On Facebook I was reminded of the nun above. It was just a picture and a comment about how she had been so much fun. Sister K. as I shall call her as she must be in her 90's if she is still living which is why I can write this, had a strange idea of fun.
I met her at the age of six and a half at my convent school. She was a postulant, a young girl training to be a nun in her first year. She wore a smart black cap with a short black net veil over a shock of the most glorious golden red curls that fell down her back. She had the palest of skins and beautiful hands. She looked like an angel and I was so happy to be in her class.
Sister K. came from Ireland and had a marked Irish accent. She also had a fundamentalist approach to her Roman Catholic Belief System. This was not a good omen for me, a child of a mixed marriage which at that time had the stigma of something worse than illegitimacy but this may or may not have something to do with my tale. Sister K. we found was a stern disciplinarian. We soon became scared of our beautiful teacher.
I could not read or write. I was in the Sevens although still only six as my mid-year birthday meant I was either ahead or behind Two years under the nuns supervision and I could not read let alone write so I had no fear at all when Sister K. announced in class that there was a particular little girl who had been very, very bad and was going to be punished.
I knew all about punishment. The academic side of our school may have been questionable but the religious education was vigorous and thorough. I knew about God and how he punished those who had been naughty with eternal damnation and hell fire. I was somewhat disappointed the first time I met this God as I could not see him but I was assured by everyone that He was there it was only a question of loving him. I trusted my teachers. They were grown ups. God was real. They said so. They were old and wise.
Sister K. continued told us that this little girl had a beautiful doll. I sighed with relief. War rationing meant no toys and the only doll I had was a battered Italian one from Italy where my father had been fighting. Definitely not me!
Sister K. went on. This little girl had written an essay about this beautiful doll and could not spell the word beautiful? Another sigh of relief as I could hardly spell cat let alone Beautiful!
Sister K. took her time building up the suspense We were all shaking by this time. It appeared a gnome was calling. His name was Red Cap and he hated naughty girls who could not spell Beautiful. Red Cap was going to teach this bad child a lesson she would never forget and would think of him every time she heard the word Beautiful. Red Cap would soon be knocking at the door and when he came in we were all to acknowledge him by saying Good afternoon Mr Red Cap. He was a dwarf and it was important not to anger him as he could turn nasty.
Sister K then said she heard the knock at the door, told us to stand up and opened the door for the visitor. Nothing! No one was there. Red Cap was something in Sister K's imagination. I looked on with horror as all my friends trotted out Good Morning Mr. Red Cap as if he were real and who was invited to sit on the desk by Sister K. and point out the naughty child. To my horror it was Me!
Sister K. told me to stand up and acknowledge this elf. To her horror I said I couldn't see him! The class gasped. Sister was not to be outdone. For the next 15 minutes she used every trick in the book to make me admit I saw this elf. By some miracle I stood up to her. I just kept saying Red Cap wasn't there she was making him up! This made her furious.
Sister then invoked all my class mates into saying they saw this invisible dwarf and to my surprise everyone of them could. They could see a dwarf that wasn't there sitting on the desk. They were too terrified to say otherwise. I still held out. I just thought Sister K. was being stupid.
Sister K. then said that Red Cap was now sitting on the French windows and I had better stand on top on my desk to get a better view. I reluctantly stood on the seat as I had no wish to do this. I felt stupid myself and I just wanted to go home. This was not good enough for Sister K. and I had to stand on the lid of the desk itself. I felt extremely exposed as some of my classmates were now enjoying this and saying they could see my white knickers and sniggering. It wasn't them!
I still held out so Sister K. just said that I should stay on top of my desk until I admitted I saw the dwarf. A long stalemate ensued. The class did nothing. I was up there for hours. I was determined not to cry although I just wanted to run away. Every so often Sister K. would ask me if I could see him and I said NO! The class bored by now got restless. One or two wanted to go to the loo. This was allowed because the school was under looed and not everyone could go during break. Sister refused. Fortunately I had been but at around 2.30 I could see one of my friends wee on the floor. She was crying.
That did it. Reluctantly I decided to call it a day and I told Sister K. I could see the hated dwarf. This did nothing to placate her at all. I was in for a tirade of how wicked I had been not to see this dwarf and no I could not get down. I had to stand and spell beautiful out loud for the rest of the afternoon which I did. Mrs. B. Mrs E, Mrs A. MrsU, Mrs T, Mrs I Misses F,U,L! Over and over again as Sister banged out the rhythm with her ruler. Saying how sorry I was to Mr Red Cap each time. Even today I have trouble with the word Beautiful.
I was furious with myself. How could I have been so stupid to give in! The dwarf wasn't there. Everyone knew this dwarf wasn't there and yet they all pretended it was. I knew it wasn't and so did they. How could anyone believe in a Dwarf they couldn't see? And what is worse force a child to say she saw it when she knows she didn't. Today one would call this child abuse or mental cruelty. The one thing about Sister K. was that she was deadly serious. This was no joke to her and we knew it.
And then it hit me. I was six and a half. When we went to church God wasn't there either! Nobody had seen him and yet everyone behaved as if God was there just like Red Cap. Sister K. said God was there but then she said Red Cap was there and he wasn't. Sister K's credibility took a dive at that moment. I knew she was crazy and I was in her power for the next eight years. This is what they did they forced you into believing something by saying it over and over again with threats except it was God not Red Cap. I felt I was in a mad house. I was six and I now know I was right!
The Bell went to go home and I was released from my torture. I did not know where to look. I was isolated from my school mates at that moment on for it was obvious to them and me that Sister K. did not like me and they knew on whose side to be and it wasn't mine. One brave friend thought she must say something and said 'I'm glad it was not me'. I felt so ashamed. I wanted to crawl away and die. I did not tell my parents as I felt they might be cross with me too so I suffered in silence knowing that I had to go back and face this creature every day who could see things I couldn't. I thought hell was my destiny.
I never forgot this incident and neither it seems have my school mates. When I mentioned Red Cap on Facebook one replied.
I remember that so clearly. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening because I felt so bad for you. Some of them were sadists I think!
So readers I am not making it up. The little girl who weed on the floor was made to clean it up and I had to suffer Sister K. and Red Cap for another six years because she never let go and I had to constantly bow to him until my father unintentionally came to my rescue at the age of 12
This incident had unknown repercussions many years later so Part 2 follows when The Nun, Red Cap The Dwarf and Adam & Eve met their denouement!