I wonder what happened to the other Tatie girls.
We met at infants school, it was a stupid, cruel name given to us by someone’s older sister. There were 5 of us, one was a boy and only 2 of us actually went tatie picking.
Tatie pickers were the lowest of the low in village hierarchy, it was hard backbreaking work, usually done even in the 50’s by the village poor and gangs of itinerant workers.
We were all outcasts, ignored by the other kids, bullied when on our own but not when we were in a group. There was me, Jeanie, Kevin, Angela Green and Ana.
All of us avoided or bullied for different reasons, me because I was dirty and unkempt, my mother had a career, was snob, and no intention of doing boring things like cooking and cleaning. She was unpopular with the other mothers, she never tried to hide her contempt for them.
Jeanie was epileptic, she was avoided as some people thought it might be catching.
Kevin was also dirty and unkempt, he was like a wild animal jumping on desks, peeing on the nature table, kicking out at teachers, his mother was ‘no better than she ought to be’.
Angela’s real name was Angelina Verdi, she was clean but all her clothes were worn and dated. Her dad had been an Italian POW, put to work in the fields, he’d married a local girl and the school anglicised her surname.
Ana, there were rumours that her dad had served time in prison for unnamed crimes. Later conversations with my mother revealed that Ana’s father was a German Jew who fled to England and was interned during the war.
Angela and I were the only two who went tatie picking, she with her mother and father and older brothers, there were 14 mouths to feed in their family, an unusually big family by 50’s standards, though when my father was a boy there were many families of that size around.
I went tatie picking with my granny, my mother hated me going to the tatie fields but as she and my father were both out at work granny provided child care, so when granny went tatie picking, so did I.
We left the area when I was eight years old, we followed my mother’s peripatetic wanderings from one end of the country to the other, I changed schools every couple of years. But my years as one of the Tatie girls stood me in good stead.
I was never going to fit in with the in crowd, I was and still am short and fat, I never had the right clothes or listened to the right music. To be honest I didn’t really know what ‘the right clothes or right music’ were.
Within a few weeks of starting at a new school I would have mastered the local accent and worked out who the other outcasts were and made friends with some of them.