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Justine Picardie
Saturday 23 July 1994 23:02

I'VE JUST been to see Jamie's new school (yes, praise the Lord, after much nail-biting on my part, he did get a place at the local infants'). It was the parents' evening, but I felt like a five-year-old again. First of all, I was late, so I had to creep into the assembly hall full of less tardy parents, and sit at the back. Secondly, I had the baby with me, which wasn't really allowed (the letter inviting us to the school had specifically said parents/carers only).

I'd been forced to bring him after a last- minute babysitting disaster, and he was asleep in his buggy anyway . . . but I found it hard to pay attention to what the head teacher was saying, just in case Tom woke up and started yowling in an embarrassing way. What if I got told off in front of everyone else? ('Who brought that baby into school? Leave the room immediately]')

Luckily, it wasn't me that got told off, it was someone else. He was sitting in the assembly hall with a tape recorder] He was

taping what the head teacher was saying]] He got told off and everyone looked at him]]]

After the talk had finished, it was question time. All the parents shuffled about in their seats and seemed a bit nervous about asking questions, but I courageously (inexplicably, in fact) put my hand up. Everyone turned round and looked at me] And I couldn't seem to get the words out. 'Please, Miss,

um . . . '' I'd forgotten the question] 'Ummm, playtime, what do the children do at playtime?' What a pathetic question.

Then we trailed out to have a look at the classrooms and meet the other teachers. They were all very nice, much nicer than the teacher I had when I was five. I can't actually remember my first day at infant school, but I do remember the constant feeling of nervous embarrassment throughout my time there. This is what I was embarrassed about:

1. My teacher, whose name I have mercifully forgotten, said that I had hairy legs.

2. One afternoon, while we were changing for gym, I took all my clothes off by mistake. Two boys saw me and told the teacher. The teacher said: 'You must never take your knickers off in front of boys, Justine, it is a very naughty thing to do.'

3. In the playground one day, two big boys tried to take my knickers off. I ran away crying, but I was worried that they might do it again.

After the parents' evening at Jamie's school, I rang up my mother and asked her if I had seemed particularly miserable at infant school. 'Not at all,' she said. 'You had lots of friends, you were always going off to parties. You had a lovely time.' Obviously, I had never mentioned the knicker incidents to her when I was five, and it seemed slightly peculiar to raise the subject 28 years later.

I don't suppose Jamie will tell me about the things that embarrass him when he starts school either. He'll probably think that I'm too grown-up to notice. What he doesn't realise is that I still worry about all kinds of things, including the state of my legs (they need to be waxed) and my knickers (always wear a decent pair, in case of emergencies).-

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