Monday, 30 December 2013

The Latin Class

I'm dreaming about being back at school. I wake up covered in sweat and lie there, thankful that I don't have to find my panama hat, my green and yellow uniform or the lovely briefcase which had my initials on it in gold letters. I remember saying to a writing friend once that under pressure I felt like I was back in the Latin class and that's how I feel now, I have a book due soon, I don't feel as if I've done enough and the whole thing looks like an impossibility. It's no use telling myself it will be all right, myself knows damned fine that if I don't get off my ample backside and work the worst will happen.
I always say that I hated school and it's a grossly unfair statement though huge chunks of my rather patchy education were stingingly humiliating because I have very little memory and no understanding whatsoever of how language works or maths., I hate games of any type and I would rather die now than be in a room all day with other people.
My education has been of huge help to me throughout my writing career. I went to the village school in Tow Law and never fitted in there because I was the boss's daughter.  I came top of the class with excruciating regularity and learned a good many lessons which had nothing to do with with reading, writing or arithmetic.
At ten I went to private school, my father had loved boarding school and educated four of us. We were as unacademic as we could possibly be. We were wild children from a wild place and couldn't sit down all day and do as we were told. I sat at the back and wrote poetry, my sister adored her horse and longed for it and my brothers liked being in Tow Law and the freedom of the fells.
There were a lot of bright children at Durham High School and I couldn't remember what the Romans or the Greeks did, where Istanbul was - or whatever it was called then - I couldn't do Geometry and the very last thing I wanted was to spend my Thursday afternoons making an apron or putting paint on to paper.
I tried to leave school as soon as I could, being offered work on a local newspaper but my father had other ideas and I stayed on to do A levels. I managed to wangle myself a year off at a boarding school in upstate New York. I didn't fit in there either but it didn't matter, that was more or less the point of it, one of the best schools in the world. Then I came home and took my A levels so in the end I did more schooling than most people and hated about seventy per cent of it.
My education has been hugely important to me in my writing career, the very diversity of it has been so useful. I write often of the lovely building where I went to Durham High School which had gardens down to the river and looked out at the cathedral. I wrote a short story for Christmas based on my experience there and also on a book I had read which gave me the idea. I read far and wide, that and an ear for rhythm of language have done me good service.
I just wish I didn't dream that I was late for school, that we were doing gym, that I was wearing my aertex top and my huge green knickers. Thank God for waking up and being a writer.

No comments:

Post a Comment