…..'A sense of humour lends you poise, it gives you balance and it helps you to bend without breaking'…..

(HH Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda)

Menory Lane - the schools part 4

(Press the 'schools' label if you want to catch up...apologies to 'menoshukhi' seekers; I have started so will finish!)

After leaving Whitton Junior, I moved into Thurlstane Comprehensive School (as it was called then).  This was rather traumatic.  I have memories of schoolyard fights and detentions and such. Not for me - but seeing them happen.

It was rough and tumble.  The teachers were too...in retrospect of course, one can understand they had to respond to the prevailing student demographic.  This little lily nearly wilted though. In particular I dreaded "Home Practices".  What a name for a subject.  In theory it was inclusive to all. There was only one boy in that class. 

HP covered everything from how to iron a shirt properly to correct shopping methodology for balancing the budget... I kid you not.  Worst of all, it included sewing.

Among her many talents, mother was an excellent seamstress.  Until school uniform, everything we wore was made by her.  She was a great believer in unpicking unsatisfactory work.  As if that wasn't daunting enough, now I had to satisfy one of the most terrifying teachers ever.  We were to make our summer uniform.  A cotton shift dress.  Making the pattern from scratch.  I lost interest at the measuring part.  The whole business seemed to me to be tedious and unnecessary. This teacher shouted.  She scorned. She shamed. She gave detention.

Suddenly I was a criminal and all because of needlecraft.

That dress never got made.  It became superfluous to requirement.  Before the summer term hit, the family moved out to the country village of Henley and I was lodged into Claydon Secondary Modern.

At this place there was 'Sewing' and there was 'Domestic Science'.  The latter was great fun.  It involved the kitchen.  A favourite place of mine.

The former nearly paralyzed me.  What was it with stitching teachers?  Mrs English was nowhere near as bad as the first b****, but I certainly was not fond of her.  She was also our History teacher.

There was the option to get out of sewing if I took another technical subject.  I opted for Woodwork.  Loved it.  From that  I discovered I liked Technical Drawing and took that right up till we had to decide on exam threads.

To this day anything involving sewing needles is avoided like the plague.  I can do it.  It just makes me ill.

That first term at CSM I was shy, lacking in confidence and convinced I couldn't do anything.  Again.

It showed on that first photo taken for year ending. (Mind you, such a hair cut should have been declared a criminal offence!)

I soon settled; blossomed, you might say...Much happier - and apart from a couple of shortenings over the years, the hairstyle has remained almost exactly this ever since.

As an addendum; unbeknownst to myself, mother kept that unmade dress for years.  She offered it to me when I turned 21 in case I "should feel like finishing off business" - not one of her best judged moments...


  1. When my daughters were in school in the seventies and eighties "domestic science" remained a requirement. The oldest daughter obtained permission to take wood shop. I still use the little shelf. The youngest daughter took domestic science. One night after supper she said to me: "Teacher says we should wipe out the sink when we're through, and dry it." If I'd had a wet dish cloth I might have thrown it at her. I'd said the same thing to them for ten or fifteen years.

  2. We too had sewing at our school not too bad our teacher was lovely and ended up doing all the hard bits.
    My mother too sewed but she tackled my school uniform but was a firm believer in make it big and lets you grow into it, mine was huge and no I never grew int it but at least it was comfortable.

  3. Oh dear, hard to get past that first haircut!
    And as for school sewing lessons...
    Cheers, Gail.

  4. I don't mind sewing. Like a button or some such. And can do the straightforward up and down on my machine. But handmaking a dress from scratch? No, I wouldn't have liked that either.

    I went to a school that was largely theoretical and the only 'artistic' outlets we had were drawing, handicrafts (which did not involve anything made by any sort of needle and thread) and music. None of those three was particularly appealing to me and had to be endured. I fared much better with languages. Apart from French of course which I dropped as soon as I could!

  5. You are fun! I did 'Family Studies' and should have failed sewing. That said, I did make many articles of clothing, and they weren't so bad! (for me and my kids)
    My high school was very well-rounded, with vocal music, gym, math, and language arts. I loved school, writing exams, but didn't have many friends.

  6. Poor Yam. I only had to make my cookery apron in the first form ready for domestic science in the second and third forms. After that, this being a grammar school I said goodbye to cookery and sewing until I left school.


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