Dinners at Telford Middle School were very different to the ones I was used to in Scotland. For starters (although not literally), there was the option of going home for lunch. Our house was now about a hundred metres from the school gates, instead of being almost five miles away. But that is not the point of this – a post about school dinners would be pretty dull if all it did was tell you how great it was to be able to go home.
The big difference was that the school operated a canteen style system, rather than one where you were waited on at your table. This meant that you had to queue up outside the school hall, collect your specially moulded plate, with sections for cutlery, coloured plastic mug, main course and dessert, then wait your turn at the serving hatch before emerging into the main part of the school and hoping that there was a seat free near someone you knew.
Furthermore, this school was at least three times as big as my old one, which meant that there was no way everyone could be fed at once. Instead, you were called in by class. To do this, you waited in the main playground until a dinner lady rang a bell. Displayed in the window of the corridor behind her would be a large card with the class number that was next to be fed.
Needless to say, it is the food that I remember most – specifically the desserts. Chocolate cracknell with a curious pink sauce that was supposed to be raspberry but was almost certainly E-numbers; Bakewell tart, heavy and stodgy, with inevitably lumpy custard; sweeter than sweet apple pie. Delicious.