Most of my life I have been accused of being posh. I grew up in a suburb of Glasgow renown for being the home of posh — Milngavie. When I say I come from Glasgow people look a bit surprised — I don’t even have a Scottish accent let alone a Glasgow one. At the private all girls school I attended on the west side of Glasgow (again the posher side) elocution lessons put paid to sounding Scottish which is a shame because I like the Scottish accent.
There were layers of poshness of course. Those children who were packed off to a fancy boarding school at 11 often in England although St Leonards on the east coast of Scotland was good enough. They were the cream. My father having hated boarding school and my mother who came from a crofting family on the Isle of Skye resisted this. They would never have met if it had not been for the war which caused a greater mixing of the social classes and as they both joined the army, my mother as a nurse, and my father as an officer and married in Ceylon as it was then (now Sri Lanka) far away from any family influence.
One of my friends was destined for an English boarding school and even at 9 I must have had political views. The SNP in those days were a complete joke but I expressed my horror at her being sent to school with all those Sassenachs so much so that her mother rang my mother up to tell me to stop. When I went to stay at her house which was enormous even by Milngavie standards it was an ordeal. Her parents were rather formidable and she had brothers at Eton who clearly found us very irritating when they were home for the holidays. Oxford and Cambridge were the only universities as far as they were concerned and it was my first introduction to the boat race as they all sat glued to the television screaming for Oxford. At mealtimes the father would pick on one of his offspring or horror of all horrors me to say grace in broad Scots.
We had gangs at school the Scots and the English and if you had the great misfortune to be English or another nationality or were new you were in the English gang. I can remember now our rather formidable headmistress hauling us up to her study and furiously telling us that ‘Ladies don’t spit’. after one rather wild playtime. We were not a diverse group. I have no memory of a black student or any from an ethnic minority. We were not even aware we were deeply racist. If you trod on a black line on the way home from school someone would shout out ‘oooh you will marry a black man’. We all tuned into the Black and White minstrels on a Saturday night and I doubt we would even understand what diversity meant. Religion was the only thing that divided us. There were a number of Jewish children at the school and they were allowed not to go to prayers and were nearly always at the top of the class. There were no Catholics at my school as Glasgow is deeply divided down to its football teams on religious grounds. The Catholics or ‘ left footers’ as the protestants called them had their own schools.
Most of our teachers were spinsters no doubt having missed out on marriage because of the war with many of the eligible men away and the only time a male teacher was hired, there was great excitement among us girls and no doubt the teachers. We wore purple berets in winter and panama hats in summer, the uniform being a combination of purple and navy blue. This was the 1950s and even privileged children travelled on buses as the school run was in its infancy due to one car in the family being a luxury.
There were no mobile phones and so we became streetwise pretty quickly and learnt to cross the road and avoid any dodgy looking character or anyone who would pick on you because you were posh. I remained at that school my whole school life and still have friends from those days despite having moved to England and (I’d never have believed it then) married an Englishman.
At five I wrote in the school magazine that I wanted to become a lady doctor and drive a morris minor. The boredom of double maths and double chemistry in an afternoon soon put paid to that aspiration and given my enthusiasm for the hockey pitch and the swimming pool my headmistress decided I was best suited to being a PE teacher. My friend and I (who I met up with in Australia this year) were the undisputed three legged and wheelbarrow race champions. I did make it to owning a Fiat 500 though.
Very few of us went to university and the careers recommended were teaching, nursing, physiotherapy, secretarial with the clear ambition of marrying someone from our own tribe and end up living in a large house in Bearsden or Milngavie and dedicating our lives to the next generation, golf and bridge.
P.S. My last blog was on the adventures of a world cruise blighted by the coronavirus and now in virtual lockdown in January, I am sooooo bored I am driven to blog about my life. I hope you enjoy it.