Sunday, October 17, 2010

13. School Days

Apart from geography and arithmetic, I really enjoyed school, there was so much to learn and so many things to do. I remember taking a shoe box to school and we were taught how to measure things by turning the box into a room. We had to work out how much carpeting was needed, and how much material to buy for curtains; it was like playing dolls houses, but it was good practical stuff. The one thing I hated was the needlework class where we had to make an apron to wear for the cookery classes which we would be taking the following term. The aprons were pleated and every pleat had to be measured accurately and marked with pins and, when all that had been approved, the stitching was done by hand! But I loved the cooking part of the domestic science class. We made jam tarts, baked apples in pastry, steamed puddings and, at the end of the year, Christmas cake. From somewhere I had found a little waist-up china model of an old fashioned lady wearing a bonnet, and so I decorated my cake as a crinoline skirt, with the china lady positioned on the top.

Mother had few friends, people did not want to get involved with our family problems, but Ernest and Grace Cook, with whom I had stayed while Maureen was being born, seemed to be around for a few years. Grace would come for the afternoon bringing mother a quarter pound of sweets, not the cheap two pence a quarter sort, but the good toffees that cost four pence a quarter. One afternoon, during one of her visits, we were eating the toffees while mother was in the kitchen making tea; I glanced up from my book and saw that Aunty Grace had removed her dentures and was licking toffee off them! Yugh! Uncle Ernest would call to collect Grace after he had finished work, and mother would give him a boiled egg with bread and butter, which he enjoyed. His dentures also caused problems and he would have to get the egg spoon into his mouth quickly before the top set dropped down to meet the bottom set! Top set, bottom set and spoon made a clicking sound as they met over the egg. It was most disconcerting. I remember all this with the greatest sympathy as I sit here with one tooth in my mouth and the rest in a glass in the bathroom!

For my birthday, dear Aunt Grace gave me a pair of silk knit, pink bloomers with elastic round the waist and legs. We did not exactly wear thongs in those days, but these were a bit extreme!

My special friend at school was Joan Gates who had long pigtails and a very strict mother. On rare occasions I would be invited to tea at her house, but that was quite formal and I had to be on my very best behaviour. Mothers seemed to be terrified of getting a dirty foot mark on their polished floor or, even worse, on the carpet. Kids did not run in and out of their friend’s houses then, and they would not dare to help themselves to cool drink or food from the pantry. Everything interested me, and I was described as “highly strung” or a flibberdedigit, which sounds like a sort of word my mother might have made up. I remember her saying to me one day, “For goodness sake, take your skipping rope outside and skip and skip and skip until you are tired”. Skipping was fun, and I worked hard to see how many times I could swing the rope over my body while my feet were still in the air.

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