All the things you secretly miss about your mixed boarding school

Nudity was the norm in your boarding house

Boarding school was dreadful in parts. Tardies, Sin Bins, gatings, awful food, cringeworthy discos, questionable uniform, the bitchiness – you name it. But there were the odd bits which will always bring a smile to your face: even if the memory of waking up at 6:30am every day for chapel makes you feel nauseous.

Inter-house sporting events got physical

It may as well have been the Hunger Games. There was something animalistic in the air as you stamped down to the muddy playing fields in your houses, bedecked in whatever your house colour was, smears of face paint striped across your cheeks like tribal markings. Someone likely had a portable speaker and you aggressively chanted some Kanye as you marched to the battlefields of the Astroturf. Someone likely broke their leg or at least sprained an ankle for the house and spent the next two weeks clattering into chapel on crutches.

You got scared to play the ‘sporty’ house (how did they all manage to end up in the same house anyway?) – if it was a girls’ house they were sure to have matching hairstyles, probably scarily immaculate Dutch braids. It was shit at the time, playing hockey in the freezing rain, but the communal baths and pizza afterwards made it all worth it.

Houses even managed to compete at singing

Markedly different from your sporting events but still the same idea. For one day of the year the whole school was transformed into the cast of a Broadway musical. After weeks of hearing people hum their house song virtually anywhere, the night of inter-house singing brought all that energy together in one terrific crescendo. There’d be the genuinely great girl’s house which would almost definitely win it (again), and the boy’s house which took the chance to exhibit some questionable choreography. It didn’t matter if you were on stage singing or in the audience screaming yourself hoarse: everyone got involved, and everyone loved it.

Prize giving day was the most over the top occasion 

Commem; Speech Day; Prizegiving – whatever you called it, Commem was the one day a year where you genuinely saw where the £12k a term was going. They pulled out all the stops: there were hymns; concerts; sketches; recitals; art exhibitions. And cricket. Lots of cricket. The food – probably a buffet lunch – was also actually edible for the first time ever, causing your parents to wonder why you ever complained. The CCF or the Rugby 1st XV likely also did ‘the Gun Run’. Everyone watched that: who wouldn’t want to see the school’s fittest guys dismantling a massive cannon? It was pompous, it was over-the-top, it was private school all over: but there’s nothing quite like it.

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Getting drunk at the Christmas dinner was the highlight of the year

Any excuse to whip out a three-course meal and the prosecco (if you were over 17 with parents’ permission, of course). It was a lot of fun to get ready with your gal pals, running from dorm to dorm asking to borrow makeup, sitting in the corridor with your best friend straightening your hair. About a thousand pictures later you’d go and eat an actually decent Christmas dinner, routinely sneaking off to the loo to neck sloe gin from the hip flask strapped to your thigh under your dress like an alcoholic’s garter. They often got messy, someone usually got caught drinking, but it was always the highlight of the year.

You had to get creative with hook-up spots

Where’s the fun in finding someone on a night out and going back to a boring bed? Half the fun of getting with someone at school was the thrill of not getting caught. Behind the art block; the fives’ courts; the disabled toilets in the music school; in the common room with the sofa barring the door shut – you name it. It was always that much more exciting to think prospective parents could come in at any moment. What was much less exciting was trying to explain what you were doing to the head of Sixth Form when you actually did get caught.

You had weirdly close relationships with some teachers

You probably have a fair few numbers of teachers saved in your phone and a handful added on Facebook – maybe you’ve drunk texted one on a particularly messy night. You’ve likely cried in front of a good few; received life advice from that one teacher who was essentially your second mother; been to your tutor’s house to play croquet in their garden. You feel so anonymous in lectures, one out of hundreds. You miss taking selfies with your Latin teacher: your seminar tutor averts their eyes when you walk past them in the street.

There were no boundaries in your boarding house

Everyone saw everyone naked, and that was just standard practice. The lock on the bathroom door was pointless: you’d shower together; bathe together; continue conversations on the toilet with the door wide open. There was no time for privacy or squeamishness in a boarding house. Your uni friends aren’t quite so grateful when you ask them to feel how smooth the area around your genitalia is post-shave.

Caecilius est in horto, till at least GCSE

Caecilius est in horto – four words that any ex-Latin student will have branded into their brains forever. It was painful, it was shit, it was compulsory: but the lessons were funny. The suffering of learning swathes of useless vocab brought everyone together, and as no one ever took it seriously, Latin lessons were the perfect time to piss around. You probably like your degree – hopefully a little bit at least – never again will you bond over hatred of a subject in quite the same way.

Having tea in lessons made everything more bearable

This was a big deal. Having a steaming mug on your desk just made listening to a recounting of Stalin’s foreign policy that much more bearable. Yeah, you can come into lectures and seminars with a flask of whatever the fuck you want, but there’s no excitement in that. Making tea in a lesson was unorthodox, it was unusual, it was a treat – you miss those innocent joys.

You knew all the words to Jerusalem

Hymn practice was always lit, but it really went off when the opening chords of Jerusalem came blaring out the organ pipes. Everyone half-sang, half-shouted it, hymn books hanging limp in people’s hands: everyone knew the words – if you didn’t, that was just embarrassing. So much as glancing at your book was the most shameful thing imaginable. Singing it at your Leavers’ service also probably made you cry. Yeah, you’ll belt out Mr. Brightside on the dancefloor, but it’s not quite the same as Blake’s masterpiece.

You got to pet your teacher’s dog

Dogs were everywhere. Maybe your history teacher had a border terrier or your economics teacher had a lab, but you’d make sure to get to the lesson early to give your favourite classmate a quick snuggle. I’ve yet to meet any sort of canine in any lectures, and it’s troubling to say the least.

You lost count how much toast you’d eat

Toast for breakfast, toast at break, toast before games, toast before bed. You have no idea how you inhaled upwards of five slices a day, chocolate spread lathered generously over them all, without becoming morbidly obese. You can’t even afford to eat that much toast anymore. You miss toast.

Napping with your friends in free periods

Boarding meant beds, and beds meant the irresistible urge to nap all the time. If you and your bezzie had a free period at the same time, it meant climbing into bed, getting as comfortable as you could in a Zara pencil skirt, and catching up on some precious sleep. Nowadays you only share beds with one-night-stands, waking up sweaty and desperate for them to get the fuck out as soon as possible so you can shower.