Tuesday 30 September 2014

Skool dinners

Those of us (N = 1) who have read all 400,000 words of The Blob from the beginning will know that we had two daughters who never went to school - and are now productive members of society, working hard in the catering trade, paying taxes. I hope they are saving enough money to support me in my old age because it looks like there won't be no pensions.
There's plenty of boys that will come hankering and gruvvelling around when you've got an apple, and beg the core off you; but when they've got one, and you beg for the core, and remind them how you give them a core one time, they make a mouth at you, and say thank you 'most to death, but there ain't a-going to be no core. Mark Twain
But we also had a son, born 18 years before his sisters, who had a wide experience of schools in four different countries.  When we returned from Boston to the North East of England, he was eight. We enrolled him in the local Roman Catholic primary school because it was nearest and also because Catholic schools had a reputation for being a bit more gung ho! for academics.  Paradoxically, in Ireland exactly the opposite conceit holds: there it's the Protestant schools that people try to edge their kids into [denying their belief in transubstantiation and the existence of any forebears up the road in the Catholic cemetery; and claiming to know the difference between a vicar and a rector]. Minority rules, OK.

ANNyway, The Belvoved and I were learning to be hands-off in the management of children at that early stage in our parenting career and we were both working. After a few attempts at making sure The Boy's lunch-box had a nutritious balanced meal in it and seeing it coming back uneaten, we stepped aside.  We knew he wasn't starving or suffering from vitamin deficiency, so we bought what we thought was suitable stuff for sandwiches every Saturday and left him to graze his own lunch from what was available in and behind the fridge. It turned out that he was pooling his exotica with the more conventional food that his pals brought to school and everyone seemed happy.

A few weeks later, The Beloved knocked off work early to meet the young feller at the school gate. The School Principal came across the play-ground and very discretely suggested that, if we couldn't afford the school dinners, there was a support fund to which we could apply for a subsidy. Sometimes in the rush out of the door, The Boy would put an apple in his lunchbox and set off for a day's education. Sometimes not even that, so when the lunch-box had come back empty and we thought that was good, it turned out the the same lunch-box had left home empty 7 hours earlier. Moderately red face for parents and on subsequent weekend shops we brought the boy along and got stuff, probably with more E-numbers, which was more likely either to be eaten or traded. My last rant on school-dinners landed a link in the comments which says that in some US States, The Man forbids food-trading by pupils in the canteen because of an irrational terror of a food-allergy suit.  That will just drive the trading into the toilets where, to the risks of allergy will be added the risks of coliform contamination.  Yes, yes, that form of toilet-trading is also discouraged in Protestant primary schools.

I think one of the reasons why we-the-parents were unwilling to micro-manage The Boy's lunch box was the innocent fun we derived from my HoD's. I was then working in the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and every Tuesday we had a lunch-time lunch-box seminar. I'd bring my cheese sandwich in a flour sack, but the HoD would open his orderly plastic lunch box when the visiting speaker had been introduced and started into his talk.  This lunch-box was carefully packed my HoD's wife and had a sandwich cut into quarters, some fruit and something for dessert.  Sometimes there would be, literally and locally audible, little moans of pleasure when he found that she had popped in a silver wrapped chocolate biscuit.

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