Reminiscing in the Barley

We have only one car at the moment and Whizz is away on business in it until tomorrow. This is not too much of a problem as, although we live in a village, it has many amenities such as a Post Office, two general stores, a farm shop, a coffee shop and even a library.

There are plenty of lovely walks for the daily dog tramp too but the one I have been using lately takes me ‘among the fields of barley’ to the chalk quarry mentioned in previous posts. The other day, the sun was beating down and the heads of barley were crackling in the heat. A familiar smell rose from the fields and I puzzled for some time over what it reminded me of.

It came to me the next day. It was the aroma of my straw school hat. The memory got me thinking about my school uniform; I can’t imagine any state school child today being seen dead in a summer boater or a winter beret, the latter in a horrible purple with a gold coloured badge and with thick school blazer to match.

blazer pocket
Blow me down I found a picture of my blazer badge.
That’s me on the right. Lawks, our summer uniform was worse than the winter one.

Everyone hated their school uniform didn’t they? In my school we tried to make it a bit more acceptable by rolling up our waistbands to make our skirts mini even though the pleats then stuck out like a tutu. Carrying round an interesting bag instead of a satchel also helped us to be individual. Hair was important: a pair of curtains, my mother used to call it. A parting in the middle then straight down either side a la Mary Hopkins or Julie Felix. Other girls – more sophisticated – would be found in the loos at lunch time back combing their bobs and painting illicit eyeliner above their lashes.

On one occasion, during a hot summer when the girls were staying cool by eschewing tights and stockings, we were called by the head to a special meeting. He told us we must wear tights, as they were part of our uniform. My friend and I were so affronted at the unreasonable demand that we made a point of wearing tights full of holes and ladders.

When we left school there was a ceremonial destruction of our school boaters.Some tore the rim from the crown and flung it, Frisbee-like, across the quad, but I discovered the natty trick of concertina-ing the rim and squashing it into the crown. When it popped out it looked like the hat of a flower pot man.

Boys of course had long hair. The rule was that it should be above the collar at the back. This was in the late 60s so rules were made to be broken, man. The main rule was Don’t Get Caught. We had a fantastic Headmaster, Mr Hayward. He would sweep through the corridors in his cap and gown – another uniform of the past – and the boys with the longest hair would dive for cover until he had gone by.

It doesn’t seem very long ago really but it is history already!


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