|Janette Miller aged seven|
School days! They ought to be the happiest days of one's life but my first school, for me was a nightmare. The photo above brings it all back to me and at 77 I feel I have the right to feel cheated.
I have been rereading Virginia Woolf recently since I watch the wonderful Royal Ballet's production "Woolf Words" and I do so feel so related to her. In "A room of her Own" she was very annoyed, well furious, that she had been denied the education supplied to her brothers. Woolf just did not get one. She had to self educate and when I look back at this photo, you can see then in the background I was 7 and the nuns had still not taught me how to read or even add up! I was taught to believe in invisible friends by being made to stand on my desk for three hours till I said I could see a gnome sitting on the French windows. I refused! I gave as good as I got, I gave up on God at that moment as I realised that he was possibly a figment of the sister's imagination too. It took three hours of me standing on my desk before I gave way and I still regret doing that. I was amazed as everyone else in the class including sister could see him. This gnome followed me for the next 4 years.
The friend in front in this photo remembers the occasion well and has written about it saying the experience was brutal and cruel so I am not making this up. I never told my parents. I should have done as my father would have removed me as he did when I was 13. I had come first in class but because I was a non-catholic, I was the child of a mixed marriage and brought up as an RC, it would never do for a child who had not been formally baptised and the child of an excommunicated mother to win the RC prize so the nuns just lost my exam papers and instead of first I came close to the bottom of the class. My father said all my brains were in my feet and sent me to ballet school!
Fortunately, at seven years old. I managed to learn to read quite soon after this and from that moment on I was self-taught., like Virginia Woolf. My grandfather had a TV in 1947 and the BBC really went for "educate, entertain and inform". I had seen most of Shakespeare and Shaw by the time I was 10. He also had a marvellous library and my mother bless her took me to art galleries, the ballet and opera. However, I did not get any science, or sex education! I gave up on God. I was right about this as when DNA turned up I realised there was No Adam & Eve and thus NO Sin! The God of the Bible was as imaginary as Red Cap and I could prove it.
My father had gone to the best schools himself and yet had sent me to be educated by young Irish Catholic nuns. Like Virginia Woolf, I still feel bitter. I missed out on a university education which even the nuns thought I deserved. Having put me bottom of my class for religious reasons, they had the nerve to say to my father that "It was a pity that Janette was leaving for a ballet school because she was clever enough could have gone to Oxford." My father did not relent.
However, the school was an architectural delight hence my love of architecture. I should indeed have loved to be an architect or a farmer and I ended up producing opera and ballet which I love too. I now have a "Room of my own" but a bit late.