So I haven’t written in aaaages. Oops! I blame it on my teachers (I mean wherever you can you’ve got to blame things on your teachers – haven’t you?). The last two weeks of term – spent sharing Christmas folly, celebrating, not much work. Right? Wrong. Teachers hide a Grinch-like streak which only surfaces in the last few weeks of term. The Headmaster bans Christmas until the penultimate Friday, tinsel is confined to cardboard boxes save 4 days each year, Christmas trees are bought for the last week alone and left to die over the holidays, leaving a New Year present of floors carpeted with crisped needles. Teachers must conduct mock exams, end of topic tests and as many choir practices as it is humanly possible to fit in without killing your choristers (and in practice killing half anyway). Sports teams are pressured perform for the last match of the season, to be heralded unbeaten. It’s the House Debating final, and the Christmas Rock Concert. School lunches and dinners seem to consist of mince and grey-tinged potatoes each day. Fog and frost which hang in the air, on the tips of noses and the twisted and tenacious fingers of the trees do not give the school a festive sparkle, but instead cast a gothic gloom over the campus. Pupils are loaded with Christmas reading, homework and end of term reports, combined with the realisation that a festive holiday that usually consists of 3 weeks is now limited to 2 weeks, 3 days and 43 hours (or something like that – we did actually count this…). And just when you think it’s over, you get home to the best Christmas present of all, flu. So here I am, at the end of the last week of term, in bed, writing this and hoping that you understand! And I apologise to anyone reading this who knows me in person, to whom I may have come across either very angry, frazzled or just generally gone a bit mad..!
Monday: Groan. What can be worse than Monday on the last week of term? You know you’re so nearly there, but you also know this week is going to be the week from hell. There are 5 choir rehearsals, 3 Carol Services, a debate (for which you haven’t written either of the speeches yet), a Community Service focus group meeting, a Rock Concert, 2 Christmas Dinners, a 1.5hr Latin test, a 2hr Greek test, a 2hr English test, a 2hr History test (none of which you’ve revised for). You’re meant to be doing 2 hrs of prep each night. You have to buy and wrap a secret santa present, write Christmas cards, visit your mentees, and somehow try to eat and sleep and not get ill. Oh and you also know that the school opposite where you live broke up on Friday. Good luck! And if by the end of today you felt as if you were coping well, you don’t any longer. Your week is about to get much worse.
Tuesday: I don’t think it’s actually possible to realise what I managed to get myself into today. Let’s start at the beginning. A 7:30 cello lesson. Now let’s get this straight – I love my cello teacher, and I love playing. But I can really do without a lesson at 7:30 in the morning. That means leaving my house at some ungodly hour of the morning, and making sure I have everything I need for the next 2 days (not easy when you’re bleary eyed). So I make it to school, only forgetting toothpaste – which by my standards is pretty good. I dump everything in the music block, and then attempt to try and take all my books and anything non-music related to my house. I get there. All the doors are locked. Breakfast isn’t open yet and so the boarders haven’t unlocked the door. So like a packhorse, I struggle back over to the music block (where the doors are never locked because music scholars are not earthly beings – the most dedicated are an alien species who practice for two hours before breakfast and after prep – and also because the music staff have probably lost their keys). I stuffed everything clumsily into my music locker and locked the door, knowing full well that when I opened it again everything would fall on top of me. But that was not an issue in the present moment. I walked along the corridor. All the practice rooms were locked save one. So I set myself up in there, tuned up and began to play my Bach suites and Faure Elegie. 20 minutes passed. Nothing. What was the point of turning up at 7:30 if my teacher didn’t turn up?? I put my cello down and walked back along the corridor to find her sitting in one of the rooms with the lights off, having just called in the Estates team to open the door. Of course. Why couldn’t she have just heard I was playing down the hall and come there? Whatever, I lugged my stuff down the hall and we had our lesson. But starting late means only one thing in teacher language – finishing late too. So (imagine the Benny Hill music, if you will) I run down the corridor with my cello, realise I left my keys in the practice room, got my keys, opened my locker, was beaten back by the shed load of stuff which proceeded to, just as I had expected, fall on me, placed my cello and music in my locker, loaded up with all my other bags, ran to house, dashed up the 3 flights of stairs (why do I live on the top floor?) chucked all my stuff on the floor, grabbed the two most likely folders that I have on a Tuesday and got to Chapel with a minute to spare. But that meant I didn’t register – so halfway through double Latin I get a knock on the door to have my Matron having a screaming fit about not registering. And I couldn’t be bothered to tell her the whole fiasco, so I just nodded, and she went away. And at break time I visited my 11 year old mentees, so that I didn’t have to see her again…
But as much as the early cello lesson had caused havoc to my morning routine, I was dreading far more the afternoon’s events: the annual Christmas rock concert sandwiched between 2 choir rehearsals. I can hear you all whooping. No – this was my debut performance. And was not a willing performance either. Turns out if you do French A level, you automatically are conscripted into the A2 French band. So I had to stand up in front of an audience of rock lovers and my Latin teachers (secret rock lovers I’m sure!), with the smoke machine blasting, blue lights shining directly into my eyes, and whilst desperately trying to remember the lyrics to and sing Noel Dernier (Last Christmas in French) to people who had absolutely no idea what I was singing about, nor really why I was there in the first place. That too was rather farcical (but I’m not going to share the video evidence!). On the upside I did receive a box of Quality Street for my efforts. And efforts is the key word in that sentence… A shame though that I had no time to taste the success of the inaugural French performance. The last Tuesday of term means one thing – Boarders’ Christmas supper. The one time a year where each house is served by their teachers, we share a 3 course meal and sing (and chant) together. The one time of the year that dinner is a relaxed and civilised affair, spanning most of the evening. The one time this year that I would have done anything not to have a Christmas dinner. Because Wednesday was a big day, and I had a lot of preparation to do, trawling through legislation and coming up with ways to knock down the boys. And to top this crazy day off, I found that I was in the attic room, thrown out of my room to give space to the first year pupils, and desperately trying to finish three speeches before the lights and heating were switched off at 10:30. Altogether not a massive success.
Wednesday: Perhaps, each day I went through the week I was dreading a little more. Wednesday was the day my house had been dreaming of for 4 years. The day we got to the Senior House Debating final. I, attempting to be the octopus that everyone thinks I am, had lead the team throughout the term to an unforseen victory against 3 other houses, including having to argue against a hypothetical point that our country was an admired IKEA table with one of its legs broken, because we didn’t have open borders. That one got me. But we had come back stronger, and were well prepared. Unfortunately, we were against the nerdiest house in the school. Their floor were top-notch scientists who could stand up and make a really complicated point about white matter and grey matter in the brain (I still don’t get how it links to women being more capable to multi-task, and that’s why I don’t do science) and then somehow link it to the motion: Positive Discrimination for women and minorities should be justified. Due to my Housemistress’ incredible capability at losing the toss every round, we were opposing the motion (though, on this occasion it was for the better anyway). I was resolved that I would fight a losing battle with my impassioned feminist and egalitarian speeches. But the tides turned. When a boys house stands up in debating and says that they feel sorry for the girls because ‘they have to get up every morning to get ready and get to school looking just right or else they will be judged’ they can expect that the girls will retaliate. And retaliate they did. And so, on a dark December evening, the girls house triumphed to win the Senior House Debating final. It was a shame we could not then go on to celebrate – but that would have required time. And time, in the last week of term is one thing that I didn’t have. It was on to sing the first Nine Lessons and Carols of the week (Featuring: Rutter All Bells in Paradise, Gjeilo Away in a Manger, Walton All this time, Tomorrow Shall be my Dancing Day, Todd My Lord is Come, Benedicamus Domino) albeit without the cockatrice (#cryforthecockatrice, I lost my argument…) after having jostled our way, with candles, down the side aisles, taking care not to scorch the congregation in the process.
Thursday: Surely the week should be letting up by now? Unfortunately not. We were on the downhill straight concerning co-curricular activities, but the last few days were by far the hardest academically. On Thursday I had two one-and-a-half hour tests, one in Latin and one in Greek. Literature tests, requiring deep knowledge of both the translation and the literary analysis of each chapter. So not tests that I could not revise for…But, with a choir practice until 7 on Monday, meaning I only got home at 8, Tuesday’s rock concert, Boarders’ dinner and debate writing saga only ending at 11, and Wednesday’s carol service finishing at 20:15 meaning I got home at 9, you can imagine how little time I had had to revise, indeed ‘revise’ was pushing it to the limits, more like a panicked look-over. So I woke up on Thursday, dreading everything. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never willingly go into a test unprepared, and I was frankly not looking forward to it. It would require the utmost photographic memory and oiled brain cogs, and in the frantic week I’d had to this point, my brain was more like a watch with its cogs popping out.
And just when I’d got through the worst of the day, and was ready to enjoy more relaxing second Nine Lessons and Carols having got through the first unscathed, disaster struck again. I was just standing in the Chapel, eating my Mars bar (on a December evening when we could be at home, our Director of Music has to get us on side with chocolate) when the Master of Choirs announces that tonight, instead of a ‘cherub’ singing the ‘Once in Royal David’s City,’ he had chosen more of an ‘ogre.’ I laughed alongside everyone else. We were all wondering who this ogre could be…You guessed it before I did. It was me. Fast forward 2 hours and I was standing in front of a congregation filled with pupils, parents and teachers, literally face to face with the Head Boy, a complete jokester, and with the Headmaster and Chaplain on either shoulder. I’ll leave you to guess who was on the left and who was on the right… My hands were shaking, I was desperately trying to a) read the music when all the lights had been turned off, b) trying not to have the candle too close to the paper so that the chapel went up in flames, c) trying not to have the candle too close to me so that I went up in flames, d) trying to stay in tune, e) trying not to look into the eyes of anyone staring right at me, f) trying to expel the thoughts of ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday’ which were dancing repetitively in my head and g) trying to stand still and not fall over, perched on the edge of a step with my legs shaking like jelly. And I was also thinking about h) the English test I had tomorrow which I would be revising for if I wasn’t standing and singing Once in Royal David’s City. To be honest, I just wanted this week to be over, and after a long day, I staggered to the car with cello, music, sports kit, suitcase, 15 folders, a box of Quality Street, a Santa hat, and a laptop. I wanted to go home and sleep. Which I would have done had I not been woken at 5 with the lead stealing alarm of the Church which neighbours our house, which goes off anytime an overweight bird lands on the roof.
Friday: Thank goodness – only one more day to go. Then 3 weeks of Christmas holidays. Or so we thought. For, when we got out our calendars we discovered to our horror that the holidays had been cut short – only 2 weeks, 3 days, 43 hours, and 22 minutes (and 6 seconds), but that time was fast slipping away. And there was still a whole day to go. A day with a 2 hour closed book Shakespeare exam which I also had not revised for, and after which I lost my English folder (which I need over the holidays aaaaaaah). A day where I received a 4 page long school report which listed everything that ‘she could do better.’ A school report which I turned into paper aeroplanes because my eyes were not really awake enough to take it all in, and it was the last day of term and I didn’t really want to be there. A day where I received more Christmas prep than it is probably possible to do in 2 weeks, 3 days and 43 hours. A day where I spent 2 hours of my afternoon on the side of a rugby pitch with feet squelching in the mud watching the same 2 boys houses bash each other as much as possible to win a game, the rules of which I couldn’t really seem to make out. *Note to self: next year remember to take a flask for hot chocolate.* A day where I ate a Christmas lunch, and then proceeded to feel slightly sick for the rest of the afternoon. A day where I got home, ate dinner, and fell straight asleep, only to be woken fifteen hours later by the ring of the doorbell. My grandparents had arrived, and in the hours since I had been sleeping I had come down with a fluey coldy bug. And here I am. Saturday morning, in bed, with flu. A fitting end to a week from hell. Merry Christmas everyone! And in the meantime, between now and next year’s last Christmas week, I’m going to learn to be a robot.