I don’t think that you can say much about your past life without at least mentioning in passing the evil of school dinners. Or, at least, the percieved evil, because being the glutton that I am, I tended to like what was on offer.
The first place that I can really remember having school dinners was in Scotland. I know that I had them in London, but my memory of those is limited to sitting in the dining hall and watching my little girlfriend Beverley eat paper, which is not an enthralling topic.
At Park Place Primary School in Dundee (or, as it was known for at least half of the time that I was there, the Dundee Demonstration School) the dining set up was curious, to say the least. From what I remember, the school had a dining hall that was entirely seperate from the rest of the school buildings. It formed one side of the lower playground, where the children even younger than I played during break times. Inside, beyond the dining area, were the kitchens. from which dinnerladies who looked ancient and who must have been at least as old as thirty would periodically appear.
We children were seated at tables which may have been round or hexagonal, I cannot quite recall, and two of those spaces were designated as being for ‘servers’. There was a strange exercise in teaching children democracy, generosity and simple mathematics that required that two children were assigned the task of doling out things such as vegetables and mashed potato to the others on the table.
If this wasn’t curious enough, the school was also unique, in my experience, in that you had a dedicated place to sit at lunchtime. Everywhere else operated a cafeteria-type system, so there was a complete free-for-all when it came to seating, but this was a rigid system and, when you were told to sit somewhere, there you stayed, even if everyone else on your table was older or younger than you (and therefore a total stranger to you).
The only time that you changed seat was if you missed a day of school for some reason. Then you had to stand against the front wall, just inside the door, and wait until a dinner lady allocated you a new seat. This meant, of course, that you would probably lose your prized role as a ‘server’ and I can recall at least one occasion where I pleaded to be allowed to go to school so that I didn’t lose the honour, dubious though it was, of serving my fellow pupils. Isn’t it funny that food and sport were the only two things that could get me to go to school when I was ill?