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A girl of your intelligence

Let's reel back the years, too many years, to 1967. It's the "Summer of Love", a time of immense cultural shift and re-evaluation of a number of previously long held ideas in society and politics. Sergeant Pepper is everywhere, and old orders are being demolished all around.

Maybe not so much seismic change is going on in Oakhill Junior School, a faded timberclad 1920's school for five to eleven year olds, ruled over by a fearsome martinet appropriately known as Miss Martin, a career spinster who appeared to harbour an intense irritation with, and dislike of, small children. Sharp tongued and bitingly sarcastic, she was feared by all due to her disciplinary code of slapping small hands with a wooden ruler, for such misdemeanours as not having a clean handkerchief, or even worse, unpolished shoes.

It's a grey day in March of that year, the 12th to be exact, and for reasons I cannot fathom, our class of 9 and 10 year olds have been furnished with electric sewing machines. Dressmaking, or even working in a garment factory did not loom large in my future plans, as I was going to be an Air Hostess - on one of our plane-spotting trips to Manchester Airport, or Ringway as it was then known, my dad had bought me a brooch saying "Junior Air Hostess" with silver wings, so I was already halfway there really.

To be precise, however, the sewing machine contingent is entirely female, as the boys are elsewhere doing something more gender-appropriate with hammers and nails. And of course the first step is to thread the infernal machine, a tricky and precise business of looping cotton over, through, round and under the tiny metal fitments in a devilishly complex manner and I just can't get the hang of this at all. Lacking patience and dexterity, I become more and more frustrated as my inability to complete the task, or even half of it becomes obvious. Red cheeks and too-bright eyes invite sly glances from my classmates, all of whom seem to have finished, and are sitting back in their seats, arms smugly folded and glowing with triumph.

"Really Christine, I would have thought a girl of your intelligence would have found this simple" booms Miss Lowe as she snatches the thread out of my hands. Barely suppressed giggles are quickly sushed, but it is clear that my classmates have thoroughly enjoyed the teacher's pet getting her comeuppance.

I can still hear her voice every time a simple task evades me, chiding me through the years. I bear her no ill-will. It's my fault that I still believe her.

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