Thank you all so very much for welcoming me back so warmly. Your words have been very kind. By popular demand, here is the final chapter in, ‘The Early Days of Boarding School’ quadrilogy.
Term II started and Archie threw himself into all the school had to offer. He enrolled in Speech and Drama classes one afternoon a week, rugby training two afternoons a week, he had piano lessons at lunch time, he joined the choir and the agricultural club. He thought if he joined a lot of activities or clubs or groups he would find boys with similar interests and friendships would form.
But Archie didn’t make any friends and no one seemed to like him so during the day he would roam around all by himself and then back at the boarding house he would be ridiculed or bullied and fights would break out and of course none of these things were permissible but there’s always an avenue for an opportunist and so Archie was learning to use his fists.
One of the things the school had plenty of was drama performances and Archie was keen to see every show. He would buy himself a ticket and then ask other boys if they would like to go with him to see the musical or the play but they all turned him down. But Archie would go anyway and sit by himself and somehow he was able to enjoy the evening regardless of the isolation.
And then there was a school excursion to the zoo and that morning Archie phoned me all excited because he loved the zoo and had practically grown up at Taronga Zoo. He was a volunteer with their Youth at the Zoo program and when he was younger he’d been to Zoo Adventures every school holidays so he knew his way around without the use of a map and he knew the time of the keeper talks and the seal show and the bird show and everything else that’s scheduled for day visitors to the zoo. So as all the boys were disembarking from the bus, they were given a worksheet and told it had to be handed back, completed, at the end of the day. Archie told a group of boys that if they came with him they would have the worksheet completed really quickly and then they could spend the rest of the day doing as they pleased. But Archie couldn’t entice anyone to spend the day with him; they all ran off so he roamed the zoo by himself, completing the sheet in rapid speed.
Three weeks into the Term there was a phone call from the Registrar. It came early one morning and we were asked if we could come in straight away. We were to meet in the Registrar’s office and Archie would be there as well. So we drove out to the school with Alfie in his baby seat and when we arrived I wheeled him into the office in his pram and hoped he would be quiet. At the round table were Archie, the registrar, the year co-ordinator, the house master and the school’s counselor.
The registrar said, ‘I think what we have here is a very stressed young man’. And I looked at Archie and noticed he had developed a facial tic where he couldn’t stop blinking.
We were told Archie was being bullied. And many boys in his year had been interviewed and what was most unusual in this case was that the bullying wasn’t being done by one particular boy, it was across the whole year where he seemed to be the target of anyone and everyone. They’d never had a case like it.
It was quite hard hearing all of this news and so the counselor spoke up saying it was a shock to him that he could be so unpopular as he had found Archie to be an intelligent boy with a wide vocabulary who could confidently converse on a broad and extensive variety of topics. He said he was a very polite and tender hearted boy with not a mean bone in his body and so it was very surprising to him that he hadn’t made friends. And I looked at Archie and he had tears streaming down his face.
They said that if Archie was willing to stay on at the school they would provide every resource available to help him including weekly visits to the counselor with food provided because they had also noticed his weight loss (we’d just had to buy new trousers for him two sizes smaller than the ones we’d purchased a Term before).
The registrar said they wanted him in the school as they believed Archie had a lot to offer. Again we asked Archie if he wanted to stay on at the school. ‘Yes’, he nodded through his tears as I handed him some tissues.
The year co-ordinator said that as Archie was a very stressed young man, that he should stop some of his activities as he wasn’t coping with the normal workload. We canceled the choir and the piano lessons. He was to have weekly meetings with the counselor to help him work through the issues and also teach him a few ways of how to make friends. His ADHD had been assessed and we were advised the best way forward would be for Archie to commence medication, something we had avoided in the past.
And this is a huge topic and one that needs a post of its own but basically Archie was diagnosed with ADHD in Year 1 when his teacher told us we needed to have him assessed. At that time a paediatrician told us she believed Archie would be extremely disadvantaged if we didn’t put him on medication. But I’ve never been too keen on the idea of kids on drugs so we went the naturopathic route and while there was a measure of improvement there wasn’t the significant improvement he needed.
When Archie started on the medication we’d been avoiding, he said to me, ‘I can think now. Why didn’t you do this for me before?’
Hmmm. Because I’m a flawed being and you’re my oldest child and the problem there is that you are the guinea pig I’m practising all my parenting skills on before I get better at it.
After the meeting we took Archie out for lunch and fed him hamburgers and hot chips and cans of coke and bags of lollies and all the things you need in a crisis. And then we had to drop him back at school which was difficult but we left him in the hands of the counsellor.
After Archie started on medication we were told nothing for Archie would improve overnight and that it would probably take at least a year for the boys to see him in a new light – the medicated light. And that was exactly right. By the end of Year 7 Archie had one friend. Halfway through Year 8 he had two friends and by the time he was finishing up Year 12 he had countless friends and was the most widely-known student in the entire school.
This is not a journey I would like to repeat but it is the story of Archie’s early boarding school years.
And now it’s Easter and I always make my own Hot Cross Buns, mostly because the ones in the shops (like the major supermarkets) make them with additives and things like palm oil. This year I made mine using organic spelt flour and I thought they were fantastic but Archie said, ‘What have you done to them? You’ve changed something. Something’s not right’. Well, I thought the spelt flour made an excellent bun.
Spelt Hot Cross Buns
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Normal flour is cheap, organic spelt is about 10 times the price.
- 30g (1oz) compressed yeast
- 1 tsp sugar + 1/4 cup sugar + 1 tblspn sugar
- 1 tsp plain flour + 4 cups organic spelt flour + 1/2 cup spelt flour
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm milk
- 1 tsp salt
- 60g (2oz) butter
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp mixed spice
- 1 lightly beaten egg
- 1/3 cup sultanas
- 1/3 cup currants
- 1 tsp gelatine
Cream yeast with 1tsp each of sugar and flour. Add milk, mix well. Cover, stand in warm place 15 minutes or until mixture is frothy. Sift 4 cups flour, salt, 1/4 cup sugar and spices into a bowl. Rub in butter. Add yeast mixture, egg and dried fruit then mix in well. Cover bowl with a clean cloth, stand in warm place for 40 mins or until dough has doubled in size.
Punch dough down, turn out on to floured surface, knead well until dough is smooth and elastic. Cut dough into 3 equal pieces then cut each piece into 5. Knead each into round shape. Put buns in lightly greased 18cm x 30cm lamington tin, stand in warm place 10 to 15 mins or until buns reach top edge of tin.
Sift 1/2 cup plain flour, mix to paste with 1/3 cup water. Fill into small plastic bag with small hole cut across corner. Pipe crosses on each bun. Bake at 250°C (475-500F) for 15-20 mins. Remove from oven. Immediately brush with glaze made by dissolving 1 tblspn sugar and gelatine in 1 tblspn boiling water. Cool buns on a wire rack.
This recipe has been adapted from The Australian Women’s Weekly Cooking Class Cookbook.
Here are my other posts on Archie’s early boarding school days…