12 July 2012

First Day Disappointment

All of a sudden it’s been 6 odd months. Good work me. Seriously, I have been looking at this book on my bedside table for the past six months (no matter where I have been – I took it to Europe and the middle-east with me in January) thinking “I’ve got to do some work on that ... I’ll do it tomorrow”. But of course I never do. Such is my life.

 I'm not promising much with this chapter - it's a bit blah (filler before we get to the next chapter), but I'm back online, so one miracle at a time is all you can expect right now!

 Anyway, to recap the story thus far: Elizabeth is a pretty normal child (by which I mean self-centred and rather bratty – and don’t get up in arms over that, you know I’m right) who has been accustomed to accepting that she is some sort of devil spawn. She has become a burden to her hard-living parents who want to go on a cruise. They ingeniously decide that it’s time to indoctrinate the poor girl in the time-honoured fashion of packing her off to school and having someone else do the actual work of raising her. So she goes to school. Said school turns out to have reverted to some sort of Lord of the Flies meets 1984-esque scenario in which Elizabeth is deemed persona non grata on the first day. We left our intrepid heroine on the cusp of sleep, vowing vengeance and declaring that she’ll be home by half-term.

 We open the scene with some bell indicating that it’s time to get up. Nora the enforcer tells everyone, rather unnecessarily that it’s time to get up; Elizabeth “cheekily” decides to stay in bed (she is such a rebel!). Of course Irish Nora doesn’t like this, so she and Fat Ruth (I’m not making this up – she’s called “plump Ruth”) pick up E’s mattress and tip Elizabeth onto the floor – because that’s not at all an overreaction. When Elizabeth objects, Nora threatens to do an unnamed form of violence on the girl because “Monitors do that sometimes, you know”. I love how Whyteleafe rolls: do what we say or we’ll kneecap you! I can just picture Nora waiting in the dorm with knuckle dusters.

 Elizabeth, of course, decides that as open rebellion is not feasible, guerrilla tactics are advisable. So she decides to wear socks instead of stockings down to breakfast. Ooo-er. (just on a side note – I’m not even two pages into this chapter and already they have set times to get up, eat breakfast, rules as to appropriate footwear – what sort of child perpetuates this arrant nonsense? Seriously – you can’t wear socks???). But just when you think Elizabeth has finally given one to the man (or child), she is shamed into the stockings. Sigh.

 School-wide roll-call comes up after breakfast. In this strange event, boys and girls are segregated (why bother with a co-ed school if you're just going to split them up?) and formed up into rows before the roll is called, then the children march out to music. Yes, MARCH. I bet it's not even normal marching - I bet they have to goose step out of the hall. The school strikes me as that sort of place. I wonder whether they have to salute their glorious leader while they're at it?

 This school really gives me the heebie-jeebies: violent monitors, children doling out punishment to one another, lives lived according to a series of bells, no socks allowed, and a vaguely militaristic assembly? THIS is a progressive school? I’d hate to see what Enid thought was old-fashioned. The more I read about this school, the more I’m in E’s corner, willing her to some drastic feat of naughtiness that will release from this hell-hole!

 And it seems we may finally get the chance see such a feat, as class finally begins (and Elizabeth gets a seat in the back row, which she likes because you can be naughty there. How she knows this, having never gone to school before, puzzles me a little). At first we are disappointed, Elizabeth being high on the fresh paint fumes in the classroom to such an extent that she gets a “VERY GOOD” on her dictation. She soon comes to her senses, however, and embarks on her first deed of the mischievous variety: flicking paper at various people in the room.


 Really, I despair of the idiot. Go hard or go home, Elizabeth; if you want people to take you seriously as a delinquent, hike up your skirt and do some serious damage. Throw a child through the classroom window, get into a proper fight, trash the teachers’ lounge. Don’t flick freaking PAPER!

 I suppose, in her defence, she does talk back to the teacher, but as the chapter ends with E knuckling under AGAIN (and promising to behave), you can’t really give the girl too much credit. Another disappointing episode in Elizabeth’s school career.

 One thing to note: we learn that Elizabeth likes music in this chapter. It should be noted, as it comes up later in the book, as there is nothing the regime won’t do to ensure the loyalty of their adherents.

 This chapter feels a bit like a filler chapter, and I suppose it is. But the next chapter ... school meeting time! I shall be updating you on that little gem anon (less than 6 months this time – I promise!)