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U3A Writing: The Curse Of The Purple Stump

Elizabeth Robison recalls red-faced (or should that be purple-faced?) moments.

Three school-day embarrassments stick in my memory. The headmistress of our high school was Miss D.E Wright and she was nicknamed 'Daisy'. One day I was messing about holding a door shut so my friends couldn't get in and a voice which I thought belonged to my friend Hilary said:

“Elizabeth Evans, open that door at once.”

“Oh you can't fool me” I said, “I know it's not Daisy.”

Again the voice came from the other side of the door. Eventually the door was wrenched open, and indeed it was Daisy and she was not pleased!

When I decided I wanted to do History at University it was necessary to pick up Latin again because it was a requirement in those days. The school arranged for me to have extra one-to-one lessons and these were held in a kind of stockroom with a teacher who had a personal hygiene problem.

One hot summer's day, the door was left ajar and the teacher had her back to it while I sat on the other side of the desk. Suddenly two of my friends poked their heads around the door, holding their noses and mouthing “Pooh!”. It was very hard to concentrate on 'amo, amar, amat' in those circumstances!

When I was about 13 I went to a sporting event that my brother was taking part in. I was wearing my maroon school blazer accessorised with a pink chiffon scarf, probably secured with my cycling proficiency badge – I thought I looked the bees knees!

There was a rail around the race track which I sat on and there was a lot of activity. I was vaguely aware of a voice over a loud-speaker, although I didn't take much notice until a woman said “ I think he means you,” and I realised that the loudspeaker voice was saying “Will the big girl in the maroon blazer please get off the rail.”

I nearly died!

When I began teaching in the 1960's I, like lots of others, smoked Players No 6 cigarettes. One lunchtime there was a staff meeting in the staffroom and one of the items on the agenda was whether to ban smoking in the staffroom. Obviously it would have been embarrassing to light up during this discussion, so when the meeting broke up, I had five minutes for a few quick puffs before the next meeting.

I must not have extinguished the match properly and dropped it, without looking, into an ash tray on the window ledge that had a ping pong ball in it. Quite a conflagration ensued. Very embarrassing!

When Jim and I got married, I wore a long cream crepe maxi dress (£9.99 from Etams). Later we were invited to Jim's headteacher's house for dinner, so I decided to wear the dress as maxi-dresses were all the fashion at the time.

We drove with the top down in Jim's Lotus 7 sports car and I wore my beloved purple maxi-coat over the dress to keep warm.

When we arrived, the head's wife and the woman of another couple who were there were wearing twin-sets and pearls, so I felt somewhat overdressed.

The purple coat had been much worn and the lining where the sleeve joined the main part of the coat had 'gone' and was torn. When the headmaster helped me on with my coat at the end of the evening, my hand went down the wrong bit of the lining. Rather than make a fuss I just put my hand in my pocket till I could sort it out after we left.

Imagine my embarrassment as he held out his hand to shake mine as we left, saying “It's been lovely to meet you”.

We call that incident 'The Curse of the Purple Stump.'

My friend and I took our kids to the swimming baths when they were little and she said to her son, “Now if you need a wee you have to get out of the water!” So he did and then pulled down his swimming trunks and weed into the water! My friend was mortified but everyone saw the funny side.

Everyday minor embarrassing moments occur like the time we reported our car stolen from a multi-storey car park in Salisbury, a city we had never visited before. The duty sergeant at the police station said: “You do know that there are two multi-storey car parks in the town centre?”

But it's the 'Curse of the Purple Stump' that haunts me yet.

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