Virginia Barton

9 July 2014: P’s and Q’s


9 July 2014


mindyourIn Under Milk Wood, one of the characters has a text hanging on his bedroom wall: “THOU SHALT NOT”.

On my sister’s and my bedroom wall when we were little hung “THE LORD IS THY SHEPHERD THOU SHALT NOT WANT.” A recurring thou shalt not, but with an altogether kindlier meaning.


There were lots of things we ought not to do as children:

Put your elbows on the table.


Cross your legs in church. (In fact, hardly ever cross your legs – I could never understand this; does it have a hidden unexplained meaning?)

Always answer letters promptly.

Don’t speak until spoken too, and never interrupt.

Curtsey to very old ladies.

Sit up straight, don’t slouch.

Absolutely no trousers except for riding. No shorts: a divided knee-length skirt for tennis and lacrosse.

No games, or outings to the cinema on Sundays.

Long hair to be plaited.

Don’t eat raw meat or you will get worms. (Even cooked ham was suspect. Spam was ok provided it was all eaten up the same day.)

Etc. Etc.


On the other hand, there were many things that we ought to do:

Keep a pan specially for hard-boiling eggs (or you’ll get warts).

Wash kale at least 5 times.

Hunt for earwigs in globe artichokes – preferably BEFORE cooking.

Boil the kettle properly and pour it immediately on to the tea leaves. And leave it to stand – but don’t stew it!

“Real jewelry, dear, or not at all.”

Make sure you always have clean knickers on; you may have an accident in the street. (Talking of knickers, always carry a safety pin in case your knicker-elastic breaks.)


I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few dozen; can anyone add anything else? No mention of hygiene, dental or otherwise, strangely.


The enigmas of the English language and boy-friends came later.





Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(c) All Rights Reserved. Site Designed by Magtype CR