It was strange being back at Oakfield Road after what seemed like a lifetime away. But soon evacuation was all behind us and life returned to an even keel.
Dougie and I went back to Stroud Green Secondary School. I had been in the youngest class of the Senior School when I left, and was now in the top class with only a year to go before leaving school forever.
One of the first things I remember about returning to school was all my classmates asking me why I ‘talked funny’, and my spending snatched moments here and there teaching them Yorkshire-speak! For instance to be ‘starved’ in Bradford meant that you were cold, whereas in London you were hungry. A Yorkshire mother might ‘play pot’ with you (give you a good telling off) and anything good was ‘gradely’.
Now I was back in London, I realised how biased my education had been in Yorkshire. In Bradford my geography and history lessons had been primarily concerned with the north of England. We were taught all about the mills and the cotton industry. I knew all about the spinning Jenny and Watt Tyler and wafts and weaves and mill girls and clogs. I had been completely unaware of these parts of our heritage until living in Grange-over-Sands and Bradford.
What in London was called Domestic Science had been Housewifery in Bradford. These lessons in Bradford were out of this world! On Housewifery days the girls would board a school bus and ride off into the wilds of Yorkshire, to attend a special school that only taught that subject. The school was a one storey, stone building surrounded, as you might imagine, with dry-stone walling and fields. The inside of the school comprised of one large room that was very bleak and Spartan. There were deep Butler sinks and black, iron gas stoves that stood on curly, metal legs. The tables we worked at were wooden and scrubbed white. Here we were taught how to make our own soap and how to wash clothes using a dolly in a tub. A dolly was shaped like a four-legged stool with a long pole coming up from the centre, with a crosspiece at the top, all made of wood. The washtub was placed on the floor and filled with hot soapy water and dirty clothes. The idea being, that you stood the dolly in the tub on top of the dirty clothing and pounded it, lifting and turning the dolly by the crosspiece: obviously the forerunner of the automatic washing machine!
We learned how to iron, using fluting irons. These were like curling tongs that put ruffles around the frills on pillowcases and doilies. Everything we touched was like something out of the Victoria and Albert Museum!
How different it was from our domestic Science lesson at Stroud green School. True, we still has to travel to another school, but when we got there the facilities were better than home! We had a purpose-built, fully furnished flat that we learned to clean and maintain. There was running hot water, modern ovens, and we learned how to cook nourishing meals and wholesome food using rationed produce. These were, as the teacher used to say, ‘Meals fit to welcome your fathers home from the war with’.
When the Americans dropped the atom bomb on Japan and ended the Second World War, I had just three months to go to my fourteenth birthday. The war had started so many years ago, when I was such a little girl of eight, and here I was, almost ready to go out in the world and earn my living.