It’s nearly the Christmas holidays and the fruit cakes are marzipanned and stacked high in the food larder ready for the final icing. Mincepies have spiced out the cookery room for the past week. We’ve made marzipan fruits, coconut ice, chocolate truffles and Christmas logs ready for the holidays.
This afternoon, my class of noisy boys is going to make peppermint creams as a present for gran or more likely to eat on the way home. We’re going to mix icing sugar with egg whites, add peppermint essence then dye the dough a vivid green – just so gran knows the flavour.
Kevin arrives late in bullish mood. Kevin is the school tormenter and general nuisance maker. He spends much of his time outside classroom doors or the headmaster’s room, waiting for punishment. Kevin is huge in size and personality and towers over me.
‘I’m going to make rum creams, miss. Don’t like peppermint. And anyway rum is more Christmassy.’
He eyes me provocatively and sways unsteadily. His right hand clutches a bottle of rum. Half of the contents are missing.
The class busy themselves sifting icing sugar into their mixing bowls. Through clouds of sugary dust I sense their nervousness. A confrontation is imminent.
‘Kevin – get ready to cook and leave the bottle of rum on my desk.’
To my amazement, the rum is placed next to my pile of marking and Kevin collects his apron and equipment.
‘Gather round class – I’m going to show you how to crack an egg to separate out the white.’
They collect at the demonstration table. Kevin has disappeared.
Cracking eggs to separate the whites is a delicate task and large clumsy hands frequently break the yolks and we have to start again. I sometimes wonder if this is a ploy to use the spoilt eggs for making omelettes at the end of the lesson.
‘Slide the yolk from shell to shell and catch the white in a clean bowl. Then mix it into the icing sugar and add the peppermint essence.’
A sudden movement catches my eye. Kevin rises from behind his table and stands to attention. He is wearing one of my pudding bowls as a helmet and has his right hand raised in a Nazi salute. He clicks his heels together.
‘Achtung! I told you I am using rum miss!’
The group is silent. No one wants to be noticed – well not by Kevin.
‘Kevin – we can’t use alcohol in the classroom. It’s forbidden and you are under age.’
‘You let the girls put brandy in their Christmas cakes – are you picking on me?’ Kevin looks like the Green Giant on the tins of sweetcorn. Only bigger.
He’s right about the brandy, and surprisingly quick witted now he’s drunk. But he’s wrong that I would choose to pick on him. Not unless I had two beefy minders with me for protection.
Kevin stumbles to my desk in search of rum. The rest of the group are busy rolling out the icing and cutting out circles and diamond shapes. A factory line of peppermint creams is under production.
I must face my fears and deal with Kevin. He plonks his great body weight down in my chair and lets out a gigantic yawn. A quiet mumsy approach might work here.
‘Kevin – put your head down and just rest. The room’s hot – you must be tired.’ Obediently he spreads his giant arms on my table, rests his head on his bulging forearm and begins to doze. I turn to the class, industriously packing up their sweets and clearing away. We smile conspiratorially together. The mumsy plan has worked. Peace is restored. I have won. And next week it is the Christmas holiday.