And once again the process of learning which I went through proved not to be memorable, with one important exception: my little book of 'times tables'. This played a daily part in my life, and I believe I owe my lasting ability for basic mental arithmetic to the emphasis that was put upon it. It was about 3 inches square, in a shiny red cover, and I seem to remember that the tables were beautifully written out by my teacher. No doubt I had to copy and learn, copy and learn, to the point of absolute saturation. I certainly remember sitting at the little desk in my bedroom and poring endlessly over my little red book.
The second school I went to in Brum was a posh one - the Edgbaston High School for Girls. Here for the first time I had to wear a uniform, a gym slip and tie. I wonder how many of you remember the gym slip. I also recall navy blue serge knickers** with elastic round the leg, and a liberty bodice in winter - a sort of long cotton vest with rubber buttons on, to which you could attach suspenders to hold up your beige lysle stockings. Oh joy! Oh glamour! I don't think!
Here too I gathered a memory of misery. I spent my last two terms there in the boarding house, instead of making a daily bus journey, because my parents were in the process of house hunting from London. During one half term I caught mumps and could not go home for the break. I was so unhappy that I poured out all my misery in a letter to my parents. Letters home were, of course, monitored by the Matron - (would this be allowed today, I wonder?) - and I subsequently found myself in the awful presence of both the Matron and the Head Mistress, who harangued me together about being selfish, and upsetting my parents, and they couldn't let me send such a letter could they? Whether I wrote another one or just gave up I don't recall, but I have never forgiven that betrayal.
** Talking of navy blue serge knickers, they feature in one of my favourite rebel memories: In that last summer before the war, when I was 11, we had a visit from a great aunt whom we saw very rarely. I stood beside her at the table to show her something, and she put her arm around my knees. Suddenly, to my intense surprise, her hand crept up under my skirt. I was wearing my knickers with the elasticated legs pushed up as high as they would go – I hated any form of physical constraint – and my aunt was firmly pulling them down again to just above the knee. I was outraged, and made good my escape as soon as I could! How dare she?!
To be concluded ...