First day at 'The Grammar.' I am wearing a black hat that looks like nothing any sane person would wear. Black raincoat and grey socks. My shoes are black and flat and I have on a gym slip that is identical to my mother's old hockey uniform. An unexplained piece of material of plaited black, white and grey circles my waist and hangs below my knees. It seems to me that I am wearing a sort of elongated ribbon. My hair is scraped back and makes my face ugly. A striped tie throttles my neck while my skirt reaches to a decorus three inches below the knee.
My mother and I advance nervously.I am worried about the hat. I already know I am in trouble if it comes off in the street. Not to wear that hat is seen as the most awful breaking of the rules of the school. The elastic cuts into my chin and the building we are entering looks like a grim prison. How can my parents do this to me?
We enter the dreaded school hall. My mother is definitely nervous.My mother is trembling and her hand grips mine tighter. I feel worried for her.
Miss Hills who was ancient when my mother attended stands strict and foreboding at the head of the assembly room.
I thought she was coming with me. I thought it was me who needed the support but my mother squeezes my hands again and almost runs from the room.
Timidly I enter all alone. Miss Hills welcomes me as I sit wondering about my mother. 'Is she going to be alright?'
I do not like this strict lady telling me the rules. I do not like this strange place where I am sure to get into trouble. I do not like anything any more and I want to go home.
Dazed and confused I get through the day. I am convinced that every teacher is going to cane me. I was so sure to get it wrong I decided rebellion was the surest form of defence.
The four o clock bell releases me from all but the silly uniform and hat. I don't dare on that first day to hitch up the ugly skirt or to remove 'the hat.' I do not want detention or lines or maybe they cane you? I don't dare because the prefects seem to watch like hawks secure in the newness of a newly appointed role. They are out for the kill and I can sense they want blood. They have been given power and want to use it.
The journey home is a nightmare. I am sure the prefects are watching me and I am sure I am doing everything wrong and I am convinced that Miss Hills somehow knows every move and tomorrow she is going to get me.
Home appears as a sanctuary. I am so relieved to be there.
Opening the back door throwing off the hated garments I question my mother about her day. Has she managed ok? What was wrong? Why did she run?
It seems my mother ran that day because as she entered she remembered She owed the headmistress a thousand lines. She was still convinced she was in trouble!
I never did get my mother to say what it was she had done. I have always believed it was something to do with her own awful black hat.
(The tradition on the last day of school was to mutilate the hat as badly as you could so that no poor new girl could ever suffer. We all enjoyed jumping on them.)