Little girl Sarah hears about the birds and the bees

Karen Madej

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Veronica, Emily and I all went up to Donnington Middle School at nine years. Often we'd ditch the bus stop and walk along the Abingdon Road. Turn left onto Weirs Lane and cross over Donnington Bridge to the sweet shop on the other side. The shelves inside the wooden cabin held huge, clear plastic jars with screw-tops. Every loose candy available at the time tempted us. We spent our bus fares on quarter pound bags of cola-cubes and chewy milk bottles.

We munched our treats on the rest of the walk to school. On entering the school gates, we stuffed the near empty bags in our pockets. Our jaws still before we passed Mr Underwood at the main door. Once in the building, we turned left and went to the far end, and Mr Brennan's classroom. I adored Mr Brennan. He was the best English teacher.

I fell for reading and writing because of Mr Brennan. His eyes bored into mine as he told us stories, then told us to write our own.

Each month we received leaflets with children's books to choose from. I chose three or four each month and consumed them like I hadn't eaten for days. From my bed, I lived the lives of characters in books. Under my duvet with my torch, I journeyed to the worlds of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Narnia.

Veronica was clever with words and still is. She became a journalist after university. While at Donnington Middle School, she played with French vocabulary. She enjoyed making sentences such as; placer votre derrière sur la chaise. I picked up French vocabulary like sand on wet feet. But forming sentences was like the ocean hitting groynes. Nowadays, I have an Alzheimer's afflicted person's ability to recall short-term memories.

We left Donnington Middle School when we were twelve. Veronica and Emily went to Cowley Saint John Upper School. A short walk around the corner from Donnington Middle School. My father sent me to Milham Ford School for Girls.

Milham Ford was on the other side of Oxford. I had to catch the bus, as it was too far to walk to get there. The bus left from the bus stop on the Abingdon Road, at the top and to the left of Whitehouse Road. It went up St Aldates. Turned right at Carfax. Passed through the High Street. Lined with Headington and Taynton quarry stone university buildings. Into St Ebbes and onto the Marston Road.

I got off at Harberton Mead and walked up the sixty-degree angle hill. The road flanked by horse chestnut trees that lined up on either side of the road.

The uniform was navy blue sweater and skirt with a white shirt and long white socks. Before Milham Ford, Teresa would select my clothes and put them on the back of the desk chair in my room. I loved my cream mohair jumper and acrylic bottle green skirt. Teamed with cream or red over-knee socks. But I hated my itchy, pleated tartan skirt and ankle socks. Ankle socks were for little girls, not twelve-year-olds!

The same term I arrived at the new school, I also became a woman. I knew what it meant because earlier in the term, I'd had the facts of life explained to me by Natalie in a science lesson. She was dating Simon and was talking about using rubber johnnies. I had asked what I rubber johnnie was. So she explained that they were to stop a boy's you know what from going into a girl's tummy and making a baby.

I wondered why Natalie knew so much and I so little.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.

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