The unwashed blouse

In January 1963 I was called for an interview you to a Northern university.

It was a Tuesday when I was usually at school. I only had one blouse apart from my school one.Forbeconomic reasons it was sleeveless.

Moreover I had worn it on Sunday so there was no way that I could wash and dry it it by 7 on Tuesday morning. I got dressed in this dirty blouse

And the cardigan my mother had made from old green and black wool that wasn’t her choice it was simply reduced price pure new wool if you could afford not afford a nice colour

Although she was very good at knitting she had put the button band on wrongly perhaps it was a little bit too short so she had to pull it which distorted the garment especially on the front.

I must have worn a skirt but I just don’t remember.

It was up terrible winter not long before Sylvia Plath committed suicide.

When I went into the interview room there were two men who look really old like 50 wearing suits really expensive suits.

And their hands were soft and white

Their fingernails were manicured and very clean

0 grandfather was a coal miner so I never really seen them with white hands soft white hands. Even my mother didn’t have soft white hands

I can only remember them asking me how old was the cathedral.

I have never seej it before that and it was a very cold day .I had not a lingered to look at it.

Furthermore we had not got a car and we did not drive around th e north of England looking at the cathedral or the castles. The interviews proceeded and then ask me

Why did I want to do mathematics, what did I plan to do?

I replied that I would like to do research

They burst out laughing and slapped their thighs. I had read about that in novels but I never seen his happening

I had already done a piece of original research but I had not told anybody.

I didn’t speak but I thought it was very weird so I left the room and went back to the station.

It was even colder. The only good thing about these men was that they gave more than half of the places to young women who were very talented. Even nowadays not many young women were going to an interview you and so they wanted to research mathematics I think that what I meant was I wanted to study something so well that I will begin to ask questions it would not have to be mathematics necessarily it could have been philosophy.

It didn’t cross my mind to say I wanted to be a writer.

I suppose that most of us there were going into teaching and that was what they expecting me to say and I have spent my life cheating (that should be teaching) in various higher educational universities or collegesb and I thought a lot of students from overseas from Brunei to Guyana from Malaysia and Hong Kong and it was a great privilege to do that I just regret the people in touch with the students but I do have the complete set of Brunei coins in a red velvet box which a young woman gave to me after she got a first class degree in economics specialising in econometrics and mathematical economics

Once I taught someone who had been to Eton and I got a place at Oxford but despite his expensive schooling he only got a third class degree and he’s probably in some high level job in the civil service turning a lot more money then I got for teaching him. I didn’t enjoy that teaching because the students always looked very afraid and it was a very competitive atmosphere. I prefer the more relaxed atmosphere in which I thought all these foreign students and British students as well and these people were from the lower social classes yes even ib higher education there is a class system in Britain.

I remember a student who was Egyptian. His father was a diplomat and have been sent to England to go to the boiler school which is probably expensive and he said to me there is a lot of racism now so he told his father not to send his younger brother to England to go to school because he’s obviously been unhappy and I sometimes wonder what happened to him in the Arab.


He gave new s collection of books about Islam and he gave me a wooden briefcase which could open and you can put some books it and when you fasten that you can put it on your knee and it was it was like the top of a small desk so you can write on some paper that you put on it and he said that was what was used as a lot of the schools because they didn’t have any desks in the classroom.

I still have that and I have slept with this on my knee writing a poem on a piece of paper and wishing that I kept in touch with this young man who will now be much older and I hope that they Arab Spring and all the wars have not destroyed his family life

Ok s in a class of 25 students and I recommended to the students to read Alice in Wonderland so that they could read Alice through the looking glass and learnt quite a lot of interesting and mathematical ideas.

Who was the only person who who read the books?

He was. I think I was so busy teaching and and carrying out my personal responsibilities I didn’t have enough time just think about how I would like to have in touch with some of the people who passed through

At least I taught them very very well. And they did very well overall.

I did do some research but it was not easy for a woman to do that in those days

I think it’s very important to be creative and that was one reason why I didn’t do English 0 for my degreebecause I didn’t believe I should be criticising Shakespeare when I never written anything original myself and now that I have written things myself I realise all the more what a great writer Shakespeare was and especially that he was very great poet.

Where I got my university Grant I was able to buy tu blouses with sleeves and I never wore as a dirty one again

I didn’t look very clean. That might have been in my favour because they may have thought someone so poor deserved a chance.

because they were both socialists.

Perhaps it wasn’t so bad thatvI didn’t own more clothing

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