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NEWS > Alumnae News > Once a Lady Holles Girl, Always a Lady Holles Girl!

Once a Lady Holles Girl, Always a Lady Holles Girl!

It was a restless night following a Covid vaccine back in March that inspired Simone Blaskey (Engelsman), Class of 1980, to write a lively account of her amazingly vivid memories of LEH in the 1970s.

Occasionally if I can’t sleep, in my mind’s eye I walk around the 1980 LEH I knew so well and go from rooms 1 to 70 and by the time I’ve got to the language lab at room five, I’m usually asleep.  Last night I just kept going and could see incredibly clearly into all the rooms. Maybe I WAS asleep?  Also, having recently received the Holles Connect email with the ‘Where are these stairs’ competition, I think LEH was at the forefront of my mind.

I could see the Bunsen burners and their cracked orangey-brown rubber tubes sitting on the benches in the Physics room.  I could see cress growing on blotting paper in the Biology room and I could see every one of my year – totally clearly – all their faces, each with their own little specific adaptations of the uniform, the teachers – their clothes, down to Mrs Sharp's Mary-Jane shoes and the fashion-conscious Mrs Service and her stylish homemade trousers.  I could see all of my friends, some of them incredibly sadly, no longer with us, and some looking as they do today, although somehow just the same as they were then, as if we could just put on our grey skirts and jumpers, kipper ties and purse belts and head right back into Assembly together.

Looking back – now – I really enjoyed my time at LEH 1970 – 1980. Where else would you be lucky enough to have your own River Longford running through the playing field and a little bridge to play Poo-Sticks from.  I remember the gravel path where we used to rub the outer shells off acorns when in the Junior school until they resembled little cream-coloured eggs.  I remember seemingly endless summer lunchtime recesses where we lay on the newly-mown field, miles away from the school building laughing and chatting and chewing grass stalks. I remember wonderful expeditions – like the trip to the Roman Villas at Fishbourne and Bignor – forever in my memory wrapped in a hazy halo of golden sunshine as we chugged down the motorway in a rather vintage coach, on the hottest of hot summer days.

There were also times of great anxiety as the dreaded drugget appeared in the gym heralding exams, along with the spindly desks which had no crevices for potential cheating note hiding. As if we would! The gym was no longer the fun place of pole vaulting and Scottish Country Dancing where we imitated the Two Ronnies as we do-si-doed our lunchtimes away.  It was that scary time of putting aside our brightly-coloured furry pencil cases in favour of cheat-proof actual plastic sandwich bags.  There were no smart clear pencil cases available like there are today.  Even the rather nice blue and gold Oxford geometry sets in tins were not allowed, and we all queued up at the gym door with rather lethal compasses poking through our flimsy bags.   No chance of noting down a sneaky Maths formula in our log books.  Those were all handed in – shuffled like a pack of cards and redistributed…but it was always worth checking to see if the original owner had jotted something helpful on the inside cover!

Annoyingly my surname started with the letter 'E' which meant that when the dreaded results were finally read out in class, everyone was attentive and listening, before they lost interest as the alphabet went on. 

There was something about that school that has remained within me to this day.  Quite recently I was sharing a school rota with a father at my youngest daughter’s school. On dropping off his daughter one day he told me that I reminded him of his mother!

 ‘’Don’t take it the wrong way,’ he said.  But why would I remind him of an 80-something year-old, actually now dead woman!

‘You’re not a Lady Holles girl by any chance, are you?’ he asked out of the blue.

It transpired that his mother was a very proud ‘Lady Holles’ girl, as they called the school when it was still in Hackney in the 1930’s before its move to Hampton. 

'You just remind me of Mum', he said.  'You always have a kind word and quick chat when you drop Jasmine off – there’s a certain way about you.' 

So – what is it that we all took from our time at LEH and that possibly defines us?

One thing I definitely took was my abhorrence and inability to eat walking down the road.  This particular point was so drummed into us that if we so much as sucked a Polo mint while wearing our uniforms and in the street, albeit after school and miles away, we would be in trepidation that this ghastly deed had been somehow observed and reported back and we would be named and shamed in Assembly the following day. 

Today, while still in Covid lockdown it is quite de rigour to be clutching one's smoothie or coffee and flapjack and munching and slurping away while walking down the street.  But I remember back in the 1980’s when I was rather late back to work one day – having spent too long watching Neighbours in the John Lewis TV department (before video recorders were invented) and I literally could not work out how to eat the sandwich I had just bought.  I gingerly took it out of its bag in the street – and this was before sandwiches were bound together in mayonnaise and, guiltily and awkwardly, proceeded to messily eat it somewhere around St James’s before I got back to the office and sidled late, back behind my desk in American Express, Haymarket.  I honestly remember that day!

There are so many things that remind me of LEH – the mere mention of the colour ‘yellow ochre’ summons up the wonderful Art room with its giant plastic buckets of paint.  Oh, the thrill of being the chosen one to open a new pot and remove the circle of cellophane lying across the top like a new jar of jam covered in a crisp seal of cellophane.  The added delight of the Art room was that the mother of my lovely friend Citty Fraser was the ever-glamorous Art teacher Mrs Fraser.  Of course, the hilarity when she accidently said ‘Mummy’ instead of ‘Mrs Fraser’ knew no bounds!

The sounds and textures of the school come to me as I walk around in my half-sleep.  The cool green and cushioned lino-ed Biology wing where suddenly our footsteps became silent and muffled.   

The Cookery Room with its distinct smell of cakes and onions ruled over by the strict but lovely Mrs Colverson.  I can’t believe I fell for her ploy ...making me do all her washing up by praising my sparkling hygiene levels – basically I was just the table nearest to her.  I remember clandestine ear piercings going on in the larder with needles pinched from the needlework room next door and a cork or even an apple! 

The HUGE amount of trouble we all got into when we couldn’t help but giggle and squeak when the oh-so-dishy Leslie Crowther was spotted next to the trolley of mini milk bottles in the vestibule of the Great Hall on a tour of the school.  I don’t think we ever got used to seeing the star of Crackerjack even when his daughter Charlie had been there many years.

Things were different in those days – career choices were not what they are now.  I’m afraid visiting the Careers Room was not a direction I went in very often, nor was I pushed to do so.  I wanted to be a Speech Therapist but having dropped Physics and Chemistry before O level that was unfortunately not an option.  I did not go to university; I went into the travel business and took City and Guild exams and NVQ’s as part of what would now be called an apprentice scheme and even a blue badge guide course as my extremely enjoyable career with American Express developed.  

In 2004 I went back to college and qualified and now work as a Graphologist with the British Academy of Graphology – finally studying the psychological structure of the human being through their handwriting, which had always interested me. 

I could not have done this without the regime and backbone instilled in me at LEH.  To this day I am in touch with many LEH friends, some on a very regular basis.  We have a short cut to life – no introductions needed in our What App messages to each other – we just jump straight in – we’re slightly older, slightly wrinklier, but essentially still LEH girls at heart!

PS: I also hardly ever eat walking down the road!

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