TITLE: My Knight(s) in Shining Armour?
By Bella Louise
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I recently transferred from my girls' grammar school into one which only takes girls who are between sixteen and eighteen years of age. The rest of the school's intake consists of boys: short, spiky-haired eleven-year-olds with squeaky voices; fifteen-year-olds who bellow “Hello, Jon's sister!” every time I pass them; thirteen-year-olds who are just beginning to become young men instead of boys, and as a result look out-of-proportion, gangly, and slightly rectangular at the edges; gravelly-voiced sixteen-year-olds who form my own peer group. As one might imagine, the number of girls who transfer from their safe girly schools into this boisterous, crowded, male-dominated environment is reasonably small, and as a result, I had been prepared for a rapid learning-curve, in terms of appreciating the famously tiny capacity of men (particularly teenage lads, to all accounts) to focus on more than one idea at once. What I have been finding has surprised me somewhat.
Let me first make you aware that the MGS schoolboy is a strange and wonderful creature, possibly extinct in most areas of the world, and certainly a rare breed in my corner of the UK. This is the type of boy prevalent in Enid Blyton books, who, when a girl gets onto a crowded bus, instantly leaps up and offers her his seat. An example of these manners came shortly after I arrived at the school. True to my personality, the first thing I did on stepping into the school on my first day was trip over an insignificant speck of dust or similar, fall flat on my face, and spill the entire contents of my school bag onto the floor. Instead of the mockery which I had every right to expect, a hand appeared in my disgruntled field of vision. Other hands began to busy themselves about picking up the contents of my bag, and, as I accepted the help of the kind stranger and stumbled inelegantly to my feet, I dimly realised that some gentlemanly person or, possibly, persons, were picking up the various files, notepads, pencils, and money secreted in the oddest how the school had come to employ such wonderful staff. As I eventually regained my bearing and looked about, I noticed that these “wonderful staff” were in MGS uniforms, and therefore were not staff at all, but students.
Such an incident was completely alien to me, and it shocked me to the core. I went about the day in a kind of daze, my incredulity increasing with every door held open for me, every smile shared, every chivalrous act performed by these incredible beings that were clearly not teenage boys at all, but some kind of well-mannered, remarkably life-like robot. Having just come out of a girls' school (and, with all due respect to my sex, girls can be a horrible group of people to be amongst), I was used to back-biting; rumours; a colourful string of insults attached to graffiti in the toilets, often containing my name; cliques; and the occasional catfight. Although before I had been in the lower sixth two days I did witness a fight between two of my peers (two boys), it finished with the two boys standing up, dusting themselves off, and shaking hands, of all bizarre things. There was a peculiarly English sense of “Jolly good show, old chap”, though, of course, those words themselves were not spoken. The system of the school is entirely different to that of my old school. Previously, I had called my teachers “Monsieur H” or “Mrs P”; now, I am obliged to call them “Sir” and “Miss”. Before, the uniform was something worn occasionally by such nerdy, bookish persons as myself; at MGS, it is something of an institution. For the first time in my life, I am having to work in class to keep abreast of my school work. I have never been in such a surreal environment.
I am loving every minute of my new school. I would never have anticipated that my friends and peers would be so immensely likeable. I expected to step into a testosterone-charged, bloke-ish, intimidating collection of buildings, where I would eventually discover the geeks, befriend the smallest or least scary, and spend my lunchtimes in the library. Instead, I stepped into a a friendly, peaceful environment; a clean-shaven school, that speaks properly, and takes its tea with milk and no sugar, as it were; where I have discovered the geeks, befriended the smallest and least scary, and spend most of my lunchtimes in the library. I could not possibly be happier.
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