Above is a photo of my english composition file that I wrote in 1957. I just found it and read a few of my works, but decided not to reprint them here. They were not exactly prize suspicious, but my beginnings. Note the perfect handwriting, the bigger the better was the motto in school.
I don’t cheat, I am not clever enough to cheat, I leave it to the politicians and journalists. I think they attend lessons on how to cheat. If I cheated it would get too complicated, because I would probably have problems in remembering what the actual truth was and what I made up. On the other hand I have one memory of my school days where I really, intentionally, and with aboslute no guilty conscience, cheated.
It was Friday afternoon in the school. I remember it was Friday afternoon because it was then that we always had to suffer an hour of an elocution lesson with a teacher that had a name I can remeber, but will not mention it here. It was a sort of styled French name and I am sure she only put the accent on the last “e” transforming it into an “é” to make it more respectable and not sound like an unwanted insect. I learned in later life that she actually had a studio in London for teaching perfect verbal english.
I grew up in the East End of London, as most of the pupils in my school. We were all lucky enough to have passed the examination to go to a grammar school and so we had the chance of a good education. If you wanted to learn, then you were in the right place. It was the place to go if you wanted a university education after schoo, but this is all background. I did not go to university, because I did not really know what to study in any case. I entered the commercial world of shorthand and typing.
Why did I cheat in the elocution lesson? Because on that particular Friday we had a test on everything we had learned. How to breathe when speaking, how to use the right muscles in the right places and how to sound like a perfectly educated younge lady when talking. The school did not want you to sound like an Eliza Doolittle lookalike from George Bernard Shaw’s novel Pygmalian about a cockney girl that was re-educated in her manner of speaking to show people it could be done to be accepted as a lady of society, if you only spoke proper like.
No matter how I tried, my “a” still sounded like an “ay”, to he extent many years later, when married to Mr. Swiss that he asked why I always pronounced “Wales” (the country next to England) as “Wa(y)les” which I had never noticed. I was convinced my spoken english was perfect, but there are some things that embed themselves into your way of speaking that you no longer realise.
And so the test for what we remembered on how to apply the rules to speak properly began. I did not have a clue, no interest, and actually forgot all about this test. It was not an important exmination on life and death, just a check to see if we had been paying attention in the class. I was quite good at it actually. I sat innocently at my desk with my open small notebook lying on my knees so that no-one could see. And so question for question was answered perfectly as I copied everything from my notes. I was one of the A- results. I could have got an A without the -, but I did not want to overdo it. She might have got suspicious.
Thus it goes to prove that cheating does not pay off. Although I really try today to speak english like the english, my cockney accent is still lurking in the background. Most people in Switzerland do not really notice it, because their english is also not accent free. Politicians do not copy from note books, they no longer realise they are cheating.