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Blazing the trail

I pulled my daughter’s school blazer out of the washing machine the other day. And whilst hanging it up to dry, I noted that it had, perhaps, ‘seen better days’ and that it might be time to get a new one. It’s fair to say, that with five children, blazers have been the bane of my life. I’ve shortened the sleeves and let the hems down again; fixed bits of seams and stitching, not to mention the initial name taping. I’ve wiped them and dabbed them, straightened lapels and lamented the strain under which the pockets have been put. Emptying them before laundry is like dipping your hands into Mary Poppins’ magical carpet bag –how can one item of clothing hold so much and yield so many long lost items?

Back in the day parents expected a blazer to last a full school career. Hardly surprising since its purchase often necessitated a second mortgage and a charge on your grandparents’ lives! I remember clearly, oh how clearly, my own trip to the school outfitters before beginning secondary school. There was something quite exciting about acquiring an entire wardrobe in one fell swoop, even if it was the same as everyone else’s. And it was all going quite well until we got to the blazer. My mother insisted on purchasing something I could grow into. Not unreasonably. But the chosen garment was marginally longer than my skirt, which was Victorian length anyway. Happily the arms were so long, I could prevent them flapping by tucking them into the elastic I used to keep my knee length socks up. It was terrible! It was freaky! A couple of guy lines and pegs and I swear down I could have camped under that thing! Just how big did she think I was going to grow? There’s something slightly daunting about beginning your secondary school career with the death knell of failure already ringing in your ears. I could see my parents in the coming years, attending some social event with my mother gracefully waving a glass of sherry whilst proclaiming, ‘Oh we had such hopes for her! Academically things turned out OK, but she never quite achieved our ambition that she would reach a height of 7 ft 2’!

This obviously explains why children were sent up chimneys in the past! It was a win win situation! Chimney sweeps are not known for their blazer wearing in the first place and the workplace has to be the ultimate environment for upward rather than sideways growth!

As I approached my GCSE’s, I realised the only way to escape Demis Roussos’ jacket was to change schools. Older and wiser, and with little growing left to do, I thought I might be a little firmer when it came to blazer buying and executed my plan with aplomb!

I’d like to think I’ve brought those blazer bungling memories to bear when it’s come to my own children’s uniforms. So, as I looked at the rather sorry specimen crawling out of the washing drum, I resolved to replace forthwith. And then I remembered that there’s no point. She’ll be leaving school in a couple of months. That little girl, the one I had to kiss goodbye in EXACTLY the same spot every day at primary school; the girl whose school bus I had to follow in her first week of secondary school (just to make sure that it went to the right place); the young lady who, today, switches her music off when she approaches a roundabout in her car (to avoid distraction). Her school days are over and she, and I, are sad about that. But the fact that we’re sad bears testament to how happy she’s been through school here in Lincolnshire and that’s all you can ask for really! Other than being 7 ft 2!

And as I look at that damp blazer now, I know that it’s not seen ‘better days’, it has actually seen the ‘best days’ and that whatever wonders the future may hold for her, those precious memories are safe.

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