There were two things most of the teachers in my senior school had in common:
They were old, and they were spinsters.
This one is a dead ringer for my geography teacher from 1968.
We knew times were changing when suddenly there was a male lab assistant (who ran like hell when faced with a class of drooling 5th formers), and a young maths teacher.
A few terms later, we had a total of 3 male teachers, but still the majority of staff were old and, to me, well past their sell by date.
Lessons were as dull as their pearls, twinsets and Victorian bloomers.
We didn’t have computers, and used biros or pencils for rough work and notes, though our homework had to be written in our exercise books with a fountain pen.
If we were lucky, we’d get a field trip once a year :
a local power station
The British Museum for Tutankhamen’s exhibition
and we even went to see a castle once…. or we would have if it was still there and not a grassy knoll.
You may have gathered I didn’t like school.
We’ll just revise that a little and say I didn’t like Grammar School.
It didn’t help that I had to follow in my sister’s footsteps, so comparisons were always being made and I was found lacking in languages, needlework, science, cookery and sports.
Being pretty good with numbers and music didn’t count, and quite honestly I just kept my head down and tried to blend in with the classroom decor which was as grey as the uniform we had to wear.
Having a big sister at your school also has another drawback, especially if your family, like mine, didn’t have a lot of money and were relying on hand me downs for my uniform. Sadly, we overlapped by a year, so I had to have the basics anyway.
My blazer was second-hand, my overcoat 2 sizes too big (I’d grow into it), I wore a pinafore dress (which had been sister’s) instead of a skirt (yuk!) and Mum knitted my jumper. Unfortunately she got the stripes the wrong way round and in the wrong place, but I still had to wear it.
We had a winter and summer uniform, and in those days, only one outfitter catered for our school’s uniform, so naturally there was a huge mark up involved.
Today kids can be clothed very presentably and cheaply from most supermarket chains.
PE was always a nightmare for me.
I loved netball, tennis and swimming, but because I was considered too heavy, I was forced to play hockey, do athletics and gym. I could not climb a rope (even with knots in it) for the life of me, so another failure.
I have never liked the colour yellow other than how nature intended it.
However, yellow was a key colour in my school uniform, and everyone had to have a regulation yellow dress for the summer.
One particular PE teacher was a bully and always seemed to have it in for me at every opportunity. She would make me run further than my classmates, would push me to cover the whole of the hockey field in defense, and she would ridicule me in front of everyone so it was thanks to her that I got my weight and anxiety issues.
She put on my school report that I should lose weight and try not to be so slow changing.
I remember that day.
It was a Wednesday and the annual Speech Day so we all had to wear our yellow dresses.
Being my first year, mine was second, third or possibly fourth hand as it had come from the school’s ‘previously owned’ box and was a little threadbare (you could see my underwear). Mum still had to pay for it though.
Our last lesson had been PE, and we had all been told to shower.
I was the last to come out of the changing room and Teacher pounced on me for being slow.
I wish I’d had the courage at the time to tell her that my yellow dress was two sizes too small when it had been bought for me but all Mum could afford. I had been taking care not to tear it getting dressed as it was the only one I had.