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Back to school
More than 20 years after I left my old convent school I recently found myself back there, sitting nervously beneath a painting of Our Lady waiting to see the deputy head.
It wasn’t a good time for my mobile phone to start beeping but unfortunately it was a message I had to reply to, so there I was trying to text at the speed of light before the teacher arrived.
I might as well have been wearing my old school uniform. I certainly felt like a sheepish 14-year-old.
When I was a St Joseph’s College girl, mobile phones would probably have been whipped out of our hands before we could say our first Hail Mary. I can’t imagine any of the formidable team of nuns who ruled our school day with an iron fist tolerating the texting generation.
The school - St Joseph’s College in Manningham - was founded in 1908 by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion but there aren’t any nuns teaching there anymore. Apparently they have decided to focus on the poor. Well, it makes a change from stroppy adolescent girls.
I was invited there to cover the school’s centenary celebrations for the T&A. I’d driven past the school many times since returning to Bradford a few years ago, but I hadn’t actually been back there since I’d left.
So as I walked through the school gates it felt quite surreal and my tummy flipped over a couple of times. The school grounds looked pretty much the same and I came across a group of girls wearing the uniform I’d worn before they were even born. It felt a bit as if they were invading my territory.
I walked up the steps past the seat where I spent many a lunchbreak poring over Jackie magazine, eating Pot Noodles and indulging in wild gossip. I caught a glimpse of the tennis courts where we used to half-heartedly knock a ball about with ancient wooden racquets.
I looked over at the little house across the road which was our makeshift sixth-form block. I once got involved in a chaotic lunchtime seance there, (not a good idea in a Catholic school), and we called up a 12-year-old Victorian mill girl from the dead. She moved the glass across the table and everything. It was perhaps more than a coincidence that the Industrial Revolution was on our history syllabus at the time.
Back to the present and as I sat there nervously texting away I felt like I’d never been away.
"You might not even be allowed to text in this part of school!" I thought, remembering that some areas of the school were considered more holy than others. I braced myself for an angry prefect ordering me out.
Instead the deputy head and school chaplain arrived and I was whisked off to an office.
By this time I felt like I was back in my St Joseph’s blazer, hair in a ponytail, so going through a door marked ‘staff’ was quite a thrill. I spent a happy hour catching up on school news and reminiscing about the past with Miss Jackson and Miss Rix (I couldn’t bring myself to use their first names - they’ll always be ‘Miss’ to me) and now I’m looking forward to attending the centenary open day next weekend.
Just hope I don’t let anything slip about that lunchtime seance…