The prefects room

When I was eleven I changed schools as everyone did then, and I went from my lovely and happy junior school to The Cambridgeshire County High School for Girls, known as the County. Different people have different memories, but I was happy there, had some wonderful teachers although the school at that time was blighted in my view by the head teacher we had, but great friends, great times, great fun – and a pretty good education. In many ways the way our teachers related to us was very modern,  by the time we were further up the school we didn’t have to always put our hands up to speak and when we did speak it was almost conversational, offering our thoughts and opinions and speaking with varying degrees of confidence. This is just how I remember it, others may have a different view of course! Most of the teachers I liked and respected, although there were a couple of stinkers! When girls moved into the sixth form they no longer had to wear uniform, which seemed so exciting as I proceeded up the school. In assembly they sat on the steps of the stage looking down on the rest of us and I would sit on my chair looking at them with their fashionable clothes and sophisticated appearance and think they looked like grown-ups, not school girls.

I never entered their ranks because we moved from Cambridge when I was sixteen. The school my sister and I went to was very different. I was going into the sixth form and I had to wear uniform! I was quietly outraged and silently resentful. To be fair it wasn’t too bad, grey skirt, white and maroon striped shirt (have I remembered that correctly?) school tie (was the sixth form tie different from the rest of the school?) grey or maroon jumper. I was fortunate; my poor sister had to wear a gym-slip! This seemed incredibly old-fashioned, it was the sort of thing my mum and her sisters wore before the war – and then it was only when they were in the lower school. We went to the shop to buy our uniform, and mum and I absolutely creased up with laughter as my poor sister emerged from the changing room, her face like thunder, wearing a gym-slip! When school started and I started my A-level course, I couldn’t believe how antediluvian the lessons were! The teachers were nice enough I guess, but the rigid discipline and repressed atmosphere seemed like from another age.

In my school in Cambridge, all the sixth form were automatically prefects, as far as I remember, but in the new school, people were chosen from the upper-sixth. This created a distinction between people of the same age, some who had the privileges of being prefects with the cosy prefects room and others were pretty much the same as the rest of the school – again, this is as I remember, and I may be wrong on some aspects, except the prefects room. There was a kettle and we had instant coffee, and we lounged about and then someone brought in a mah-jong set and we began to play. I had never come across it before, so I wasn’t very good, and it was quite complicated, but it seemed so exotic and sophisticated and mysterious, and although I never won, that didn’t matter, it was playing it with the beautiful tiles and names of them.

I have never played it since, but would love to. Every time I see a mah-jong set I look at it with envy and admiration. There is a form of it you can play on-line, using the tiles but as a sort of ‘patience’ game. Lovely as the tiles are, and although there is some small skill, it’s nothing like playing the real game. Even if I bought a set I have no-one to play with as my husband isn’t keen on such games and I think you need three people to play. A definition of the game pulled together from Wikipedia:

 a tile-based game that was developed during the Qing dynasty in China (1639 to 1912) is commonly played by four players, Mahjong is a game of skill, strategy, and luck. The game is played with a set of 144 tiles based on Chinese characters and symbols… In most variations, each player begins by receiving 13 tiles. In turn players draw and discard tiles until they complete a legal hand using the 14th drawn tile to form four melds (or sets) and a pair (eye)… There are fairly standard rules about how a piece is drawn, how a piece is robbed from another player, the use of suits (numbered tiles) and Honors (winds and dragons), the kinds of melds allowed, how to deal the tiles and the order of play.

It sounds complicated, doesn’t it,  and as I remember from my brief experience, it takes a long time and many games to properly  grasp how to play, let alone how to win!

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