Monday, 30 August 2010

Three little maids from school...

Well, here I am... a bit late this week for the Poetry Bus. The thing is, Miss, we just spent a weekend in Edinburgh (daughter likes the Book Festival – Francesca Simon of 'Horrid Henry' fame this year...very enjoyable) and so I am worn to a FRAZZLE (and it certainly feels like the dog has eaten my homework, even though she hasn't, can't blame her really...). I'm just not used to big city life any more and at this time of year Edinburgh is very, very busy. We had a great time (shows, food, exhibition, shows, food, no sleep, shows, food, exhibition...and I will write about some of them later in the week maybe...) but by heck, it's good to be home sweet home too.

Anyway, this week the prompt from Karen is to write about school. I haven't had much time to think or work this week but here are few things – some old, one new.

First off here's something I wrote a couple of months ago. I went to a weird Quaker boarding school from the age of 11-16 (my Mum was socially ambitious and liked private schools - I am pretty much pointed in the opposite direction, hate the places and would close them all down if I could...). At this school (now closed...) I majored in drinking (Special Brew, cheap vodka) and general misbehaving. I know now I was reacting to the death in the family (and other issues perhaps) but at the time I just wanted to have fun and fun seemed to come in a can or a bottle. I was very, very bad – even sent home from school for a week at one point (to sober up mainly) but, unlike a lot of my friends, I wasn't expelled. There are several reasons for this I suppose - it was a small unacademic school and I was expected to get good exam results (and I did...just...I'd outgrown the heavy drinking by then). Also maybe they felt some sympathy for my widowed mother (single parent families were not so common back then and our story was pretty tragic). Lastly we were one of the very few families there with any real Quaker connections... I guess that was a factor too. Here's my first teenage school poem for today - I've sent it to a couple of magazines but no takers so far (shame, it's one of my favourites just now):

Look away

We were feral children
We tore at our food, grabbed rough what we wanted

We felt lust soon enough
Didn't wait for any leaflets to tell us what to do

We drank hard
It was a hunger we had and the drink couldn't touch it

RF 2010

The next one is a new poem – written very quickly, on a train, over the weekend (so don't expect too much!). When I was 16 my Mum moved what was left of our family away from the North East of England to London. We weren't native North Easterners (Mum was born and brought up in Edinburgh, both her parents were from the South of England) and we'd never really fitted in in counties Durham or Cleveland (though I loved it there - it can be very rough and many senses...). By Middlesbrough standards (where we lived when I was a teenager) we were posh – my Mum spoke more like the Queen than Roy 'Chubby' Brown, we went to weird private schools, we were from elsewhere – but then, when we moved to London, I went to the Lycée Français in South Kensington for sixth form and suddenly I was quite at the other end of the social scale! At the Lycée many of the kids lived in huge West or North London homes, dressed in expensive branded clothing (that I'd never even heard of), had diplomats for parents (one or two came to school in chauffeur driven limos...). It wasn't an expensive school (as private schools's subsidised by the French government) but there was lots of money in the air - the canteen food was damned good too. We, in contrast, lived in a series of small, ugly South London flats – once again out of step with the people I was around. It was a very exciting time though.

South Kensington is famous for its grand museums – perhaps the Natural History Museum most of all (see picture at top of was just over the road from our school). Here's my très vite écrite Lycée poem. I've even put some exclamation marks in... I don't often do that.

Another world

In those days
If you can you believe it
I got up early (very early!)
Climbed on a crammed commuter train
And only fainted once

I coped
With the rush hour
With bursting Victoria
With tube trains (smoking carriages!)
It was 1985

I got off
At South Kensington
A grand destination
A centre of history
Patisseries galore

And I went
To a school
Where I was the pleb
A clever pleb perhaps
But badly dressed, cheap and wrong

RF 2010

And finally... a couple of years ago I wrote this about being a Mum at the school gates (once again I'm out of step you will notice...happens all the time...I don't even fit in with bloody poets...). This poem did have a tune (and was a really good song in fact) but I'm afraid it's lost its tune for now (long story...). Here are just the words:

School gates, no mates

What do you call a group of mums
A cluster, a natter, a curse?
Primary ones think their life's tough
But being a mum can be worse

Here we are now stood at the gates
Hovering round about three
Some have a gang, some have a clan
Others bob loose, lost at sea

Group ones are just really local
Group twos are older and rich
Group threes are sort of related
Group fours are here for the bitch

Group five - childminders and aunties
Group six - predominantly grans
Dads are around, blanking it out
Oh, what a freedom is man's

The children are anxious about all sorts
Sliding and numbers and clowns
But here at the gates there are pressures
The smiles only just cover frowns

Who has the fanciest audi?
Who has the best behaved kid?
Who has the record for housepoints?
Who knows what so-and-so did?

Who is invited to this do?
And look now who's pregnant today?
Who is that wearing full make-up?
Some people, I ask you, I say

Oh, to be local or family
Oh, to be somewhere but here
Oh, but I'm not, I'm just waiting
Can't wait for the end of the year

RF 2005

Phew, off for a lie down now.



Anonymous said...

Particularly loved the last one, you captured the atmosphere so well, been there done that, hated my time at the school gate, never belonged because I didn't want my kids to be there so had nothing to say to other mums.
thanks for sharing

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks mousie. I always got a lot of good feedback to that one when it was a song!

Liz said...

Liked the stories and stages attached to these, Rachel. Good going.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Liz. I know they're all kind of personal...and some people would hate that about them straightaway...but this is how I write. I always think there should be room for all types of writing.

Niamh B said...

Really enjoyed these three, the last line of the first one is a real killer.
The second one really succeeds in exuding the excitement you describe. Wow - what an experience that must've been btw - good way to develop a tough neck!
and I love the third as well, the groups, the comments, fab!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Glad you enjoyed Edinburgh, it can be hectic at this time of year, though it depends where exactly you are....

I can imagine that last poem working really well as a song too

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, Niamh. Maybe if you had a poetry magazine you could publish that poem!

CGP - I did get away from the busy spots too... off to the Botanic Gardens to see a (very quiet) exhibition there (and to see my friends the trees too of course).


Poetry24 said...

I enjoyed all three. Life, well observed.

Rachel Fox said...

Thank-you Martin. Lovely comment.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Loved these Rachel - what painful memories this bus prompt has brought out - but good to give them an airing I think.

Rachel Fox said...

Do you know, these aren't painful to me, Weaver. I enjoyed most of my odd times in some way or another. There were harsh points in my teenage experience (who doesn't have some of those?) but nothing terrible really. I was more lucky than not.

As for the School Gates...they are just ridiculous...grown women acting like bairns. And I'm sure I can be included in that...

Enchanted Oak said...

Your comments on my blog have been comforting, Rachel. Thank you for popping over and giving me a sense of camaraderie. Your poems reveal the strangeness of your experience even without the backstories. I think the "otherness" we feel partly drives us to be poets and give voice to the experiences in hopes someone will understand.

NanU said...

Very interesting poems. I like Another World best, with its exclamations and italics and great capture of the experience.

The Bug said...

I like the first one best, because although you were all working so hard to fill some need it seemed like you were in the same place at the same time. The other two poems are the more usual experience (at least for me) of not being quite RIGHT with my surroundings.

Rachel Fox said...

EO - yes, there are certainly some poets who write from otherness. There are others too who write simply because they like words...and many other reasons. I always liked writing but moved more towards poems in bad times and seem to be stuck with them now!

NanU - and maybe you like the French influence...

Bug - yes, we were quite a crew of drinkers and reprobates. Every school has them, I suppose... The funny thing is I really moved into it all when I was wrongly accused of smoking by teachers (I did hang out with smokers but didn't smoke at that time myself). I did that 'may as well join in then' thing. And I loved it!


Totalfeckineejit said...

It's no wonder you write poetry Rachel, the poets view of the world should ALWAYS be from the outside looking in.And what an interesting academic journey you have had! Second poem is grand but
I really like the third one, writing in a hurry seems to suit you.I love writing on trains BTW.
As for the first one I liked that too, can't believe it was rejected.All poetry editors are bastards!! :)

Rachel Fox said...

I'm not sure about that 'always'... maybe the poetry you like comes from there. You wanker.
I think you got mixed up by the way. It was the second one that was written in a rush.

Argent said...

Enjoyed all three but my fave is probably number three - it's just so well put-together.

Doctor FTSE said...

Time well spent. A writer who really writes!

Anonymous said...

I liked all of your poems but the first one appealed to me most. I liked the hunger that just couldn't be filled. I get that. I got that.

Hearing about your school life was so interesting. You certainly experienced both sides of things. Probably one of the reasons you are such a wonderful writer today.

hope said...

For a busy person, you certainly managed more than well!

I loved the 3rd one, because you had me hooked at once! And yes, I heard it like a song.

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks, thanks and thanks again. Seems that each of these three poems appeals to someone!

Batteson.Ind said...

Also loved the last one, there's a seriously nice tripping pace to it and some great imagery. It was interesting hearing your experiences of school too...

Rachel Fox said...

Well, it's looking for a new tune...

Peter Goulding said...

Yes, I sought of identified with the last one. I remember picking my daughter up from playschool and all the mums seemed to know each other by their first name.
But being a man, it didn't bother me.

Rachel Fox said... can blank it out. Many times I've wished I was a bloke at picking up time! I have another poem about being at playgrounds too ('Dad's Army' - on website under poems - modern world).

Dick said...

The first and last poems really packed a punch. Now that I'm a playground mum (honorary), the last one rang all sorts of school bells.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes sisterly solidarity... not really something that some of the Mums brigade seem to have heard of! Sometimes it is so bad it is funny.

Jinksy said...

The last one was spot on - showed your great powers of observation!

Rachel Fox said...

I wish it weren't so sometimes, Jinksy!

Karen said...

I love all three of these for the different perspectives. Mowt recently, I'm familiar with the gaggle of moms waiting at the gate...

Rachel Fox said...

It all reminded me very much about how people behave in school (the cool group etc. etc.). All a bit depressing... but, as always, where there's the crap there's often comic potential too!