Sunday evening, autumn, 1966. Muddy paws stretched out, Sheina basks in front of the glowing coals, whimpering through memories of an afternoon chasing squirrels in the woods. LittleSis gurgles, propped up on cushions between Ma and Pa. LittleBro and Action Man are busy conquering the Universe with a fresh haul of conkers. And the Andy Williams Show is just coming to an end. The Cookie Monster has gone back to its lair. Andy turns to us and starts crooning:
“May each day in your week be a good one…”
The horror, the horror! My spirits plummet with the reminder that tomorrow is Monday. My throat is already tightening with stress. It’s all very well for him, I think bitterly, talking of each day being a good one. He is not going to have to face Miss Offord’s sewing lesson tomorrow afternoon.
Miss Offord had taught the Third Years for ever and was feared by one and all. She wore a twin-set and had hair so rigidly curled that we were convinced she kept it on a bed-post overnight. I left her class knowing all my tables and with whole chunks of poetry stored away by heart; for which I am very grateful whenever I feel the need to stand and stare.
She also left me with a horror of sewing.
I am from a family of seamstresses. Nanny whipped up colourful shirts for Pa to wear at Ronnie Scott’s. Aunt Bess dressed generations of brides, myself included. The baton passed securely to my niece Rozza, whose awe-inspiring creations can be seen here.
But the gene leapfrogged me and the needle is not my friend. We – the girls, that is – of course – were making tea-towels. I’d missed the lesson when we were taught how to hem, though I can’t for the life of me remember what we’d been doing in the lesson before that. Surely tea-towel making doesn’t have anything to offer other than hemming? Anyway, I got in a hideous muddle, as usual, and joined the queue at her table to be sorted out.
The outcome of which had me traipsing round the other classes with my excuse for a tea-towel saying, “Miss Offord has sent me to show you how bad my sewing is.” One particular teacher, the cow, held up my work to ask her class if they had ever seen more disgraceful hemming, children, isn’t it dreadful!
I’m over it now, of course. That was nearly fifty years ago, after all, and I am a competant Renaissance woman. Granted, I have had the curtaining fabric for two months but I’ve been very busy at work. I couldn’t possibly have tackled it before half-term. I can do this; it will be a doddle. It’s just hemming, after all.
My throat hurts.