Very few students eat lunch at school. They would rather nip to chippy down the end of the road and buy a bag of fried, battered bits or get a 99 icecream from the Mr Whippy van, which belches diesel fumes outside the school gates.
School dinners are dismal, rushed affairs in a bleak dining room, and the walls ooze smells of cabbage and chips. Food is slopped onto scratched plastic plates which come in assorted pastel shades of pink, orange and yellow, but the colours have long faded. Most students just choose a mountain of chips submerged in tomato ketchup. Chips, ketchup, and spam fritters are always on the menu.
Today we’re learning about picnics and packed lunches. The exams ask stuff like –
Prepare a packed meal for two hungry school boys on a bicycle tour.
Prepare a packed meal for two schoolgirls to take on a long train journey.
Bah! I can’t imagine any of my students going on a bicycle or a tour or taking the train. They like to be driven around by car.
This is our picnic menu –
Scotch eggs wrapped in foil and roasted in the oven
Tomato and cucumber chunks
Freshly squeezed orange juice
I have planned a fun surprise as it’s a hot summer’s day.
‘We’re going to make this picnic and take it down to the school field and eat together. I’ve got permission, so we’ll go as part of the lesson end.’
I read the textbook to quieten them.
‘Packed meals are required by workers unable to obtain midday meals at their places of employment, by travellers and for picnics. Balance the packed meal as carefully as the main meal. There is always a danger of including too great a proportion of carbohydrates. The day of the traditional sandwich is now almost over – avoid too much bread.’
What!! I carry on.
‘ Make fullest use of the large variety of plastic equipment now available. Portable cruets should be added to every picnic and always supply some sort of drink.’
There’s no plastic equipment in my stockroom – only antiquated iron griddles and huge, useless fish kettles, although Jackie has said I can stock up at her auntie’s Tupperware party.
‘She’s got lots of lovely stuff and a new thing on a swirly stick with trays that hold cocktail nibbles.’
I’ve never been to a cocktail party and wonder if I need a special frock.
‘Jackie, I have to buy everything from Central Supplies. Get your auntie to send me a catalogue.’
I’d secretly like an invite to auntie’s naughty knickers and nightie parties that lady teachers chuckle about in the staffroom. Perhaps I could buy something alluring for an imaginary date.
We roast the Scotch eggs – no deep fat fryer in my room – it’s much too dangerous. Then bake the rock cakes, shred the cabbage and grate carrots for the coleslaw and finally squeeze the oranges. Then pack complete with salt and pepper cruets just as the book says. The boys take the tablecloths and the girls carry picnic baskets. Boys don’t carry baskets, so there is no point asking. While the girls sit quietly tucking into warm Scotch eggs, even the hungriest boy is missing.
‘Where are they?’
‘They said they wouldn’t be seen dead sitting here, miss. They’ve probably gone to the chip shop.’
Taking students out for a picnic! Silly idea! Stay in the classroom and have done with it.