With a little bit of luck, we’re finally on our way out of this strange situation we’ve come to know as the new normal. I for one will be really glad to see the kids back in school.
This may seem like a strange comment for someone in my lifetime situation, I have no school age children myself, Grandson doesn’t even know school exists, and yet I look forward to the “little mites” leaving their virtual lockdowns and coming back out into the real world. I look forward to a whole host of familiar faces returning to my work hours at the shop. Oh yes, they are quite capable of bringing chaos with them, but I enjoy the energy they bring to the day, and, as is my way, I’m nice to them, and in return most of them are nice to me.
The locals have learned not to expect a quiet shop during tea break and lunch hour at the local college, especially so with the limited numbers allowed in, and the social distancing (or very often lack of it) from the college kids. But lunchtime socialising is every much as needed as maths and english when it comes to learning life skills for the future.
My lunchtime socialising during my school years was a bit of a mixture. School dinners, packed lunches, lunch at my grandmother’s house, these were the legitimate lunchtime activities, but there were many more lunchtime activities which weren’t included on the menu too.
I don’t remember lunch times in primary school, I have vague memories of walking back and for between school and two diffent houses (not both at the same time) so there’s a very good chance we simply went home for lunch. But secondary school was further away so I’m guessing lunch at home wasn’t really an option.
The options available in secondary school were school dinners or packed lunch. Packed lunch was eaten in the junior hall, my group of packed lunch friends used to huddle just to the left as you entered the hall. I don’t remember much about our lunch food, but our drinks were quite varied, and we used to share. We had flasks with lids which were cups, we would pass on a cup full of our drink in return for a cupful of someone else’s. No washing of cups between sharing, no sanitising of hands, no masks, no social distancing … I can feel the shock, horror on your faces, but this is how it was done then … And we are all still here to tell the tale.
One of my friends was from an army family, she had spent a lot of her youth in Germany and had discovered a liking for a particular German soup. It was thin soup, almost more of a stock, without any lumps, but it had dark green bits, like grass, floating in it, but the green bits obviously weren’t grass. She brought it every day, and it was a big hit. I’m still in touch with this friend today… She’s the “Rabbit Lady” .
Another friend, the pretty, and sporty one of the group who was always so much better at everything than me (add a slight bit of a green tinge to those words, and then rub it off with a pinch of salt) used to bring hot lime. This was good, it was made with lime squash or cordial, depending on where you’re from, but she would add a very generous spoonful of honey to the drink, which made it into something special.
At this point my mind has suddenly lurched into song… “Just a spoon full of sugar”… Feel free to sing along, even though the hot lime had honey not sugar, and was very sweet medicine at the time.
I found my “Hot Lime” friend again many years after school, she cropped up on one of those websites where old “friends” get “reunited”. She had become a teacher and had made her way up to headmistress. She came to visit on the same day as another friend from my “Schoolgirl” years. I will admit here to always feeling like the “also ran” in her company in school, and the visit didn’t start off quite as comfortably as hoped, I suggested we visited the local retail outlet for some teenage shopping activities.
As teenagers we used to go to Cardiff shopping on a weekend. It was quite normal for just one of us to be planning to shop, the others would just go with enough money for train fare. The non shoppers would then choose clothes from the rails to try on as well and we’d all visit the changing rooms together.
I think only Hot Lime friend was shopping on the day in question so we other two picked out something for a changing room visit for support. We were very grown up, and very subdued … Until I think I passed a comment on the size of Hot Lime’s boobs in the blouse she was trying on and she snorted out a laugh I hadnt heard since school… The ice broken, we collapsed back into giggling schoolgirls.
I seem to remember a return visit with two, or possibly three of my girls to Hot Lime’s house in Bournemouth, during one of Hubby’s sport competitions. The visit didn’t turn out to be an astounding success, but it was however, difficult to forget as its hard to live down a visit to Bournemouth when you follow a river upstream looking for the sea.
At one point during secondary school, it was decided that Big Sister and I would walk to Grandmother’s house and have a cooked meal for lunch each day. There was probably a good reason for the arrangement at the time, but as covid has shown so many of us, the lunchtime socialising is just as important as the lessons for lots of children, and by leaving school for the lunch break, we didn’t get time to spend with our friends. I think we solved the problem by the friends walking to Grandmother’s house with us and we all sat to eat our lunch together in her front room before all walking back.
My packed lunch friends were the “parentally acceptable” group of friends. I had a second group of friends too, of the not so “parentally acceptable” type … the “Misfits” . Well, just the one friend really, and I tagged along with her group of friends. I’ve mentioned before that I was “Bullied” mercilessly during my school years, this group of friends protected me from the bully.
I won’t dwell on the bullying, but lunchtime activities were different with my misfit friend. For a start we were friends at a time when I had school dinners. I would take my weekly dinner money to the school office and pay for five school dinner tickets which were then handed over to the dinner ladies daily in payment for our meals. My “Misfit” friend had free meals so had different colour tickets from mine. At first we would just sit together for lunch and then she would go with her other friends and I would go to the junior hall to find my packed lunch friends, spending time in the junior hall without a packed lunch was frowned on expecially on rainy days when the whole school was looking for somewhere to shelter, I had to sneak in or wait outside, eventually I ended up spending more of my lunch times with Misfit.
I’m sure there are many “not-so-fond” memories of school dinners out there, and I’m sure the dinner ladies did their best under the circumstances, I was a picky eater at the best of times and so school dinners weren’t a big hit with me at all. We hit on a plan for me to just buy one school dinner ticket, and add it to Misfit’s five to give us three days in school dinners where we would pick and choose our days according to the weekly menu, and two days where we could go out to the local food places and buy our own.
Eventually I spent more time with “Misfit” and her younger sister who she protected fiercely, we made an odd little group. Strange to think that it was my Little Sister who mostly protected me.
We all inevitably grew up and went our own separate ways, most parts of my school life I’m more than happy to forget, but snippits of socialising at lunchtime drift up from the bottomless pit of dissappeard memories now again, and very often make me smile.
As for a photo… Here’s one from another teenage memory… The “Secluded steps” on Penarth prom.
More from before : Delving into the murky depths of my “Memory Vaults“