We would go into the room and ‘nurse’ would be standing there, prim and immaculate, in a starched white apron. On the desk were two sets of notes, one white, one blue. A blue note would mean a trip to the dreaded Plumpton Street clinic off Everton Road. The nurse would lift strands of hair looking for the tell-tale eggs which clung to the strands near the scalp. By this point I’d be saying ‘Hail Marys’, but my prayers were never answered. I’d get a blue note. Then I’d be sent around the classes to gather my brothers for the usual family trip to the clinic. We’d walk down West Derby Road, invariably arriving late in the afternoon.
Even by my first visit the Lewington clan was well known. We’d hand in our blue notes, which read ninety per cent infestation, and receive the treatment and the harangue of the nurse. “I hate you dirty lot,” she’d say, as she dragged the fine toothcomb through our hair. The lice were killed with DDT, which stung like hell when it touched an open sore. We scratched so often and hard that there were lots of open sores. Then came another steel comb. This one, seeming sharper, would be dragged across your scalp in long, agonising sweeps.
Back home all the other kids in the street were told not to play with us. At school the teachers hated us because we were filthy. No one sat next to us because we were smelly. The only good thing was the sixpence we were given to use on the tram fare for the journey to Everton Road. We walked instead, and spent the ‘tram fare’ on broken biscuits. But the treat was not fair compensation for the painful visits to ‘Nitty Nora.’ As a result I soon stopped going to school very much at all.
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