Pause for Thought – a five minute read – Week 56

Isaiah 41 v 10; Matthew 28 v20

School Uniforms – Always Label Them

I was having a conversation with a group of friends recently, over a cup of coffee, and we started to discuss school uniforms. Sometimes it is difficult to establish where the source of the conversation originally derived from but on this occasion it was one of the group that admitted to still having his school cap. Not only did he still have the cap after over 60+ years but it also still had his name label stitched inside.

I have a vivid memory of my wife Jean, sitting in chair stitching name labels inside articles of clothing that made up the school uniforms. Sweaters skirts, blouses, ties, socks, blazers all had to be labelled, but when that had been achieved, she would turn to the PE kit with the shorts, shirts, pumps, socks and other items. The whole operation then had to be repeated three times as we had three daughters.

The favourite location for the label was, for the sweaters and blouses, at the back of the neck, and for the skirts and shorts, on the waist band, however this only generated complaints that the labels were, ‘itchy’ and irritating  so Jean had to be more imaginative as to where she fixed them.

The problems arose after the first PE lesson when more often than not someone else’s name was on the PE kit that returned home. The following day at the school gates the mum’s would embark on a PE kit exchange programme in an attempt to correct the situation.  At the end of every half term or full term the school would place a box full of lost items of uniform for mum’s and dad’s to rummage through in the hope of recovering their offspring’s school wardrobe, some items did not have a name label to help the process.

As frustrating as the school uniforms could be, it was insignificant compared to the labelling of the Brownie Guides uniform. This entailed sewing on badges which were required to be in specific locations and interrelationship with other badges. In addition all the badges had to accord to a diagram handed out by Brown Owl, and no one argues with Brown Owl. When the conundrum, which is second only to the Rubrik’s Cube, had been mastered, only then could the matter of the activity badges be addressed. These badges were stitched individually down the length of both arms of the tunic. Enthusiastic Brownie Guides could harvest more than enough badges to fill both arms and have some left over for the camp blanket. What joy, a camp blanket.

I must admit the school uniform problem was just the same when I attended school. Neck ties were a particular issue, I recall that at the end of the day’s lessons the first thing to do was to rip off the tie and stuff it into your pocket. There always were one or two ties on the floor at the bus stop outside the school and the Caretaker’s job was to collect them up and add them to the lost property box. If your name was on the tie then you got it back, if your name was not on the tie you were in trouble for not wearing a tie, in trouble for losing it and in trouble for not having your name in it in the first place. I always had a spare.

One thing I did like was the school blazer. We never had one in junior school but we did in senior school. It was dark blue with the school coat of arms on the pocket and underneath the heraldry was the school moto, ‘Labor Omnia Vincit , which translated into, ‘Work Conquers All’. The headmaster told us that the quotation would remain with us all our lives and as I can still remember it, I suppose he was right.

I have a set of pictures of Christian art from across the world. The countries include Africa, India, China, Japan, South America, Cameroon, North America and the UK. The art work depicts various scenes from the Bible, many of the Nativity and of the Crucifixion. It is interesting when studying the pictures to realise that the facial features and dress of the subjects reflect the appearance and culture of the people in the countries where the artist originated. For example, the artwork from Africa depicts Jesus as being black, whereas in the artwork from China and Japan Jesus has an oriental appearance. The UK paintings depict Jesus and the surrounding countryside, to be quintessentially British.

Our God is a personal God who is with each one of us constantly and through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit dwells within our hearts. Accordingly it is natural for the artist’s work to reflect the perception of the personal God. We see Jesus as being like us as he is within us, God made us in his image so we see him as an image of ourselves.

In both Isaiah and Matthew’s gospel we find reassurance that God and Jesus are with us until the end of time no matter how bad the world about us appears to be. We are never alone because Jesus knows our name and God will protect each one of us and take into his house for everlasting life.

School ties in my day were quite broad at the widest point but the fashion trend in the 1960s was for slim line or even bootlace ties. To interface school with fashion we reversed our tie to make the broad part tuck into shirts out of sight allowing the narrow tail end to cascade from the collar. It was a bit of a compromise but we thought it looked trendy.

Derek T.