With a nation of 4 and 5 year olds beginning school this week, my thoughts turned to my first day at school. And then I remembered that I had written about that last year.
What I missed in the run up to that particular post, though, was my last day at playgroup. I admit that I had to go back and check that this happened a few weeks before I began school, as I didn’t remember having a broken arm on that final visit. Fortunately, Mum was happy to confirm that for me. What I hadn’t realised was that I only went there twice a week – odd, because I have some other quite strong memories of the place.
The playgroup was held in what I imagine was a church hall. Certainly there were big doors into the hall, a kitchen off to one side, and a strange little shelf which ran around one side of the main hall. We children would sit at this shelf to eat and drink, and at times we would also have to sit with our heads resting on the shelf for some ‘quiet time’ – time which seemed to go on forever.
What do I remember about this final day? Was it saying goodbye to my friends? No. Was it saying goodbye to the staff? No. It was this:
The tradition was that children who were leaving took in a treat to share with the other children on their last day. We were at my grandparents’ on the afternoon before and I remember my parents rushing out to buy a large carton (possibly a tin) of Penguin biscuits for me to take in the next day. I always assumed that it was because they forgot that they needed to get something, but it might have been simply a rush to get to the shops before they shut*.
This, of course, is not the story. It happened the day before for one thing. No, what I remember about my last day at playgroup is my outrage – and inconsolable anger – at being presented with these biscuits at break time. Because the staff had carefully cut each biscuit in half. I was devastated. So far as I was concerned I had brought the biscuits and if I wanted a whole one I should have a whole one, and who were they to stop me?
In short, my strongest memory of my playgroup is them doing me out of half of a chocolate biscuit. And I’ve always believed that the reason was so that the staff could have more than their fair share of them. There can’t have been that many children around that afternoon that they needed to carve up every single biscuit to make enough to go around.
Yes, you’re right, I do still feel cheated.
*I’m not sure where the truth of this lies. When my parents didn’t want me hanging around whilst they were shopping they told me that they were going to the cash and carry that my grandparents inexplicably had membership of and where children were not allowed. It seems a pretty odd place to go for one pack of biscuits.