My sister was still in primary school. Every Friday night Mother would take the three of us to the cinema. One evening we were all ready to go except for Mary who hadn’t turned up. Her school was only five minutes walk away. I went off to fetch her. I went in through the main door and walked to her classroom.
To my surprise she was sitting at her desk writing. Her teacher was sitting at her desk. What was going on? I began to feel angry. Being a Collegiate girl gave me a feeling of power. I announced firmly “I have come to fetch my sister. We are all waiting for her at home so that we can go out.” My tone of voice brooked no denial.
“Run along dear” the gorgon said turning to me with a smile. “She has just finished.” My sister rose joyfully from her seat and almost ran from the room.
“Thank goodness you’ve come” she said. “I don’t know how long she would have kept me. And did you notice she called me dear? She has never done that before!”
This was the teacher who so terrorised her by hitting her on the hand with a steel ruler when she couldn’t do her sums; that when she had gone through college and was a qualified infant teacher herself
she still had feelings of dread when she had to teach number work.
Mary loved boiled sweets. We all got a penny on Saturday. It is typical of both of us that I spent mine usually on one walnut whip and ate it at once. Mary bought the cheapest of boiled sweets, ate one and put the rest away to last out for the week.
One day when she wasn’t there I rummaged through our chest-of-drawers to see what she was saving now, sometimes it was money and sometimes sweets. What was my motive? I didn’t like boiled sweets. I wasn’t a hoarder and I wanted to understand why I was so different from my sister. What I found was a surprising number of sweets, not all that she liked.
I tackled her with it when she came home. She was naturally indignant that I had touched her things. “Never mind that” I said “who are those sweets for?” She turned red, blustered a bit and burst into tears. I knew something was wrong so I continued to question her.
She admitted that she was being bullied at school by one of the girls who had come over from Germany without her parents. She had wheedled her way into Mary’s sympathies by dramatising her story and getting her to buy sweets for her.
At first Mary did this willingly, then the child began to put pressure on her. She was frightened. I persuaded her to stop all this at once. I was very protective of my little sister. I told her I would sort the child out if she gave any more trouble. It worked.
As Mary grew older she learned how to use her tongue to prevent bullies from bothering her. It didn’t happen to me because I was (rightly) considered to be an oddball, so I was left alone.