A girl must keep her friends close to her chest.
I became vaguely aware – at the age of about 12 that changes were very much occurring around me. My erstwhile sand-pit and Wendy-house friends were becoming a different shape – mentally, physically and very mysteriously. Dear mother explained “things” in a ladylike and biological manner, satisfying us both. I continued to observe owl-like, from behind my glasses.
The walk to the Rezende street bus station became more engaging, not just a mechanical wandering from school to omnibus, for there were humans to observe. Girls did not walk as much as glide and undulate, from side to side, at the hip. Boys began to strut and stumble – apparently over their shadows rather than more tangible obstacles. It was deeply fascinating. I had the great fortune to live on the same ‘bus route as C. She was tall, blonde and exotic – having “foreign” parents. I only ever saw C’s mother who was just wonderful – again blonde but beautifully dressed in lovely clothes and fully “made-up”. And she seemed to speak just like Zsa-zsa Gabor. There she was, chatting away insouciantly in some European language – one not taught at School. Gosh.
I sometimes sat next to C. It was a jolly good place from which to observe her effect on the juvenile male population. Her glowing aura produced a fascinating array of responses……Jaw drop and dribble, to the need to express one’s manliness by thumping the next male in line. A scuffle surely followed, as night follows day. C. maintained her poise and appeared utterly unmoved by these posturings. I observed with widening eyes and much puzzlement. Clearly C. was a glowing blonde goddess in green school uniform, but why did these chaps not say hello, smile, nod or do something sociable? Swear-y, sweaty scrimmages and the resultant outbursts of Bad Language seemed an unusual way of making a favourable impression. Puzzling.
School uniforms were very much a victim of the late 1970s urge for modernisation. Green poly-cotton with l-o-o-o-ng white collars. Two cuts. One with a sort of saddle stitching somewhere between the waist and the hips, which suited the cigarette-figured juniors, but made any girl with a curve look much mafuta. The second had a darts-in-towards-and-curved seam-beneath-the bust affair. More flattering , but Drew Attention to the curves beneath. Extremely. Some wag of a dress designer must have had his Lolita shades on when he penned that particular frock. Did the PTA not notice? They were supposed to be worn No More Than 4 inches Above the Knee Whilst Kneeling. Yeah, right….hot weather and the sanctions -bound economy meant that as legs grew longer (and shaplier) dresses became shorter and shorter. Topped off with a straw boater and school hatband, it made for fetching ensemble. And brown lace-up school shoes, with white ankle socks…….
About this time, we girls went through that rite-of-passage, a trip to the Lingerie Department of either Barbours or Saunders Department store for the first fitting of the brassiere. Exciting though this was, getting used to wearing the wretched thing took weeks…..the lace seemed to be woven from bleached barbed wire and the damn things itched and constricted. Like most minor discomforts, one became accustomed to their clutches and even the tedium of hand-washing the wretched things. They also were Never Hung On the Line Outside, Dear. Not lady-like. Instead, they were suspended from the coat-hanger with wee loops of string and clothes-peg confections and allowed to dry in the decorous gloom of the bathroom. Though I never really understood what dreadful things would ensue if these items of underwear were chanced upon and glanced upon by those who should not. They were perfectly decent, functional 32AA items, after all.