The final part of Rebellion.
Ste Therese's House Characters:
24 Sep 2017 Updated:
24 Nov 2017
The final part of my Rebellion series, changes for the CS.
1. Chapter 1 by Terry
2. Chapter 2 by Terry
3. Chapter 3 by Terry
4. Chapter 4 by Terry
5. Chapter 5 by Terry
6. Chapter 6 by Terry
7. Chapter 7 by Terry
8. Chapter 8 by Terry
9. Chapter 9 by Terry
10. Chapter 10 by Terry
11. Chapter 11 by Terry
12. Chapter 12 by Terry
13. Chapter 13 by Terry
14. Chapter 14 by Terry
15. Chapter 15 by Terry
16. Chapter 16 by Terry
17. Chapter 17 by Terry
18. Chapter 18 by Terry
19. Chapter 19 by Terry
20. Chapter 20 by Terry
21. Chapter 21 by Terry
22. Chapter 22 by Terry
23. Chapter 23 by Terry
24. Chapter 24 by Terry
25. Chapter 25 by Terry
“Three years ago.” Kathie mused staring out of her study window whilst sipping on a coffee. So much had happened since that time, the year that she and Nancy had first taken over as heads of the Chalet School.
The Maynard’s were now settled in the UK, near the school branch there. Joey remained unpredictable but was now home permanently. Jack had got a job at the Welsh San, he had not wanted to be in charge any more, and Jem had agreed with him. So he was on a lower less stressful job and happier because of it. Joey didn’t really understand, still thinking he was in his old job, but Joey would never again fully understand reality and the family lived and coped with it.
Len and Ted were still happily together and both proving to be very good teachers with different styles. However, Len had indicated to Kathie one day that they may move back to the UK, Felicity was in her last year and after that there was nothing in Switzerland for them anymore. They were ambitious and wanted to move on and up and Kathie could not fault them for that.
There were big changes ahead for the Chalet School though, ones only she and Nancy in the school as yet knew about. Long discussions with Madge had led to the decision that, due to increasing costs, the Swiss branch would close but the Welsh branch would remain, and enlarge if the demand was there. Madge had assured the pair that they would be the heads there if they wanted it as the present head had indicated that it was time for her to retire.
So this new school year would be the last, the parents were going to be told, the school would be told and plans made for the future. St.Mildreds had always going to close this year, the demand had gone, and although it had been considered changing its use they had felt that the rising costs had made this unworkable. New pupils had been accepted on the condition it was for one year only and perhaps surprisingly, there had still been some joining.
Madge was going to announce it to the staff later today, plans were to be made, reassurances about people’s futures, and ensuring those pupils taking exams would be able to do so seamlessly. A lot to decide and work out, thought Kathie, a busy year ahead. Nancy and her had agreed between themselves that they would accept the headship of the Welsh branch and that in itself would bring challenges. Her mind went back to when Madge had promoted her to head and the difficulties it had caused with Ruth, would there be the same issues again in Wales. The senior mistress there was Nell Randolph who Kathie knew from college, and had made her mind up that she would talk to her privately about the changes. Of course, there was also the issue of how well she and Nancy would work together in the same building if necessary. Kathie didn’t believe it would be an problem but it was another thing to consider and to talk about.
Madge intended to expand Glendower House, build a new sixth form unit for older girls wishing to specialise and thus also ensuring the jobs of at least some of her staff. If that happened Kathie believed she would be running that, hopefully with Nell Randolph, and Nancy and Ros running the main school, her and Nancy supporting each other as always. That would be a good solution she thought as she finished her coffee, but there was a lot to decide and not a great deal of time in which to do it.
Nancy was a little dubious about the move but realised it would have to happen. Madge had indicated that the headship in Wales came with a cottage that would be ideal for her and Kathie, and that there was no requirement for the heads to actually live in the main school building as long as they were close. It was the change that bothered Nancy, she had never fully recovered her confidence over the business with Rosalie’s illness, it had shaken her badly even though she knew it was not her fault. Knowing that didn’t help because deep down she still felt it was and that was a hard feeling to get rid of. Older than Kathie and more conservative she felt the move more than her younger partner.
All the teachers were back, the girls not expected for another two days. Madge had arranged escorts this time so that she could have all her staff there from both of the schools, Millies and the main one, and could give the news to all at the same time. The staff were naturally curious about the why of this but secretly were quite happy to have only been responsible for getting themselves there and not also a bunch of teenagers.
Madge prepared herself for the meeting, she knew it would be a shock to some, perhaps a relief to others. What she wanted to ensure the best that she could is that none of her staff lost their jobs if they wanted to remain with the school. The reduction in running costs would help bolster any extra costs involved in doing that and she was committed to it. She felt people like Matey would retire, especially since her friends would be back in the UK making it easier and less lonely for her. Matey probably didn’t realise Madge knew that but Madge knew a lot more about her staff these days. The Platz and surrounding areas were starting to be known for skiing, and, as one of the largest buildings there she had already received a provisional, and very good offer, from a hotel chain who were also interested in Millies. She was in discussions with them, one thing she wanted to ensure was that her domestic staff, mostly local, would not lose out but would gain employment, if they wanted it, from the hotel.
So much to do Madge thought yet she was looking forward to it. The business with Joey all those years ago had revitalised her, kicked her away from just doing good deeds, worthwhile though they were, and made her take much more notice of her school and business. She felt positive about the move, Millies had already been slated to close at the end of the year and it seemed a good time to move the main school as well. Increasing living and travel costs were making the school fees too high, even though she was subsidising them, and she felt it was the right time. She knew Kathie was keen, Nancy less so but also knew she could rely on her to do all she could to help. With Nell and Hilda on board as well she was confident many of the potential snags would be ironed out. She was wanting, depending on the responses from parents, to expand the school in Wales, perhaps even build a new unit. Glendower House had a lot of land, much of it just garden and after making enquiries she believed she would get the necessary planning permission. So far so good she thought with a satisfied nod.
She faced the assembled staff in the hall, flanked by Nancy and Kathie and made the announcement.
“Ladies, we are coming to a change in the Chalet School, hopefully a change for the better, and I will answer all your questions. “She paused, the staff sat up, all curious, some anxious, waiting for her next words.
“The Chalet School in Switzerland will be closing at the end of this school year.”
“That certainly got their attention. “Madge thought as the staff gasped or looked shocked at her rather blunt announcement. “Yes, it will close here but the plan is to enlarge Glendower House, providing the response from the parents is enough. That being the case I hope many of our current pupils and many or most or all of you will move with me.” She paused “I know this is a shock but the cost of living here in Switzerland has made the continued economical running of the school impossible. The staff from Millies, I know that you were always aware that the branch was closing this year, but since I hope to expand Glendower House this also affects you, hopefully in a positive way. I am going to tell you the background and the why’s and wherefores of my decision now, after that and a short break for coffee I will try to answer any queries you may have.” After the break she faced them again “I must ask you all not to talk to anyone outside of the school about this for now. Everything is still in the early stages and nothing is settled. By anyone I must include friends and relatives, but you are of course free to discuss it amongst yourselves, with me, or anyone else who is in this room right now. And now, I imagine you have all sorts of questions, may I have the first one?”
Rosalind stood up “I imagine that the question we are all wondering is about our jobs, how will these be affected?”
Madge nodded “That’s the question I expected. Obviously, this year nothing will change for either branches, the changes in buildings etc will be in Wales. Staffing, well I intend to keep on all of you that want to stay on initially, exactly how is to be worked out. I do however want all our girls here who are sitting exams next year to have the same teacher and the same curriculum. How I am going to do that is not as yet decided but it will happen. There will also be, hopefully, an increase in pupils therefore needing more teachers. I am guaranteeing you all a job until the end of the next school year, not this one we are just starting but the one after that. Then I re-evaluate, perhaps some will have moved on, or retired, but you will have a full two years in which to decide, as will I. Dolly Edwards is retiring, Nancy and Kathie will be joint heads, Ros will remain senior mistress working alongside Nell Randolph who is currently senior mistress there.”
“Is Wales aware of the changes?”Ros asked.
“Yes, I have already discussed this with them, like you they are currently sworn to secrecy. Naturally they are as anxious as I am sure you all feel about the future but I, and my team, will be working together and with you all to try and make things as easy and straightforward as possible. I will be having private talks with everyone during the early part of this term. There will be issues, it would be silly to say there won’t be, two schools coming together will not be a cake walk even if they are branches of the same school. I intend taking you all over there in groups at some point as a getting to know you exercise. I hope and believe that good will come from both sides in the future of the Chalet School. There will be a future, I am determined of that.”
“And the next thing is telling all the parents.” Madge said as she relaxed later in Nancy’s study with Nancy and Kathie. “
That will be a big job.” Kathie remarked. “Yes, but I am using an agency, the same one I used to organise Hilda and Nell’s party.” Madge smiled “They will do all the leg work, and I just advise as needed. “she sipped her coffee “Do you two think this will work?”
“I think a time would come in the not too distant future, if we stayed here, that pupil numbers would drop. “Nancy said “The expenses are getting higher every year and people only have so much money. We don’t want to become a school just for the elite, for those with money.”
“And it is affecting the scholarships.” Kathie pointed out “Although they do get a discount I know some are struggling.”
“Very true, we do not want a scholarship to become a burden on the donor.”
“We always knew Millie’s had a limited lifespan in the changing world. Had we been in the UK converting to a specialist school would have been easy, here, again, the expense and the potential limited amount of pupils doesn’t make it viable.”
“I do want to open that unit in Wales though Kathie, and within a year if possible. I want to keep the present staff and even perhaps expand them. “Madge smiled “I have loads of plans, I am actually enjoying this, whether I still will be in a years’ time is a different matter. “with a laugh.
“When are we telling the pupils?” Nancy asked.
“The parent’s letters will all go out in two days’ time, when the girls will be back. I have told the parents that I will give them a week to think it over before I tell the girls. Obviously, the parents can query things at any time afterwards.”
“When do they have to let us know by?”
“In a months’ time which I felt was long enough, and, again, there is no obligation, I am just looking for estimates at this time.”
“You seem to have it all thought out. “Kathie remarked.
“It’s been a long time in the planning, I started thinking about this at the same time I decided to close Millie’s. The problems that cropped up then helped me plan this move.”
“How do the Welsh staff feel, with all, or most of us, turning up on their doorstep?” Kathie asked.
“Mixed, some are looking forward to the change, bigger school, new challenges, but others, well they are wary, understandably so. I may lose some teachers from both schools, I expect that to be truthful.”
“We might lose Len and Ted, they are both ambitious. “Nancy remarked.
Madge nodded “I know, I don’t want to lose them, but I cannot blame them, the staff has been so settled there is little room to advance.” “That might change with the move?”
“I don’t know.” Madge admitted “we will see what happens. I have no plans to demote any of the present senior staff, but at the back of my mind I have plans for a restructure, we shall see.”
“Well, that was a surprise. “Joan Bertram said in the mistress’s sitting room “Did anyone expect it?”
“I don’t think it’s a total surprise.” Ros said “We all know how the cost of living has risen. We are protected to some extent with getting everything provided by the school.”
“Yes, but the cost of even a cup of coffee has increased recently.” Sharlie agreed.
“So you are not surprised Ros?” Linda Stone queried.
“Not totally I confess. I have been thinking it was on the cards for some time. What are your views everyone, do you fancy the move?”
“I do. “admitted Joan “I’ve seen enough snow if I am honest, and the travelling, interesting and fun at first soon grows old.”
“That is true.” Sharlie agreed “but I love the views that we get, the clean air, it won’t be like this in Wales.”
“No, but Glendower House is in the country.” “
I know, but I like it here, yet I can see the reasoning. “sighed Sharlie.
Davida joined in “Certainly the travel is a factor, even though it has got quicker over the years. And” with a smile “I won’t miss that long journey in charge of some of our little dears, we should be able to get them all there in a day.”
“What about the two schools joining together?” Ros asked.
“We are bound to have problems. “Peggy said “certainly at first.”
“Did you think they might resent us?” Joan asked.
“Possibly, after all it’s their school, so to speak.” Ros nodded “Give and take will be needed on both sides along with a sprinkling of tact. “
The talk continued for awhile, with Ros concluding “Madge has made the decision, we can all see the reason behind it, even if we are not keen. We must support her and do our part in making this a success. The school’s future depends on it, and if we are honest, so do our jobs.”
The others nodded at these wise words, they made sense, it might not be easy but they must do their best.
“So what do we do?” Ted asked Len as they went home.
“I don’t see that a lot will change, there will still be very limited chances here or Wales for promotion.”
“Hmm, probably true, so do we look further afield?”
“We were thinking of moving on next year, let’s just stick to that, help the school get moved then see what opportunities might arise. We might be surprised, although frankly I cannot see how.”
“It’s not going to be an easy time for the school.”
“It has done something similar twice before, you were here for one weren’t you?”
“That business of Jack with that other girl on the roof after that darned cat, yes I remember that school.”
“The other one was in the Tirol, a school closed down and Madge took in the pupils, I remember mother telling us.”
“How is your mother?”
Len shrugged “Alright I think, no one has told me otherwise, she’s never going to be fully well again.”
“At least she leaves us alone these days.”
“Jem called her bluff on it years ago, and her pretending to not know my age. She did, she knew about us, she just wanted to pretend we had never happened, to make it go away.”
“Would you go to see her in the UK?”
“Doubt it, I don’t think it would serve any real purpose on either side to be honest.”
Madge had also decided to enlist the help of Hilda and Nell who lived still nearby on the Platz and were still part of the school.
“So do you have any firm plans. “Hilda asked Madge as she visited them.
“Some, there’s a lot to work out. I need your help if possible, paid of course. I will need Nancy ,Kathie and the others to visit the UK , would you two be willing to step in then, help out?”
Nell nodded at Hilda’s look “Yes, we can do that.”
“Also, would you consider helping me plan the move, foresee any possible snags, be on my planning team, your experience is far too good to waste.?”
“Yes, I think we would like that, it would be good to have something to get our teeth into. “Hilda replied.
Nell nodded “Sounds quite exciting.”
“Not too exciting I hope. “Madge smiled, and after more discussion she left.
As Nell closed the door behind her Hilda voiced both their thoughts “So what do we do? Is the San continuing, if not others will be moving?”
“I think the San is becoming outdated “Nell remarked “I wouldn’t be surprised if Jem sells it and concentrates on the Welsh one, perhaps even making it into a general hospital. The cost of living here is getting too expensive for many.”
“Very true, we are lucky with our pensions and the work Madge pays us for.”
Nell sat beside Hilda who snuggled into her “Do we move home Hilda?”
“I think so, we always meant to, we could buy a house near the sea, I’d like that.”
“So would I, then we help them this year but at the same time look into our own move. We have the money from my house as a starter, looking forward to it.”
In Wales Nell Randolph and Dolly Edwards were drinking tea and discussing the move. “Do you think it will work?” Nell asked.
Dolly looked thoughtful “I don’t know to be honest. I get the impression that our two branches, although technically the same school, are actually quite different.”
“In what way?”
“The freedom our girls have for a start, what we allow the older girls to do, shopping trips etc. Of course it is easier here, in Switzerland it is isolated, nothing very near.”
“True, Kathie Ferrars writes occasionally, she says that is a drawback. Since she and Nancy Wilmot took charge they have tried to give more freedom but the distance from the nearest town is always an obstacle.”
“I can imagine it might be. The swiss girls will no doubt enjoy the freer atmosphere here.”
“But will it stay the same, you are retiring, Nancy and Kathie are taking over and they are used to the stricter rules of Switzerland.”
“I think it must stay the same, in this I think they will have to conform to us. In other things we might have to change, but I think I must insist to Madge and the others that the trust and freedom we give our girls remains.”
Nell nodded “I agree, Kathie seems keen to change so hopefully they will embrace that.”
Dolly looked at Nell “Do you mind not getting to be head here, it must have crossed your mind that you would.”
Nell drank her tea “It did, I would be lying if I said it hadn’t. However, those two are established and experienced headmistresses, it is only sensible that they take over, especially in a time of flux and change. A new inexperienced head would not be a good idea. “with a slight smile.
“You know they want you to remain as Senior mistress, working with Ros Moore initially, and then if, when, the sixth form college takes over one of you moving there, the other remaining here as senior.”
“I didn’t know that, thanks for telling me. Was that your doing?”
“I did praise you but you deserve it, they seem very keen that you remain in that position, so does Madge. I think she feels having your knowledge and experience will be vital in the early months.”
“I will obviously do my best.”
“I know you will, I told Madge that. “Dolly assured her.
In Switzerland Matron went about her usual business but her mind was distracted thinking about the move. For some time now she had been aware that at a not too distant point she would need to retire. She was getting older and the work was starting to get more tiring, although no one else would know she felt like that, she knew retirement was inevitable. She had been dreading it because the only people she knew, could call friends, were those at the school. Living on her pension in Switzerland would be impossible and so it would mean moving back to the UK, but that would mean loneliness, a thing she dreaded after the busy life she had led. But now, with the move, that might not be such a problem, perhaps she could live near the school, near enough to meet her friends for meals, or to chat to on the telephone. She smiled slightly, that would make a big difference to her, it was time to consider it, a chat with Madge was in order she thought, test the waters. Get the school through the coming year then retire, she smiled again, she even felt a little excited about it.
Madge broke the news to the pupils as promised a week later. The girls were, on the whole, surprised, some of the seniors were not, understanding more about the cost of living. Madge announced it on a Saturday morning and gave permission for the girls to use any language they liked over the weekend.
“We cannot expect them to stick to English after that news. “she commented to Nancy and Kathie.
“It would be cruel.” Kathie agreed with a smile “Has Wales been told?”
“Yes, Dolly told them, I am going there next week to discuss it with them but it was only fair they all knew at the same time. The replies from the parents have started to come through, most are supportive, some have questions, and I may lose a few, but it’s early days yet.”
The prefects were questioning Felicity, in her last year at school and Head girl “Honestly I don’t know anything more than the rest of you. “she was saying “Aunt Madge has kept it very secret, even from the family.”
“I suppose it doesn’t really affect us. “her friend and second prefect Lucy remarked “We won’t be here.”
“It will affect some of us. “protested Marie, a sub prefect, “we will still be here, or there I suppose.”
“I imagine the fees will be cheaper though.” Felicity said “not the same weather of course but there will be other advantages.”
“We are isolated up here and even though we have more freedom now it is still difficult to do outings etc. From what Cecil has told me they are trusted to go shopping, to go by themselves to approved films in the cinema, that sort of thing, much more than we are, or in fact can even do.”
“Do you think Ferry and Willy will keep that on?”
“I think so, they have tried to change things, it’s just the distance that we are from anywhere and the travel problems. Getting a regular bus a short distance into town is very different from up here.”
Lucy nodded “True, well I hope that comes off for you lot still here.”
“I think it’s important that we, as seniors and prefects, help this move go smoothly. “Felicity said seriously “we need to set an example, be positive and help the youngsters deal with it.”
Madge had told Jack about the move even though it didn’t directly affect the family much now. He decided not to tell Joey, it might complicate things as her level of understanding was not great. She was functioning as long as things remained constant, any changes upset and affected her and he tried to avoid that. However, to his dismay, he was greeted one day on his return from work by a confused Joey.
“This is silly Jack. “she said waving a letter at him.
“Why?” taking it from her and groaning inwardly, it was the standard letter from the school informing him of the change, every parent got one as a matter of course.
“The school isn’t moving, what nonsense. “she declared.
“Why is it?”
“It’s in Switzerland, here, we know that, why would it move.”
“It has moved before Joey, for various reasons, you must remember. Austria, Guernsey, Wales, then Switzerland.”
“But they were necessary, there is no need for it to move now, we must disagree with it.”
“The cost of living makes it necessary. “Jack tried to explain. “It is too expensive for most now and Madge does not want it to become an exclusive school with only the well-off able to go.”
Joey snorted “Nonsense, the fees are cheap.”
“No, they are not. Madge keeps them as low as possible but they are not cheap. We have been very fortunate that we have not had to pay for any of the girls schooling, and that the boys have obtained some scholarships. Without that we would have struggled badly and others are in the same position. And it doesn’t affect us now anyway, our girls are at school here.” he again groaned as he saw her face realising that he had made a mistake.
“Of course it affects us, this is Switzerland, I don’t want my girls miles away in Wales.”
Jack opened his mouth to reply then stopped, it would do no good, she would not understand, he repeated the cost of living then went to change. “How can I help her understand. “he thought “Is it even worth trying?” He also reflected that whilst Joey didn’t want the girls miles away, it had never bothered her with the boys.
Madge wasn’t too surprised when Matey asked if she could have a word. When they were settled with cups of tea she waited patiently for the other to start the conversation.
“I think it’s time I retired.” Matey said, pretty baldly, wanting to get it out there.” I was dreading it, putting it off because the school is all I have in this world. “she stopped for a moment “I couldn’t face the loneliness.”
“And now the move has changed that?”
“The school will be in Wales, I was thinking that perhaps I could get a place nearby, near enough to see my friends from here.”
“I think that is a good plan, Gwyneth. “using Matey’s first name “in fact I hope you will allow me to help you find a place. Hilda and Nell will also be in the UK, perhaps not very close but certainly close enough that you could see them or chat on the phone. “she reached over and gently touched Matey’s knee “I, we don’t want you to be alone, you are part of this school’s family and we will take care of you.”
Matey tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her tears “I was so frightened, so scared of becoming a lonely old woman after all these years of being busy, being useful, being part of a community.”
“That won’t happen. “Madge said firmly “I use Hilda and Nell still, you never know, there may be a way that you might still help me out, nothing full time, but perhaps occasionally if I need extra help. In fact there is one way I need you. I totally understand you retiring, but would you give me a week or two at the start of the next school year, to help the new matrons and help the school bed down together?”
“Of course, I would do that.” hope in her voice.
“Paid of course, as would be any extra work you do for me, I am not one to throw away and waste the experience built up over many years. “Madge smiled. “And hopefully you could become part of village life as well, with the companionship of the school you might feel more able.”
Matey nodded slowly “Possibly, I’m not a WI sort of person.”
“But you might be, you sew beautifully, I can see some being envious, and you can make jam. I spent time being the chairwoman, trust me.” with a smile.”
“Well perhaps I could try it?”
“Worth a try, no harm done if you find it’s not for you. “Madge was pleased to see the more positive look, she had been worried. In truth she should have retired Matey year ago, she suspected the work was becoming harder, but knew the fear of loneliness, this was the right time, a bonus of the move, hopefully one of many.
The term progressed, the replies from the parents had been mostly favourable and so Madge had pushed on with the planning applications. These had gone surprisingly smoothly, she had already had the plans drawn up and now, two months after it had all started the early stages of building were happening at Glendower House.Madge was too experienced to believe it all would be plain sailing but she felt by meeting each challenge or query head on and dealing with it promptly then things might go well.
She knew she would be losing some pupils, about 50 in all but felt that was quite a small number over all.Her discussions with staff had indicated that some would be taking up the option to retire which did make it easier for her.
She was surprised to be losing Linda Stone until that lady herself blushingly told her that in fact she was engaged. They hadn’t planned on marrying quite yet but the move seemed to be a good reason to bring it forward as her fiancée was actually Swiss.
Madge had known nothing about this romance and queried it with Nancy.
“I knew she was seeing someone, but didn’t know it was that serious.” Nancy admitted “But it makes sense that she marries and stays here rather than coming back to the UK. She’s a good teacher, I will be sorry to see her go, but on the plus side it makes it easier.”
“Indeed, I have now lost about 10 mistresses but I was more or less expecting that, most are retiring.”
“Do you think you will lose more?”
Madge nodded “I expect so, perhaps the more ambitious will move on, promotion being limited. I want to keep my younger staff but right now I don’t quite see what incentives I can offer them.”
Of the administrative staff, Susannah was leaving as she lived in Switzerland with her family. Rosalie had indicated her desire to work part time once in the UK but Gill was fully onboard. With the staff already at Glendower House Madge felt that she had nothing to worry about in that department, just a few decisions on places to be made.
All in all, she thought, things were going fairly smoothly. She laughed, had she been superstitious this is where she should have been touching wood. Wisely she expected problems, but could not help hoping that nothing too major would occur.
Joey was still querying the move, insisting Jack should vote against it. He let her think he had, at a loss to help her understand they were in Wales already. Or perhaps she knew that, it was just the school where she got confused. Luckily the family had got used to her and Cecily hardly blinked when Joey told her not to worry, that she would be staying in Switzerland. After a quick glance at her father she just smiled gently and said, “That’s good to know, thanks mother.” Joey gave Jack a triumphant look, missing the softer look on Cecily’s face as she dealt with her mother’s confusion. It was now a fact of their family life that the children coped, any major problem went to Jack, any female problem went to Len or Con, if they were not about it went to Madge. In this way, they functioned and dealt with life as a family.
Cecily had her own issues from others at school. “Your sister needn’t think she will take over as head girl here.” Laura declared to Cecily one day, Jennifer, the current head, was her cousin. “
The staff decide that sort of thing. “Cecily replied calmly “but I think you are forgetting a major thing.”
“What?” “Neither Felicity nor Jennifer will be here next year, it will be someone new.”
“Quite, so please don’t say things like that. “Lesley told Laura “You know the head told us we should all work together to make this a success.”
“But the Swiss lot needn’t think they will take over. We are getting their Heads instead, bound to make a change. “Laura persisted.
“Of course it will, but I can’t see them changing things wholesale just for the sake of it.” Lesley replied, “We need to give it a chance, all of us.”
“Maybe, “Laura was not convinced.
“And although it’s my aunt’s school’” Cecily reminded her “my family are all here, part of this branch so we can stick up for here.”
“You were at the Swiss branch.”
“True, “Cecily shrugged “but I prefer here, much more freedom, worse weather “with a grin “but I like the fact we can do things by ourselves at weekends, that we are trusted.”
“Doesn’t that happen there then?” interested.
“Not as much according to Felicity. Things have changed under the new heads but the main issue is the distance involved. Here it’s a short bus ride, not as easy there. I think” thoughtfully “that they will enjoy that once things have settled down.”
“They won’t be used to it, perhaps we can help them in some way. “suggested another form member, Fiona.
Lesley said, “Good point, you know the head has askedfor ideas on how we can all help things go smoothly, let’s make that a suggestion.”
“I suppose some of us could go into town with them at first, show them the ropes. “Laura said, interested despite herself.
“Good idea, I’ll write it up and put it in the suggestion box. “Lesley said “and if you think of anything else anyone, let’s hear it, we want the staff to know this form wants to help. “with a grin.
Madge stood staring at the building progress, the extension to the main school and the new sixth form college. Both were progressing well, naturally there had been issues, that was to be expected and she had dealt with them as they arose.
It wasn’t the building work that caused her concern but the merging of the two branches.Technically the same school yet different in many ways. The uniform in Wales had remained brown, that in Switzerland blue. She had made it clear that no one was expected to replace the full uniform, just as the need arose, as yet she had to make the final decision on which colour to keep. Both branches wanted to keep their colours, a vote would serve no real purpose, it was up to her to decide. Brown or blue she mused, since it was the swiss branch closing she was leaning towards the brown. It was something that she needed to decide on fairly soon she realised, not for the current pupils but any new ones so they knew which to buy.
She frowned as she remembered the move initially to Switzerland, she had expected everyone to get a new uniform and then had changed it again a few years later. Surprisingly few had complained but it was a mistake that she did not intend making again. A new uniform for a new start was understandable but wasteful and she was now firmly against making either branch getting the others uniform. If the parents wished to then that would be fine but no one would be forced into it, but the final decision must be made soon.
The sixth form was to be run separately to the main school and initially she had decided Kathie and Nell Randolph would be in charge. However, she had changed her mind, at least for the first year, after realising Nell would be the most senior teacher aware of how the Welsh branch was run and to advise accordingly. So, for that crucial first year it was to be Nancy and Nell and Kathie and Ros, she would review it again later.
So many decisions to make she mused, and each one, no matter how small, was as important as all the others.
She discussed this further with Nancy and Kathie on her next visit “Of course although this year will have its problems it’s next year that may prove more difficult.” “
Do you think so?”
“It would be silly to think otherwise. The problems this year are mainly those of organisation, next year it will be people, there will be an element of us and them. That struck me when I was deciding which colour uniform to keep, knowing girls the one we do keep may feel it’s one over on the other branch. Yet I must choose one, the other choice would be a brand new one and quite frankly that is just unnecessary expense.”
“You are right of course. “mused Kathie “Any ideas on how we can ease the adjustment?”
“Your position as new heads will be difficult, I think we all know that, yet vital. I think it’s important that you get the feel of the place, don’t try to do things the swiss way at first even if that way is better.”
“I think I have the easier of the two since my unit is to be brand new and therefore the rules can also be new. “Kathie commented “perhaps a mixture of the best from both schools. You will have the difficult bit Nancy.”
“That is why Nancy has got Nell Randolph because it is important that the integration goes as smoothly as possible. You will have my support of course, and I will be available. I must say, “with a smile “I won’t miss the travelling back and forth.”
Some of the Swiss middles were complaining, realising that they wouldn’t get the same winter sports in Wales. “It rains.” Natalie said bitterly “a lot!”
“Not all the time surely? “queried a swiss girl.
“It does. “grunted another English girl, Maureen “but at least it means we can swim more. I believe they hire the local swimming baths twice a week. “she went on encouragingly “even in the winter.”
“That’s ok if you like swimming, I prefer ski-ing. “Natalie was not convinced.
“There will be more schools to play sport against, it’s pretty limited up here.” suggested Coleen, a keen sportswoman.
“If we can even get on a team, don’t forget there will be twice as many of us.”
“And likely twice as many teams.” Coleen said bracingly.” Don’t be such a damp sponge. I certainly won’t miss the travelling to get here although I will miss some things, but we’ll get others instead.”
“We’ll get English food.”
“Gosh Natalie, think of all the changes and problems why don’t you. “the form prefect was exasperated “We all know things won’t be the same, but we either try to make the best of it or just be miserable. If you want to feel like that fine, but don’t drag the rest of us down with you.”
Natalie, seeing the rest weren’t particularly sympathetic, subsided, much to the relief of the others. Of course they were apprehensive, worried about the changes but they could do nothing to alter the fact the school was moving.
Madge was visiting Joey which she always found difficult even though she tried to go regularly. She found the visits hard, the Joey of now was not the flawed yet alive Joey of before. This Joey was subdued, confused with no one expecting her to cope with anything but she didn’t realise that. She still felt she was in charge, on top of things but sadly she wasn’t. So it was hard for Madge, she should be used to it by now, but she wasn’t.
“What’s this nonsense about closing the school? “Joey demanded “I refuse to let it happen.”
“It is happening Joey, not the whole school though, we are relocating the Swiss branch in Wales, expanding there. It has become far too expensive to remain in Switzerland.”
“But I refuse to allow it.”
Madge sighed “You cannot stop it Joey, it is my decision.”
“I am a shareholder, I have rights, and I refuse to allow it to go forward. “Joey was adamant.
Madge frowned, Joey wasn’t actually a shareholder, she took income from the school in the form of free schooling for all her girls, in truth worth a lot more than any shares considering the number of girls it applied to. “It is going forward Joey, as from the end of the school year there will no longer be a Swiss branch.”
“I am not sending my girls all those miles away, it’s ridiculous.”
“What? “Madge was surprised.
“It’s stupid, how can I see them regularly, have new girl’s parties if they are in Wales?”
Ignoring the new girls party comment, this had not happened in a long time, Madge asked quietly “Where do you think we are now Joey?”
Joey looked confused, it showed in her face, then “Don’t be silly, you are trying to confuse me.”
“I’m just asking where you think we are. “Madge replied gently. Was that fear on her sister’s face, it looked like it. Madge realised that Joey really didn’t know where they were and changed the subject. “The decision has been made, frankly we cannot afford to keep the school in Switzerland. A new start in Wales, extra accommodation will hopefully open the school again to the not so well off. The Welsh branch was that but the swiss one was starting to get elitist. I am sorry Joey; the decision has been made and is final.”
“Does she really not know where she is?” Madge queried later.
Jack sighed and shrugged “To be honest I don’t know. Sometimes I think she does, others, like today I’m not sure. She has never queried the change in the uniforms from blue to brown, but then she doesn’t have much to do with that now.”
“Perhaps, “Madge began thoughtfully “the brown is comforting, it’s how we started.”
“Who knows, you may be right. Con looks after that side of things for me, Len helps if she is here but its normally Con, I can cope with the boys.”
“How does Con feel about that, having that responsibility?”
“She is fine. She says Len had to deal with enough when they were younger and now it’s her turn, also she says it’s not as hard because everyone is growing up. She is also happy to give Len and Ted their freedom.”
“They are all fine girls. Will it help that Len and Ted will be back in the UK?”
“It will be good to see them more often, and I know they will both chip in to help. I doubt Len will ever come here though, I cannot see the relationship between her and Joey ever being repaired.”
“What do you feel about being left to cope?”
“Joey is my wife, she belongs at home, not locked away, and as long as we can all deal with that she will be here. I don’t love her Madge, not in the same way, it’s sad but I don’t. But this is not her fault, it’s not her fault I don’t love her the same, but I am fond of her, I care about her, and I will not abandon her. The children have all been fantastic, without their support it would have been a lot harder.”
Madge hugged Jack, touched by the slightly forlorn look mixed with determination “You are a fine man Jack, with a fine family.”
She had taken Nancy, Ros and Kathie off to Wales for a long weekend to meet with Nell Randolph and Dolly to discuss the way forward. Dolly had been quite firm in insisting that the freedom her pupils had must be continued and extended to those migrating from the Swiss branch.
“It would be a backward step to do anything else.” She said firmly. “I think Nancy and I agree both agree with that. “
Kathie said with a glance at her partner. “As you may know we have been trying to change things, give the seniors more freedom to go out on their own, and trying to minimise the supervision for the others. It’s not easy on the Platz, it is too isolated but we have tried. I admit my lot were the easiest given their ages but that distance issue was always there.”
“I believe you allow trips into town, to the cinema, shopping, things like that?” Ros queried.
Nell nodded “Yes, we have found that mostly the girls react well to being trusted. Of course, we have rules that we do expect to be adhered to but within reason they are free to do what they wish. I imagine you couldn’t just let the middles wander off about the Platz.” #
Nancy sighed “Going by past experience one or more would fall over a cliff, fall in a stream, sprain an ankle or all three.”
Dolly laughed “Well thankfully that’s unlikely to happen here. Some of our girls have suggested taking yours into town to show them the ropes, I think that seems a good idea.”
“Certainly. “Kathie nodded “I do think ours will need help with traffic etc, we have so little, so I think at first some form of supervision might be necessary, even if it is as loose as possible.”
“I agree “Madge put in “I know Nancy and Kathie have worked hard to try to loosen the reins as it were but it was not easy. My fault “with a rueful smile “picking such a beautiful but remote location. When I did I confess to not thinking of how the girls, or even the staff, would feel.”
“I think it is a sign of how things have changed all over that we are thinking of it now. “Nancy said.
“Yet in my youth it seemed freer” Kathie mused “perhaps we were too strict up there.”
“Again, probably my fault. “Madge acknowledged “when I had all the school here in the UK there never seemed a need to be really strict, little issues like diverting streams or getting stuck in mud weren’t that much of an issue.”
“But on the Platz we have cliff edges to climb or fall off, snowstorms, avalanches, perhaps strictness was needed, at least at first, as well ,of course, of the language barrier. “Kathie said.
“True” Madge acknowledged thinking it would be easy to blame Hilda or Nell for not changing with the times, but pleased no one was doing that. “We are agreed then that the freedom established here will continue. “and the other five nodded.
“I hoped we would be working together.” Kathie remarked as she and Nell went for a stroll together.
“So, did I but you can see Madge’s logic, my knowledge will be needed at the main school at least at the start to help Nancy. She did say she would review it at the end of the first year.”
“I know, who knows what might happen then. Kathie was silent for a few moments. “Do you mind Nancy and I taking over, I imagine that you would have felt, rightly so, in the running for head?”
Nell smiled “Dolly asked me that, and yes if things hadn’t changed I would have hoped for the job. But as I said to her you two are experienced and the last thing needed in a period of upheaval is to add a new unproven head to the mix.”
“It seems a shame for you.”
Nell shrugged “It’s the right decision, and I am looking forward to doing my part in this merger.”
“You will be invaluable that is for sure.” Kathie assured her warmly.
“Madge has said that, I will do my best, after all I want it to succeed as much as everyone else.”
Rosalie Dene was sitting in her room pondering the future, she had indicated to Madge that she would move with the school but only work part time. Madge had agreed to that and was allowing Rosalie to suggest the hours she would work. After discussion Gill was to take over running the admin department for the two schools. This was a change as it meant instead of Nancy and Kathie having a secretary each there would be a staff of two full time and three-part time available. Gill was to live in the school, the others lived nearby, Rosalie as yet had not decided. She was drawn to the idea of living alone, in her own flat for the first time. However, it also worried her, could she cope with it, would the depression hit her again if she was alone. Only she could decide and Madge was not pressing her in anyway, assuring her that as a loyal longstanding member of staff she would help in any way that she could.
“Cecily says mother is against the move. “Felicity commented as she had tea with Len and Ted.
“I’m surprised that she even understands that it is happening. “Len replied passing sandwiches.
“From what I can tell she doesn’t, not really, she seems to think that she still lives in Switzerland. Cecily said mother told her not to worry, she won’t be moving to Wales.”
“It’s not unexpected that she doesn’t understand. “Len said thoughtfully “Although I wonder what she makes of the brown uniform?”
“Possibly doesn’t even see it.” Ted said “Doesn’t Con tackle most of that these days?”
“You could well be right, mother is not fit to look after it.”
“Good job, “Felicity put in “otherwise from the sound of it she would be buying blue.”
Len nodded, “Well there is nothing we can do to help out here, the family will know better than us how to cope.”
“They are just agreeing with her Cecily says, although she is making a fuss over it with Aunt Madge.”
“Any other news?”
“Cecily says dad is looking a bit careworn.”
“Oh, why, is it just the usual with mother or something else?”
“She doesn’t really know.”
“Hmmm, wonder if we need to have a word with Aunt Madge, maybe she could get Uncle Jem to have a chat?”
“Could be a good idea, the last thing needed is for him to be ill again.” Ted agreed.
“Ok, leave that with me.”Len decided “How do you feel about the move ?” to Felicity.
“Well I am glad and I am sad.”
“Explain. “Len laughed.
“Well in a way I am glad that I won’t be part of the mix up next year. But also I would like to be, I would like to be the Head Girl and help the school through it. It will be an interesting exciting time that will be part of the school’s history.”
“Interesting is one word for it.” Len said” it will not be easy for anyone, especially in the first year.”
“Surely that will be part of the fun.”
“Fun, chaos maybe.”
“That is unlikely with Madge in charge.” Ted remarked “she will have tried to cover all eventualities.”
“But there will always be the unexpected or the unknown, ah well, it will indeed be interesting.”
“Do you two still intend leaving?”
“It was never the location for us nor the cost of living, it is the lack of opportunities. The staff never go anywhere. “with a laugh “so there is no chance for either of us to move up.”
“And that is okay for a while, and always good for the stability of the school.” Ted added “but rather stagnated. If we, and we do, want to get on in our careers we will probably have to move on.”
“Some seem happy to stay. “remarked Felicity helping herself to cake.
“Their choice, but it’s not ours. “Len told her. “We want to try new things, perhaps do things differently, not the Chalet School way. “with a smile.
“Rebel. “laughed Felicity “Where will you live?”
“In school I imagine, not ideal, we would need to find somewhere for the holidays, not too isolated, with a bit of life.”
“You wouldn’t come home?”
“Not whilst mother is in the house, it just wouldn’t work.”
“Will you go to see her?”
“Again no, too much has happened Felicity, the relationship is too badly damaged.”
“Would you ever forgive her?”
Len was silent for a while.”I don’t think so, it wasn’t just me that she hurt, she also hurt Ted.And she used me, controlled me all those years, I don’t think I can forgive that. Yes she is ill but I don’t know if you realise but she nearly drove me to a total breakdown. If it hadn’t been for Ted and good friends I would never have coped.”
Felicity looked serious “I knew there were issues, but to be truthful I was young and just pleased it wasn’t me.”
“That’s understandable. It was the issue of being the oldest and being labelled almost from birth as the responsible one. “Len said, perhaps just slightly bitterly.
Felicity laughed “So were Con and Margot labelled?”
“Con the dreamer, Margot the naughty one, we were stuck with those labels for years.”
“Yet Con is very much awake and Margot is doing good work helping people.”
“Yes, they are, but if you ask they will tell you how they felt about being labelled from a young child until they left home.”
“Hardly fair. “Felicity was silent, looked serious then “Did you know that I wanted to leave this school, go to dance school?”
“I knew there was something but I didn’t know it was that.”
“Well I asked, I wanted to train at ballet, I’m too old now, too tall but then, not so.”
“I take it they refused.”
“Mother nearly had a fit. “Felicity said calmly “no girl of mine is going to be a common dancer.”
“What?” Len was surprised.
“Her words, there was no point in fighting it. I did talk to Aunt Hilda but all she could say it was a parents decision but that she would talk to mother, it changed nothing.”
“And you are too old now, are you sure?” Ted asked.
“Oh yes, needed to start seriously at a young age, but I am too tall now, that eased the disappointment a bit, not much, but a bit. I suppose never getting started is better than starting then having it taken away.”
“You do perhaps realise now it was the cost? “Len asked gently.
“I do now, we all get free schooling, and ballet training would be expensive, she wouldn’t have wanted to pay for it.”
“Sadly I doubt they could afford it.”Len hugged her sister “I wish we could have helped.”
“You had your own battles to fight Len.”
“It would seem we all had battles to fight Ted.” Len commented later as they sat together on the sofa. “Felicity, Cecily with always being told she was special, Mike and the navy, the boys being shunted to school and left there, at the time you don’t see it.”
“It takes time and distance sometimes and I think perhaps we might never know the true extent of everyone’s battle. Mike is happy now in the Navy?”
“Oh yes, he is now, but he hated it for awhile, hated it because he was labelled with it.”
“Well Charles doesn’t appear to want to be a priest judging by the fun he is having at college.”
“Right now he doesn’t, in truth I could never see him doing that, I think my quiet brother might be a wanderer.Cecily is a much nicer girl away from mother’s continual praise.”
“I wonder if that happened because she looks like a younger Robin.”
“You may well be right, and we’ve been told just how fixated and obsessed mother was with Robin as a child. Len nodded “It might explain a lot. Is it normal, for families I mean?”
“Yes to a certain extent, I’m hardly one to judge. “with a wry smile “given my track record.”
“I’m hoping that it is, I’m hoping that it’s not just my dysfunctional family.”
“Yours is worse than some families, perhaps better than others.”
Len pondered for a moment “I suppose so, although the issues in my family can be traced back to mother, in some ways she was never cut out to be a parent, she needed to be the centre of attention always, and having more children than anyone else guaranteed that, we were used as an attraction.”
“You possibly were, I agree Joey isn’t an ideal parent, never was in my book if I can be honest.”
“Of course you can. You know I can’t help wondering if I started all this off.”
“Stop that, you know what Barbara said, it wasn’t your fault, you only wanted to be you, the others problems were not your doing.”
Len smiled at the fierceness in Ted’s voice “I know, mostly, but…”
“No, there are no but’s!”
Madge was thinking about her staff, not so much those in Wales but her Swiss branch, especially those who had been with her a long time and were struggling with the change. Matron was retiring, still unsure if she would cope, would be lonely, but willing to try. And Rosalie, going part time, she had never fully recovered from her illness and Madge was aware that for some time Gill, Susannah and Kathie had been carrying her. Part time was the right decision for her but she sensed in Rosalie the same anxiety about living alone that she sensed in Matey.”Oh!”as a thought struck her and she made a note to look into it further “Could be the perfect solution. “she murmured.
She was beginning to realise just how institutionalised some of her staff were, never really living alone nor doing anything for themselves but having it all done by the school. Was there anything she could do to help those ladies retiring she wondered, she remembered the talks given by ex-pupils on the problems of going to college. Could she do something like that, just some simple advice, another thing to add to her already long to do list.
“I’ll go and see your father tomorrow. “Madge promised Len over the telephone “he seemed alright the last time I saw him but I know Joey can be wearing. She is rather fixated about the school not moving from Switzerland and he may well be bearing the brunt of that.”
“It’s all I am hearing about. “Jack confirmed “she has it in her head that she has some say, that she can do something. She has taken to writing to all the old girls she knows to get their support, we don’t post the letters but of course she doesn’t know that.”
“I am sorry Jack, is there anything I can do?”
“Pray she doesn’t take it into her head to start ringing them. “he said grimly.
“Do any of them still keep in touch?” “Frieda, Marie and Simone do, they are loyal friends even though they don’t always understand, but no, not many others do, thankfully.”
“Yet she always seemed to be in contact with so many.”
“I think it was the’she was in contact bit’ Madge, it was a way of keeping in touch with the school, still being part of it. To be fair I get letters from some asking how things are, some have offered to come and stay, give me a break, but I doubt I could ever accept, it wouldn’t be fair on them.”
“Do you need a break, be honest Jack?”
“A bit, yes, just to get away from the school talk for a few days would be nice.”
“Then we will make it happen, let me talk to Jem.” He smiled tiredly, but looked hopeful
“I would be grateful.”
Felicity and Lucy Peters strolled around the school grounds, it was a cold but fine day. Lucy looked across at the playing fields, as Games Prefect these were her domain. “In a way I wished the move had happened sooner. “she remarked.
“We are so limited up here in playing other teams, it would have been nice to have had some real challenges to get our teeth into, perhaps even win a cup or two. “with a laugh. “As it is we mainly play interschool.”
“I suppose so, not being particularly sporty myself I’ve never seen it that way.”
“I know, playing against other schools at all ages would have been fun. As it is now what we can scrape up here in challenges is normally for the elder girls only. The youngsters are limited to interschool matches in the main, must be boring for them. I know we play one or two schools but it’s mainly one offs, the travelling puts people off.”
“And with Millies closing this year we would have had even less challenges. “Felicity remarked.
“True, so the change is timely for that, like I said I am sorry to miss out on the opportunity.”
“You might get into them at college?”
“Hopefully, I’ll be joining in on the sports side if I am good enough.”
They strolled in silence for awhile, each lost in their own thoughts. Felicity stopped and looked around “You know I’ve never thought of this much before, but living up here, in these beautiful surroundings is actually a drawback in some ways. Cecil writes and tells me what they have been up to. She is younger than me yet gets to go to town by themselves, in a group obviously, but not supervised. The older ones can go swimming, visit the cinema, all by themselves. I know the heads have tried but the distance, it always comes back to that.”
“And the expense. “Lucy put in.
Felicity nodded her agreement. “The Wales lot feel sorry for us, Cecil says she has a great time, she is certainly happier there and a nicer person because of it.”
“Perhaps here is good for a holiday, not too great for long term living.”
“I think that’s part of mother’s problems you know Lucy, the limited social life here, she just got bored and so more and more dependent on the school for a life, it took her over in the end. “Lucy was silent, she knew the Maynard’s family problems, but Felicity rarely talked about them. Felicity smiled “deep thought moment over.”
Lucy took her friends arm “I can see, in a limited way, the sense in that.”
“I’ll talk to Len about it, see if she agrees, but I think I am right. Bit sad to think that if she hadn’t lived here, so near the school, that she might not be the way she is.”
Lucy again said nothing, just squeezed her friends arm in silent sympathy.
“So has Jem decided what he is doing about the San.”Hilda asked as her and Nell had a planning meeting with Madge “Is he keeping it on here?”
“Oh yes, but shifting its main purpose. There will always be a respiratory element but, as he puts it, ski-ing means hotels, hotels mean tourists, tourists means illness and potentially, realistically, injuries. He has discussed it with the companies involved and they would like him to stay. And, as he says, it means he can continue to help those locally who don’t have the funds for health care, he will still subsidise that.”
“A win, win situation. “Nell remarked putting down a tray of coffee and biscuits.
“Yes, and one he is very pleased with. Things are going better than I imagined at the moment, hopefully it will continue, but realistically I doubt it.”Madge laughed “And now I have something to ask you two “Nell and Hilda looked curious. “I’ve been thinking. “Madge went on “about those teachers who have spent most of their life teaching here, and now plan to retire. I feel they may be lacking the skills they need to live alone. You remember how Len and Ted brought up the same thoughts for college students, well I am asking if you two would do the same? You have lived away from the school for three years now, I know you have the skills, I know you can teach, would you do it?”
“Bit different to geography or science but I have no objection. “Nell laughed “it’s a good point, we do get used to having everything done for us.”
“That is true, I don’t mind helping “Hilda agreed “You seem to be thinking of everything Madge.”
“Thoughts hit me, it’s a bigger process than just closing Millies.I am shipping the school equipment back to the UK from both schools, transport will be expensive but I will save overall.”
Con made her fortnightly visit to the house, she did this so the others could talk to her if they needed to. Len had apologised for leaving it all to her but Con didn’t mind, she recognised the struggles Len had had , felt bad she had done nothing and this was her way of putting it right. Of course with the school returning Len and Ted would be more easily available, she realised that they would never, or it was unlikely, that they would visit the house but at least they could meet elsewhere. Despite her acceptance of her lot she guiltily acknowledged to herself that her life would be easier then, she knew the other two would step in and help.
Cecil opened the door to her, greeted her cheerfully. “Anything to report?” Con asked.
Cecil rolled her eyes “Mother has a real bee in her bonnet about the school closing in Switzerland and moving here. She wants to start a campaign to stop it.”
“Why?” Con asked hanging up her coat.
“Doesn’t want to be separated from her gals. “Cecil grinned. “She thinks at times we are still in Switzerland. I know it’s not really funny. “guiltily.
“It’s okay, I know it’s how you are coping. “Con acknowledged. “How is dad?”
“Tired, weary, mother is wearing him down a bit about the school, but Aunt Madge is coming to give him a break.”
“What would we do without her.” “I know, we’ve really got to know her, but she isn’t the same as she was a few years ago.”
“No, she was I believe, in danger of becoming that nice woman, Lady Russell, pleasant with no substance. The whole business with Len, mother and the school changed that, woke her up.”
“I prefer this one.” Cecil said.
“I think we all do, and from what I’ve heard she is back to her old self. Where are the others?”
“They stayed at school for today, some sports thing, Phil is supporting Marie, they’ll be back tomorrow.”
“Are they alright?”
“Yes, seem so, not said anything otherwise. I’m glad they are friends, Phil misses Geoff sometimes.”
“Hmmm,” Con entered the living room where Joey was sitting scribbling, a pile of envelopes beside her. She looked up “can’t talk, I need these to catch the post, Cecil is going to take them.”
“Who are you writing to?”
“Old girls, this nonsense about closing the school needs stopping, it’s ridiculous.”
“Saying it’s too expensive, that’s nonsense, we always manage.”
Con raised her eyebrows “That’s because you don’t actually pay for any of us girls.”
“Of course we do, don’t talk nonsense, now Cecil, these are ready to go, make sure you catch the post.”
Cecil obediently picked them up and went into the hall for her coat, Con followed her “Are you really posting them? “she asked quietly.
“No, “Cecil said softly “dad checks that they are all to old girls then we put them in the furnace, for now I’ll hide them in the garden shed.”
“Madge put out a circular to as many people as she could asking their views. “Jack sighed later “Most old girls know, they don’t object, most are happy the school will continue. I am just trying to stop Joey looking silly in their eyes. “running his hands through his hair “some don’t know about her illness, they won’t understand.”
Con patted his shoulder “I get you dad, it’s the right thing to do. Hopefully something else will come along to attract her thoughts.”
“I hope so Con, because quite honestly, this talk of school from her is wearing me down. She doesn’t listen, perhaps can’t listen to rational explanations. I try to be patient but this, this fixation with the school just won’t go away.”
“You decided not to build a swimming pool?” Dolly asked Madge.
“I certainly considered it but then decided the extra expense involved wasn’t worth it. We have a good arrangement with the local baths now, no maintenance costs, so for now I am sticking with that. In the future things might change.”
“And you are sticking to just a limited number of new girls this next year?”
“I think we have to Dolly, there will be enough confusion as it is without throwing poor little new souls into it, I am just taking those we had already agreed to, and I think the numbers will be kept low the following year as well to give the school time to adjust. It’s going to be big enough as it is.”
Dolly nodded “I think that’s wise, and I think it’s also wise keeping on all the staff. Oh, that will cause problems in logistics but will also give a sense of stability.”
“Where to put them all is a bit of a puzzle I confess. “Madge acknowledged “but I am working on it. Nancy and Kathie are going to use the cottage which will be helpful, Len and Ted indicated that they too might try to find somewhere out of school to stay, perhaps others might feel like doing the same.”
“It would certainly help, just a thought, perhaps we could get a house for a few of them to share, a bit like a teacher’s hostel.”
Madge nodded as she considered this, then made a note “Worth looking into.”
Ted and Len sat beside the fire “It’s strange to think this is coming to an end. “Len commented “that all we’ve done over the last 15 years or so will really count for nothing.”
“Surely more than that Len, things haven’t been easy I know but there must have been good bits.”
“I suppose so, but sometimes all that comes to mind are the bad, the mistakes, the problems.”
“Because you don’t believe in you.” Ted said gently “you cannot acknowledge that you do a good job, did a good job.”
Len smiled “I remember when we first came here, it was so beautiful after Wales, still is, and I think I was a little in awe that this is where we were going to live. And the house, it was so big, we got lost in it at first. Enough rooms for everyone, except mother never gave Anna a place to call her own, just her bedroom. With all the spare rooms, a little sitting room for Anna and Rosili would have been easy to do. We could find space to take in Stacie Benson, Doris Trelawny but we never could find the space for them a sitting room. All those bathrooms, we converted some into other rooms but then we nearly had enough for one for everyone. The view out of the window of the Jungfrau often took my breath away. Yet, despite its name, at times it was anything but a happy house.
We never seemed to be just us at holidays, it always seemed that mother had taken in yet another waif or stray, I know that isn’t true but it felt like it. Jo Scott, Melanie, Marie, the Richardson’s, various adults, it never seemed to be just us.
Mother never away from the school, it was embarrassing at times, she turned up at things she had no part in. Not sure you were here for the first spot supper, meant for staff and pupils, and she insisted on coming as “the school’s first pupil.” And do you know something, she wasn’t, Grizel was. Mother was Madge’s sister so where Madge went, mother went, but from what I’ve heard Grizel was actually the first pupil, certainly the first paying pupil.
Anyway, the Swiss era is coming to a close, I wonder if it will help me close that part as well, forget all those years of not being me but what was expected of me. I confess that I am looking forward to moving to the UK.”
Madge turned up, as promised, to give Jack and break, Jem had taken a few days off also and he and Jack were off on a walking holiday together, nothing strenuous, just fresh air and a change of scenery. Joey started at Madge about the school as expected until Madge got firm and told her she would hear no more. “The move is happening, nothing will stop or change it Joey so continually complaining will not make a scrap of difference. “and refused to comment further. This nonplussed Joey for awhile but Madge knew she would return to the subject. “
Cecily seems excited. “Len remarked reading a letter from her younger sister “She says the building work seems to be steaming ahead, as far as she can tell, and things are taking shape. Here, she sent some snaps. “passing over some photos to Ted “Of course they can’t get near, it’s all rightly fenced off but from the top floor you can see what’s going on.”
“Madge gets things moving doesn’t she “Ted commented.
“She doesn’t hang about that’s for sure. “Len laughed “I believe the summer holidays will be a little bit longer, then we all pitch in to get things organised before the girls come back.”
“It will be strange working with new people, hopefully we will all get on.” Ted mused.
“Oh, I suspect there will be arguments, dislikes, it’s only natural, they will just have to be worked through. We might have moved on by then, but I feel we need to give them the first school year before making that decision, what do you think?”
“Yes, I think so, we know we can’t be promoted but one year isn’t going to make that much difference, we are still young after all.” with a smile.
“It’s a bit unfair on you Nell.” A teacher commented in the Welsh staff room.
“Why?” Nell Randolph asked.
“Well surely, “the PE teacher, Molly French, went on “you were slated to be the headmistress until this business happened. Now we’ve got two unknown characters shoved in your place. And Gloria, who looked likely to get Senior Mistress gets nothing.”
“Had the move not happened then perhaps those things would have occurred “Nell acknowledged “there is no guarantee of course. Madge talked to me about it and I have to agree with her. There are two experienced heads in Switzerland and this is not the time to put a new untried head in charge.”
“We would have supported you, the Glendower lot anyway. “Molly was not convinced “I just think it’s wrong.”
“No, it’s not wrong. “Nell smiled “and I know you would have supported me. However, we must support Kathie and Nancy, next year will not be easy for any of us, especially those two. The school will in effect double in size, that is more work for us all and we can only achieve that if we all pull together.”
“We know nothing about them. “commented the science teacher, Audrey Myers “except the brief meetings we’ve had.”
“I know Kathie and I and Dolly have talked to and with them, I think the school will be in safe hands. And Gloria may well get her chance, Madge is considering more senior staff due to the increased workload. “Nell smiled “Dolly has already made her views very plain on some matters, especially those on how much freedom we give our girls, Kathie and Nancy were very receptive.”
“Huh, they are still unknown, they’ll bring their Swiss fancy ideas here with them and try to change things. “Molly was not convinced.
“I think for at least the first year little will change, they will be enough confusion with us all trying to fit in and the swiss girls will find it hard to do things our way, in effect there might still be two schools whilst we all settle. We cannot prejudge Molly. “Nell put on her serious Senior Mistress look and Molly subsided for the moment, however Nell could feel that there was some concern, some tension, perhaps even resentment in the air and decided she must discuss it with Madge.
Madge was currently having a hard time with Joey and fully understood and sympathised with Jacks need to get away. Despite her firmness Joey refused to let the school business go and Madge was tired of it. Nothing she said got through, nothing she said convinced Joey she was in the UK, and Madge heartedly wished they had kept the whole issue a secret from her.
For what seemed like the 90th time that day Joey started a sentence with “As the school’s first pupil. “ Madge snapped. “I have heard that so many times over the years, I am tired of hearing about it, and do you know what, you weren’t, you really weren’t my first pupil.”
Joey shocked, stared wide eyed at her “Of course I was, everyone knows that.”
“When I started the school the idea was to live cheaply, have an income and provide a healthier environment for you. You, as a pupil, would not have provided me with an income, my first paying pupil would do that, and my first pupil was Grizel, not you. I’ve not disputed it because in a way you could also be classed as my first pupil, but I have heard it so many times that I am tired of it, and I know others got weary many years ago of you bringing that up all the time. “Madge felt a bit guilty but Joey had to know, had to listen. “Whether you were or weren’t the school’s first pupil is irrelevant and has been so since the day you left the school. It holds no bearing to now and no bearing to the fact the school in Switzerland is closing and transferring to here, to Wales. Nothing you can say or do will change that Joey, do you understand me?”
“No one wants the school to move. “Joey said petulantly.
“Yes, they do, the only one who doesn’t is you, everyone else I have contacted accepts the reasoning. And you must too, because it is happening, the school is moving here, here to Wales.” Madge waited, she regretted losing her patience, how on earth did Jack keep his, but in a way it was a good thing, surely Joey must grasp it now, yes she was confused but surely now, surely.
Madge was weary as she strolled along a country road, it was cold, but there was no snow as there would be in Switzerland. Sometimes she missed that, missed those early days in the Tyrol, when everything was new, was fun, when Joey was just a mischievous thoughtless normal 12 year old.
She sighed and stopped to lean on a gate, not seeing the view, her mind on past days, of snow fights, of the, yes, the freedom of it. She had loved those days when she was in charge directly, not like now, in charge yes but not in the same way. It had been a nervous time, starting a school all those miles away, would it happen the same now. No, of course not, too many regulations to deal with, and who, she smiled, would really allow their daughter to go all that way to an unknown, untried school with someone they hardly knew.
In many ways Grizel had been their first pupil, without her would she, Madge, have had the courage to go on with it? And now, now she had a school that was going to be bigger than she liked, with all those extra problems. Did she enjoy it, she considered, yes, she did, she felt rejuvenated, taken out of the danger of being that ‘nice woman, Lady Russell’ Jem was very supportive and had been her rock with all the troubles over Joey.
She stood up, she was lucky, luckier than many, however, it was time to get back to Joey, who wasn’t speaking to her. Joey had got up and walked out of the room after their last conversation and refused to speak to her now, Madge knew her sister couldn’t help it, but sometimes that didn’t make it any easier.
She listened seriously to Nell Randolph as she explained her thoughts about the feelings in the staff room.” It is only impressions mostly, but I’m pretty certain they are there.”
Madge nodded slowly “I suppose it is to be expected, “she mused “they know and like you, Kathie and Nancy are unknown quantities. I do need two heads, and they have the experience. It is no slight on you Nell, I regard you very highly and had this move not happened you were definitely in the running as the next head, but I cannot have a brand-new head right now. For one thing it would not be fair on you, becoming head is stressful enough, being brand new with almost new school dumped on you would be horrendous.”
Nell laughed “I don’t need convincing Madge, I totally agree.”
“I am considering deputy heads, not just senior mistresses like now, and if I go along that line you and Ros Moore are my first choices if you would accept that.”
Nell nodded “I would be honoured.”
Madge smiled “I have every confidence in you. I would then promote Gloria, who both you and Dolly recommend to Senior mistress.”
“Ah, now there is the issue, I know who I would like from the Swiss branch but right now they don’t have the experience, so I need to think. For now, re your staff, I will come and talk to them, hear their concerns and see if I can reassure them. I am fairly certain I will appoint deputy heads so I will tell them that as well, after talking to Gloria of course.”
“It might help, it’s the unknown I think.”
“Of course, I’ll get Nancy and Kathie to come and spend some time here, just a few days, but hopefully enough so that others can see how they work.”
Nancy and Kathie were having doubts as well as the time for the move drew closer, at first it was exciting, and there was planning to do, but as the actual event became more and more a reality they found it harder to deal with.
“We don’t know half the staff in Wales. “Nancy commented frowning. “And they don’t know us.”
Kathie nodded “it’s not going to be easy, especially for you. I will be running the sixth form unit mostly and a lot of them are my staff here.”
“You will still have input on the main school though.”
“Oh definitely, there won’t be as much work for me as there will be for you, not at first anyway.”
“We need to go and meet them, talk to them, not just for a flying visit but longer. “Nancy said.
“I agree, we need to suggest that to Madge, we are fortunate here that Hilda and Nell can step in because I think we need to take Ros as well.”
Nancy, Kathie and Ros duly made the visit to Wales. “I’ve almost forgotten how damp a UK winter is “Ros commented “I’ve got used to the crisp cold.”
“True, it’s just another change that we will all have to get used to. Kathie agreed” a minor one though.”
“I am nervous over this meeting. “Nancy said “I’m not sure of our reception.”
“Madge said there might be issues, if there are it’s better to sort them out now rather than leave it six months. Kathie said, “but I confess to being nervous as well.”
“Chin up girls, are we spineless jellyfish.” Ros asked with a smile causing the other two to grin.
They knew Nell Randolph would support them but the others were an unknown quantity. How did they feel about them taking over instead of Nell, would they be accepted, it was a difficult time for them. Madge had not gone with them, feeling if she did the staff would be on their best behaviour, she would deal with any issues later.
They had discussed it on the way over, they all knew that it was likely that Swiss ways would have to give way to Welsh ways at least at first. Nancy and Kathie had made changes over the last three years, more freedom for prefects and seniors, trips into town at weekends for lower forms, supervised yes, but better than the same old rambles and walks of before.
They had stopped the curtsying as the girls entered the Heads study feeling it was old fashioned now, Millies hadn’t done it and they had agreed it needed to stop at the main school. They had also tried to give the girls more free time, no ‘having ‘to join in the hobbies club to make things for annual sale. Many still did join in but it was their choice now.
They had re-introduced guides, again voluntarily, with no extra work or chores for those who didn’t wish to join in. Basically they had tried to make the school less regimented, tried to give the girls their own space where possible. How would this all fit in with the Welsh way of things, well that’s what they would find out.
Len and Ted went on a short visit to the UK just after Christmas to visit family and friends. They met up with Rosamund and spent a happy few days with their old friend. She had finished college and was now working in a National Trust garden.
“It’s hard work. “she admitted “and does nothing for your nails but I’m happy there.”
“You are looking very fit. “Len commented.
“All the digging and lifting.” Ros laughed. “It does wonders for your weight.”
“You wanted to be an air hostess at one point.” Ted remarked.
“Yes, I know, it crossed my mind.” Ros smiled “Switzerland gave me the urge to travel and to use the languages we learned, but I think I’m happy now.”
The three next met up with Con and Ricki, who had kept up their friendship, for a meal. “What do you three think of the school coming back to the UK?” Len asked as they ate.
“I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened before, it must be very expensive now. “Ricki remarked.
“People like me wouldn’t have the chance to go now,” Ros said “unless they got a full scholarship.”
“People like you?” Ted queried with a frown.
“I mean from humble backgrounds, I am the odd one out here.” Ros explained with a smile.
“Rubbish. “Len said “backgrounds and finances have nothing to do with it. You are as good, if not better, than many.”
Ros blushed” I…”
Con smiled and put a hand on Ros’s arm” You came to the CS on a scholarship, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. And look at us triplets,” with a smile “our parents didn’t pay for us.”
“You are our friend. “Ricki told Ros. She had reconciled with her father and together they ran a small gallery. She did most of the daily running but was very happy. Her eyes, injured all those years ago, had healed but opticians had warned her that there might be problems in the future. Ricki didn’t worry too much about it, tending to live for the now.
“I do get Ros’s point about a scholarship though.” Ted commented as she filled wine glasses “The school does give a discount but it’s still an expensive business these days, the move will ease a lot of burdens.”
“I’ve been wondering if we three could afford a scholarship, “Len said “we are in good jobs, we can’t include Margot just now of course. What do you think?”
“I’d be willing to chip in, “Ricki said “unless you wanted to keep it family only”
“I can give a little,” Ros offered “I’d be glad to, it’s how I got my start in life.”
“I’m in,” Ted said, “the school took a chance on me.”
“We can all do it together, I’ll have a chat with Nancy and Kathie, probably Madge, and we can work out the details. “Len promised.
“We never have friends round. “Cecily told Len as they had tea in a café, “we can’t, mother, you know.”
“It’s very difficult for you all.”
“She keeps talking about it, having the new girls round but of course that hasn’t happened in years.”
“Don’t want people to laugh at her. “Phil said in her quiet way. “We know what she is like, but others might not understand. She talks about her books as well and she still writes but nothing that will ever get published, it’s too old fashioned. “
Phil was nearly over the polio of the past. She still had a weakness that made her limp if tired and some games were too much for her. She was a cheerful if quiet girl and had set her mind at doing something different when she left school. “I don’t want to be a teacher, “she had told Len “Don’t know what I want to do but definitely not teach.”
“There are worse jobs.” Len had replied with a grin.
Len looked at her younger sisters realising just how hard it must be for them and how well they coped. She vowed that she would help more on her return, not see her mother, but she could help without doing that.
“Mother can’t help it.” Claire piped up “it’s just how she is.”
“Ted and I will be around more from the end of the school year, we will help where we can.” Len promised.
“You won’t come to the house though. “Cecily remarked.
“No, I won’t be doing that, it wouldn’t work out, not with the relationship, or lack of it, between mother and I. “Len said seriously.
“We know, it’s a shame though, we all miss you. “Claire said.
Len felt guilty “I wish it was different, but it is as it is just now. At least if I am in the UK I can see you all regularly.”
“I suppose we are no different to a lot of families. “Len said to Ted later. “there is often one member that is estranged.”
“Doesn’t make it any easier for you and the others to deal with.”
“No, it doesn’t, but as I said to the others, it is as it is.
Flanked by Nell, Dolly and Ros Kathie and Nancy took a deep breath and entered the staff room where the welsh branch teachers waited for them. It was a daunting moment as, of course, all eyes were upon them. Dolly made the introductions, although most already knew who they were, and they took the seats arranged for them.
Although Nancy was the senior head Kathie made the first remarks. “Thank you all for being here, Lady Russell felt it would be a good idea if we spent some time together, get to know each other, and we do agree with that. The merging of the schools will not be easy, I think we all understand that, and we three do understand that the added fact of getting two new Headmistress’s is a bit daunting, trust me “with a smile “it’s daunting to us as well. However, the merger is going to happen, and we all need to play our part in that so hopefully we can be honest with each other, air any issues or concerns and see if we can resolve them now.”
“I just want to add that we do understand this branch has more freedom than ours, and that is something we are very keen to continue, perhaps even build on. Our branch is very restricted in what we can allow the girls to do, I know that they will enjoy the less restricted way of life here.” Nancy added.
“Nell and I have discussed things with these ladies, “Dolly added “There will be changes, that is natural, but I think you will find any changes will be gradual. They have told me that they feel the best way to cope with next year is for the Swiss branch to conform with this branches rules. Nell will be very important in helping with that and I hope that you all will back them up in any way that you can.”
Some assembled nodded, agreeing, others, like Molly and Audrey, looked doubtful. Kathie, looking round, could see from the expressions with which teachers any problems might lie.
Gloria spoke up, she was as yet unaware that Madge was going to give her the Senior Mistress role. “I think it’s natural that there are concerns and doubts, to be fair there has been very little connection between the two branches until this was announced, we both gone our own ways. The Swiss branch taking on our rules at first will be hard for them and personally I think we should discuss that and prepare a plan in how we can help ease them into it.”
“Gloria and I have put together a rough idea of our rules and there are copies to hand round. I would like you to read through them, if we have missed anything could you let us know before the end of the visit. “Nell said.
“Who is going to be Senior Mistress here, you? “Molly asked of Nell.
Dolly smiled “Madge has given me permission to announce that in fact Nell and Ros are both to be deputy heads, not senior mistress’s. The senior mistress roles are to be decided, we have one already decided, we are consulting on the second.”
Various congratulations descended upon a blushing Nell “Thank you, it was a surprise.”
“So are both the seniors to be from your branch? “Molly asked Nancy directly.
Nancy reigned in her irritation, placid by nature, there was an edge to Molly’s voice that was very annoying. “No, there is to be one from each school. “she replied quietly.
“What school uniform are we changing too?” Audrey asked. “Yours I suppose?”
Dolly frowned, she sensed the pairs dislike and wondered how to deal with it.”That is Lady Russell’s decision. I think everyone is aware that for now that there is no need for any girl to buy a new uniform until theirs needs replacing unless the parents choose to do so. Certainly it is not an issue any of us have any control over at this time. “she added quite pointedly.
The discussion continued, most were interested, cautious perhaps but at least willing to try. Some, like Audrey and Molly were openly, perhaps not hostile, but certainly showing their dislike of the situation. Gloria was proving her worth as being supportive and helpful, making useful suggestions and doing her best to bring them together.
Kathie, Nancy and Ros left later feeling a little battered and bruised but more hopeful. Nell and Dolly however had a private conversation in which they expressed their unhappiness at Molly and Audrey.
“Very anti everything Swiss “sighed Dolly “you will need to watch them.”
Nell nodded “Will you tell Lady Russell?”
“Yes, she asked me to point out any issues raised. “she stirred restlessly “it’s not needed Nell, Nancy and co are doing their best to fit in with us, at least initially, they don’t need this hassle.”
“Do you think it will help when they find out Gloria is a senior mistress?”
“She proved today she deserves the job, but sadly no, I don’t think it will change much. After all you are a deputy head and they were still unhappy.”
Sorry for the delay, I'vr just finished a series of long shifts at work.
Hilda and Nell were left in charge of the school whilst the other three were in Wales. It wasn’t hard for them to pick up the reins, yet Hilda found it harder to embrace the new rules and freedoms put in place.
She admitted this to Nell one evening. “I get moments of panic thinking they can’t do that. “she said wryly “and, of course, they can.It makes me realise just how, rigid is perhaps the word, I had become, too set in the old ways of doing things. It also made me realise that we had retired at the right time, I think I would have struggled with this move you know.”
“Oh we did the right thing at the right time. “Nell agreed “Kathie and Nancy have had those years in charge and that will have given them good experience to help deal with the move, they will do a good job. Would we have, in some ways yes, we would, but in other ways I think we might have struggled. I like the freedom for the girls but like you it’s sometimes a shock. To be honest I am glad that we are not in charge.”
The year went very quickly for all of them with the changes looming at the end of it.Madge had arranged a party for the end of the final term for the two Swiss branches and had invited, at her expense, some of the key Welsh staff to attend. She was aware there was divisions in both pupils and staff and was working to resolve them. Time would be the key she thought, time to allow all concerned to adjust but she was a little worried that some wouldn’t give it that time.
One of her ideas had come to fruition, Rosalie and Matey were going to share a little cottage near to the school. Both were delighted, this avoided the empty house situation yet both could have privacy and their own lives. Madge smiled at that thought, both were loyal employees and more importantly, good friends’.Jem had helped find them a suitable house which they had seen and were pleased with.
He had also found Len and Ted a small house nearby and was helping Hilda and Nell in their search. They didn’t want to be too near the school feeling that the move was the time to start new lives not so intertwined with school life. They had told Madge they would be available if needed but wouldn’t be on the school’s doorstep.
She had made a start on clearing out unwanted items from the school, it was amazing how much was put away in case it might be useful. The village school benefited from school furniture and books for which they were very grateful. Other unwanted items were given to charities or local families. Gadnez held several bonfires for the junk. All in all things were moving along satisfactorily.
Madge had pondered the uniform problem at length. Of course, the obvious answer was a brand new uniform but she was very loath to do that, especially after doing that on the move to Switzerland.
Jem came into the room and found her staring thoughtfully out of the window. “Why so thoughtful?”
She explained and he pondered on it whilst pouring them both a coffee. “How about a blue and brown tie to start with?”
“What do you mean?” “Combine the two colours into one, you know, unite the school type of thing.”
She considered it and nodded “That’s not a bad idea, same size stripes of course, and I’ll give each girl one at the start of team for free.”
“Good idea, and why not, just a suggestion, keep the brown winter uniform and the blue summer one.”
Madge stared at him, then got up and kissed his forehead “You are a genius.”
He laughed “Not really, just a little bit distanced from the issue. The ties will combine the two colours.”
“I couldn’t put blue and brown together really on a uniform but I certainly can on a tie. “She sighed happily “One more problem dealt with.”
Jack had enjoyed and needed his break from Joey. She was no different, still going on about the school, the new girls teas and, of course, it closing. It felt to him and the family that they were no longer the most important thing in her life,it was very sad but they accepted and dealt with it as they had to these days.Jem had suggested he made some enquiries, see if there was any help or treatment that was available. It was hard to see the once vibrant woman reduced to someone who only cared about one thing. Perhaps the signs had been there, after her initial physical frailty she had seemed to grow more highly strung, less able to cope mentally in a crisis. And, of course, the school had become her life on the isolated Platz, there was little else there to attract her interest. Jack had accepted Jem’s offer, always willing to see if anything would help her. He may no longer love her but he was sticking by her and would care for her for as long as she needed him.
Freida had rung him at the San, not home, to delicately discuss something. “Joey rang me. ” she started carefully, Jack groaned, lord knows how much that call would cost him. “she doesn’t seem herself Jack. I know that she hasn’t been for some time but I felt perhaps she was worse.”
“What did she say?”
“Well rather a lot about the school, she seemed to be in the past.”
“She is Freida, we are onto it, Jem is trying to get some specialised help for her.”
“I am sorry Jack. “Frieda said softly “It must be so very hard for you all.”
“It is but we are all doing what we can.”
“I know that, you are a good family. I stopped her talking as soon as I could, she obviously had no idea of the cost of the call, possibly because she thinks she is still in Switzerland. Jack, would it help if I came for a visit, I have discussed it with Bruno and he says I must if it would help. Would it help, would it help you, would it help her?”
“I don’t know if it would help. “Jack was honest “but she would probably love to see you. Although” with a grim laugh “you would probably just hear about the school merger.”
Freida promised to see how soon she could arrange a visit and Jack put the phone down grateful for the support and understanding. He also pondered was Joey ringing other people, she would have no idea of the cost, how could he check? Could he put some sort of ban on international calls? Yet another worry he sighed as he went back to his work.
Nancy was still not sure at times about the merger and her ability to cope, less confident than Kathie she was tending to worry over every detail. She could do the job but needed to believe in herself more. The business with Rosalie, happening when she was a very new Head herself, had affected her more than she realised. Kathie was patient with her, the merger was a big thing and she would help her partner all she could having belief in Nancy’s abilities.
With the decision made on the uniform Madge wasted no time in getting both schools to announce it, she would be visiting them to answer any queries.
“So Lady Russell has decided that the uniform will be the brown for winter and the blue for summer. “Nancy announced to the school. “She says that she will be looking at modernising the styles in the future but not yet, there is no need for any extra expense for your parents. There will be no need for anyone to buy it until they need to replace. She also says that she is bringing in a new tie but that is to be a surprise for the new term, we, the staff don’t know either. “with a smile at the obvious curiosity of the girls.
Dolly had announced it at the same time in Wales with mixed reactions.
“Huh, who wants blue dresses. “grumbled Natalie after Dolly had told them.
“What’s wrong with it? “queried Coleen “seems a pretty fair way of sorting things out.”
“Blue and brown are stupid.”
“We are not wearing them together though. “another pointed out reasonably.
The others sighed, nothing would please her about the merge, they had given up trying to persuade her.
“If you don’t like it so much I am surprised that you are staying. “Sue remarked.
“Well you seem to hate everything about the move, it just seems that you would maybe be happier elsewhere.”
“Why would I move?”
“Then perhaps you could be more supportive. “the form prefect, Lesley, told her “and actually like something for a change.”
Natalie grunted and moved off leaving the others shaking their heads.
Molly was still unhappy about the merger and had found an ally in Audrey. Just why they were so anti-Swiss wasn’t clear, perhaps they themselves didn’t know, but they complained or were awkward about every new development. Dolly was getting very tired of them and was wondering whether to go down the route of ending their employment, she would have to do it soon to give them their proper notice. It seemed a dramatic move but if they weren’t happy, and they seemed determined not to be, then perhaps it was the right one. She decided that she would have to bring Madge in on it, the merger was difficult enough without opposition from staff members.
Madge listened, not totally surprised, she knew the move logistics would be difficult but solvable, it was always going to be the people that were the problem. “Are they good teachers Dolly?”
“Yes, nothing outstanding but steady, I cannot really fault their work.”
“So it’s just their attitude to the move. “Madge pondered. “Sadly this seems over the top, yet I really don’t want those here who will criticise at every turn. I don’t expect them to agree with everything, nor do I expect them all to be best friends, I just need a willingness to see it through, to give it time. From what you have said these two seem unwilling.”
“I don’t know why. “Dolly sighed “neither were in line for promotion, its not some problem in that area.”
“A dislike of change, it can be frightening. “Madge said.
“Perhaps, but acting this way they are not helping and it will not help. “Dolly was quite annoyed that two of her staff were the ones causing the problems.
Madge picked up on it “It’s not your fault Dolly. “she said gently “It is just how they are, I will talk to them. If they are not willing to accept the new it would be better if they left, it will be hard enough for everyone already.”
Dolly nodded “They cannot be allowed to upset others.”
“It is in my hands now. “Madge told her “I will speak to them both soon.”
One of Madge’s other concerns was who to make senior mistress from the Swiss branch. She had promoted Nell Randolph and Ros Moore to deputy heads and Gloria from the welsh branch to senior mistress, but she wanted another, the problem was, who? She discussed it with Nancy and Kathie, going through the possibilities together.
“Not Sharlie.”put in Kathie ”she’s a good teacher but not a leader.”
“Not Davida, a little too abrasive at times. “Nancy said.
“Jeanne? “suggested Kathie.
“She has already indicated that she is happy as she is and wants no extra responsibility. “Madge told them.
They went through everyone, some would be able to do an average job but Madge needed more than that.
“We haven’t considered Len or Ted.” Kathie pointed out finally.
“Surely they are both too inexperienced. “Nancy said.
Madge nodded “I think you are right, four years isn’t enough for the job with the delicate situation the merger is causing.”
“If we did, which one? “Kathie was idly curious.
“Which one would I consider, both could do it but I think Len just shades it, she is a natural leader. Oh I have considered them but as Nancy says, they haven’t had enough experience yet, certainly two for the future.”
“If we keep them.”
“Indeed, if we keep them. Len isn’t actually all that much younger than Hilda was when she took over as Senior Mistress.”
“Surely things were different then though. “Kathie said “the school much smaller for one thing.”
“Agreed, “Madge nodded “life was easier then, simpler.”
“So what do we do, we have no obvious candidate. “Nancy brought them back to the business in hand. They looked at each other with no ready answer.
“Are we forgetting that Julie Berne helped Nell set up Millies?”Nancy queried suddenly “She must have experience.”
Madge looked thoughtful “You know, I had forgotten, it was some time ago, but yes, she was a great help to Nell.”
“Would she be willing?”
“I think she wishes to retire in the not too distant future, but perhaps she would be, even in the short term , it would certainly help us. She helped set up Millies from nothing and must have encountered problems then. “Madge nodded decisively “I will talk to her, see how she feels.”
Frieda arrived on her promised visit and was met at the airport by Con.”Dad couldn’t get away but he is really grateful to you for coming.”
“It might be a good thing that it is you. “Frieda said thoughtfully settling herself in the car. “Will you be honest with me?”
“Yes, I will, Dad probably will be also.”
“Yes, but I have no wish to upset him, I hope I will not upset you?”
“Go ahead and ask.”Con smiled slightly “I think that we are all just that little bit immune to mother these days.”
“What is wrong with Joey, does anyone really know?”
Con sighed “Not really, Jem is trying to get expert help but its difficult. You know she has always been mentally volatile, always rushing around, doing things without thinking it through.”
“Indeed yes, she was like that at school.”
“It was perhaps coming on longer than we thought, the illness.”
“I thought it was Len and Ted that caused it?”
“We don’t think that was the actual cause, but perhaps one of the last straws for her. She had been giving the school no peace, always invading staff meetings, the staff room, wanting to know the girls business, living her life through the school. Too busy really to realise that her own family had problems.” Con paused, her voice was slightly bitter. “It got to the stage where Hilda and Nell had to ban her from the school. Len happened before that decision but she was very angry about it.”
“But up there, there is nothing else, did she not try to make friends, other interests. Her letters always made it seem that she was very busy.”
Con sighed again “She always went on about the school, first pupil stuff and as such had a right to be part of the school. She never really tried to do anything else, not even visit people in the San. New girls were starting to ask why they had to visit her when they didn’t know her and refusing to go. It was getting embarrassing for everyone, mother included. But she never seemed to see it, it was all the school for her.”
Frieda nodded slowly “And you feel she was already ill then?”
“Looking back we think so. Then everyone thought it was just her being her, sticking her nose into everything like she did.”
“She wasn’t so bad in Wales. “Frieda mused “perhaps because she wasn’t next to the school and had other friends and interests. Although, she always did want to be involved in the school even then.”
“She made no effort to make new friends or interests up there, everything was wrapped around the school. Dad blames himself for coming here and then buying a house right next to the school. Even the other side of the Platz, away from the school, might have been better for mother. Biddy and Hilary lived there but they were never at the school unless invited.”
“They of course, had young children. “Frieda mused.
“So did mother. “Con said quite bitterly “but she never looked after them much, it was left to Anna and Rosali, or us in the holidays. It was like she wanted the most children but got bored of them. That’s another thing dad blames himself for.”
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but we cannot dwell on what we should have done.
“Frieda observed. “Perhaps not.”Con concentrated on driving for a few moments. “You will find her changed Frieda.”
“I expect so, that I gathered from our telephone conversation.”
“Thank you for coming anyway, it means a lot to dad.”
Frieda patted Con’s arm gently “She is my friend and will always remain so.”
As they approached the house Frieda asked, “Is she aware I am coming?”
“Dad told her, whether she remembers I am not sure.” Con pulled up outside the front door and Frieda stepped out.
The front door opened, and Joey came out with open arms gaily saying, “Welcome to Freudesheim.”
Molly overheard Natalie talking to some of her friends about the merger. Natalie, as always, was finding fault and her friend, a weaker girl, was agreeing. “It’s not right. “Natalie was saying “why should we have to wear their uniform?”
“But it’s only the summer dresses.”
“That’s not the point, we have always been brown and white. They are coming here so they should stick to ours. “she stopped as she saw Molly.
Molly smiled “You will find there are things in life that are not fair Natalie, and you have to put up with them. This is one of them.”
“Do you think it is fair Miss French?”
“Perhaps it isn’t “Molly said smoothly , well aware of what she was suggesting “but we are struck with it.”
“Do you like the merger?”
“Whether I do or not is pointless, the powers that be have decreed it will happen. Now get along to your form room, you should be there by now.”
Smiling to herself Molly left, happy that she had sowed some seeds of discontent, she didn’t want the merger. In truth, although she didn’t realise it, she was scared of it. She knew she wasn’t the best of teachers, would her counterpart from Switzerland be better, would she show her up, it worried her, and she knew Audrey had similar feelings. Had they realised this was the problem and talked it over it could have been solved. As it was they let it fester until they felt nothing but resentment, which hid the real reason.
Natalie went away, a little surprised, but also gleeful. “Miss French doesn’t like it either “she muttered to herself “see, I knew it was right.”
Madge had approached Julie, and after a little reluctance Julie had accepted the offer of the senior mistress position.
“It won’t be easy, I warn you. “Madge said honestly “but I think I have a good senior team who will work together.”
“I am honoured to be asked and will do my best. Helping Nell set up a brand new school was a little different of course, we had no others to consider and could do as we felt best.”
“But still valuable experience. Thank you, Julie.”
Frieda had been shocked by both Joey’s greeting and the appearance of her friend. She knew Joey was ill but the rather manic woman that greeted her still surprised her. Joey’s hair was still in the old-fashioned earphones even though the style was well out of date. She was to discover later that Joey had little sense of time and clung to her hairstyle, perhaps as a reminder of a time when she was happy.
Frieda hugged her friend and went inside with her, making no comment on the greeting. Very soon into her visit she came to realise the extent of the family’s problems. Joey was firmly centred on the school, on pupils from the past and, of course, the merger.
“It makes sense for it to happen Joey. “Frieda said gently “Otherwise it may well be that there will be no chalet school.”
“Nonsense, there is a waiting list of pupils.”
“but the Swiss one has been growing steadily smaller over the years, it costs too much now.”
“Rubbish, its not expensive, I should know that.”
“But you have never paid for the girls schooling. “Frieda pointed out. “Switzerland is getting expensive to live in, and the school fees are starting to reflect that, it has to be done.”
Nell and Hilda did a short trip to the UK to view a couple of potential houses Jem had found for them. They were renting at first before deciding whether they wanted to buy or not, not rushing the decision because this was to be, hopefully, their final move. As requested Jem had found houses that were within travelling distance but not right next to the school.
The move had brought home to them how things were changing and, although always willing to help out, the fact was they both felt it was time to end their involvement with the school. They had played their part, it was not by any failure on their side that the school had to move, but it was the younger generations job now to move the school into the future.
They debated on whether to visit Joey whilst in the UK but felt it was not the best thing to do. There was still a lot of anger on Joey’s side towards them after they stopped her visiting the school every day whenever she felt like it.
They were looking eagerly forward to their new start, having a place in the UK to call home and revisit old familiar places from their younger days.
After yet another discussion on the doings of the Middles, past ones obviously since Joey no longer had a part in the school, Frieda wondered just what, if anything, could be done for her friend. She tried to turn the conversation into the present, talking about her own family and those of Simone and Marie.To a small extent it worked but only for short periods at a time.
She discussed it with Jack as they went for a walk together. “Is it always this bad Jack?”
He sighed “Sadly yes Frieda, it always comes back to the school. It has been suggested that she reverts to a place where she felt safe and happy.”
“Possibly so, she did love school, she felt important there.”
“Hence the ‘first pupil’ “Jack smiled slightly.
Frieda nodded “Yes, I can see that, she has brought that up many times over the years, perhaps it was a sign of the onset of illness.”
“Who knows, it seems a long time ago now. “Jack looked round the chilly landscape “I wish I could do something for her. We try, Jem chases up anything new he hears of, nothing seems to help.”
“You do the best you can Jack. “Frieda said gently.
“Don’t hate me for saying this, but I don’t love her anymore. There has been so much to deal with over the years, too much to be honest.”
“It is understandable Jack.”
“Perhaps, but I still feel guilty about it.”
“You haven’t abandoned her, many would have done.”
He shrugged restlessly “Maybe, I sometimes think that if I loved her it would be different.”
“I don’t think so, you are doing everything you can for her. “They walked in silence for a little while “She is obsessed with the school, is that the word I mean? “she considered “yes, I think that it is.”
“I agree and it’s getting worse, the move has definitely not helped the situation.”
Madge had had the promised discussion with Audrey and Molly. However, neither were very honest with her about just why they were against the move and it left her feeling uneasy and dissatisfied. “I can only say that I want people to be behind the move and willing to work at it despite any doubts. If you cannot promise that then perhaps you should move on. Dolly tells me you are both good teachers and I would see you got good references. I don’t want to do that but I need commitment otherwise a already difficult situation will be made even harder.”
Neither wanted to lose their jobs, the school was a good one, paid a lot better than many and they knew they might struggle. They did not express their doubts to Madge but to each other later, and unfortunately did not keep those feelings to themselves but spread them subtly amongst the pupils.
“I am not happy with them. “Madge told Dolly later “it may be that I will have to let them go no matter what they want.”
Dolly frowned “It’s a nuisance but I agree, hopefully they will see sense and support you.”
“I have my doubts, but frankly they cannot win this situation. If they support me all well and good, if they don’t I will just pay up their contracts and let them move on. I will not have them disrupting the school.”
“There is only three months of being here still to go.” Len remarked in the staff room one day.
“Yes, its nearly Easter break, where has the time gone.”Ros agreed.
“It will seem strange at first not being here.”Sharlie said “but there will be other benefits, like being able to see our families more often.”
“Without the expense of the travelling.” Davida agreed with feeling “it was always something you had to consider.”
“The weather might be a shock at first. “Joan said “rain rather than snow.”
“It might not be too bad in Wales, but it won’t be as hot as here in summer.”Sharlie said.
“It rains whether it’s summer or winter “Ted grinned “you can tell it’s summer because the rain is warm.”
The others laughed “We will get used to it .”Matron said briskly.
“Looking forward to retiring Matey?” Sharlie asked.
“Yes and no, it’s time I did, the work is getting too much for me, but I will miss being busy. However, Madge has suggested things I can try and sharing a house will help. “with a smile at Rosalie who smiled back.
“Do you think it will work out?” Davida asked to no one in particular.
“With hard work and give and take, yes I do.”Ros said “but it will take all of us, both branches, to make it happen.”
“There’ll be an element of us and them.”
“Bound to be, it’s natural but it’s up to us to break that down. We cannot say things like ‘that’s not how we did it in Switzerland’ for instance.” The others nodded, seeing her point.
“Will they do the same?”
“One hopes so, because if them or us don’t it won’t work. And if the girls see divisions in the staff then there will be divisions in the pupils.”
Sadly Molly and Audrey were doing their best to make those divisions, making sly remarks or comments to girls, nothing you could really put your finger on but enough to sow seeds of doubt and discontent.
Nell was vaguely aware of it but since she had no real proof could do nothing. Gloria also noticed it and took her concerns to Nell one morning, again proving she was the right choice for Senior mistress.
“I’ve noticed it.”Nell agreed “but I cannot as yet prove it.”
“No, we can hardly ask the girls outright what is being said, it would make it obvious that there is a problem.”
“Indeed and we don’t want that at this stage. They are being very silly you know, Lady Russell is already unhappy with them, if she finds out they are making things worse she will just terminate their contracts. “Nell sighed.
“Why do you think they are doing it? “Gloria pondered “It just seems so pointless.”
“I don’t know to be honest, their jobs are guaranteed for at least two years, just why they should be putting them at risk is, quite frankly, beyond me.”
Madge was quite happy with the progress, the new building was nearly ready, she felt that perhaps she would need to delay the sixth form girls coming to school for about a week but was very hopeful that was all.
The moving of items to the UK had already began, anything that could be done without had gone to be stored in Wales. Other things that she was donating to the village school or local charities had also already gone. There would be more to go but a satisfying start had been made.
The closing party was in the process of being arranged, by an agency, cutting down on her work considerably. All in all good progress was being made. She secretly looked forward to the day when she didn’t have to travel so much, yes she was still very fit for her age but it was wearisome at times and airports quickly lost any appeal.
Frieda had ended her visit and gone home, very concerned about her friend’s health but also concerned for the family. Joey, she felt, was living more and more in the past, in the school as it was, not as it is today. What could be done was beyond her, but she was touched by the patience of the family, the acceptance and the way that they all coped from the youngest to the eldest.Con had shown her worth, taking on the elder sister role that Len currently couldn’t, Margot was always busy in her medical training/career.
Con had admitted to Frieda one day that she looked forward to Len and Ted coming back. “The youngsters all come to me, and that’s fine, but having those two as back up will be a real help.”
“They won’t be going to the house?”
“No, that won’t happen, not yet if ever, but being able to meet them will help me.”Con admitted. “Dad does his best, Steve looks after the boys, but having someone who understands the whole situation will be good.”
“Are they truly aware of how things are? “Freida was curious.
“I’m not sure, perhaps not all of it, but enough.”Con was needing the support of her elder sister without fully realising it, someone to share the load, and she knew Len would do that as much as she could.
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