‘No talking in class, until I give permission,’ said Miss Ufford, looking in my direction. ‘If you want
to say something, put up your hand. I'm going to call the roll now.’
She began to recite names from a list. Each child responded ‘present’ as his or her name was
called. I paid particular attention. My aunt had told me that a certain Winnifred King was in my
class, and it was her mother who was to give me my midday dinner. But all I knew of Winnifred and
her mother was their address in the village. I had it in my pocket on a slip of paper: Mrs King,
number 26, The Street.
‘Winnifred King,’ called Miss Ufford and I swivelled in my seat to look at the class.
‘Present,’ responded a fresh-faced, plumpish girl near the back. She wore an untidy mass of
blond hair and looked a cheerful sort. She noticed my interest and gave me a nod which told me
that she knew about the dinner arrangement. I looked forward to the dinner break: but how to avoid
Miss Ufford, who was smaller, rounder and less severe-looking than the head teacher, said,
‘Come in boy, this is your seat here, next to Molly.’ She indicated a place at the front, in a double
desk, where a dark and very pretty girl was already seated. I hoped she was as pleasant as her
‘Hallo Molly,’ I said as I sat next to her. She seemed pleased to be sharing her desk, for she
smiled shyly at me but said nothing.
This seemed to be a school that applied modern methods. I had never before been in a class
where girls and boys shared the same desk. Before this, all the boys had sat on one side of the
room, the girls on the other. They were kept separate in the yard too. This modern method of
mixing boys and girls met with my hearty approval.