Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Talking of knickers..


...which I was, a post or so ago, I was reminded of the disastrous bright blue knickers with which my unconventional mother equipped me for grammar school. I was scarred for life by those knickers. They feature in my novel, The Birds, The Bees and Other Secrets, as does a mother who closely resembles mine (I just came across the  unedited proofs of the novel, while searching for scrap paper, and suddenly thought this was an ideal opportunity for a tiny bit of advertising. I am quite exceptionally  bad at advertising, so please bear with me. Fellow-writers will understand.)

Mum was packing my school trunk, the uniform list at her side, piles of clothes scattered over the bed.

Skirts, navy, two. White blouses, five. Five white blouses? Whatever do you need five blouses for? Three should be plenty.” She ticked them off her list. “Long grey socks, six pairs. Six pairs of socks? You’ve never possessed six pairs of socks in your life. What can they be thinking of. I’ll send four.”

We had already been through all this in the uniform shop, so I didn't take too much notice. After all, no-one was ever teased for having only four pairs of socks.

The knickers were another matter.

Typically, my mother had refused to buy underwear at the uniform shop where, it has to be said, the prices had been craftily hiked up to match the prestigious standing of the school. Knickers and vests could be bought anywhere, she reasoned. There was no point in paying the earth for knickers and vests.

I’ll get them, Cass,” she’d said. “No need for you to come with me this time.”

She had returned in triumph.

Really cheap, Cass. A bargain, and good quality, too. One hundred percent cotton.” She tipped out her purchases onto the kitchen table. “How about that?”

To this day, I shall never know how my mother managed to find royal blue knickers. School knickers, as everyone knows, come in bottle green, grey, or navy. No-one wears royal blue knickers. No-one (as far as I know ) even sells royal blue knickers.

But Mum - they're the wrong colour.”

Blue. They’re blue. Nice bright blue knickers.”

But the list says navy! I can’t wear those. I’ll get into trouble.”

Don’t be ridiculous, Cass. Of course you won’t. Who’s going to see them, anyway?”

Everyone!” I wailed. “Everyone will see them. I’ll have to do gym in them. It says so on the list.”

Oh, gym!” said Mum dismissively. “What does it matter what you wear for gym? It’s not as though you’re going out in them.”

This is exactly what happened to me. I never quite forgave her. And I never found out where she found those horrible knickers.


33 comments:

  1. Frances, you write very well. I have about twenty pairs of socks. I'm still a two pair of knickers man. If you think I'm bad I had a Dutch lass on a boat who just used to air her clothes in the sea breeze and recycle the whole outfit skin to outside every other day. The funny thing is if you don't use deodorants you don't smell after a week. I use Pears soap for washing myself.

    Reminds me I have laundry to do but I'll have lunch first.

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    1. Hmmm. I think it's probably just that you got used to the smell, Adrian.

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  2. Those gym knickers have a lot to answer for. As one of three girls at the same school, the early risers got first dibs, so I ended up with the yuckiest green ones. Then I found some regent green brinylon ones which fit snugly and, although always in trouble for wearing the wrong colour, I loved those knickers!

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    1. L, my mum did eventually come up,with navy BRIEFS. Even worse.

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  3. I remember that passage, Frances - and I also guessed the mother in your novel was based on your own.

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    1. My mum was an amazing woman, Wendy, except when it came to conformity.

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  4. My school had Royal Blue knickers. They were some kind of thick flannel like fabric with big bunchy elastic sides. We had a pudding-shaped hat with a bow on the side and a cape that never made me feel like Superman:(
    The only thing I liked about that school was, if we made it to Sixth Form, riding lessons, at the stable across the street, were included in the curriculum.
    Of course, my parents moved us, way before that came to pass.

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    1. So I was wearing YOUR school uniform, ER. That explains everything.

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  5. I remember the obligation to buy uniform at one expensive shop...and the changes to the summer hats from one form to another so that parents were obliged to buy the new one.

    We were convinced that the manufacture of the six panel serge winter uniform skirts kept the Clyde shipyards in operation...they could stand up on their own and would surely have been able to go to sea.

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    1. Ah...I remember school hats. And berets. With a tassel if you were a prefect. Happy days...

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  6. In my pre-teens (and probably during my early teens, too), it was all the rage to have white cotton knickers with the day of the week printed on to them in a romantic script type, in a different colour for each day (the writing, not the fabric itself).
    Even now, several decades later, the days of the week have a certain colour to them in my head. I suspect that it is the original colouring of the writing on those knickers that has firmly connected itself to the days of the week in my mind.
    What an interesting study subject this is - The Influence of the Colour of Knickers on Young Minds! Has anyone yet published a paper about it, or could I be the first?

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    1. But I bet you didn't have to do gym in them, Meike?

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    2. No. I had a gym suit, a hand-me-down from my sister, who'd had it handed town to her by some older girl in our circle of friends and family.

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  7. I remember the passage from your book :)

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  8. This reminds me of the annual trip to Harrods; list in hand. Put me off shopping for life!

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    1. Harrods, did you say? You got tired of HARRODS? CM, I'm afraid there's no hope for you.

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    2. Only the school uniform dep't.

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  9. I am delighted to advertise your books…..Birds and Bees was excellent, and " Dead Ernest" is one of the most enjoyable books I have ever read……I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who hasn't !

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    1. You're very kind, Frances! Thank you.

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  10. Loved that passage when I first read it and guessed it might be based on reality! Poor you - although the ghastly dark navy ones were nearly as bad.

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    1. The problem Rosemary, was being different from everyone else, especially at a new school. Shudder.

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  11. I remember bottle green knickers, only available from the stuffy school supply shop. And a bottle green dress which you had to wear for ages without washing because it had a detachable white collar. Most kids today wear standard navy or grey available anywhere. No competition in our day. At least most schools do insist on a uniform, which solves a lot of problems.

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    1. Maggie you didn't go to a certain Prep School in Liverpool by any chance? The girls there wore green knickers (I was a boy so didn't wear green knickers and didn't have to tuck my gymslip into them at playtime when indulging in skipping or whatever it was they played with their gymslips so tucked). I just ask.

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  12. I'm all for uniform, Maggie. Just not those knickers.

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  13. I had two packs of knickers with days of the week on them. There weren't any for Sunday.

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    1. We're you not religious, Patsy? Or did you just go,knicker free on Sundays?

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  14. I quite miss my navy knickers and wonder if that is a unique feeling? However, am very glad they weren't royal-blue.

    I absolutely love The Birds, The Bees and Other Secrets and it must be high time I re-read it. That's my weekend sorted out. xx

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    1. Oh, thank you, Joanna. Please tell your friends!

      I'd miss my navy knickers if I'd had the right ones.

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  15. Frances I would stand on street corners and proclaim the readability of your books but for the fact that I'm shy and retiring.

    I have read very few books more than once: War and Peace 3X, CP Snow's Strangers and Brothers series 4X and I intend another reading before my demise, and a few others. However I have scheduled your current three for a re-read next winter (I need more time to forget them before I start again).

    I have to say, too, that anyone who can impress Adrian with books in your genre (not a genre I associate with Adrian really) has to have something really special. I know that sounded flippant, Frances, but it was actually a serious remark.

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  16. Mmm, I STILL LOVE wearing bottle green school knickers now!!!.

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  17. I need some more bottle green school knickers now, size 16, where can I buy them please?. I would like another six pairs for now. Thanks.

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