On Fridays, my dad would leave for the pub, all dressed up, at nine thirty, getting there for ten. He made slow progress because of his wheezy chest. He also knew he could afford only one pint and had to make it last until closing time. Around this time I began to go to school. Until then I had been spending all my playing time in the field, which had the odd bomb crater, or Newsham Park which was a walk of about five minutes from our street.
I didn’t have a pair of shoes and wore a combination of hand-me-downs and rags that the boys or I found. Personal hygiene was not a major priority. We were infested with lice and I constantly had a snotty nose. In my best and only frock I began attending St Cecilia’s Primary School. The teachers took one look at the dishevelled child newly placed in their care and immediately made up their minds about me.
I was placed at a desk on my own and ignored for most of the time. I say ‘for most of the time’ because I was first on the teachers’ list for one event: de-lousing. The head’s study doubled as a medical room. We were sent in one at a time to the nurse. ‘Nitty Nora the head explorer’ was her title among the children. After the first time, I learned to fear the nurse because I knew that I was always infested. The frequent visits to ‘Nitty Nora’ were humiliating, frightening and painful.