St. Mallory’s Forever! – Coming Soon
Never let is be said we rush out our ebooks prematurely! So much for the Christmas release…
But Easter is looking promising! Maybe. Anyway, it’s coming soon!
You can check out the story behind the story over at the official St. Mallory’s blog where the latest post is entitled I Jolly Well Don’t Talk Like That!, courtesy of our resident boarder, Charley.
For recent visitors unfamiliar with the St. Mallory’s project, St. Mallory’s Forever! is a four-author collaboration between ourselves and two fantabulous teen writers as per the cover credits. A modern day boarding school series with all the jolly hockey sticks fun of Elinor Brent-Dyer, Angela Brazil and Enid Blyton, with some Jennings and Billy Bunter-esque farce thrown in for good measure, but without the stone-age social hang-ups that bedevil those classics of children’s literature.
As befits a modern-day teen novel the story is told through the blogs of the three MCs. For those who can’t wait, here’s a taster.
Abby 1: Welcome To My World.
Schools are strange places, where strange things happen.
But in an *insert fingered air quotes here* ordinary school, the students leave at the end of the day, and there are a few hours where those buildings are magical. They’re empty, they’re quiet, and they’re free of bossy teachers.
Empty schools are also creepy beyond reason, if you’ve ever been in one at night, but at least you can walk freely down the corridors. Those are the hours during which Behind The Scenes Stuff happens. That’s when they fix the computers and the lights. Cleaners come and go. Rude graffiti and disgusting stains caused by unmentionable human fluids miraculously disappear. By the time students return in the morning, all the little mysteries they hadn’t quite solved are gone as if they’d never been there at all.
Boarding schools aren’t like that. Sure, there are still cleaners and maintenance teams doing their jobs in the background. And sure, departments don’t talk to each other; errors, clashing events and new rules can be ignored for months before finally surfacing when they reach critical status; and everybody in charge seems determined to make everything twice as complicated as it needs to be. You think state school teachers are bossy? You don’t know the half of it!
But there are always students around in a boarding school. True, they’ll be in their houses, but they still need attention and supervision, and if left alone for a moment, prep will be abandoned and all hell with break loose.
At least, that’s what it’s like at St Mallory’s School for Girls.
How do I know? Because I’m a boarder at St. Mall’s. Three years, now, and I’m just starting the Middle Fifth. The Middle Fifth? Exactly. Unless you’re a boarder too you won’t know what the heck that means. Which is why I’m starting this blog.
I’m just back from the summer hols and I’ve got to tell you I am seriously urinated off (we’re not allowed to swear on the school’s time) at the misconceptions and stereotypes everyone out there in the “real world” has about boarding school girls. It’s not true! Well, some of it’s not, anyway.
You see, there are (advance warning: silly pun coming up!) three schools of thought about girls and boarding schools. First there’s the jolly hockey sticks world of Eleanor Brent-Dyer, Angela Brazil and Enid Blyton. And yes, you bet we call our school Malory Towers sometimes, when not in earshot of teachers!
Then there’s St. Trinians. Of course we know all the songs! Altogether now, St. Mallory’s, St. Mallory’s Will Never Die! Sadly, real life here at St. Mall’s is nothing like that, though the Head could well be in a man in drag. Hmmm. Now there’s a rumour worth starting…
Finally there’s Harry Potter. I mean, what was JK Rowling thinking of, making Hogwarts a mixed-sex school? She should have got rid of Harry and all those daft boys, made it an all girls’ school with Hermione the star of the show (not that she isn’t anyway – Hermione rocks!) and she probably would have sold a lot more books and might be rich by now.
Of course, none of these are remotely accurate portrayals of modern boarding school life. Believe it or not we don’t walk around with books on our head and learn how to hire a governess. We don’t run riot in the science labs and make stink-bombs, blow up the school or scare off teachers. And we can’t turn the younger kids into frogs – but don’t tell my little cousins that, because they’re convinced that I can.
So I’ve decided to write this blog and expose what really goes on in a top-notch school like St. Mall’s. The world has a right to know!
I’ll be posting here whenever I can get a moment’s privacy. Not easy in a school with 400 marauding adolescents, hordes of bitter and twisted teachers, and who knows how many other ancillary staff we see but never actually meet – imagine Piccadilly Circus on a busy day and you’re not even half-way there. But I’ll do my best to dish the dirt on everyone and everything, as it happens.
Jolly hockey sticks!
And no, we do not say things like that here, but you were expecting it, right?
Which is why you need to subscribe to my blog. Because everything you thought you knew about girls’ boarding schools is totally and utterly wrong, I promise you.
Yes, even that bit!
Chaos, Carnage and Confusion – Travelling Day.
They call it a travelling day, but to Abigail Roe (that’s me by the way, just so as you know) it looks more like a traffic jam day. Every parking bay is taken, and a long, straggly line of overstuffed cars trail away out of the courtyard, through the gates and up the long, snaking school drive to vanish among the Sussex hedgerows.
The air thrums with the grumble and snarl of expensive motors (I swear some of them hire a Rolls just for the day, to make a good impression) while frantic parents struggle through the school gates, laden with trunks, suitcases and lumpy carrier bags. Harrods, mostly, although occasionally a Fortnum & Mason bag will put in an appearance. And very occasionally an M&S Finest. You can spot the scholarship girls a mile away!
I was joking. Honest! Actually, when we’re at home our parents go out and do the weekly shop at Tesco’s or Sainsbury’s just like everyone else. But this is the first day back, so everyone is out to make a good impression. Hair coiffured, nails perfectly manicured, uniform all crisp and new and hitherto untouched by human hands. Shoes polished until they positively gleam. Unblemished undies, newly fitted bras that are a tad too big so we can grow into them, and -
“Abby! Abby darling, could you come here for a moment?”
Oh. My. God. Excuse me. Must go. That’s my mother calling.
She never calls me darling at home (wouldn’t dare!) so why in the name of all things sane does she call me it here? If boarding school has that effect on parents, what chance do us poor students stand?
“Coming, Mum!” *Stretches lips into big happy smile*. Rule number one: never show how embarrassed you are by your parents. No matter what they say or do, or what they’re wearing
Reluctantly I dragged myself from in front of the big oak doors and made my way down to the parking area. Drat! I’d just got prime position on the top step, too. Queen of all I surveyed. Great for spotting old friends arriving, and even better for identifying any potential fags I mean new girls – but more on that later.
I darted down the steps and jinked my way through the oncoming crowds towards Mum’s car. Of course she’s only parked right between a Roller and a top of the range 4X4 with huge wheels and an even bigger back seat, with enough inbuilt games consoles such that you could happily never get out.
No idea what sort of vehicle it is, mind (I’m a girl – knowing car brands is the boys’ equivalent of reading Hello! magazine) but you can be sure it’s never been off-road in its life, and the trip down to sunny Brighton is probably the first time it’s ever been outside the M25.
Oh, did I say sunny? Strike that! I’ve never known first day back to be anything but overcast and dreary, and today’s no exception. I think the guy upstairs is sending us a subliminal message about the term ahead. Gloomy outlook. Storms on the horizon.
“Well, I’d better be off, sweetheart,” said Mum, eyes moist and ready to flood. “I want to get back on the road before the traffic gets too bad,” she managed to finish, her voice breaking slightly.
Oh God, I hate this bit. You know, the “saying goodbye in front of all your friends” bit. Why can’t they have a private “Saying Goodbye Room” where this can be done behind closed doors? Luckily I’m an old hand at this now. I know how to put a brave face on it as we both realise we won’t see each other ever, ever, ever again. Well, for a month or two, anyway.
That’s why Dad and my little sister aren’t invited. Seeing your father in tears is just soooo embarrassing! Little sis’ Ruby is embarrassing too, of course, but for entirely different reasons. Last term Ruby only picked her nose, licked it and the offered it to Matron. No wonder she’s been left at home this time. My sister, I mean, not Matron.
“Will you be alright, Abby?” Mum was asking in that special voice she reserves for such occasions. A typical Mum question. Only one answer is permitted.
“Of course, Mum.” I rolled my eyes theatrically (may as well put my drama lessons to some use!). “I’ve done this before, you know. I’m not a Lower Fourth any more.” *Refrains from spitting to clean my mouth of that reference to the tadpoles of the Lower Fourth now I’m a senior.*
Mum pulled a face, as she does, then flung her arms round me like she was at some theatre audition, hugging me as if this was the end. “I’ll give your love to Daddy when he comes on leave.”
“Mum!” I mock-glared at her, though the effect was somewhat spoiled by the smile tugging at my lips. Daddy? Hello, Mother? I’m fifteen, don’t you know?
“Make sure you write to me,” Mum went on. I want to know all the latest goss’.”
Goss’? Don’tcha just hate it when parents try and talk cool?
“It’s not the nineteenth century anymore,” I said. “Have you heard of email?”
“Very funny, dear. You know full well it’s not the same if it hasn’t got a stamp on it. Anyway, Abby, I…”
Uh-oh, here we go. Big rush of emotion. Please God, don’t let any of my friends be watching. I squeezed Mum one last time, then carefully eased her into the driving seat before she could start another round of hugs. “Hi Becky! Just coming!” I shouted at no-one in particular, knowing Mum couldn’t see over the 4×4 she’d parked next to. A last kiss through the wound-down window.
“Gotta go. All my friends are here,” I lied.
Well, sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. I know blubbing at every little goodbye is part of a mother’s job description, but I’m not six any more, and it’s not a major untruth. I mean, my friends will all be here by now, just not here.
“Toodles!” I shouted. “Gotta scoot!”
And I ran for it, back to the safety of the patio outside the oak doors. I watched as Mum wriggled our large Ford (Now don’t start – I only know it’s a Ford ’cause it says so on the front) out of the parking bay. The great grey beast looked a bit out of place among the smaller, sleeker cars of most other parents, and the palaces-on-wheels of the More-Money-Than-Sense brigade, but my family have always been the practical sort – well, for the most part.
I snickered as the car squeezed through the iron gates and headed up the road, imagining Mum muttering about how inconsiderately people were parking. Either that, or she’d be cursing the SatNav to Kingdom Come because it was taking a decade and a half to load up the route home.
Mum and I had arrived long before the worst of the rush – previous experience had taught us to avoid the period between three and four o’clock wherever possible – so I trotted back through the main foyer, through the inner courtyard and off across the playing fields back to Marylebone Boarding House. That’s my “home” for the next eon and a half. And while the rest of the house unpacked their belongings, I sat down on the semi-comfy sofa in the house office to watch the rest of the girls arrive.
By the way, if you’re confused about all this “house” business just stick around – I’ll explain it all as I go. You have to understand boarding schools exist in a different world from everything else. If there’s an easy way and a hard way of doing anything, you can be sure the boarding school has chosen the hard way, just to be awkward. For instance, we –
“Hi, Abby! Great to see you again.”
“Hey ho, Don Pedro!” I gave Teresa a welcome hug as she plonked herself down on the sofa next to me. Teresa and I go way back to the Lower Fourth, three years ago. And if you’re trying to work out how I can be in the Middle Fifth now if the Lower Fourth was three years ago, then join the club. Boarding schools have their very own version of the English language, I tell you.
“What’s the damage out there?” Teresa asked in that lovely Spanish accent of hers. Yeah, she’s from Spain, hence the nickname, but I can’t do accents on a blog, so just use your imagination. And yeah, the Spanish accent comes with that perfect olive complexion, long dark hair and huge brown eyes that would make a Labrador jealous. It’s so unfair!
“Chaos as usual,” I said as I watched another girl struggle in with her cases. I gave her a friendly wave. “Good holiday, Sandra?” But Sandra had already barged through the door with her trunks. “I turned back to the Don. “I swear we have more and more people here every year. Any idea how many newbies coming our way this term?”
“Not a clue,” Don Pedro shrugged, adding, “About twelve in the Lower Fourth. One in the Upper – moving over from another school, or something like that. The usual crop for the Lower Fifth … and two for us. One’s a foreigner. Zoo-Anne, or something weird. And there’s a Helen somebody too.”
Hey, don’t ask me how the Don knows all this stuff! But if you want top secret admin info, D.P is your man. So to speak.
“Two newbies with us?” I asked, just in case I’d misheard. It was pretty rare to have new students join the Middle Fifth.
Teresa nodded. “But I don’t know much about them.”
Like I believe that! Not. I’m sure the Don has secret access to the student files.
“I expect Mrs T. will get around to that when they arrive,” Teresa finished, a wry smile on her face.
We sat a minute in silence taking in that first-day-back-at school ambience. You know the one. Everything perfectly polished and spic and span. A place for everything and everything in its place. This time tomorrow it will look like a bomb’s hit it.
“So, ready for yet another mind-numbingly dull hour-long House Meeting?” Don Pedro asked.
“Ready to doze off more like,” I said, and we both exploded into a fit of girlie giggles.
Let the madness recommence!
Abby 3: Meet The Inma- I Mean, Students.
Teresa and I sat by the window for a few more minutes, watching out for familiar faces and snickering every time we saw some poor over-laden father skittering after a gaggle of giggling daughters. However, before long, the Don and I got the fidgets and decided to head for the penthouse suite, as we call our private quarters, to see how many of our fellow inmates had survived the mad crush outside. Up two flights of stairs we went, and onto a long corridor lined with low doors.
Yes, I did say doors. Discard your medieval mental images of Ye Olde Communal Dorm where twelve teenage girls sleep side by side in a big round room with nothing but a curtain and a tiny chest of drawers between them.
Here in the twenty-first century, we have worked out that people actually need space to store suitcases, clothing and creature comforts. Thus, the invention of the cubicle – or cubie, for short. A bed, a wardrobe, three drawers under the bed, as well as a larger sliding drawer for bedsheets, spare towels and such, a desk with a totally inadequate number of plug sockets and an Ethernet point. And a window with the usual assortment of sill-dwelling spiders, of course.
But I’m wittering.
Amidst all the hugs, squealing and babbled tales of holiday misadventures, Don Pedro spread the news about the new students, and before long all six dorm-mates (that is to say, the six who weren’t still mired in packing or lost at Heathrow airport) were sitting on my bed animatedly discussing the new arrivals.
“Do you remember that awful French girl we had in the Upper Fourth?” the Don asked. “The one who used to bang on all the doors to ask who was in the cubies?”
“Oh yes, how could we ever forget dahling Fleeeur,” Philippa giggled. Pip’s another old hand from the Fourth form, though most of the Lower Fourth are taller than her. She makes up for it though, and I challenge anyone to have a conversation with her and not laugh. “I swear the T-ster nearly had a fit when she found her washing her hair at midnight,” Pip added.
“It was ten to midnight, actually,” said the Don.
“Pedant,” said Pip, pulling a face at her.
“Peasant,” countered Don Pedro, to a round of giggling from the others.
“I’m sure the new girls won’t be that bad,” I said, cutting across the playful bickering. “And, come on, it’ll be nice to see some new faces, right?”
“Too true,” muttered Pip. “I’ll go mad if I have to spend another minute surrounded by your ugly mugs.”
“Oi!” I did my best impersonation of our surly Deputy Head, Mr Tuftt. “Mind your manners, you scurvy ruffian!”
This, however, only made everyone laugh louder, though not loud enough to drown out the booming voice from below.
It was Mrs O’Kallaghan, the House Matron. She’s not a very big woman – even I’m taller than her! – but her voice carries like anything, even on the corridors. “Would anyone care to come down and meet the new girls?”
Despite the phrasing it was an order, not a suggestion. Matron has this wonderful way of making us think we have options when there is only one choice.
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” Pip struck the pose we’d used in the play last year (think Superman meets Usain Bolt and you get the idea). No matter how many times we’d burst out laughing at it, batty Miss Cantrip insisted it was perfect for the powerful nature of the line. Personally, I reckon Shakespeare would have choked on his metaphors from laughing so hard if he saw it, but none of us complained.
Fun Fact: It was also during that year that we’d given Teresa the nickname of Don Pedro, after another of Shakespeare’s characters. What can I say? Aspiring thespians, the lot of us.
And so, in yet another red-faced state of muffled hysterics, we thundered down the stairs and into the house foyer to meet the newest additions to the Middle Fifth of Marylebone House at St. Mallory’s.
Helen 1: Stranger In A Strange Land
Hey out there, non-existent readers. I’m hoping there’s someone somewhere who’ll be able to tell me I’m not the only one who’s had to go through this. I mean, there are other teachers’ kids out there, aren’t there? But I guess they’re not usually moving to *cue menacing music and clap of thunder* a boarding school.
BTW, I’m new to this whole blogging thing, so don’t yell at me if I do anything wrong. It’s just, I have no-one to talk things through with here, because I don’t know anybody yet, Mum aside. And I’m pretty sure if I try and keep my emotions inside for any longer, I’ll explode, and then there’ll be bits of me splattered all over this fancy-arse building.
To make matters worse (if that were possible) I’m having to write this on a proper computer. You know, sat at a desk with a separate monitor and keyboard, like in the olden days, which means anyone can sneak a look over my shoulder.
Not that I need worry. The only other person who’s used the computer room so far is a Chinese girl, who’s also new here. I thought about trying to make friends with her, but she’s in the English as a Second Language class, so I’d probably be wasting my time.
She’s obviously on a scholarship if she can’t afford her own laptop. Everyone has them here, except me and China Girl. Mum says she’ll get me one once she gets her first salary in, but that could take forever, so I’ve asked Dad, secretly. Mum will go spare when she finds out (in case you hadn’t worked it out, they hate each other) but what’s she gonna do? Ground me? I’m already grounded just being here.
Living in a school! It’s just so not normal.
Oh yeah, intros. Sorry, Got carried away. My name is Helen Stroud, and I’m fourteen years old. At a normal school, I’d be going into Year 10, but like I say, this is so not normal. Apparently here it’s called Middle Fifth. Until now, I’ve been going to a scuzzy comprehensive school in London that I won’t name for legal reasons (ha, like they could afford lawyers!), because that’s where my mum taught.
All my life I’ve moved schools whenever Mum got a new job, promotion, or whatever. It wasn’t so bad at primary school because I just went to the local one, wherever we moved, but since I got to secondary school age I’ve generally gone to wherever she was teaching. I don’t know if you’ve ever done that (obviously not, unless you’re a teacher’s offspring too), but the only advantage is the lift in the morning. Seriously. And now I actually have to sleep at school too – it’s just like being in prison. And I didn’t do anything wrong!
Okay, the background just so you’re up to speed. About two weeks before term started, Mum announced that she’d got this job at this place called St Mallory’s. I looked it up, only to find it was some posh private boarding school in Brighton.
Brighton? All my friends are in Wandsworth!
As for Boarding School… I thought that only happened in Harry Potter! At least at a normal school we escaped in the afternoon, and had fun at weekends. Now I’m a real-life prisoner of Azkaban.
Of course I kicked up a fuss and said I’d rather go and stay with Dad in Birmingham than go to a boarding school full of stuck-up snobs with posh accents walking about with books on their heads.
Oops! Not a good move. Even mentioning dad is a hanging offence in our house. Mum went ballistic. I got the full kabonga about how difficult things were for her since Dad walked out on us. As I remember events she chucked him out, but that’s another story.
And then she started telling me about how wonderful this St. Mallory’s place was. Incredible facilities, she said. I’d even be able to learn Latin! Yeah, like that will come in handy buying a ticket on the London underground. Come to that, they don’t even have an underground system in Brighton. I mean, be serious! How can anyone live without the Tube?
Of course, Mum said I was overreacting. Moi? Overreact? It’s Brighton, for God’s sake! It hasn’t even got a sandy beach. There was no way I was going to any snotty boarding school.
I was all but ready to run away from home when Mum told me about the music facilities. Now that got my attention. Mum being a music teacher an’ all, I’m kind of a natural at music. So maybe this St. Mallory’s place wouldn’t be quite so bad after all.
So, I said goodbye to everyone (that’s the part I hate) and to my old school (no tears there). Now I’ve swapped my old black skirt, white shirt, black blazer uniform for a kilt, blouse and jumper. Seriously, why do all private schools have a kilt? Is it because they’re expensive and can only be bought from one particular shop? Answers on a postcard please…
And today we finally came to the school.
Well, I say finally but of course Mum had been before, for the interview, but muggings here missed out on the Open Day tour and everything, so apart from the brochure ad the website – which of course are all special effects photography, not real – I had no idea what to expect.
It was madness.
Utter flaming madness! And yes, I do know stronger expletives than that. I’m just being polite, seeing as this is my first blog.
Anyway, the place was massive, bigger than the pictures in the brochure made it look, and all the kids arriving were proper posh with their cars and expensive clothes, as you’d expect. It made me, in my Primark outfit, carrying a suitcase that we got on special offer from Argos, look like a complete tramp. I could almost feel their eyes on me as I walked up to the steps and tried to work out where to go. A snooty-looking girl at the top of the stairs glanced at me once with a face like she was chewing a lemon with added vinegar, but I just ignored her.
When we got inside, some teachery person explained to me where my dorm was. Ugh, great. Sharing a room with some posh girl. Okay, so it’s not actually a dorm, not like in the films, anyway. And it’s not really sharing. We have these door-partition things which mean we’ve got our own cubicle, kind of, (the walls between them don’t have ceilings) but I can still hear whatever’s going on and it means I won’t be able to play loud music.
Then this teachery person took me on some grand tour. Well, she’s not actually a teacher, as you probably guessed from the adjective. She’s a matron, in fact. Can you believe that? A real-life matron, just like in the films! Talk about The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie! Still, could be worse. Could be like Tom Brown’s Schooldays. I say, Fag! My shoes need polishing!
And I wish I could show you photos of the music room coz it is to die for, seriously. The range of instruments here alone is worth all the suffering. They’ve got more instruments in their woodwind section alone than my last school had of everything! In fact I’m almost – Oh, sorry. That was Matron at the door, telling me to come and join the others. I’ll have to chase after her because I haven’t a clue how to get anywhere here yet. The school map is about as useful as a chocolate teapot on a hot day.
I’ll explain more later. Unless you’re a posh kid like the girls here, you don’t know what these places are like on the inside. But don’t worry, I’m going to expose the truth about this place. They may have a great music room, but they’re still all snotty-nosed posh brats who think they’re better than us normal folk. Except maybe China Girl, but as she can’t communicate I guess I’m on my own. Helen Stroud vs. St. Mallory’s Posh School For Snooty Girls. Bring it on!
And yeah, you should subscribe, so you don’t miss anything. I may not be very interesting on my own, but my revelations will be, I promise. And if you could comment occasionally just to let me know you’re around I’d appreciate it. I’d hate to think I’m going to all this effort and no-one is reading.