This usually presented a problem. If I didn’t have any money from selling wood or coal I’d go and knock on the neighbours’ back doors and tell them that my mam wanted to borrow a shilling. As long as she didn’t find out, I was safe. If none of the neighbours had any money I’d ask the cookery teacher if I could take part in the class on condition that I washed and tidied up afterwards.
I enjoyed the classes where I learned how to cook and clean. We were taught how to make beds and even wash clothes. The teacher asked us to bring in some dirty clothes, such as socks or something else small, to wash in school. Almost everyone brought in clean pairs because their mothers wouldn’t allow them to bring in dirty clothes because of the shame. The teacher was less than pleased; she wanted dirty clothes.
So I went around the houses in Pringle Street and asked the neighbours if they wanted their socks washing. The problem was that people had very few pairs of socks and, knowing the Lewington reputation, they were very reluctant to give them to me for fear of not getting them back. The teacher appreciated the effort, though, and it helped me on the occasions that I was unable to pay for the cookery ingredients.
School just fizzled out. I was there so rarely that I felt I’d left long before I did so officially. As I got older it became less easy to fade into the background of fields. For a start I grew too big to hide easily in the grass and all the waste land was beginning to be used for building. The only safe place was behind the high walls of the Jewish cemetery.