Little girl Sarah gets flowers every month

Karen Madej

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By Brandon Carson - Flickr: DSCN0163, CC BY 2.0

Natalie could make a baby because she got her flowers every month. I remember thinking at the time that I didn't want to get my flowers. I heard in a biology lesson that some girls didn't flower until they were seventeen or eighteen. I had wished to be one of those girls.

The fateful day came. Teresa took me to the orange bathroom with the scratchy walls. She opened the cupboard under the sink and took out a roll of cotton wool. She took the roll half out of the plastic sleeve it was in and eased off a generous wad. Then folded it over and gave it to me. She said to put it in my knickers. She also said I was now a woman. She left me to my womanhood.

With flowers came a noticeable chest. I had to have been the girl with the biggest bazookas in the changing room. Yet my friends were all wearing bras and I was still in a vest. I took my newspaper delivery money savings and went to Selfridges to buy a bra.

I found a Cross Your Heart Playtex in white cotton. I took it to the changing room and tried it on. I spent so long in the changing room an assistant came and knocked on the door to ask if I needed any help. I mumbled I was okay, took the bra off, put it back in its box, put my top back on and went to the till to pay. Nobody noticed my flushed face.

I wore my new bra the next day. My chest looked like Madonna's conical mounds in her Gaultier corset.

I stopped running. I'd come second in the 100 metres once, but being a woman now made me self-conscious. I embraced the bagginess of my school uniform shirts and sweater.

My new best friend, Billie, had new skirts and blouses and sweaters every term for her uniform. For three years, I wore the same French navy skirt and sweater. I hated those white polyester butterfly collared shirts. When I left, I settled for a ceremonial dumping of the hateful garments in my bedroom wastebasket. Setting fire to them would have been better.

Billie also received pocket money and bonuses for excellent exam results. I had paper round pay. I delivered the Oxford Times to the streets off Abingdon Road. I picked the papers up at four. The sticklike lady in the antique (junk) shop met me and handed them over. Then I lugged the canvas cross-body bag with sixty broadsheets to their destinations.

One morning in my first teen year, the Hairy Cornflake DJ woke me up playing a dreamlike song. After it finished I learned the names of the artist and the song. Gary Numan's version of Trois Gymnopedies (First Movement).

Later in 1980, on a Saturday in December, Mummy took me on the train to Oxford Street for the day. The street was heaving with life. Blaring music hit and heat caressed us from shop doors as we flowed past them with the crowd. Our last stop of the day was Woolworth's where I bought my first record. We Are Glass with Trois Gymnopedies on the B-side.

Christmas at home in Marlborough Road was always a smorgasbord of Polish fare. The celebrating would begin on Christmas Eve with fish and potato salad. Mummy's potato salad tingled my taste buds. She made so much it lasted for days.

Christmas morning I woke up to find a festive red stocking. Father Christmas on his sleigh decorated the outside. Inside bulged with chocolate bars and satsumas. This year I got a green-haired plastic troll as well!

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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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