My first school uniform was smart,
a green box pleated tunic with plaited girdle,
worn over a cream blouse
with green-and-grey striped tie
a green felt pudding basin hat to top it off.
My second school, Saint Bernard’s Convent,
gave us a beautiful royal blue
pinafore dress with a plain grey shirt.
Again the tie was stripey – blue and grey,
not to show the dirt and creases.
Another unspeakable felt hat worn in winter
while in summer we had a giant straw cartwheel –
take it off out of school at your peril.
Held on with elastic under my chin
it acted as an airbrake on my bike.
Long grey socks held up with elastic garters
and later, thick and wrinkly
elephant-leg ribbed grey stockings
with suspenders attached to my Liberty Bodice
with buttons that were always breaking,
walking home clutching stocking tops
through all the other clothes
and cringing with shame.
Minchenden Grammar School around my time. there
My third school – the Grammar School –
was a little more relaxed –
grey skirts and blouses– any shape,
with green blazers and yes, you’ve guessed,
a green and grey striped tie
but, thank God, no more hat.
Long blackout bloomers for games ─
we tucked them up as high as we could,
against the rules laid down by Old Lil.
To reach the girls’ hockey pitch
we must creep red of face past boys’ football games,
trying not to be noticed but hearing the sniggers
and rude remarks about thighs and bums.
Furtive sidelong glances sought the current heartthrob.
Uniformity forced on disparate beings
was designed to promote conformity,
but we all turned out so differently
plaits and pony tails and bobs became
back-combed bouffant beehives,
elfin Hepburn cuts, DAs or pageboys.
Scrubbed faces stayed that way
or embraced the art of maquillage.
Vive la différance.
I believe garters and suspenders have different connotations in American English – In English English a garter is a simple ring of elastic worn round a woollen sock at knee level with a cuff turned over, to hide it. A suspender is rather more sexy: a kind of clip fixed to the top of a stocking, with a short length of elastic sewn onto a fancy belt which Americans call a garter belt. Thank God for the invention of tights.
Pictures borrowed from the School Websites.
at dVerse we’re having a free verse kick – memoir, life, our time, our place.