My cousin Sharon (not her real name - she insists on anonymity) and her mate - another Sharon (not her real name either, but her name was the same as my cousin's), used to walk to school together and my mother insisted I went with them on my first day at Manor. I was disgusted. Cousin Sharon was more like a big sister to me than a cousin, and although I thought the world of her, we got on each other's nerves like nobody's business. And cousin Sharon's friend, Sharon, was one of those blonde headed girls who was always flicking her hair around like she was in a Silvakrin advert.
And they talked about incomprehensible and disgusting things - like who was the best looking, David Soul or Paul Michael Glazer. I mean, YUCK!
I walked several paces behind them, and scowled. They didn't like me being there either and kept flinging contemptuous looks over their shoulders at me. Cousin Sharon had been at Manor for two years and 'knew the ropes', but I wanted to find my own way. After all, I wasn't going to be spending my time trying on lipstick in the loos and talking about David Essex.
We didn't have fancy school satchels. A lot of us kids used supermarket carrier bags, usually from Bishop's in Arbury Court.
When we got to school, the Sharons took me to the enclosed tennis courts and said: 'That's your playground'. Charming. Peering out, I felt like a chicken in a coop.
I was interested in Manor because my great grandparents and great great grandparents had lived at Manor Farm. I'd been to the school for various fetes in the past, but now was the time to give it a really good once-over and see if there were any last vestiges of my family's time on the site. But, although I subjected the trees on the playing field to a microscopic examination, there were no 'Great Grandad Woz 'Ere' carvings on the trunks, nothing at all.
I came from Milton Road School and there weren't many of my kind at Manor, but I quickly spotted a couple of familiar faces and we banded together. Moving into the school, I thought what a great heap of architectural inelegance it was (that wasn't my exact phrasing) and we went to the Lower School Hall and were allocated our forms and went to our form rooms and so on.
At morning break, cousin Sharon and a few of her pals came over from their playground to see I was all right. She'd been told to do that by my aunt, her mother. I scowled at her from the chicken coop enclosure.
Things livened up in assembly a few days later. We sat in the hall on cloth-backed and bottomed metal framed chairs, and the boy beside me suddenly let out a yelp and turned and slapped the boy behind him - who was looking a picture of innocence. It turned out the boy behind had kicked my neighbour's backside through the cloth bottom of the chair.
The bottom kicker, Stephen, turned out to be a fount of such jolly japes and we became great mates.
At one early assembly, I thought I'd strayed into an Ealing Films comedy of the 1950s or something. I have to change the name here, I would hate to give any offence to anybody, but there was a very nice, elderly woman we'll call Miss Bantry (I nicked that name from an Agatha Christie) who taught at the school. She was smashing, but always had a vague, distracted air about her.
She sometimes played the piano when we sang hymns and one day, not long after my arrival, Mrs Firman, deputy head, announced that we were going to sing the first two verses of a hymn (it may have been All Things Bright and Beautiful) and then she had some announcements to make. Mrs Firman was great - very 'old school', she'd been at Manor since it opened in 1959 and had been head of the Girls' School originally.
Well, we sang those first two verses and sat down, but Miss Bantry swept into the third verse on the piano.
'Miss Bantry!' called Mrs Firman.
Miss Bantry played on, oblivious.
'Miss Bantry!' called Mrs Firman again.
Still Miss Bantry continued to play.
'MISS BANTRY!' much louder this time.
On Miss Bantry went.
Mrs Firman leaned forward and called super-loud: 'MISS BANTRY!!!!'
Miss Bantry stopped, blinked and looked around. 'Oh, I'm terribly sorry,' she said. 'Is something wrong?'
Part 2 is here