Memoirs ~ Ping…”Oh no not my knicker elastic”

Ping! Oh No, not my knicker elastic! If you have ever had your knicker elastic break then read on. This is the story of one child’s harrowing experience! The girl was in Class 6 at the time or Year 5 as it is now called. The teacher was a lovely lady with long mid- brown hair, and a kind warm-hearted smile. Her name was Miss Lawrie. She wore short skirts and long suede boots which were in keeping with the fashion at the time. She was an attractive woman, and far too nice to be working in a school like Kelvin Grove Junior. The school was rough and not for the faint hearted. Try as she would Miss Lawrie could not control the class. You had to be as tough as old boots to work in this school. Miss Lawrie was out of her depth, and drowning in a sea of chaos and child led conflict. By now you’re probably thinking that it was Miss Lawrie’s knicker elastic that snapped. Not so. To understand the enormity of the impending situation, one has to have some idea as to the establishment in which the event took place. The teacher, as has been noted was lovely, the school was not! The children or at least some of them were as you’ve probably guessed by now lacking in social skills, and in training for a future stay at Her Majesty’s Pleasure.  Some of the boys were scary and some of the girls even scarier still. Hopefully by now you are a little clearer as to how things were.

‘PING’ -” Oh no not my knicker elastic ” thought the girl who was instantly thrown into a state of shock, horror and disbelief all rolled into one. Everything that ensued was the result of a nine year olds race to rescue herself from ridicule and embarrassment. The girl put her hand up to gain the teachers attention, for it would be fair to say that she was a good girl, and liked to adhere to the rules, at least most of the time and to have shouted for attention would have been quite rude. Miss Lawrie saw the child’s raised hand and asked what it was the girl wanted. The child asked to be excused to go to the toilet. The teacher agreed to her request, and simply said not to be too long. Oh, she was so nice, that Miss Lawrie! Holding tightly onto her knickers as discreetly as she could manage through her clothes, the girl stood up to leave the classroom and make her way to the toilet. She hoped that no one would notice how nervous she was, and how red in the face from embarrassment. She hoped no one would question her. If they did she would feign a stomach ache. That is what she would do. This would explain why she appeared to be holding her tummy; just to be on the safe side the girl pulled a few good faces as well, as if by screwing hers eyes up, and opening and closing her mouth in mock pain she would appear more convincingly unwell. Luckily the toilets were only a little way down the corridor but nevertheless the walk to the toilets seemed to take forever. She walked slowly, trying to appear as though she were in great physical discomfort. After all, if one must pretend to have a stomach ache then it went without saying that one should look and act the part. Whether she looked the part or not remains a mystery. At the time she felt that she gave an Oscar winning performance.

Arriving at the girl’s cloakroom, for that was where the toilets were the girl looked about to make sure that she was quite on her own. There were two toilets in the cloakroom adjacent to each other both with the walls painted a pale understated shabby pink . There were grey slightly chequered melamine doors. Children observe the strangest of things at the strangest of times. The girl turned to tackling the problem of her falling down knickers. The knickers were nylon and had a purple design with a sprinkling of orange flowers. The girl never forgot those knickers. The girl got so involved in fastening the offending garment that she failed to hear someone enter the cloakroom quietly, and oh so sneakily. What was worse, the girl did not notice that she was being watched. There was a gap of some six maybe eight inches between the toilets in the single window recess which served both small rooms. The toilets were not original features but had been added much later and the builders had clearly not thought to fit the dividing panel flush to the window, so that generations of girls could enjoy at least a modicum of privacy. Why should they care?

Back to those knickers. Fortunately, the girl was quite practical, and had a good head for solving problems. She was wearing lace- up shoes. Good strong laces should be just fine to fix things for now, the girl thought. She unlaced one shoe and gathered up the loose material on the waist of her knickers, and tied the lace as securely as she could. This done, the girl returned to her classroom, still unaware that she had been spied on. She was actually feeling quite pleased with herself for her ingenuity and immediate improvisation. She wondered if others would have thought of so clever a solution. With hindsight it would probably have been easier to discreetly let the teacher know of her predicament, and she might have simply been given a pair of spare clean  knickers. The school always had spares of everything, including knickers, just in case of emergencies, and this was most definitely an emergency. Yes it would surely have been easier but then when you are nine, something like this is difficult to talk about. You’re not thinking in the same way you do as an adult.

The girl returned to the classroom relieved that her knickers were now tied securely. However, she moved about carefully just in case the lace worked itself loose. The fear of her knickers falling down was too awful to contemplate. It just didn’t bear thinking about. Returning to the classroom the girl carried on as normal until lunchtime. No one need ever know. Thank goodness for that she thought. After lunch the children gathered in the playground for play, before the afternoon session got underway. Anyone who noticed the missing shoelace was told how one minute it was there, and the next minute it was gone. Children often take things at face value. No one questioned that it seemed odd, and indeed unlikely.

Then, the girl’s worst nightmare happened in the guise of Wendy. Wendy was really not a nice girl. In fact she was a mean and nasty individual who ran a good line in bullying. Even some of the boys were afraid of her! She was someone to be avoided at all costs was Wendy, best to stay out of her way. Wendy made it quite clear that she had seen the girl in the toilets tying her shoe lace around her knickers. Wendy said it in an all knowing smug way, her weasly face looking even more weasly than usual; it seemed to empower her, and give her satisfaction that she had the upper hand in this situation should she wish to exercise any control over her involuntary victim. The girl felt her world crumble about her! She wanted the ground beneath her to open up and swallow her whole. Soon she would be made the laughing stock in the playground. The tears welled up inside her, and she could feel a knot forming in her throat that was making it difficult to breathe. It took all her effort to hold the tears back. She felt sick to her stomach and totally panic stricken. The girl wished that Wendy would get it over and done with! Wendy was cruel and hateful! Never before had the girl hated anyone, not really anyway but today she thought she hated Wendy. Today was the worst of all days, and the girl felt sure that there was worse yet to come. 

Wendy made the girl’s life a misery on a daily basis. Wendy and her partner in crime Robert used to wait for the girl and her little sister after school skulking in the shadows, only to appear from nowhere or so it it seemed. They would push and shove the girl along the road, taunting her and spitting at her, making fun of the fact that her and her sister were the only kids in the school who wore the correct uniform. The girl did nothing. She let them push her, she let them shove her, and let them call her names. She did nothing, and she felt that by doing nothing they would leave her sister alone. She was right. They never lifted a finger against her little sister. Whether the girl was right or wrong is a matter for debate. Some would say that she should have hit those bullies as hard as she could. Others might say that she was right to turn the other cheek. Some would say, ‘Well, that’s kids for you’. What was strange that year was that Wendy could have pointed the finger at the girl, and told the entire school what she had seen that day in the toilet. She could have let everyone laugh at the girl’s expense but she didn’t. If she told anyone, they never said anything. Childhood can be a tough journey for some. Children try to find their way in the world. Some seem to sail through with ease while others have many challenges and obstacles to overcome. It was a long time ago now and the girl has grown and dealt with far worse! Yet at the time those feelings of panic, and the fear of being ridiculed were very real. 

This really happened. The bullies were really called Wendy and Robert. I would have named and shamed them but decided to omit surnames to protect others. They know who they are and I can only hope that they changed and that if they didn’t, well that is for the Universe to decide. 

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Could it be forever…

According to my darling daughter I am one of Life’s happy hoarders. I have accumulated a great deal of ‘stuff’ shall we say over a good many years. The problem is that I find it very hard, almost impossible to let go of some, if not a lot of this stuff that has become a part of me. I am pretty certain that this is inherent in my make-up, and that I am in fact genetically disposed to this condition for want of a better word, though I am sure there are many levels of hoarding, and it is only by degree that it can become a problem for some people. My parents were the same, and my sisters also seem to share this tendency to gather all manner of gubbins. The words that come to mind are ‘…it may come in handy one day’; or ‘…I may need it one day’; or ‘…aw this has sentimental value’.  Also, I have to confess to having all manner of items that I have never used or worn which I have bought on a whim only to realise later ‘…what on Earth was I thinking?’, in addition to those items of clothing that I will wear again when I drop a few pounds. I have birthday cards, Christmas cards, Valentine’s cards, and anniversary cards stored in what I refer to as my treasure chest which in reality is a big white plastic box. Not only have I saved mine but I have also saved cards for my children, telling them that they will be grateful one day. Naturally, numerous drawings, letters and school reports have been preserved as any good modern Mum would do, would n’t she? Or maybe I am a little weird, and just perhaps a tadge too sentimental. I have a huge Cd collection as well as a large suitcase full of my old LPs and singles which I just cannot bring myself to sell or throw out, and somewhere in the garage, there is a record player but just now I cannot see it for other stuff that is in the way. I have the first record I ever bought. I was just ten or eleven at the time. It was David Cassidy’s Could it be forever with a B side of a song called Cherish . To many it may just be a couple of songs which I can now download on Spotify. To me though, this small seven inch vinyl disc conjures up childhood memories, and is a small part of the soundtrack that is my life. In every room there are piles of books, and  magazines which at some stage I may manage to read. Many times I determine to declutter to create more space and equilibrium. I roll up my sleeves to wrestle with this mammoth task only to find a few hours on, I am reminiscing over old times and happy memories, and just maybe I will delay the declutter for another day.  These things that I have gathered have made me laugh, made me cry and are part of the archives. So maybe I am not really a hoarder but rather a caretaker of cherished times and memories, and just maybe in the future these things for what they are worth will show and tell the stories that are mine and make someone smile. If like me they love family history and ancestral tales then just maybe I will have made someone’s day!

(Please note that this is just  an image of the picture sleeve. I am not sure who captured the image for the sleeve photograph. I did try to Google it but without success. If anyone knows the Photographer please send details so that I can give credit correctly).

© Liola Lee 2018

Rainy Days are not so bad…

Umbrellas are up and the rain has been pouring relentlessly on this saturated Sunday in September 2018. It is a far cry from the sizzling sunshine, and soaring temperatures of a few weeks ago; when  Summer was scorching my lily white skin, and attempting to transform me into something akin to a sun-ripened human tomato (…think red, think  burnt, think a ‘is that sore? sort of scenario). Fast forward to now, and we have returned to the oh so familiar territory of wind, rain and wellies. What is this obsession we have with the weather here in ‘old Blighty’? I mean it is nearly always, more often than not the general topic of conversation we have between ourselves and anyone else we care to stop and chat to whether we know them or not, pun most certainly intended. That said, we have enjoyed a spectacular Summer season with day after day of rocketing temperatures. The last time I recall such a hot, dry sunny spell without flying off to some distant shores was back in the Summer of 1976 when we officially had a drought  declared no less. There was even a Drought Act passed in Parliament that year, and a Minister for Drought duly appointed just to demonstrate  the seriousness of the situation.  Hot weather is great on the most part but when the heat becomes extreme, things can become heated or more to the point overheated. In 1976, there were standpipes in the street where people carrying buckets were having to queue for water. I am sure there are many of the Baby Boomer generation that recall this only too well. I remember Second hand bath water only too well, as water was such a cherished commodity for that short and sticky period of time, ‘ew’ I hear some of you younger ones cry but that was the way it was. You did what you had to do without question and without wingeing.  So today, many of us will have bemoaned the return of the rain but without the rain we would not enjoy the sunshine half as much! Rainy days are not so bad…but we do like a bit of Sunshine too!

© Liola Lee 2018