Wednesday 30 November 2022

Wednesday Waffle - Monica Tebbs

A St Trinian's cartoon by Ronald Searle
Me on the right and Monica Tebbs in centre

Warning - this is going to be a long post so either pass by - or go for a wee and then make a cuppa ready for a read! I need to set the scene folks!

Ages ago, when I was an almost daily blogger I used to publish a weekly 'Tuesday Tale'. It basically was just me, reminiscing on a very varied life and the stupid things that have happened to me - always through NO fault of my own of course. ☺ Time constraints, life, health and also the Snippets Playground took over and so the tales sort of ended. However ....

............ a recent conversation with SaRn reminded me of a rather long tale that I never wrote about - but it still makes me smile all these years later. So here we have the first 'Wednesday Waffle' - whilst I'm still able to type and think at the same time! You do have to step into my world and wear the 'virtual reality' head wear though! Which means your imagination. And, as I just said, this post sets the background to a few tales.

Most of you know that I went to a boarding school in Germany from aged 13 to almost 18, not our choice, my Dad (British Army) was posted to Germany and it was the closest I could be to them and still get a decent education.

The school was divided into 'houses' with 'house mistresses' and 'housemasters' - yup, it was co-ed (YAY - thank goodness for something!) as well as being the really early forerunner of Comprehensive Schooling, well before the UK. So, we had an overall Headmaster and a Senior Mistress, for the girls. Let's focus on the Senior Mistress. We lived in fear of her and she was, to us at the time, so very strict - her name was Miss Monica Tebbs, whom I will now refer to as Monica much of the time. Slim, as upright as a pencil and also very severe - basically she scared a lot of us half to death!

School days were rather overruled by Monica looming during lesson time break intervals on the girls, looking for traces of forbidden makeup and checking if your skirts were rolled up (this WAS the 60's) and then making you unroll them so you trailed around rather like your Granny for the rest of lesson times. Then you had to go and collect your really wide belt from her at the end of the day - so you could go through the same process the next day - hopefully without being caught! 

Then at the beginning of one school year I was horrified to find out I'd been 'upped' into her 'A' group for English and truthfully almost ran away from school. She was a tough but very dedicated teacher - she called me a silly 'booby' on more than a few occasions (the word was innocent back then). But, she got me through the exams with good results and she, as much as me, seemed to be delighted!

Cutting a long story short - fast forward to me on Tynemouth Station back in the UK, having just left school and going off to work on my fortnightly stint of a Saturday morning. A dear elderly lady, almost smelling of lavender and wearing a very elegant hat, stopped me and said 'May I please say what beautiful posture you have'. I'd never really thought about it - but I did know that the posture came from Monica and us girls balancing books on our heads during detention! Mrs Lavender and I became friends and often met up for our early Saturday morning train journeys - me to the office and she off to see her son and family. Yet I never found out just who she was, sort of a guardian angel perhaps? One week she just stopped getting the train, which is sad as she did me such a huge favour.

Anyhow, Mrs Lavender pricked my conscience and I wrote to Monica Tebbs to thank her for everything she had done. From then on we were sort of intermittent correspondents - she knew I got engaged, married, changed jobs, moved house several times. I knew she returned from Germany and taught in the UK, lived with her sister, and then retired to Peterborough. And that could have been the end of the tale but ........

--------almost 30 years after I left the school, someone decided to set up a group for the old school and also arrange a HUGE reunion at Newbury Racecourse. Some of my future Waffles are bound to cover more  - but we ended up, several hundred of us 'traced ones', piling into the venue. And after a while, WHO should loom into view - Monica Tebbs! She instantly homed in on me (hiding a ciggie behind my back - for a friend to whisk away as I smoked at the time), she knew who I was and that a ciggie has been taken away 'I smell cigarettes' she said - and  I felt like a teenager once again. She then said that she'd kept my initial thank you letter for all those years - and it was just like the intervening years just disappeared - poof!

And so - the bond was made once again - but this time we were friends more than teacher and pupil - although she still did scare me, and in fact all of us to be truthful!. The second part of this - and really the funniest part will be posted on next week's Wednesday Waffle - I think I've rabbited on enough - and to be honest it still gets to me that she really was so human underneath, just 'wanting the best for her girls'. 

My life is so much richer for knowing her, more so later in life when I could understand why she did what she did. Little final point - somehow I found out from a third party that when she'd had some sort  of tricky situation to sort out, complete with keeping her renowned stony face - she would go into the staff room, almost slide down the inside of the closed the door and practically cry with laughter. God love her, a special lady - my friend Monica. 

Part 2 next week - tune in Sarn!


  1. Lovely story Di, can't wait for part 2

  2. So looking forward to part 2... Monica sounds quite the character!

  3. Brings back a lot of memories for me. Thank you for the 'step back in time'.

  4. I loved reading your Wednesday Waffle Di, it brought back memories of my school days. Looking forward to Part 2 and many more Wednesday Waffles. xx

  5. Living in a virtual/fantasy World I can identify and raise a smile at your tale. It's funny how things go round, I was the very worse pupil, hating school and in hindsight a nightmare for my parents. The headmistress of our 18 pupil C of E school was a knuckle rapper with her ruler, she was my constant nemesis and told me repeatedly I would never make anything of myself, let alone ever master a paintbrush.

    Moving on and many, many years later having assumed I would never see Miss Whitmill again, I visited our Rector when he was old and frail and who should appear from the kitchen with tea, you got it, looking like the living dead, she must have been pushing 100! I was back on those wooden chairs again and almost mute waiting for the ruler, so Rector Ascham seemed happy to not tell her that not only did I complete school but went on to get a degree under my belt.

    How I would love to meet her know and tell her, well actually I'm still not much good with a paintbrush but can put together a few colours and bits and pieces into a passable piece of artwork.

    Happy days!

    B x

    1. How wrong she was B - you produce the most beautiful pieces of art. How funny that you met up again. xxx

  6. I think we could do with a few Monica's these days Di..don't you? !

  7. What a lovely story and so kind that you wrote to her. We don't do enough thanking but we should do much more instead of complaining. So Thank You for running the playground which is a little diversion for us all. x

  8. I love your story Di, especially the length of skirts. At our school the Senior Mistress was Miss Stanway who used to make us kneel on the desk to ensure our skirts touched the top of the desk. It was a rap across the knuckles and a note to our parents if it didn't touch the desk!
    I'm looking forward to part two of your tale.

  9. Hee hee - LOVE your Wednesday Waffle Di. Can’t wait for Part 2. You are a case! What a life you’ve led. Xxx

  10. You write very well Di, and your memories of school and of your teacher Monica made me smile, especially the books on your head! My mother used to make me walk like this, too, but it didn’t have any results on my posture. LOL :D
    To read the story I needed the translator and a lot of time and effort, because English is not my language. Forgive me if I can't always follow the Wednesday appointment!

    1. Dear Alice. You do really well with understanding what we're doing in the Playground! I so wish I spoke good Italian, I speak, as well as think, in German, as a second language obviously, from living there for so many years in my teens and childhood. My Italian best is Ciao! xxx
      Di xx

  11. Love reading your story, Di! Thank you for sharing & I'm looking forward to future Wednesday Waffles!

  12. Fabulous Di, so many memories….the skirt 😃, I had to because I got my sisters hand me downs 😂, can’t wait for the next one… should write a book! Xxx

  13. I too love your writings and this part one for Wednesday Waffles. Can't wait for #2.

  14. OH! Yes, those were the times to be scared of Teachers, for nothing but their stare! In my case! A beautiful story Di, I'm glad you're back with them, thoroughly enjoyed my time spent reading and reminiscing too. Thank you.

  15. I had missed this installment, but after reading Part 2...I had to come back and find Part 1! What a wonderful story of a memorable character! Love that you wrote a thank you note to her which she kept and treasured.
    <3 J

    jwoolbright at gmail dot com


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