In the 1970’s my cooking outfit is a pale pink nylon overall which just skims the hems of my mini dresses.
One sleeve hides an armful of elastic bands, essential for scraping back the fashionable long hair on boys and girls of the time. On rare visits to the staffroom, I must remember to remove my overall and rubber gloves before I collapse exhausted into one of the beaten up staffroom armchairs, and light a cigarette. Otherwise I might be mistaken for the school cleaner and may be asked to wash up the coffee cups.
Before we start any 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 been a collective ‘ah’ from my new classes when I say I’m not married. Prying into the private life of young teachers is a popular diversion in most lessons.
‘Have you got a boyfriend, miss?’ Maureen loves gossip.
‘None of your business – aprons on please.’
‘Will you make your own wedding cake?’ Maureen persists in digging for clues.
‘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 tuts with disgust. She’ll pay me back for making this fuss. Liz wants to cook and I’m stopping 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 on with 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 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 taste her cooking.