sobbing noises.
Hilda and Nell threw on their dressing gowns and slippers and stampeded down the front stairs towards the source of the noise which seemed to be coming from the kitchen.
They pushed open the door and were confronted by the members of lower fourth apparelled in their pyjamas and cooking aprons, all sobbing and many of them covered in head to foot with something brown and sticky. The walls and floor and table were all covered in the same sticky substance.
"What" demanded Hilda in a very cold voice "is going on. Jenny you're the form prefect step forward please and explain". (As it was past midnight she spoke in German)
At this juncture both inspectors appeared - they'd somehow found the time to fully dress. "What's happened" asked Julia "We thought it must be a bomb."
"I fully intend to find out exactly what happened before I'm very much older" responded Hilda in English.
Matron arrived carrying a first aid kit "Is anyone hurt?" A few girls raised their hands saying that they'd been burnt and Matron hustled them quickly towards the cold taps where icy water only added to their woes.
"Now Jenny - explain."
A very scared sticky girl stepped reluctantly forward. "I'm sorry Miss Annersley but we felt very sorry for upper fourth so we thought we'd make them some toffee as a surprise so when we went out today we used our money to buy the treacle and then got up to make it and we thought we'd use the pressure cooker so we were quicker back to bed... and then it all went bang and now ...." Jenny trailed off as she weakly waved her hand at her toffee besmirched class mates."
Hilda's tone could not have been any icer and the eyes that had never needed glasses could not have been any colder "I see. You may all go back to bed - please wear your spare nightdress as you can obviously not sleep like that. But I will say one thing - I am severely disappointed that you felt you could undermine the punishment I gave for serious misconduct - I can see that I will be dispensing yet more justice in the morning. Now Miss Wilson please will you see these children back to bed - and ensure that they wash themselves thoroughly on the way Children you may not leave your cubicles tomorrow until we give you permission. You are also in silence until further notice."
The girls who were not subject to Matron's cold water treatment followed Miss Wilson looking extremely forlorn and none of them slept well that night from wondering what the morning would bring.
Hilda turned towards John and Julia. Rosalie's worries had infiltrated her conscience enough that like Mary Lou, she had searched the reference section of the library and had been somewhat troubled by what she'd found. Thus she framed her next words carefully.
"Mr Connelly, Miss Verity, I am so sorry that you have been awoken in such a fashion. Some of our middles are what you may call spirited and whilst we do obviously encourage creativity - indeed we would love you to come to our hobbies club on Saturday - we do not expect it to be displayed at 3am. I can assure you that the girls will receive a punishment to fit the crime - for a start they will be cleaning this mess up. Now, would you like a cup of cocoa before returning to bed?"
Julia decided to ask "I'm afraid my German is rather poor Miss Annersley - what have the girls actually done?"
Hilda started to convulse with laughter "Oh please call me Hilda. Lets go to my office and I'll explain."
Ten minutes later the three of them sat with a cup of cocoa and all three were laughing as if they'd never stop.
It is on the record though that Hilda managed to regain her icy demeanour by morning and the punishment meted out to the girls was one that subdued them for at least the rest of the term and in some cases well into the next. Those who had been nearest the exploding toffee suffered further from their burns and Matron's subsequent ministrations.
The inspectors have tea with Jo - I'm afraid that while I had plans Jo had others and I simply could not reconcile them so in the end she had her own way!!
The atmosphere seemed lighter in the morning. Somehow Hilda seemed less stately after they'd sat giggling with her in the middle of the night. However, the inspectors remained mute - they barely understood a word spoken and didn't dare speak as they had no desire to repeat endless phrases in German.
Thanks to Rosalie's intervention the gym class passed almost without incident though the appearance of an prefect at the start of the lesson who instructed all the girls to collect mats and practise their forward rolls gave them pause. However Hilary turned up a minute or two later, spoke briefly to the girl and she went away. Hilary politely gave the inspectors a quick explanation - in German so they learnt nothing and a very efficient lesson followed. The girls were so relieved to have Hilary back in charge after endless lessons of forward and backward rolls that they worked almost faultlessly.
John attempted to ask Hilary why she was teaching gym when she normally taught domestic science and was met with "Deutshe bitte" followed in English by "I'll help you with the German for that later, I was just helping with domestic science to cover".
Finally 3.30 found them standing in the entrance hall awaiting the arrival of Jack Maynard.
"I'll be so glad of the respite" muttered Julia "school counsellors are always so calm and gentle and we'll be able to say anything we like without worrying about it getting back to the staff here."
"Yes, I'm looking forward to it too" responded John - also in an undertone (not least because he was worried someone would find them not speaking German and he knew what that would mean.)
"Good afternoon" said a voice behind them "I'm Jack Maynard - I hear you're coming for tea, I know Jo's so much looking forward to having you, I know she's got a lovely spread for you and has lots to tell you so lets get going" and he ushered them out to his car.
A little later they found themselves being greeted by a tall lady in a lime green twinset. She had sparkling eyes and dark hair rolled in the style of yesteryear. Her warmth was unmistakable as she took their hands "I'm Mrs. Maynard, but please call me Jo, Julia isn't it, and John? How funny all of beginning with J - perhaps we should form a secret society. Come inside and we'll have some tea and you can tell me everything that's been going on with you. It must be so hard coming to a new school - Miss Dene didn't think you'd been to one like ours before but I'm sure I'll be able to help you with coping strategies and explain our history I was the schools first pupil you know - I got my old photos out specially. Please sit down Anna will bring tea any moment".
The inspectors seated themselves in comfortable chairs having the impression of a beautiful long room that smelt sweetly of flowers only for a whirlwind of something large, brown and white to fling itself at Julia leap in her lap and begin enthusiastically licking her face.
"Bruno ... OFF you bad dog... get off" and Joey dragged the huge dog from Julia's lap "are you alright - he does so love visitors its just his way of saying hello. Joey suddenly remembered her counselling role and hastily added "We find so many of the girls find it quite relaxing almost therapy in itself "
"Relaxing" parroted a very dazed Julie "well its certainly different."
"I'm so pleased... now here's our tea - Anna's made us bread twists and some wonderful cream cakes - please help yourself. Now relax and tell me what brings you both here."
"Mrs. Maynard we want to talk to you about the pastoral care in the school,obviously being the counsellor you are a key member of the team. How do you feel the girls are faring - are they happy, what sort of problems are they facing?"
"Well obviously they're happy - how could they not be. Usually they come to me when their parents are very ill or die - some of them just need singing too but I've adopted a few of them over the years you know and I'm honoury aunt to lots of them. They usually settle into school well but just in case I invite all the new girls to tea and they help me bath the babies to give them a chance to confide in me Sometimes they have friendship problems but that's soon resolved once I've had a little chat. Just occasionally there is some jealousy between people or someone starts rumours but they can always be sorted. Usually when someone starts rumours I just get them to pluck a chicken on a breezy day - soon sorts them out, but really there's rarely anything bad... its such a happy well run school"
John and Julie were rendered nearly speechless by this unlikely speech but not quite .... "pluck chickens and bath babies.... isn't that a bit............ unorthodox Mrs. Maynard?" intoned John not quite believing he was having this conversation.
"Unorthodox or not, it works for our girls and that's what's important to me."
"Um can you tell us what counselling qualifications you have? Asked Julie who'd just about recovered her composure now.
"Qualifications - I didn't know I needed any. I'm more experienced that most counsellers after all as I said to Miss Dene only yesterday I've been doing this since I was 14. Now lets not bore ourselves with any more irrelevant questions - you've just joined the school and I'm sure you'd like to hear about its history and then I'll read you a bit of my latest story... I was the first pupil you know... it all started in Austria .........
The inspectors found themselves in a near trance taking in various words and phrases as Joey rambled on. Photos were shoved under their noses at time to time to illustrate what she was saying... Austria, mountains, grey and to all appearances dead, dripping rock, princess, free bed, Guernsey, adopted by the the guides, a little something in hot milk, fines, milky coffee, poor parish in Innsbruck, Sally go round the moon, Christmas plays very good of course I always did the solos, Nazis, peace league, Corney's saxophone, Chalatian, Madame's birthday, synthetic maps, boiling clocks, cause to effect, ku klux klan.....
This last finally shook them both out of their stupour.... "ku klux klan" demanded Julie "what on earth do they have to do with the school?"
"Oh nothing any more" said Joey firmly. Just a little story from years ago - something the girls learnt about and decided to take a little further all part of learning...."
"A little further???"
"Yes you know they just thought it would be fun...."
"Yes - anyway I haven't told you about the time I fell on Miss Wilson".. and she was away again... "and then we came here and the rest I expect you know" she finally concluded. "Now you understand our history do you feel a little more at home? We do want you to feel at home you know. Now Miss Dene said you were having some problems with our trilingual rule. Please don't worry, just learn 10 words a day of each language and take all the help you can from the mistresses and girls and you'll be fluent before you know it. Languages are so important especially in a career like yours...
"Like ours Mrs. Maynard?" asked John
"Yes of course it must be hard going into schools if you can't speak languages - how do you know if the language teachers are any good for example? However for now, lets eat more cakes then I want to ask you lots of questions. Jack's taking you back in twenty minutes so we've got to be quick - I was so excited when Rosalie told me what you do - I'm looking for ideas for my next school story and you'll be perfect to help having been in and out of so many schools... more coffee?"
Half an hour later a very relieved, exhausted and deeply perplexed John and Julie were safely ensconced in Jack's car. In their hands they held a brightly jacketed book by one Josephine M Bettany. Jo had presented them to them as they left saying she hoped they enjoy the book though no explanation had been offered as to exactly why she was thrusting them upon them and since they'd never heard of the author they were just confused.
"Have you had a good afternoon?" asked Jack from the front "I see she foisted a couple of her books on you - she's quite popular with children so if you've got any daughters or nieces maybe pass them on. Has she signed them?"
John opened his "Dear John it was so delightful to meet you... never forget you can always come to me and if I can help I will."
Julie's said "Bruno loved you please come again any time he will be delighted"
"Yes, she's signed them - a very unusual woman your wife you must find her quite exhausting at times."
"Yes she can be but I just slip her a dose when I want a quiet evening - anyway here we are back at the school. I've got to pop up to see someone in the sick room.. didn't like the look of the girl I saw earlier and now there's a few others down with similar symptoms... lets hope its nothing infectious hard to tell at such an early stage. Good bye."
"Well that was a wasted afternoon" said Julie. We have barely asked a single question we should have yet we've wasted hours. For some reason this school just seems to ride roughshod over us and we seem utterly powerless to stop it...and we still haven't found a reason for anything other than good and even outstanding report... lets just go back to the office in the morning and write the thing."
Real life has been a bit cahotic but thought I'd try to add to this. I'm afraid Julie is in for a miserable time ....
However, fate had different ideas. They had not been back at the school an hour before they were summoned to Matron's room and joined a long queue to have their temperatures taken and their tongues examined. The school was in the grip of a measles epidemic.
Julie came to the front of the queue. Matron pulled the thermometer from her mouth and glanced at it “hmm you're a couple of points up – join that group over there please she said briskly indicating a small group of mistresses. Julie tried desperately to protest but Matron insisted - “I'm quarantining the lot of you, you're suspect cases and I'm not having this affect any more than I can help – oh and please remember its German day.”
John was able to confirm that he'd had measles when he was 11 so was released from Matron's grasp and told to go to the staff room. Instead he turned to Julie “Julie it looks like you're stuck here for a while. I think I'll go back to the office in the morning and get on with other things – you may as well take the opportunity to improve your languages while you're here. There's a little guest house in the village, I'm off to stay there, bye for now hope you don't get measles” and with that he rushed to his room, packed his bags and was gone, striding thankfully away from the school that had almost broken him.
Poor Julie was left, horrified and scared.. and alone. All around her conversation raged in German. Miss Annersley took her by the arm - “please don't look so upset – it will be alright. We'll set up dormitories for those girls who have taken ill and you of course may keep your own room. The doctors will come in from the San every day and Matron will keep a close eye on you all. Please be assured that if you do succumb you will receive the very best treatment.”
Julie was by now almost in tears. She felt a hand on her shoulder and Matron's voice saying “come on, you're not well, one of the maids will make your bed up with hot water bottles and you must lie down and I'll bring you a cooling mixture in a little while.”
Julie was glad to reach the sanctuary of her room. Actually she felt perfectly well but John's rather callous and sudden departure combined with the realisation that she was stuck here for the foreseeable future was somewhat depressing to say the least. Never mind at least she'd have time to catch up on her paperwork and as Mrs. Maynard had said, she might even improve her languages. It was true that going to inspect language lessons she didn't understand was a little confusing.
She settled down to start filling out some records and had only been working a few minutes when Matron arrived in her room. “Now what are you doing out of bed? I distinctly told you that you must lie down and wait for me – get into your nightdress now and I'll be back in a minute or two...be quick I've got enough trouble with the girls without you misbehaving.”
Poor Julie saw nothing for it but to undress, slip into her nightdress and get into bed. Matron reappeared, dosed her with yet another noxious mixture and instructed her to stay in bed until she'd seen her in the morning. “Now one of the maids will bring up some bread and milk in a little while and you must eat it and then sleep – good night. If you feel any worse come and find me at once otherwise don't get out of bed.”
Julie glanced at her watch, saw it was only 5.45pm and groaned -she was in for a very long night - but she didn't dare disobey Matron. She was a small woman but there was something about her that suggested she might have all the power and energy of a tyrannical dictator if she were to be roused .
The arrival of a sloppy bowl of bread and milk did little to improve poor Julies mood and she finally fell asleep feeling utterly misused.
Well poor Julie hasn't got the measles - however Rosalie has a far worse fate in store...
The following morning after a restless night a brisk knock on the door herelded the arrival of Matron and her thermometer which she shoved under Julies tounge.....
“Yes your temperature is down and you're looking quite well. Perhaps it was the excitement of an afternoon with Joey that bought your temperature up You may get up and join us for fruhstuck and then Miss Annersley would like to see you in the study.”
Julie was out of bed, washed and dressed in double quick time. She found that the school was broken into groups now with those who'd had measles eating in the hall and she and others who had not kept in the spiesesaal as she had learnt to call it. Miss Annersley turned to her with a friendly smile and asked “May I talk to you after this meal, obviously we're going to have to vary the timetable you had for today and also I believe that you may be able to help us. I am sorry that you've been put to this inconvenience but really there's nothing we can do but wait now.”
And so after breakfast Julie found herself in the study with Hilda and Rosalie.
Hilda started talking. “Julie, we've got a problem and we really hope that you may be able to help us. As you know, a few of our teachers are now down with measles. Rosalie and I have managed to deal with most lessons by changing the timetable slightly and combining classes but we have a problem with domestic science.”
Rosalie interjected “Anna who usually teaches it lives off site. She hasn't had measles and can not take the risk of coming here as there are young children in her home so we were wondering if since you're stuck here you may be able to help us by taking her classes. Obviously you can keep it simple – sponge cakes, lemonade, blackleading, laundry, polishing silver that sort of thing but we would be so grateful for your help if you are willing that is”
Julies head was whirling – blackleading, polishing silver... what on earth “Um I'm not sure I'm the person you're looking for... anyway I'm here to inspect..”
Hilda glared her grey eyes that had never needed glasses suddenly cold and steely “Well I'm afraid that inspecting while the school is in this situation would be pointless... however since you are here you may as well assist. You did say you wanted to get to know our girls and how they are taught... now your first class is the fifth forms all together after mittagessen. Please think about what you'd like to teach them and I will ask the kitchen staff to help you set up the lesson this morning.”
Without meaning to Julie found herself saying “Well in the past I've taught maths .. but I think I know how to make a sponge cake so maybe....”
“Perfect” said Hilda “We'll have all the ingredients sent up to domestic science, thank you so much... now if you come along with me you can observe my English literature lesson with the sixth forms – we're doing Shakespeare this term – A Midsummers Nights Dream – I must go now, I can't be seen to be late – and she swept up a pile of exercise books, beckoned to Julie and left the room.
Julie feeling somewhere between awed and horrified followed wondering what exactly it was she'd agreed to. She thought back to her mother teaching her to make cake... eggs, flour and something else...she'd have to hope that one of the girls knew..
Rosalie left alone in the study grinned to herself – perhaps she'll think twice before inflicting herself on us again, we have no need of inspecting whatever ofsted think. She lifted the phone “Joey don't worry about sending Anna over, I know how busy you are, she can make you that lemon drink now..... “yes of course we'll manage, Julie is going to help... “no I've no idea if she can cook but she can't do worse than Hilary surely”........“glad you enjoyed having them for tea yesterday”.... “no please don't come over... you're very busy and anyway we're in the grips of a measles epidemic”... “Yes of course I'll let you know how she gets on might be good for your next book.”
Rosalie smiled broadly as she put down the phone and turned to the huge pile of post waiting to be sorted.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.