Friday, December 22, 2006

Boarding schools

I grew up reading books that romanticized all girl boarding schools, talking of lacrosse and midnight parties and girly fun. This following post from the blog of Dr. Crippen, NHS doctor, shatters the illusion for me.

Warning: this is not for the faint of heart.

Irene came today. She is 55. She works as an insurance company executive. A child of the sixties. She has piles. Bad piles. They had been troubling her for several weeks. A little painful, a lot of bleeding.

“It’s like a bunch of grapes hanging out of my bum,” she said. I had a look. Dear me. She got the Crippen Golden Suppository of the Year award. They looked awful. Worst I have seen in ages. A proper rectal examination was out of the question without an anaesthetist.

I asked her if she had had any change in bowel habit.

“Absolutely not. I always open my bowels at exactly 7.45 am in the morning. Always have”

Some patients, usually older than Irene, believe that if you do not open your bowels at the same time each day, the world will stop turning. She did not seem that sort of person. I smiled and said something about her being very precise about the timing.

“Oh yes,” she said, “It was school. I went to a boarding school. We were trained to do this. I have never got out of the habit.”

The story emerged. She was at a famous English girl’s boarding school for six years from the age of eight to fourteen. I had better not mention the name of the school but you will have heard of it. At 7.30 a.m. every morning, the girls had to go to the lavatory, open their bowels, and then stand outside with the door open until matron had inspected their stools.

I was entranced. A thought occurred. “I don’t want to pry, but wouldn’t the toilet tissue…er…obscure the evidence?”

No. Because the girls were not allowed to wipe their bottoms until matron had conducted the stool inspection. And what happened if they were unable to perform? They were given a second chance after lunch. If there was no result this second time, they were taken off to the sanatorium and given a dose of some foul tasting brown medicine, and the process was repeated the following day.

Those of you who have experience of English girl’s boarding schools will believe it. The rest of you may not. You may even mock. But let me remind the doubters amongst you that it was this sort of public school training that made the British Empire what it is today.


Indeed. I'm sure the British Empire would have been nothing without regular bowel movements.

Ahem.

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