Miss Brown’s daily preparation began with a sweeping entrance as she crossed the classroom to the dais in five brisk paces.
She plonked her handbag – usually one of the black patent variety that were then so de rigeur – on the seat and in one elegant turning motion, began the morning prayer with a bow to the crucifix above the blackboard and without a single glance at us.
The morning devotion completed, her own ritual began.
First, she took a compact mirror from her handbag and cupping it in one hand, gave her hair and face a once over. Light adjustments were made to her, carefully coiffed, hairdo and the top of her pinky checked straying eyelashes. She’d pout her lips at the mirror to review the status of her lipstick. Sometimes she’d grimace at the mirror like she was about to snarl.
Then came the stocking ritual. She raised her leg onto the dais and stretched, feeling and stretching from her ankle to her upper thighs, stretching and straightening along the way.
After that came the top which she’d adjust with a sharp tug by both hands from the waistline.
Then she turned her attention to us. She already had ours. She looked soft, warm, glamorous and fragrant. It was a heady mixture for a four year old. She was like a film goddess and the woman on the sweetbox at home. She was like no-one we’d ever seen before.
I suppose I could have had a worse introduction to schooldays. Miss Brown was no angel of mercy. She was tough and took no nonsense. She got our respect and our fear in equal measure.