For months, I had wanted a pair of nylons. They seemed to me to be the symbol of being an adult. Here I was, working for a living, but still feeling like a child. Perhaps the stockings would give me the level of sophistication I needed to fully enter the grown-up world. I rushed to the shop and bought a pair, bursting with excitement at the thought of trying them on and swanking about in them. It was only when I took them out of the packet and tried them on, that I realised they wouldn’t stay up on their own. They had to hang over the back of a chair until the next time I washed the car and could buy a suspender belt. I felt let down.
Later I realised that hardly anyone feels as mature as they’re supposed to be. As far as I am concerned, maturity is realising that you will never grow up!
Mr Deverill, not content with my learning to read properly, tried to get me to learn shorthand and typing as well. However, I felt that my spelling knowledge was still too fragile to extend to shorthand, and the typing frustrated me. The teacher expected all members of the class to type passages together, in unison. I’d always end up typing in everyone else’s silence. Whenever I stood out and was ashamed, my temper would flare.
Mr Deverill had great patience, though, and he bought me a second-hand typewriter on which to practice. I became quite good on it -- or at least my two index fingers did!
I had known from the outset that the job would last only a year, but I was very sad, nonetheless, when it was time to leave. But lots of things had happened that would stand me in good stead in later life. Reading and writing were no longer shadowy subjects to me and for the first time, I had developed the urge to learn.
Mr Deverill knew of a vacancy for a clerk at the Prudential, for which my grounding in both the insurance business and bookkeeping came in useful. More important, though, was that someone was prepared to put in time and effort to help me without wanting anything for themselves. I still had a cynical view of humanity, but at least it was less so.