Last year, my husband organised and participated in an epic bike ride from Queen's School in Chester to Buckingham Palace. This year, the team are endeavouring to cycle the length of Offa's Dyke from Prestatyn to Chepstow (some 200 miles). No mean feat - especially considering the current heatwave we are enjoying (suffering?!)
On Sunday night, I drove out to their scheduled overnight stop to show my support.
They were staying in Adcote School, a small independent day and boarding school in the most beautiful rural setting. The school itself was a gorgeous tudor style sandstone building with grand mullioned windows and set in extensive landscaped grounds. It was most impressive. Inside, the grandeur was still evident and as I walked up the main stairway, I couldn't help but notice a large oil portrait of Mrs Doubtfire!
It turned out that the costume designer on the set of Mrs Doubtfre was Marit Allen, former pupil of Adcote School. She had very clearly drawn her inspiration for the look of the character from the Headmistress whose portrait I was now admiring. The likeness was uncanny.
It got me thinking about some of the more iconic authority figures from my school career. One in particular sprang to mind. Ageing spinster, music teacher - Miss Nunn.
Miss Nunn had a face that always reminded me of the Child-catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Upon those unfortunate pointy and unattractive features she would plaster thick foundation. I would not have been surprised to discover that it was actually stage makeup that she used, such was the thickness she achieved - and it would crack - further adding to the Child-catcher illusion. I distinctly remember being fascinated by the skin/make up interface around her jawline. As a result , I am always very careful when it comes to blending my own foundation (on the rare occasions I wear it).
Despite her sinister visage, she was actually of a kindly disposition. She was passionate about her subject but had absolutely no skills when it came to classroom management. She was regularly the target of abuse from the naughty kids in class and her voice would become more and more shrill as she tried to restore order. On one particular occasion, her shrieking and the escalation of bad behaviour from one pupil culminated in a chair being thrown across the classroom at her. It did not hit her, thankfully, but we certainly did not learn much about music theory during that session.
Miss Nunn went by the nickname Winnie. I'm not sure whether her name actually was Winifred, but apparently she was named after or adopted the name of a famous concert pianist of the time. I have Googled 'Winnie concert pianist' but it shed no light on the matter for me. The name did suit her though.
There was much speculation about romantic liaisons between Miss Nunn and an elderly divinity teacher, Doctor Davies. I doubt there was any truth in the matter but there was a very obvious match between the two distinctly 'old school' dinosaurs. Nowadays, the internet has spawned 'fandoms' in which fanatics of popular TV shows can write their own version of the shows using the established characters. More often than not, this involves 'shipping' which enables the exploration of romantic couplings between characters that wouldn't necessarily have been in the original script writers intentions. At school, we all 'shipped' Miss Nunn and Doc Davies. We never tired of it!
The most remarkable thing about Miss Nunn for me was her choice of dress. She always, without fail, whatever the weather, wore a blue woollen two piece. I have to hope that she had a wardrobe full of identical blue woollen two pieces which she alternated but to all intents and purposes it was as though she never EVER changed her clothes. This idea was leant weight by the fact that the armpits of the outfit were discoloured to the most vile shade of brown imaginable. There was nothing more horrendous than Miss Nun enthusiastically conducting the orchestra (of which I was a member with my trusty clarinet). Her arms would wave at full stretch overhead to ensure everyone could see her (she was fairly diminutive in stature) revealing the unsanitary armpit area in all its gruesome glory.
Had I gone on to become a movie costume designer, Mrs Doubtfire may have had a very different appearance!
Although I would find it very difficult to assign an age to Miss Nunn, she surely must be long dead now. I wonder how many of the pupils who passed through the door of her classroom have such vivid memories of her as I do. A quick search on Friends Reunited Teacher Memory proved that she certainly hasn't been forgotten:
Short, big boobs, Fancied Doc Davis ? Not sure why !
2ND 3RD year RE lessons... total chaos !
Miss nunn always had a white face as if she had dipped her face in flour before coming to School