WE ARE OUTSIDE GRANNY AND GRANDAD'S CRAVAN, THEIRS WAS A STATIC CARAVAN AND WAS BIGGER THAN HOURS
The 3 of us were enrolled in the village school and I realised then
how academically brilliant my last junior school was. The form teacher was also very handy with his plimsoll, or ruler on the back of the knuckles, which I had never come across before. There was more to it though, but it is not for me to revisit.
I carried on with the playground games and we used to play "two balls" against the wall saying:
OVER THE GARDEN WALL (throwing the ball over arm against the wall)
I LET THE BABY FALL (dropping
the bll and catchiing)
MY MOTHER CAME OUT
AND GAVE ME A CLOUT (alternating the balls against the wall)
I ASKED WHO SHE WAS
SHE GAVE ME ANOTHER
TO MATCH THE OTHER1
OVER THE GARDEN WALL (over arm once more and then catch the balls and stop).
Kiss Chase was another game that I had never come across
before. I stopped joining in with it when the boys ran in the opposite direction to me!
I was always hungry when I went to school and couldn't wait for the free school milk which seemed to stave the hunger pains off, especially if
you drank the cream from the top of the milk first. My favourite job was Milk Monitor. I used to take the skewer and punch holes in the top of every milk bottle and put straws in them for the class. The skewer was put away in the teacher's
desk drawer for the next day. No sterilisation there!!
My school dinners were always devoured and I have never come across Gypsy Tart like the cook made since. Instead of being foamy, it was flat against the pastry and tasted
lovely. We had free school dinners. We were always "starving" when we got home and due to the confined space in the kitchen, we started to have a lot of cheap and cheerful tinned items. Not the home cooked from scratch meals we were used
Due to the restricted space we were living in, it was very difficult to get to bed at a decent time. All the strict routine of bedtime went out of the window, because if we went to bed early, my mum would have
to go to, or sit in the dark. So we were usually tired when we went to school in the morning and there was no time for breakfast, hence that is why I was hungry when I got there.
I took my 11 plus and only myself and
another girl whose mother was a widow, passed. The education from my previous school had stood me in good stead.
The school uniform had to be bought from a specialised shop in Chatham and nowhere else. It was very
expensive. It comprised, a pleated skirt with a white vest top attached to it. A light blue checked short sleeved shirt (for the 1st, 2nd & 3rd years), jumper, blazer, bowler hat, airtex sports shirt and navy blue knickers and raincoat.
The navy blue thick knickers doubled up for sportswear and right up until then end of the 5th form we would be out playing sport in them.
One of the tennis courts backed on to the road leading to the college that had
just been built and the boys going there must have thought they had hit the jackpot, see all these fully developed girls running about in their underwear. Eventually, a wrap over sports skirt came in to being. We obviously wore
socks first of all but in the 4th and 5th year you changed to a pink checked short sleeved shirt and straight skirt, together with 50 denier stockings, held up by suspenders. We used to run down the grassy hill from the school to catch the bus and
one day I slipped, tried to stop and ended up grabbing my friends suspender and rolling down the hill with it in my hand.
The cost of kitting me out was going to be £13.00. My mum had nowhere near that amount of money
and she was turned down for a uniform grant. Eventually, my granddad paid for it, but it was at nearly at the end of the school holidays and all that was left of the pleated skirt "dresses", was one that was too short for me. So instead of
going to school and growing into a uniform, I had to attend in one that I was growing out of. There was defintely no money to buy me two of anything, even if they had had anything left.
Before the bowler hat came in to being
the year that I started, a skull cap had been in use which was pinned by hair clips to the back of the head. We had to wear our hats to and from school and always be on our best behaviour in our school uniform. One morning in assembly,
one of the older girls came in with blonde bits in her hair, not stripes or layers, but big blobs of blonde, which was just coming in to fashion. She was hauled before the whole school and told what a state her hair was and then told not to come back
until it was back to its normal colour which she did. The difference with a grammar school, probably even now, is that no parent would jeopardise their daughter/son's place by being obstructive.
When I arrived at the Grammar
School, I qualified for a free bus pass as I lived so far away and free school dinners. I used to go and sit on the big girls' tables as they were all watching their weight and I got more food. My commerce teacher always instilled in us that
you should always be honest and hand things in. He was handing out the dinner tickets one day and he gave me 5 extra by mistake. Remembering his words, I handed them back to him and he didn't even look up to see who I was!
I passed my 11 plus, I did not find it easy at school. I could never do arithmetic. At my junior school in Luton, we had an arithmetic test every week, adding, substracting, dividing, long division etc. I was always the last to finish
and would still get them wrong, although I romped away with reading, writing and comprehension.
I have never taken an exam in maths. Yet later in life I was budgeting hundreds of thousands of pounds, etc, all with the aid of
a calculator. Whenever I try any of the tests nowadays, I still can't make head nor tail of them. I add up with fingers and take away. Don't get me started on Jane with a bag of sweets, giving some here and there, how many did she have?!!!
I settled in with my more well off classmates. The only girl to pass with me never actually arrived at the school because she and her mother moved away, so I had to meet new people and as most girls lived in the vicinity and I was
well out of the way from it, I didn't spend time with them after school. I managed to get by making people laugh, not intentionally, I may add and this took the attention away from my uniform and lack of material items the others had.
When I first started, the school went to see the Passion Play in Oberamagau every ten years. I would fall into the catchment period and could start paying in to it in instalments! We didn't have enough money to buy a passion flower, let
alone go to Austria for a Passion Play and all the extras that would entail. Many years later when my daughter was at school, I was talking to one of her classmate's mums. She asked me if my daughter was looking forward to going with hers, to
China. I was gobsmacked, I knew nothing about a trip to China. When she came home from school, I asked her about it because I always said she was to take every opportunity that came to her. "Oh, yes", she said, "the class is going next
week, they started paying instalments when we started at the school". Why didn't you tell me about it, I would have loved for you to have gone". "Oh no", she said, "I didn't want to go and when they asked me, I said you would never
be able to afford to send me!"
Up until the age of 14, I struggled with subjects at school, except English and History. I was top of the class in English, but the English teacher had such high standards, an A- is about the best
you could ever achieve. She was an exceptional teacher. When she retired, when I was nearing the end of the 5th form, a new English teacher arrived, with a bit of a modern outlook, it seemed.
She actively allowed the older
girls to call her by her first name if they wanted to. However, when I gave her some of my work to mark in pencil because I had forgotten my pen, she wouldn't mark it. We used to be taught in some of the classrooms in the Crimea Wing which
was used as a hospital during the Crimea War. The floor was stone and if you stood up to acknowledge the teacher when she came in to the room, the scraping noise was so bad, it made your teeth go on edge and your ears hurt. It was the only room
where we were told that we should remain sitting. As the new English teacher walked in, we sat still, she erupted in fury because we had not stood for her. She calmed down when it was explained why. My point is, she wanted this pally
pally outlook, but she was actually worse than some of the older teachers, when it came to etiquette.
Eventually, we had to choose our options. I knew I would never get many qualifications in Science, Maths, and Geography.
I wanted to do shorthand and typing which is what the school offered as well. I would have never qualified for university because I would have to get 5 'O' levels and 2 'A' levels in the core subjects to qualify. Entry was certainly much stricter
and I think, for the better then. Even if I had qualified, there would have been no money to send me and my mother was of the opinion that it was more important for boys to get qualifications, which seems all the more strange because she was a qualified
shorthand typist before she got married.
I studied French as one of the subjects for the first few years at school. I could understand simple words, table, chair, window, door etc, but could not make any sense when trying to
learn sentences. I never did any of the experiments in Science, because the cleverer girls got chosen for that. However, one day our teacher told us that we were going to learn chemical symbols and how they were were added together, ie, H2O = Water (2
atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen. She taught us the symbols first and that showed how they were added together. After this she gave us some questions to answer. Well strangely enough, I just got it from the beginning. An
example was calcuim carbonate CaCO3 (1 atom calcium, 1 atom carbon and 3 atoms of oxygen). I put my hand up with the explanation. Since it was a very rate occasion for me to ever try to answer questions in science lessons, she asked me. I
explained it to her, her face looking quite amazed.
Then she asked us how we would add to various symbols together to make a formula, ie, sulphuric acid. It comprises SO3 plus H2O (water). So to get the answer
H2S04, you add 1 atom of sodium and 3 atoms of oxygen to 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 of oxygen, which makes the total of 4 atoms of oxygen at the end. My hand went up again and I gave her the right answer. In fact, I don't think anyone
else got a chance to answer as she was obviously witnessing a major miracle with me romping along with the answers. It never did make any sense to me as to why I couldn't add up or answer other questions, but I felt a like a genius after my first ever