A Six Month Prison Sentence

As the year twelves eagerly await their exam results and plan the next stage of their lives, I have found myself reminiscing of when I left home at the age of 18.

For years, I had begged my parents to send me to boarding school.  I made all sorts of promises, the clincher, I thought, was that I promised to actually study but my empty promises fell on deaf ears and I had to stay at a school I loathed.  They blamed my romanticized version of boarding school on Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers.  A fabulous series full of mid night feasts, pranks  and respected head girls, of which I was sure to be one, given the chance.

Instead, at the end of year twelve, I found myself not at a lovely old boarding school with manicured gardens and a lacrosse field, but  at a not so lovely old convent surrounded by enormous buildings with the smog almost choking me to death. The lacrosse field was nowhere in sight and forget the midnight feasts, the kitchen was padlocked at exactly 7 pm every single night.

The irony of the situation was, that at eight years of age, a cranky, old nun informed me that if I was lucky, God would give me the calling.  The calling, of course, was to be given the honour of becoming a nun.  So every night I secretly took the phone off the hook, (I couldn’t be too careful) and prayed desperately to God to leave me alone. Thankfully, God decided that there was no way in hell he was letting me join his superfluity, or so I was led to believe, until I found myself actually living in a convent.

Anyway, my parents left me in the dubious care of Sister Hilda.  A tall stoic woman who, if you hadn’t met a nun before may have seemed very intimidating.  She and I butted heads often.

I lasted six months and learnt many things during my prison sentence:

No 1:  Yogurt will explode if kept in a cupboard. It might take a few weeks. It’s not pretty when it does explode and the taste, I wouldn’t recommend it.

No 2:  God will not strike you down if you don’t go to mass at 6am every morning. Or any morning for that matter.  If you are able to ignore Sister Hilda banging on your door, demanding that you do indeed attend mass, she will not go away but eventually she will lose her voice, which is a blessing to everyone.

No 3: Throwing stones at your roommates’ window to wake her and alert her to the fact that you have forgotten the key, (again) does not work.  You have to face the consequences of waking a very grumpy nun the next day.  Think thirty women menopausing.  It’s a wonder I survived.

No 4:  Nuns do not wear their habits to bed.  Instead they wear white, lace, antique nightgowns buttoned right up under their chin.  I’m sure I heard a clanging sound whenever Sister Hilda walked.  Oh, now I know what that enormous key tied around her waist was for.

No 5: Existing solely on junk food is not a good idea. It can lead to a hospital stay where you are prodded endlessly until it is discovered you have malnutrition.  Well it was either that or food poisoning every night.

No 6:  The pub down the road is a gift from God.  Well, he had to help me out somehow.

No 7:  Never interrupt a nun in prayer. Again the thirty women menopausing.

No 8:  Do not innocently stand with your boyfriend by the gates of a convent.  Nuns, given any chance, will report your “Lay about lad,” (even if he is doing his PHD) to the police.  They will arrive with lights and sirens blaring, hand cuffs at the ready, eager to arrest the so called pervert.  Yes this happened twice.

No 9:  Menstrual cycles can synchronize.  With twenty five women in the building, things could get really scary.  Chocolate was the only thing eaten for a week and if you dared ask for a piece a vicious beast would almost kill you.

No 10:  Nuns do have eyes at the back of their heads which makes me wonder if they are actually human?

Six months later I fled to a share house where life became even more extraordinary.  I will save those stories for another time.

So how old were you when you first left home and what are your stories.  I would love to read them.

 

 Copyright 2016

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12 thoughts on “A Six Month Prison Sentence

  1. The thought of all those menopausal nuns is a scary one indeed Kooky! We have a convent boarding school here and the verandas are all barred up like a jail. My mother often threatened to send me to a boarding school but she never did. Even though I read all the Enid Blyton books including The Naughtiest Girl in School I never wanted to go, although the thought of the horse riding appealed to me. When I left home I moved in with an old school friend who was training to be a nurse. I ended up with blood poisoning and had to move back after two months. Epic fail as they say.
    Can’t wait to read your other stories 🙂

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    1. Blood poisoning, how dramatic! How did that happen? I still want to go to boarding school. My catholic school had broken along the stone fence, it was once a boarding school, not an Enid Blyton one though.

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  2. Oh No 8 brings back all sorts of memories. I used to sit at the bus stop outside the convent with my fella – no gloves no hat, legs swinging, and the Mother Superior would march out and drag me in by my arm. She did this many times. I was not easy, and finally all concerned decided that we’d all be better off if I buggered off – expelled in other words. ho hum.
    Left home at 17 to live with my lovely Nanna and then got married at 19. All seems so long ago.

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  3. Your Enid Blyton influence reminds me of when I once enrolled in an evening class to learn to speak Italian entirely so that I could experience THE SAME friendships like those in Maeve Binchey’s ‘Evening Class’. It did not live up to expectations and I dropped out after the 3rd lesson. Everyone was there to learn damn-it and nobody spoke to each other!!! I went to a Co-ed Catholic High School and we were lucky to have some awesome Nuns and Brothers that taught us. Your Nuns sound like they were living in the dark ages! Much like the stories my Mum tells me about the Nuns that taught her back in the 60s! Mum was sent home from school because she had a ladder in her ‘nylons’ and my Grandma marched down to the school and caused a bit of a scene. I’m curious…what era are you talking? When I left home I went to Uni in a city 8 hours drive away from family and friends. I didn’t know a soul. I found it hard at the time but looking back it was a great experience. I boarded with a lady named Mirella. She was Italian as it happens! I might have to follow your lead and share my leaving home stories on my blog some time. Loved reading yours 🙂

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    1. I thought of learning Italian too because of Maeve Binchy How funny but how rude of them not to talk to you 🙂 It was the early 90’s can you believe it! We always had priests around our house, great men who would sing their Irish songs and drink lots of whisky. I’ve never really been a fan of nuns although we did stay with a fabulous group in the UK and also in Rome. They were wonderful not the crazies I knew here.
      I had lots of fun remembering way back when. I have yet to write about the next stage, bit worried how much lee way my kids will think they will get from it. I look forward to reading yours. Funny times.

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      1. Ha! My dad sings Irish songs and is partial to a ‘wee dram’ of whiskey. Not a priest (obviously) but would have been if my Grandma had her way. What great memories you have! 🙂

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  4. Oh god, this post has reminded me of so many stories! I went to a convent school, too, and I was even a boarder for a while, and you’ve brought it all back. My mother used to speak fondly of the nuns who taught her, but I found most of them fixated on virginity and making sure our skirts didn’t creep up above our knees. I liked a few of them—the ones who liked me, which wasn’t many, particularly in high school!

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    1. Yes Louise, my mother was the same. She has fond memories of her nuns as well. We used to have to kneel so our hems could be measured, in case anyone saw our knickers! How could anyone possibly see our knickers when the dresses were so long! And if we weren’t virgins on our wedding day God would know. Am not quite sure what they thought would happen. Funny times.

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  5. Love this and makes me so glad I didn’t fly home from Fiji alone at 11 to start yr7 at a boarding school! High School was traumatic enough for me without having no family locally.

    I am always sure life will be like the books I just picked up The Tea Chest and now I am totally dreaming about opening my very own tea chest!!!

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    1. A midnight feast would have made it all worth while. But on saying that, if my kids got up in the middle of the night and started having a party I would probably want to kill them.

      Have just read the blurb for The Tea Chest. I think you absolutely should open one and we could have a big bloggers conference and drink tea and eat cake. Perfect, all though you might need to stock a few bottles of champagne. 🙂

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