Aunt Katinka was always a staunch advocate of petticoating and claimed that it was commonplace in ‘the old country’. It’s not at all common here in Blighty, apart from at Aunt Katinka’s house. My mother used to send me to stay with her a few of times a year as a child and spent every moment having to abide by her unusual house rules.
From the moment I arrived I'd be buttoned into a dress and if I showed even the slightest hint of objection, she'd swap my knickers for a nappy which wouldn't be changed until bed time. She didn't make me wear girls clothes every day. Some days I wore my own clothes but always over my knickers, or if I’d been disobedient, over a nappy. To begin with I suffered terrible nappy rash but I soon learned to shut up and put up as I'd rather spend my days wearing a pair of knickers than a nappy.
My mother knew exactly what went on but insisted that petticoating was harsh yet harmless. At least my mother didn't petticoat me at home, nor did she ever threaten me with it. However if I ever played up or got in trouble, my mother would threaten to send me to stay with Aunt Katinka when school broke up. “She'll happily have you every school holiday and half term if need be!” I recall my mother saying. The visits to Aunt Katinka's stopped when I left school and so did the petticoating... thank god!
Now I’m an adult and I'll be staying with Aunt Katinka again for a few weeks, but only until I sort myself somewhere permanent to live. The last thing I expected was for her to pick up where we left off all those years ago!
Having grown up in Ashford, where one school on the far side of town had adopted the policy of 'educational petticoating' several years ago, I knew that some schools were less desirable than others, especially for boys. Educational Petticoating schools (or 'mixed' girl's schools) are becoming increasingly popular these days, with seemingly every large town or city having at least one, so when my mother booted up Google Maps to show my sister and I the location of a our new house and our new school in the new town we'd be moving to, I asked “It's not one of those schools where the boys wear the same uniform as the girls is it?”
“Nooo.” my mother replied. “The boys and girls have separate uniforms.”
“Phew!” I replied. “Told you!” I cockily said to my sister who, only a few days previously had claimed that our new school is a 'mixed' girl's school. I was 95% certain that she was only trying to wind me up because she knows how much I'd hate it.
“Told me what?” Julia smugly asked.
“That it's not a mixed girl's school.” I retorted.
“Actually Matthew, it is a mixed girl's school.” my mother stated.
“What?!” I blurted as she clicked on the school and followed a short cut to its website. “But you just said...” I stammered as she clicked through to the uniforms page and...