My 1970’s cooking outfit is a check patterned pale pink overall which just skims the hems of my mini dresses. If I wear one of my crimplene frocks underneath, the static friction gives off sparks and makes both garments rise indecently up my thighs, much to the glee of my boy cooks. An armful of elastic bands hides under one overall sleeve, essential for tying back the fashionable long hair of boys and girls of the time.
On my rare visits to the staffroom, I must remember to remove my overall and rubber gloves before I collapse exhausted into one of the sagging staffroom armchairs, and light a cigarette. One day I’ll be mistaken for the school cleaner and be asked to wash up the coffee cups.
Before we start cooking, they must obey my chant.
‘Hair, hearings and hands – tie your hair back, and remove all jewellery except wedding rings. Since no-one is married, including me, bring me your precious things to lock up!’
There’s a collective ‘ah’ from my classes at my unmarried state.
Prying into the private life of young teachers is a popular diversion.
‘Have you got a boyfriend, miss?’ Maureen loves gossip.
‘None of your business Maureen – aprons on please.’
‘Miss – the new games teacher, Mr Paul, wants a date.’
‘Will you make your own wedding cake?’
Maureen persists in digging for clues. I wonder if I’ll ever get together with Mark and move out of my bedsit into a home together. Then I can plan my wedding cake.
‘Class, and that includes you, Maureen, let’s see your hands.’
They hold them out for inspection.
‘Liz– take off the nail varnish – the remover’s in my cupboard.’
Liz sucks through her teeth with disgust. She’ll pay me back for making this fuss. Liz wants to cook and I’m delaying her with my stupid rules.
The class is checked so we can begin. Once they know I mean business, we speed through the Hair, Hearrings and Hands! eager to get cooking something to eat.
The TV cooks of the day never obey my hygiene suggestions. Fanny Cradock wears an evening dress, sparkling in diamond necklace and dangly ear-rings. She pokes her long red fingernails into pastries and pies and I cringe at the thought of spitting out slivers of red varnish if I ever have to eat her cooking.