Sympathetic teacher

Mr Deverill was not impressed when I told him, and the next night I was back at the school. The difference from school, I realised, was the attitude of the teacher. She was sympathetic, telling me I should have told her the difficulties I was having so that she could have set separate lessons for me.

Everybody might know that I was ‘stupid’, but at least someone was now prepared to help me change that.

It struck me as strange, though, that there were no special classes for people like me. The basic English classes assumed quite a high level of knowledge. It was something I brooded on in the years that followed.

Working in the office with Mr Deverill was wonderful. There were only the two of us in the room, and he quickly saw that I could accept more responsibility. I was meticulous about the cash, marking it down in the books and adding my scrawled signature at the bottom. It gave me a sense of power that I’d never had before. Not only that, but the office was clean! We each had our own cup for the tea breaks. Having drunk mostly from jam jars until this point in my life, I thought the new situation was the height of luxury.

He trusted me with money and would tell me that I was bright,
-- I just had never had a chance to show it.  For a little girl accustomed to being called ‘the bitch’ by everyone, this really boosted my self-esteem.

The job was great and I was learning a lot, but this did not mean I was any better off financially.  All my wages went to my mam.  Mr Deverill knew this, and, to compensate, he let me wash and clean his car every Saturday morning, for five shillings (25p).  It was a well-kept little car and did not really need cleaning. But I was so pleased to be able to do it that I would shine it from number plate to number plate.

The first time I cleaned the car was a dream day. Mr Deverill bought me cakes from Sayers’ bread and cake shop.  His wife, who was a cinema usherette, gave me a free ticket to see a film.  Best of all, though, was that I had money and could now buy myself a pair of nylon stockings.

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