There are a few times in my life, when my world, as I knew it, was turned in another direction. The first was my entry into boarding school when I was eleven years old.
My parents ran the City Club Hotel in Shortland St, Auckland. Its quaint Victorian style architecture was not a major attraction for me, but Anne’s Pantry, just opposite, which had the most delicious pastries and chocolate éclairs definitely was. The hotel however was not deemed an ideal place to bring up children and I had been enrolled at Waikato Diocesan. But until I turned thirteen, I was to attend a boarding school in Albany run by two Quaker sisters.I have no recollection of any preparation for this rather major venture, apart from clothes being organized with the ubiquitous nametapes. Only tee shirts and shorts were considered appropriate for this ‘new age’ school. We also had to embrace a vegetarian diet, far removed from hotel menus and Anne’s pantry fare.
I entered school, along with my four-year-old brother David, whose emotional trauma, at being taken from his family and put in an alien establishment, of necessity, diminished my own. He clung to me constantly, crying in an inconsolable manner in the first few weeks. I was forced to be a comforter, which meant, a rapid adaptation to the culture of my new world and the need to take on a more adult role.
David of course had a very different experience. Once he conquered his grief and homesickness he became a little bush baby, opting out of school in order to pursue ‘free play.’ He had a life untrammelled by the constraints of school routine, instead ran wild with his new friends, adding lots of interesting new words to his vocabulary. I fast became the boring big sister.