Authors: Ann Bryant
Secrets, hopes and dreamsâ¦ School friends are for ever!
I'm so lucky to be at Silver Spires, and to have so many clever and talented friends. I've always been okay at school, but I've never found anything I've been really good atâ¦until now.
I love rowing â it feels made for me! I get such a buzz when I'm out on the water, plus all the other girls are such fun. Well, except one. Holly's always been the best rower in the group, and I think she wants to keep it that way â no matter what.
For Penny Senior with best wishes and grateful thanks for all your invaluable help!
“Can you help with my stupid hair, Sasha?” said Emily, sighing dramatically.
I was the only one ready, so I jumped up from the bench in the changing rooms where we were sitting, and took the hairband she was holding out to me. It was going to be quite a challenge getting Emily's thick wavy hair squeezed into the small, thin band. No wonder she was having problems.
My best friend, Izzy, pulled a scrunchie out of her pocket. “Try this, Sash.” And when I'd just about managed to make a fairly neat but rather stubby ponytail for Emily, Mrs. Truman, the PE teacher, clapped her hands, calling us all to attention.
It was the first PE lesson of the summer term and we knew things might be different from the last two terms. There's always so much going on at Silver Spires â it's just the best boarding school ever.
“Okay, girls, let's have a bit of hush and I'll tell you about the sport on offer in the summer.”
Bryony and Emily, who are also in my close group of friends, gave each other quick, excited looks, as though they were dying to hear the news, and I thought how great it must be to be able to get excited about something like sport. I'm just not a sporty person, so whatever Mrs. Truman was about to say, it somehow didn't feel like it had anything to do with me.
“I think you're all going to find something to suit you this term,” she began, as though she'd been reading my mind, “even those among you who think yourselves less sporty. The main two new activities that we're starting now are athletics and tennisâ¦”
A bit of a cheer went up across the changing room, and I saw two girls clutching each other's hands as if they couldn't wait to get started. Bryony and Emily exchanged another bright-eyed look, so I took a quick glance at Izzy, but her expression didn't show any particular excitement. She just seemed to be waiting for Mrs. Truman to carry on, like I was.
“Athletics includes anything that we do down on the athletics field, where we're going in a few minutes. There's high jump, long jump, triple jump and track events, such as short and long distance running, and, of course, hurdling.”
Quite a few girls started whispering about what they liked best, and Mrs. Truman had to raise her voice a bit. “As I said, there is also an opportunity to play tennis this term, but there are other very different sports on offer too. So, listen carefully, and see if anything takes your fancy. Remember, though, if you decide to do one of the weekend courses, it's a proper commitment. You can't just start off and then quit part way through.” Mrs. Truman looked stern for a moment, then carried on breezily. “Now, firstly, there's a sculling course, which is a kind of rowing, and that takes place on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings over three weekends before the half-term holiday, with a one-off mid-week session in the middleâ¦”
“I'm definitely going to do that!” a girl called Holly said. Then she turned to her friend, Mikki, and I heard her say something about rowing with her brother at home.
“Or there's a sailing course,” Mrs. Truman went on, “which is also over three weekends, but in the second half of term. And then there are two mountain-biking courses, one this half term, and one next. And lastly, for those of you who want a bit more adventure, there are a few additional one-day canoeing courses.”
“Yea!” said a girl called Sophie from across the changing room. “Sounds great!” And quite a few other girls agreed.
Mrs. Truman smiled. “It's important to think carefully before signing up for anything. You girls lead very busy lives here at Silver Spires, with all your extra-curricular activities on top of your lessons, so don't overload yourselves.” She smiled again. “On the other hand, there's a lot of enjoyment to be had out of sport, and you're amazingly lucky to have so much on offerâ¦”
“Is the sculling a beginner's course?” asked Holly.
Mrs. Truman nodded. “Yes, it is.” And I saw Holly's face drop.
I think Mrs. Truman must have noticed that too. “But there are seven sessions in all, so there's lots of chance to progress. The first one takes place here at the school swimming pool, then the others are at a lake not far away. Have you done sculling before, Holly?”
“I went out loads on the river with my brother over the Easter holidays. He's in a sculling eight but we went out together, just him and me, in a Virus double. It was great.”
I looked round my group of friends to see if any of them seemed at all confused, but none of them did. So maybe I was the only one who didn't know the difference between sculling and rowing, and had no idea what a “Virus double” was, though it sounded like some kind of illness.
“He let me cox one time, too,” Holly went on enthusiastically.
“What's that?” asked Bryony, and I felt relieved that at least one other person was in the dark. Bryony is Emily's best friend and she never wastes words.
“The coxâ” Mrs. Truman started to answer, but Holly interrupted.
“It's the person who sits at the stern of the boat â that's the back â facing the way the boat's moving, so they can direct all the oarsmen to help them keep together and go as fast as possible.”
“Well explained, Holly!” said Mrs. Truman. I agreed it was well explained but I still didn't understand what she'd said before about “viruses”. I'm not like Bryony though. I'd never dare ask. Mrs. Truman was carrying on anyway, so I didn't have a chance to ask, even if I'd wanted to. “All the info about the various activities is on the sport noticeboard, so go along and sign up for whatever you want when you've had a good think about it.
“And one more important thing,” she added. “General fitness. Up till now you've only used the main gym for PE lessons and dance, but if you want to use the equipment in the smaller gym to build up stamina â the treadmills, the bikes, the rowing machine, et cetera, that's fine. But you can
use that gym once you've had an induction, which is an introductory session to show you how to use the various pieces of equipment safely. Even then,” she went on, “there has to be a member of staff with you at all times. And I'm afraid you're absolutely not allowed to use the weights, under any circumstances. But if it's raining outside, for example, and you want to work on your general fitness, that's where the gym comes in.” Mrs. Truman smiled around at us, as if to see what we thought so far, but everyone was quiet and thoughtful. “The best time to use the gym is after school,” she carried on, “though one or two older students sometimes try to squash in a session before breakfast, as long as it's after seven thirty. I'm afraid teachers get priority before that. But now â” she gave us another bright smile â “let's get down to the athletics field!”
Izzy and I found ourselves practically at the back as everyone else broke into excited chatter and plunged after Mrs. Truman. It's not that we don't like PE, just that it's not our favourite thing. Izzy's favourite thing is ballet, definitely. She's totally brilliant at it. And my favourite thing isâ¦I don't know. I haven't got one. There's nothing I'm specially good at, really. I wish there was. It must be fantastic to be talented at something you also enjoy doing, like Izzy is.
I love the time of day when prep has finished and we're free for half an hour before we have to get ready for bed. Prep is like homework, except that we're not at home, of course, we're all in a big room and we have to work silently for about an hour. There's so much to get used to at a boarding school, but now that we Year Sevens have been here for two whole terms we feel completely settled.
As soon as prep was over that night, the six of us went up to our dormitory, which is called Emerald. All the Year Seven dorms are named after precious stones, but we've got the best one. Actually, I think we've got the best boarding house too â Forest Ash. The boarding houses are named after trees, and Forest Ash sounds warm and friendly to me. Our housemistress is Mrs. Pridham. She's very gentle and kind, but can also be firm at times. And our matron is Miss Callow. She's really good fun. Then there's Miss Stevenson, the assistant housemistress, who is the youngest of the Forest Ash staff, and although she's the quietist and can be quite strict, everyone gets along well with her.