‘The Cricket Term’, Part Four

Chapter Six: Letter From Home

The next cricket match is against Ginty’s team, Lower V.A, who’ve been coached by Evil Lois and are feeling very confident. But Lower IV.A field, bowl and wicket-keep very effectively, aided by Nicola’s insider knowledge of Ginty’s batting weak spots to get Ginty out for one measly run. Lower IV.A struggle a bit when it’s their turn to bat, but a last-minute effort by Barbara and Pomona, combined with Lower V.A’s pathetic fielding, win the day. Pomona really is a solid player. Nicola should have played her earlier. (I say, with my near non-existent cricketing expertise – I had to Google how many balls were in an over. I really don’t know how Americans would manage to follow all the details in this book’s cricket descriptions.)

Then there’s an excellent scene where Miss Craven and Janice are watching Nicola coach the team, noting how well Nicola is doing. Evil Lois is nearby training Lower V.B, while Janice wonders to herself whether Lois is really only helping the teams playing against Nicola, which sounds demented, “except that Lois was a demented character”. When Lois joins them, she’s horrified to hear Miss Craven suggest that Nicola will be Games Captain in a few years. Lois blusters about Nicola’s team doing too much practice and how they should be stopped because it’s not fair to the other teams, which Miss Craven thinks is “the most absurd argument I’ve heard in a very long time” and also, why has Lois stopped Nicola’s team from using the good nets and pitches for practice? Furthermore, if Lower IV.A lose their next match, Miss Craven wants to put Nicola on the ‘Prospects’ list, where she’ll get special coaching and be considered for the school team. Janice, stirring like mad, says that would be fantastic for Nicola, when not “even Rowan managed it that young” and then adds pointedly, “It should almost make up for that—misunderstanding—over the netball team.” Which Miss Craven agrees with, saying it was most uncharacteristic of Nicola to be unreliable, so she should ask Nicola about what really happened at some stage. And Lois leaves, deeply unsettled.

I love Janice.

I love her even more in the next scene, because she’s the only good thing about the situation. Poor Nicola gets an ominous-looking letter from her mother, so she goes up to the roof to read it in private, worrying that Buster or Tessa have died. But it’s terrible in an unexpected way — Mrs Marlow has written to say the school fees are going up, so one of the sisters will have to leave Kingscote and it has to be Nicola. It can’t be Ann or Ginty because they’re about to do O and A levels, and it can’t be Lawrie, because she’s so immature that she needs boarding school to make her grow up. Both Marlow parents agree it should be Nicola because “you’re a sensible person who won’t stamp around, spoiling things for yourself … complaining for years it was all dreadfully unfair.” Nicola will go to Colebridge Grammar, which must be an okay school because Edwin’s sending Rose there. And she mustn’t talk about this with anyone.

My previously low opinion of the Marlow parents has plummeted to uncharted depths.

I mean, REALLY? Mrs Marlow sells their diamonds and spends it on fancy hunting horses, but now they can’t afford school fees? They’ve inherited a huge estate, but they can’t rent it out to earn money because Captain Marlow wants to swan about being Lord of the Manor, with Rowan forced to run the farm for no pay. They chose to have EIGHT children and send them all to expensive private boarding schools, without thinking how they’d afford it all the way through their schooling. There’s no mention of taking Peter out of his naval cadet school, even though he hates it and has no intention of ever joining the navy. And they don’t decide to send all four girls to Colebridge Grammar, where at least they’ll have each other — no, just poor Nicola by herself, not knowing anyone. And Nicola’s the one who really loves Kingscote, has lots of friends, is doing well academically, showing good leadership skills, and instead of being rewarded for this, she’s punished.

Fortunately, Janice is there to offer unsentimental, practical support (and barley sugar). Jan also notes that now that Karen has left Oxford, her Prosser scholarship can be awarded to someone else, and maybe, if Nicola works a bit harder, she could win that and stay at Kingscote. Nicola’s only real rivals are Miranda, who definitely doesn’t need the money because her father’s just paid for the school swimming pool, and Meg Hopkins. So there’s a bit of hope.

Unfortunately, Nicola has been so distressed that she’s missed first period English with their inept student teacher, who is told by the girls that the correct procedure is for them all to go outside and look for Nicola. This is a welcome bit of comic relief, as Lower IV.A “prance about the grounds, looking under dock leaves and turning stones”, doing Nymph dances in the middle of the playing field. Unfortunately, Miss Cromwell happens to look out the window and see this and there is blood for breakfast. They get a form conduct mark, so they’re out of running for the Form Shield for the third year in a row, and they have compulsory silence till Sunday, which Nicola doesn’t mind because at least no one will ask why she’d been so upset.

Chapter Seven: Dolphins and Nemesis

Ginty is still a bit miffed that she’s not in the school play, but thanks to all the extra practice and her lucky four-leaf clover, she and Monica are chosen for the swimming and diving match against the Wade Abbas Collegiate, which I guess is a girls’ school attached to the Abbey.

Meanwhile, Lawrie is having trouble with her Ariel role, because she just can’t imagine herself as a “fairy”. Miss Kempe attempts to explain that Ariel isn’t some twee fairy, but a near immortal, soul-less being with magic powers and suggests Lawrie read Lord of the Rings. But Lawrie continues to be terrible in the role.

Nicola reflects to herself that at least when she leaves Kingscote, there’ll be no annoying Ann or Lawrie around. Even Tim despairs of Lawrie. Tim’s also not making much progress on her costume design, although she has a good cathartic laugh with Nicola when they contemplate Ariel wearing briefer-than-briefs with glitter, in relation to Miss Keith. Then there’s a good conversation between Nicola, Tim, Miranda and Esther about what they might do in future. Tim has her sights on producing St Joan when they’re in Sixth Form and then becoming a real-life producer. Miranda will end up working in her father’s antiques shop, but wishes she had more of a choice – although she doesn’t really know what she wants to do, probably something in art and design. (I’m surprised Miranda isn’t aiming for Oxford and something more academic, as she seems very intelligent and curious about the world.) Nicola usually tells people she wants to join the Wrens, but unfortunately, she knows she’ll never get to command a ship because she’s not a boy. She tells the others she’s planning to sail solo round the world, then decide about her future. Esther, unexpectedly, wants to be a gardener and live in her own flat with Daks. Good for her.

Then there are some more cricket matches. Upper V.B, the favourites, annihilate the poor little Seconds, in a very unfair and humiliating display of dominance, so the whole school turns against them. Meanwhile, the Sixth Form team, which includes Lois and Janice, beat Middle Remove, who had already won against Upper V.A. (“a bunch of intellectuals who could have beaten them easily enough, but had decided that passing their numerous O levels creditably took precedence” and therefore played to lose, to Ann’s dismay). This means that the entire school, including Nicola and Miranda, turn up to cheer the Sixth when they play those rotten scoundrels, Upper V.B. The Sixth, encouraged by the wild applause, play well, and Janice is a batting star, and they win. So I think that means Nicola’s team will be playing Lois and Janice and the other sixth formers in the final, if they first manage to beat Lower V.B.

I am still mad at the Marlow parents.

Next, Chapter Eight: Casualty

15 thoughts on “‘The Cricket Term’, Part Four”

  1. The situation with Nicola having to leave school makes zero sense, except for Plot Reasons. Surely it would be better (and fairer) to take out both the twins. Or couldn’t Lawrie go to a drama school? I guess that would be expensive too. I don’t think Peter thinks he has a choice about the Navy, I think he assumes he’s in whether he wants it or not.

    Janice is just magnificent in that scene with Lois and Redmond, isn’t she? Definitely crush-worthy.

    I hope you’re not finding the cricket stuff too trying, AF does a good job of heightening the drama and skimming over the boring bits.

    1. Can’t Lawrie be like the child actors in Noel Streatfeild books and get a scholarship to acting school and get small paying roles in pantos and television? Or is making money from acting too vulgar for the Marlows? And I thought Peter’s plan was to finish school, do National Service (which I suppose has stopped being an issue, now it’s the 1970s), then learn to manage the farm from Rowan?

      Janice is the best.

      There is a bit too much cricket for my tastes, but I must admit AF is doing a good job of describing it.

  2. Ginty’s four leaf clover meant Monica and Ginty weren’t cursed (after counting) for the day of the swimming competition. I thought you would have mentioned it because in another blog post (IIRC) you wrote how some things are not mentioned in girls literature but here it was.

    1. Oh, I didn’t notice that at all! You mean the girls are avoiding The Curse during the swimming match due to the lucky clover? Except I just went back to read that and the swimming match bits and I don’t think they use the word ‘curse’ at any stage. Antonia Forest must have been too subtle for me.

      I don’t actually remember mentioning the lack of references to menstruation in girls’ books in a previous post, but that does sound like the sort of thing I would complain about! Thanks for your very interesting comment!

      1. Actually, attributing that luck to the four leaf clover was my imagination working over time. Getting the book the actual quote is…
        “Oh, but of course – A levels – they must have exams that afternoon-” Ginty calculated: June 30th – no, that was safe- she wouldn’t be cursed-
        Nor, on enqiry, would Monica.

        1. You’re right! I’d missed that reference. They did have tampons in the 1970s, but I wouldn’t have wanted to spend a day swimming and diving if I had cramps and other period-related awfulness, either.

  3. I always read that as a menstruation reference, and there’s another in -I think- the Attic Term where Ginty spends the night in The San snd no one asks what was wrong, because in 5th form experience, the shorter the illness the more likely it was to be embarrassing

    1. I think it is, I just missed it because I’m so used to thinking of it as ‘period’, rather than ‘The Curse’. But I approve of AF mentioning it!

  4. Nowadays, inheirtance tax in the UK is 40% of the value of the estate over 325,000 pounds. So the estate passing from Lawrence to John during the war and then John to Captain Marlow shortly after the war would have racked up a big tax debt so they probably had to mortgage the farm to pay for that (as well as using the proceeds of the sale of their London home).

    With 8 kids, buying/renting a house would have been expensive so it was probably cheaper to live on the farm and farm it themselves then live away the farm and rent it out. Living away from the farm may also have caused problems with their bank and their mortgage.

    1. Hmm, I hadn’t thought of the huge inheritance taxes after the war. I got the impression from Falconer’s Lure that Jon was really bad at managing money or was a spendthrift and had run up lots of debts, but it could have been all the taxes.

      But if they really are that hard up, they shouldn’t be buying expensive hunting horses. Or they should take all the children out of private schools. Or just not have eight children in the first place, if they can’t afford them.

      1. Jon had run up debts by lending money to friends, and not running the place efficiently, then the death duties were added on to that. In the short term, money would have been very tight, but the post-war period was profitable for farming (all that drive to make the nation self-sufficient for food). Private schools were proportionately cheaper then than they are now; I saw some statistics recently about how it would take most of a doctor’s disposable income to send one child to private school now, but in the seventies they could send a family of four with relatively little trouble, and afford a big house etc. Fees really did start to go up at about the Cricket Term period, so that may well be rooted in fact. But the horses and ponies – there’s no excuse for not selling them to help keep Nicola at school. Or give the kids the choice – you can all have ponies if you go to Colebridge Grammar, or you can go to Kingscote and not have horses. That would test how keen they actually were on horses – or their school!

        1. Yes, that’d be interesting whether they’d choose ponies or Kingscote! But it sounds as though Patrick has practically given them Buster and the Idiot Boy (or at least free rides whenever they want), so they wouldn’t they still get to ride even if they sold their own horses? I suppose all the hunting clothes and other gear is expensive.

          I wonder how much Colebridge Grammar fees are? Is there some free local comprehensive secondary school they could go to, or would that be completely unacceptable for the Marlows?

          1. No, they had to buy the Idiot Boy. At the time Colebridge Grammar would have been free to go to. Some Grammar schools kept their names even after they became comprehensives. A few have stayed as selective schools, still free to go to, and others became comprehensives. I gather a few also became paying schools, but the implication in CT is that Colebridge is free to go to.

            1. When Ready Made Family was written in 1967, the 11+ was still in force to decide if you went to Grammar School or Secondary Modern. No fees for Grammar schools, though there were still Direct Grant schools, which were mostly feepaying, but the Local Autority awarded scholarships to those who passed the entrance exam but who could not afford the fees. When Cricket Term was written, Comprehensive schools were being established but some True-Blue Tory Authoroites dragged their feet and kept the 11+ for years, and a few still have it (eg Lincolnshire and Kent) So possibly Dorset still had Grammars and Sec Mods when Cricket Term was written. The horses would not really have cost that much, I don’t think. I don’t know how much the LAst Ditch would have fetched (Peter’s room) but I suspect that as well as the 2 horse, some of it went on some essential house maintenance (maybe the extra bathroom that appears later!). As for school fees, they certainly have gone up well over the rate of inflation. I work as a Library Assistant at one of the largest, and the fees ate £37,000 p.a for boarding. Smaller schools may well be less, but in the 70s the certainly did not require such a high proportion of parents disposable income. The fees increas is one reason for the increas in pupils from abraod at most schools – around 25% of our pupils come from Asia, Africa or Eastern Europe.

              1. Thanks, Sue, that’s very informative about the school system. Yes, private school fees here in Australia have also gone up significantly in recent years, although they also get government funding.

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