(For GD)

Today it is sunny for the first time in ages. But still cold. Very cold. Yet the very word sunshine makes me smile. And the word for smile in Spanish is sonrisa. And sonrisa is like sunrise. The most beautiful time of day. Dawn.  Every morning when I get up I watch the sunrise and I know that it’s a new beginning.

I started to get up so early when I was at boarding school in my last year there.  The nuns had closed the boarding part of the school when I was in the lower sixth. There had been about fifteen of us, but all the old ladies who had been looking after us, Madam Caroca, Matron, Mlle Norton, had either died or gone into homes so only the nuns were left and they weren’t allowed to sleep on the non-enclosure side. So all the girls had to become day girls. Except for me. I didn’t want to go.  And they couldn’t make me because they had promised to keep me! So I stayed.

I had enormous freedom. The only thing I had to do at six thirty every evening was to go round the perimeter of the school and make sure all the outside doors were locked. I think I’d find it scary now, but then it was just something I had to do.  But, if I wanted to go out after school I could, provided I was back in time to do this job. Or else I could stay out all night!

I had the whole school to myself from 4 o’clock in the afternoon to nine the next morning. I had a bedroom, a bathroom,  the use of the library and the nuns were detailed to keep me company at mealtimes.  They weren’t allowed to actually eat with me but we used to have fascinating conversations.  And because of Mother Mary Francis who taught me how to meditate I began to enjoy the dawn.

There were also practical reasons: the rules were strict. I had to have the light out in the evening at 8.30. Not good for someone who wanted to read. And there was absolutely nothing else to do. So I had a candle (imagine elf n safety now!) and the possibility of a very early morning when it was light.  Delightfully, when MM Philip discovered I was up and about at this time she would sometimes bring me tea and some flowers for my very spartan bedroom. I felt I was being spoilt – all that space, silence and freedom.  And it’s still like that when the sun shines first thing in the morning.

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