|14 Jun 2022
Did lengthy discussions take place around ‘what shall we do with Apple?’, I wonder? I never asked. The first thing I recall about the subject of my secondary education is trailing along the polished wood floors of The Block behind my parents and Miss Young. It was 1967.
NEGS must have passed muster because in 1969 the School became an educational stability in a peripatetic life. My mother, Ida Morse, had been a pupil at NEGS where her mother, Molly Mackenzie, had been a teacher. Ergo, I would continue the family tradition and attend a rural school in Australia, a country about which I knew little. But I had a raft of family in and around Armidale. Family who with kind patience overlooked the idiosyncrasies of a rather spoilt little expatriate girl with a crisp Pommie accent, from Malaysia.
Over the course of seven years at NEGS, and since, I have never regretted that arbitrary decision by my parents, because friendships made then have withstood time and distance. Those anchored teen years - along with the normal laughter, tears, and Iced Vovos - gave me resilience, a willingness to adapt if not always compromise, and a belief in myself.
Was I a brilliant student? Absolutely not. Nevertheless, subjects I enjoyed, teachers I admired and, in the case of Miss Young, feared, did breed a love of learning… but on my terms. NEGS gave me the confidence, combined with an inherent curiosity and passion for reading, that has allowed me to embrace each new country and culture. My early nomadic life continued and over a lifetime of relocation - twelve countries at last count - the values instilled, the experiences both at school and in the holidays - either in Australia or wherever home was - have enabled me to have the courage to say, 'Sure, I’ll give it a go!'
Have I had a career? Absolutely not. But various roles have been interesting, sometimes frightening and, even if in hindsight, fun. I started a Far Eastern Region quarterly magazine for a global charity. I’ve helped organize international conferences in Bangkok, Hong Kong and Washington DC. I qualified as an interior designer and had my own business in Scotland. I’ve sold SCUBA equipment in America. I’ve taught English as a second language in slums in Equatorial Guinea, West Africa, where I was also the British Honorary Consul, and along the way, I’ve written essays and stories.
Mary Cadell (née Alker), who started at NEGS with me and also left in 1975, wondered aloud recently what Mrs Hall would think about one of her students, me, being a published author.
'I was never in her class,' I replied. 'Mr MacFarland taught me English.' A somewhat unusual American who had been in the Peace Corps in Malaysia, he was a gifted photographer and instrumental in setting up a dark room in the science block.
Has science ever featured in my life? No, never. Even at NEGS where one of the sciences was mandatory. I chose biology as the easiest option. In retrospect I’m sure Mrs Williams was an able teacher but I never gave her a chance. With the dark room below her lab and the offices of The Chronicle above, it was far too easy to skip most classes. Working with Kim Rabbidge (née Woods) who was the editor, and Marnie Watson (née Nye), the typist, gave me a taste of what was to come, even if it took a long time.
Through the years, and numerous jobs, playing with words has often been part of a role. It wasn’t until I gave a key-note speech at a Families in Global Transition conference that I put any thought to writing per se. In 2012 Expat Life Slice by Slice was released - a memoir in which NEGS’s influence is gratefully acknowledged.
Then I tried my hand at novels and was hooked. Fireburn and the sequel, Transfer, came next. Crucian Fusion, essays, Tales and Conversations rolled off the presses last year, and in September 2022, Have You Eaten Rice Today? will be published by Vine Leaves Press. Whilst researching my next historical fiction, I’m working on a contemporary novel set in Venice.
Do I have words of wisdom for current students? Sure!
Value those friendships formed. Reconnect whenever possible. Remember the hijinks, the missteps, the fun. The School motto makes sense, so do things to the best of your ability. Whatever it is. Fold what you learnt into the strong women you will become.
That is the NEGS legacy!