Wednesday, 26 November 2008

A hall new experience

Every Tuesday afternoon for, oh, years now, I have arrived to teach Year 1 in the hall after lunch. The pudding is invariably jelly, the children invariably messy and health and safety rules unyielding.

This means that the floor has to remain unmopped until the cleaners arrive in the evening. Untrained operatives, like me, are banned. I assume this is because over-energic scrubbing might break through the patina of dirt and A-list germs that have lain undisturbed through the centuries and release anthrax spores and the plague back into the community.

"I don't see why the children have to sit in patches of old jelly," I say to one of the teachers, one afternoon.

"Look on the bright side," she says. "If it's really sticky they can't fidget as much."

"There must be something I could do," I say.

"Why don't you ask the catering manager if they have to have jelly on Tuesdays?"

There's another unspoken question behind this one. Suspecting it to be, "And when did you last see your lovely brain?" I disappear, leaving it forever (I hope) unanswered.

The catering manager is sporting an attractive hygiene hat in blue nylon netting. Too small to cover more than a smallish proportion of his head, it balances precariously on the crown, leaving almost all his hair free to shed dirt, shampoo droppings and small change straight into the custard. It's a mystery as to what exactly it's supposed to convey to the on-looker, apart from a profound sense of pity for the unhappy wearer.

"Do you think it might be possible for the Year 1 children not to have jelly on Tuesdays?" I ask. "It makes the floor really sticky and they have to sit there for music in the afternoon."

He gives me a long look and his face fills with sorrow.

"I just don't know," he says. "It's harder than it looks. We'll have to see how the menu goes."

He speaks in hushed tones. It's clear that to him, the menu is a sacred thing, eternal, unchanging and possibly handed down on stone tablets like the 10 commandments.

"I'm just an amateur in menu management," I say, "but wouldn't it just be a question of swapping one pudding for another?"

He opens his mouth again and I expect him to say either,

"Come midnight on the longest night, I will sacrifice the lasagne and read the runic kidney beans to see what the future holds for The Menu,"


"Jelly has been on the Tuesday lunch menu since 1635. We still keep the head of the last teacher who asked for its removal on show in one of the trophy cabinets,"

But he doesn't. Instead, he sucks his teeth, possibly wondering if they'd be an interesting addition to the normal condiments range, turns on his heel and disappears, to wrestle with the Mystery that is the Great Menu, a living, breathing organism with a brain of bright green jelly, whose internal construction is so complex that no mere mortal can tamper with it.

Sighing, I return to my piano and attempt to play the loud pedal. There's a loud squelching sound underfoot and a sudden burst of lime fragrance as a spatter of jelly rushes up my leg. The Menu has heard. The Menu is angry.........


Potty Mummy said...

That sounds scarily like one of those Dr Who special effects from my childhood...

Lesleylynn said...

With me it's pasta!! Oh and bread crumbs too! Hey ho, the joys of primary school.

CrazyCath said...

Now with your experience I would have thought you would have known better than to annoy the Jelly. I bet the Jelly puts it into the Menu Maker's head to change the menu and you will have tapioca all over the floor next week...

The Boisterous Butterfly said...

And when The Menu is angry, it will take revenge on all those sweet children who sit down on the sticky fragrant floor during the music lesson. Oh, those poor children and it is all your fault... said...

perfect. health and safety and rules to a T.

Iota said...

But help! You could end up with something far worse. Might he swap with Monday's semolina, or Wednesday's rice pudding?

Anonymous said...

So sympathise. I would hate to have to sit on a jelly infested floor too.

CJ xx

molly gras said...

Oh you poor loud pedal pusher ... and with icky, sticky lime jelly to boot.

Is there no smallish Year 1 you could sacrifice to appease said menu gods?

No offering of a more fashionable hairnet to make your appeals fall on sympathetic ears.

Is there no sanitized mercy to be found there ... EVER?!

Oh, OM! Oh you poor, poor thing ...

Around My Kitchen Table said...

This so funny! It really rang a bell with me as I've just been on a health and safety course. We were even warned about paper cuts! At one point I got so fed up with the whole thing that when we were asked what we do if the staff complained about being too hot, I suggested we prop open the fire door with a fire extinguisher. Person taking the course was not amused......

I Beatrice said...

Just popped in to wish you Merry Christmas. I took my grand-daughter to see 'A Christmas Carol' at the Rose in Kingston yesterday, so am filled with the festive spirit.

Not sure you'll receive my greetings though - you don't seem to come here very often these days.

All good wishes to you though, if you do.

Frog in the Field said...

A brilliantly written post!
I can't possibly comment on the school meals thingy, last time I did that I was hauled up in front of the entire kitchen staff and governors and held captive until I apologised for asking who plans the menus.
Sorry I haven't visited for ages..nothing personal, I haven't visited anyone. Have a lovely Christmas!

Sparx said...

Yes, but what if they swapped it for tapioca or something equally messy? Or do they not do tapioca these days? Sigh.

lady macleod said...

Has Saturday Night LIve called yet?

Jenna said...

Great article, I really enjoyed it. I have my own blog I would love to add you to my blog roll and hope you will do the same - let me know your thoughts. I am also part of you should check it out and add your profile, it's a great way to promote your business and blog.

I look forward to connecting with you and continuing to read your blog.


Omega Mum said...

Potty Mummy: I also think it's mutating into a new life form

Lesleylynn: But at least pasta is tangible. And actually with the breakcrumbs and a few scrapings of cheese you could come up with a new recipe.....

Crazycath: Over two months' on and they're still on the jelly. They've added peas, though, for textural variety.

The Boisterous Butterfly. I'd like to say, 'Never!' I will shield them with my body. But I'll actually run like hell.

Reluctant Memsahib: Why, thank you. I blog as I find.

Iota: The only option really would be to bring in the dog as a floor cleaning aid. I'd probably get away with it as long as it wore the mesh cap.

CJ: But I was going to ask you to join me for moral support!

Molly G: Was attempting Wicker Child but sadly foiled when smell of singeing set off fire alarms.

Around my Kitchen Table: My favourite, coming soon if can make time, is risk assessment which I can really recommend if you don't have quite enough rage and frustration in your life.

IB: How lovely of you. And I do still do this and love it. Just not as often as I should.

FintheF: Thank you, hon.

Sparx: Will investigate the tapioca and get back to you. Sounds as if you have mid-winter school meal nostalgia. Alcohol is the only cure for this.

Lady M: They have and I've borrowed their cleaner. Thanks for tip.