Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Getting up to naughtiness

Since the new St Trinian's movie opened last week, newspapers everywhere have been filled with female celebs telling tall tales about their own school days. And - surprise, surprise - Jade Goody came top for pranks orchestrated when she was at Bacon's College in south London, which included being suspended once for fraud.

But as the official Naughtiest Girl in one of England's poshest schools for five years running, I feel more than qualified to downgrade her attempts to a C-Minus. Yes - Lark Hill Convent, 1968-80, I look back to you in fondness for what were without doubt, the Glory Days of Badness.

It seems I was always destined to be a 'problem pupil'. When I was at the prep school, the headmistress, Sr Mary, phoned my mother at home one day and asked her for an urgent meeting.

"It's about Frances", she was told, when she arrived. "We of the Faithful Companions of Jesus are concerned about the way she walks."

No, I hadn't developed a limp. I wasn't dragging one foot like Quasimodo or lurching forward with a pronounced stoop. It was far worse than that. According to Sr Mary: " Frances struts and sways in a coquettish manner that is not appropriate for a girl of her age or upbringing."

I was seven. By the time I made it into 'Big School' my walk was the least of their problems. Unlike the belles of St Trinians, who had the likes of Russell Brand to tease and torment, there were no males at this school, apart from the occasional priest drafted in to say Mass. But we had nuns. Proper black and white, wimple and veil nuns, like the ones out of the Sound of Music, but even more antiquated and prudish.

Even showing a bit of spirit was frowned upon, so my coquettish strut, kohl-lined eyes and back-combed hair was licentiousness of the very worst kind. If they had known about my lucrative in-house racketeering, they would have had me excommunicated from the Church and sentenced to an after-life of eternal fire and brimstone.

Lark Hill Convent School was a mansion within a huge, private walled estate. The classrooms were contained within one wing, while the convent, including the Order's private chapel and living quarters, were at the opposite side. Dividing the two sections was a thick, painted black line across the parquet floor which under no circumstances must ever be crossed.

To break this rule was heinous. To trespass into the dark, cloistered corridors was unthinkable. To me, it was like a red rag to a bull. With the help of my goons - Paula Doherty and Julia McGuire (joint second place Naughtiest) we began to take guided tours for a select few Juniors deep into the silent, sacrosanct living quarters every lunchtime. For a fee, of course.

First stop, the nuns' bathrooms. There were four baths in spartan wooden cubicles. On a good day one of the nuns might be having a bath, always a particular highlight, as they remained fully clothed in a long white shroud and we could watch, giggling - silently on pain of death- through a secret spy-hole we had made with a compass.

Next up, after a white-knuckle dash past the Sisters' refectory we arrived in their dormitories. Jumping on the beds etc, was then followed by the grand finale of the tour: a visit to Reverend Mother's room which housed the Cupboard of the Confiscated.

Every bottle of perfume, can of hairspray, piece of jewellery, whisky miniature, pack of ciggies, sexy paperback, etc, that had ever been withheld, was kept here.

We were convinced that in the dead of night, behind closed doors, she would get it all out and dress up like a slut before falling asleep with a fag, a drink and a steamy novel.

Of course we then stuffed our pinafore pockets with contraband and flogged it in the playground at an inflated price to reflect the risk factor.

We never did get caught, although I did notice Reverend Mother looking somewhat puzzled one day as she confiscated a pair of gold hoop earrings off me which I'd swiped from her cache the day before.



A selection box gift for the stars will never do

Ageing supermodel Claudia Schiffer was asked in an interview recently to describe her ideal Christmas stocking filler. "A new blanket" was her reply. Fair enough, you might think.

But the blanket she had in mind wasn't the sort you or I would get for £15 in the sale at Harry Corry's. Oh no. What she wanted was a vicuna blanket from the designer Loro Piana, woven from the fine wool of an extremely rare, endangered species of llama which is only found high up in the Andes.

More precious than gold, the Incas used to breed vicuna for the sole purpose of clothing royalty and to harm one was punishable by death.

So with one 'stocking filler' costing approximately £7,000, you would imagine that La Schiffer is quite high-maintenance. But compared to some other celebs she's a doddle to buy for. When Justin Timberlake was in London a couple of years back, he arranged to have Harrods opened up at night-time just for him so he could buy a few wee extras for his girlfriend Cameron Diaz. Two hours and £1.5m later, he was just about finished. Which is precisely what the actress did with him a few days after Christmas. Perhaps he just hadn't spent enough?

Meanwhile the Becks, of course, splurge an obscene amount of money on themselves, each other and their kids each Yuletide. A typical letter to Santa from Beckingham Palace might include a Rolls Royce Phantom for David (£270k or thereabouts) a diamond and ruby encrusted necklace for Victoria (£1.2m) and £25k worth of toys, games and designer clobber for each of the boys. So no point in sending them each a Cadbury's selection box then?



A right royal ice-breaker

I was not at all surprised to see a spread in one of the Sunday supplements this week offering hundreds of incredible reductions on one of the maiden voyages on board the Queen Victoria. The new cruise liner was added with much pomp and ceremony to the Cunard Line recently but the bosses there caused much consternation to the public and offence to her Majesty by asking Camilla, Queen of Tarts, to perform the traditional naming ceremony.

As this job had, without exception, always been an honour and a pleasure for the Queen, many traditionalists saw this to be a very poor decision indeed. So when the bottle of vintage champagne failed to break after three attempts by the dowdy duchess, it was greeted by the superstitious sea-farers as a terrible omen, if not a portent of doom. Whether Her Majesty had anything to do with this is not known.

Of course it would not be difficult for the world's most powerful woman to arrange to have a bottle made out of specially re-enforced glass brought in specially. To have a gargantuan iceberg placed in the path of its first Caribbean cruise might prove a bit more difficult, though, even for royalty.



I've got the Christmas Number 1

Following this week's dramatic X Factor U-turn, in which simple Scotsman Leon beat freaky favourite Rhydian, the beleaguered media watchdog Ofcom has been called in to investigate its voting system.

It seems hundreds of fans were unable to get through the telephone lines to cast their votes for Rhydian and now, consequently, ITV are being accused of unfair practice.



In light of this dramatic development, described in the Press as " the biggest shock in reality TV history", I suggest that the official winner's song, which is almost certain to become the Christmas Number 1, should be re-worked with revised lyrics for the surprise winner:

"Many nights I'd prayed That Rhydian would lose his voice,

Why you all voted for him I barely understood.

But now I'm not afraid, I have a plan that's sure to work,

Then I will win the X Factor and be the next Shane Ward ...



(Chorus)



There can be miracles, when you believe

Though hope is frail, it's hard to kill

Who knows what miracles you can achieve? You will when you believe ...



So Dannii gets her Sis to dress in nothing more than lace

And shake her famous booty while the TV cameras rolled.

And meanwhile all my mates, and everyone in Scotland

Are jamming up the phone lines with 50 votes per household.



(Chorus)



And so the bookie's favourites came in second, cos it turned out I was too hard to follow,

Now while I'm making millions in contracts, he's in the Panto at the Apollo!

Ho-ho-hooooo!!!

(Enter Gospel Choir in silly gowns)

(Repeat Chorus to fade ... )

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