Friday, 7 February 2014

A school dinner

How can I say this....I loved my school dinners. (Lunches I would say now I suppose, but back then dinner was in the middle of the day.)

My primary school was in two parts, the new school and the old school. The big kids went to the old school, which was where my mother had been before me. The new school was being built (gradually) to modern standards like indoor toilets, heated classrooms and a playing field. Back at the old place we had separate playgrounds for boys and girls, spider infested latrines and one windowless classroon partitioned by a wooden divider. Without a blade of grass in sight, we loved it.

Every day we were walked to the new school by two dinner ladies for the second sitting. We would have about fifteen minutes of play, then line up again and be marched back. It was a dull routine for a child and to pass the time we sometimes played I wish, when we would fantasise about what we would have to eat. This game often ended in eeugk I hate, when someone said "lumpy mash" or "semolina". My fantasy was roast dinner followed by chocolate pudding, two treats that were never served together.

But once my wish came true and was spookily gratifying. Playing high jump in the playground I felt a nauseating crack in my knee. Whether stoic or just afraid of being told off I declined to tell the teacher, but when it came time to form the daily crocodile I realised I would not be able to walk to the new school. Mrs C, the dinner lady with the long nose, was not fond of me and told me to stop being silly and start walking. The pain was unbearable and two girls took pity on me. Linking hands and crossing their arms they made me a basket chair. We made our way to the new school, them edging along crablike, me growing paler with each jolt to my splintered bone.

Someone at the other end recognised a child in pain. A grown-up sat me down, gently lifted my leg on to a cushioned chair and arranged for me to be driven home. Someone said "do you feel like eating." I did.

That was the day we had roast beef and yorkshire pudding and roast poratoes and gravy and chocolate pudding and chocolate custard. I never forgot that meal, nor the hated Mrs C., though the kindly teacher is gone from my memory.

Who were those lovely girls and where are they now? Little forgotten saints.


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