Ron Moss (June 2002)
It is hard for anyone other than a schoolboy to really understand
the primeval forces caused by hunger. The craving is
constant with a respite only whilst asleep. The all
pervading obsession with food continues way into adolescence when
it is eventually replaced by other equally consuming forces;
football and girls or anything sexual. Lunch was the last
opportunity to re-fuel until school had finished. Even then
food could only be obtained if one had some money left from the
earlier visits to the tuck shop. Normally, there was no food
until one staggered into the home kitchen and with reducing
strength, through malnutrition, managed to open the fridge and
raid whatever was left in there. On rare occasions a stroke
of luck happened if the girls had domestic science and had cooked
something vaguely edible that could be stolen or coerced away from
them - an infrequent event.
Choosing your table
The school dinner ritual began on the first day of the new
school year. The dining hall was set out with tables seating
ten people. Each table had a Table Head. This was a
senior pupil, a prefect or occasionally a member of staff.
The form was that on the first day one would chose a table on
which to sit and the resulting location would be one's place for
the rest of the school year. The choice of seating was
critical. The main strategic criteria were proximity,
(to the serving hatch and the tap), visibility, (inverse
proximity to the Staff Table) and composition (the others
who sat with you). A position close to the serving hatch
meant that there was less distance to travel to collect food, it
was likely you would be selected early to collect your food, and
you were near to the water tap to facilitate the speedy filling of
water jugs, important for the perpetual water drinking
competitions. Being too near the head table was bad as you
were easily scrutinised by the staff on duty. Being
invisible to staff was important. Only too often it was at
lunch time that a prefect or teacher seeing you at your table
remembered the green paper or homework that you had not handed in
or chose you as a volunteer they needed for some mundane errand
which spoiled the rest of your lunch break. The only
downside of inverse proximity was the very occasional time
that a young attractive say exchange French Mistress sat on the
raised head table and adopted an ungainly gait showing a glimpse
of thigh or underwear. As this only happened about once a
year it seldom persuaded anyone to take the chance. There
were four tables that were located by the entrance door, behind
the side wall of the serving hatch, and were completely concealed
from the head table. These tables were much sought after and
unless you were large or very early into the room unobtainable.
Composition was probably the leading criteria. The choice
of Table Head was important but often difficult as the 'heads'
would await everyone getting their seats before choosing their
table. Bearing in mind that each table was given the same
volume of food irrespective of its constituency it was important
to chose table mates that did not eat too much. Of course it
would be nice to sit with ones friends but, a table full of
starving boys meant less food for all. The ideal was to have
one friend for company and the rest of the places to be filled
with first form girls. First form girls eat very little and
generally do what they are told. A downside of this strategy
was that during the water drinking contests a table full of girls
did not help. The competition was to see who could drink the
most number of jugs full of water in a lunch break. This had
to be carried out subtly so as not to draw the attention of the
staff. It also required an amenable or 'naive' table head.
Sadly the girls would often not participate and even when they did
their capacity for H2O was restricted.
Even after all the years I can still remember the noise levels
over lunch. Hundreds of youngsters make a lot of noise.
I recall, however, that the noise levels would depend on what food
was being served. Some dishes restrict noise. Stews,
cottage pie and other dishes of a viscous nature were noisy.
Salads, anything with chips and macaroni cheese were quiet.
I can not recall if the food was good or bad. I suspect
that it was probably quite good for institutional food. I do
recall though that there was never enough of it. Some of the
dishes I remember were Bakewell tart and watery custard, rice
pudding with a dollop of jam, Toad in the Hole and corned beef and
or Spam fritters.
John Calvert (July 2002)
School Dinners, 6 bob a week to enjoy the cabbage, some days we
didn't even have cabbage but the succulent aroma wafted up the
front stairwell and down the Gym corridor. No packed lunches
permitted and "zones"
for those going home for lunch. Solution...... pay the money, get
on second sitting, grab a first sitting first year and grill them
for the day's menu, IF appealing into the dining hall, if not
sneak the sandwiches out of the pocket whilst enjoying the second
pickup football in the playground ( before balls were banned by VJ.)