When I was uprooted from a cozy and carefree existence at Chadwell Junior School and shifted lock stock and barrel at the tender age of eleven to Mayfield Boys School, I had the most terrible, terrible shock. Sports, sports and more blooming sports. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lack team spirit – far from it. As a bystander I was always willing to cheer and egg others on. The freezing winters were the worst. Running about and playing blooming football in skimpy shorts, vest and stinky school second hand, or I should say second foot, plimsoles. I didn’t mind the more static games like putting the shot, discus or even a spot of cricket, which involved a lot of hanging about and stoppages. Unfortunately, there were no darts, snooker or tiddly-winks played at Mayfield.
Turning out on a winters day with hardly anything on PT master, Mr Rew, dangled me upside down by the ankles and shook me. I think he was Canadian so naturally he was used to the cold. But I noticed he always wore a cozy track suit and jumper while we were shivering, half naked. We were often taken to what was called ‘The Extension’ just along the road from the school where we were sometimes ordered to run around it’s perimeter and keep on and on running until we dropped, dreadful. We also played the joyful games of football and rugby there, from which I was often dispatched back to the school to write an essay on ‘Why I didn’t like sports’. Wonderful, just what I wanted, I could write pages and pages of comedy sports satire in a few minutes. Most of which Mr Rew, or whichever PT master happened to be taking us, took to the staff room for all and sundry to read. They always returned them though. I was well known for my satirical essays which for me was the most splendid of punishments I could wish for. But my ploy was sussed eventually and punishments became more harsh like being thrashed by Mr Frankland with a climbing rope in the Gym. Just like Capt Bligh of the Bounty. No, energetic sports were never my thing.
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Mash, mash, mash and more bloomin mash, grooo. Yes, it’s the old favorite again, ‘School dinners’. For a shortish period during my early sojourn at Mayfield I paid my five bob a week and took my chances of survival to partake in the gastronomical delights of school dinners, a challenge requiring great daring and iron constitution to be sure. The erm dining hall was like a long shed on the other side of the drive adjacent to the playing field, not a nice view from the window as it reminded me of my other dread ‘sport’. The cooking smells which always pervaded the whole area suddenly intensified as you entered ‘the dining shed’groo!!!.
The tables and forms were arranged in rows, eight boys to a table I think it was with no place names of course. The whole scene being overlooked by a steely eyed master who stood at the head of the hall. The cutlery box would arrive and the contents duly dealt out. There was usually something missing which meant someone dining with one knife or fork and fingers. Some manipulated the knife like a dagger anyway. We would say Grace and then await the forthcoming culinary delights from the kitchen.
Out would trundle, two dinner ladies each shoving a big four wheeled trolley laden with our repast, ‘we were all getting a bit peckish by now. Then the performance of serving began. Wielding a huge ice cream scoop two dollops of mashed spuds would be dumped on each plate invariably accompanied by either peas, carrots or beans. And then the stew was added, a dark brown slop consisting of some kind of meat and ‘Lights’ chopped up animal intestines, which certainly wasn’t Squid. After’s consisted almost always of a round rock hard sort of biscuit, about the size of a Wagon wheel, deluged with lumpy custard. Without variation this meal was the standard fair for much of the year, ‘washed down with a plastic beaker of water’, with very occasional surprises like shrivelled up sausages and salads with school made lumpy salad cream during the summer, but all meals were always, absolutely without fail accompanied by those two great dollops of ‘MASHED BLOOMIN POTATO’. But still I wouldn’t have missed it for anything,”not much”, and at a bob per day not bad value I suppose.
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