Snakes under beds. "Whippings" for bad behaviour. Uneaten meals re-presented at every mealtime until finished. Presents that mysteriously disappear after a day or two, never to be seen again. Is this the stuff of nightmares or the real thing? Little Paddy and her sisters growing up in the 1940s and 1950s in an all girls' home called St Etheldreda's don't know any different. Starting life in an institution where the maxim "cruel to be kind" seems to be the order of the day is a tough place to learn about life, but Paddy learns that it is even tougher on the outside. As a Home Girl or, as labelled by their fellow school pupils, a Dirty Smelly Home Girl, Paddy learns to stand up for what she wants in life. She changes some people's pre-conceived ideas, learns determination and leaves the home a resolute and able young woman.