I had school dinners for the first time in over 30 years today (and it’s a good deal longer than that since I had a proper sit down meal in a tray as I had hot dog and chips for every lunch from the age of 15 onwards, which was served out of a hatch at the back of the kitchen). Phoebe was having lunch at her new school to get her used to how things will be in September. And we got to go along for moral support and eat a school dinner too. I know that every parent feels the same, but it seems impossible that my little girl is going to school. She’s been off to nursery most days, but somehow big school is different. It’s a bit emotional, though partly because we’ve been put through the wringer a bit by the local county council over the last few months, who decide which school you go to based on using a ruler, rather than having any sense of how it might affect a family, the child and our place in the community.
But in the end we’ve accepted the place that we’ve been assigned and it seems like a good school, even if we have to drive to it when there is a school just ten minutes walk away. I will have my revenge on these bureaucrats, but it feels like we have bigger political issues to address rather than the heartlessness of school placements.
And a proper homely and friendly school cook (who nonetheless had the regulation amount of sinister back story to suggest she make smack you across the knuckles with a serving spoon or bake you in a pie) served a tiny smattering of new kids and their parents an example of what they can expect come September. Phoebe is luckily resilient and adaptable and doesn’t seem phased to be leaving her classmates behind and cracks straight on with interacting with the new kids and trying to make them laugh. Even when she started nursery there wasn’t even a question of the fact that she’d miss us - she was straight into the room and gone. I guess that it will become properly emotional on September when we take her in for the first real day, but I have found myself getting a little teary thinking of my girl going to school. Partly because you’re tied back to the days when your parents dropped you off to school for the first time, but now you appreciate it from both sides.
I don’t particularly remember my first day at infant school, though do have some memories of fear and confusion as I moved on to Juniors. And also of then moving to a new junior school in a different town as my family moved to Cheddar. I had finished school in Loughborough, but it was still going on in Somerset, so I went back for the final week of the summer term to see if I could make some friends. I have a memory of my mum crying at the gates, but I think I have made this up. She told me recently that she watched me walking across the playground alone and cutting a solitary figure and she felt heartbroken and I have probably morphed this story into a remembrance.
And I feel I probably blogged about it then too. Sorry for the repetition, but that is my life now and I remember nothing from one day to the next.
But anyway the food was better than I remember school meals being, but still brought up memories of those cubes of sponge and weird gravy-covered meat and spam (maybe I am imagining that) and the utter misery that fussy little Richard Herring felt when he was made to eat this horrible gloop in the 1970s. Really for the baton to be passed on the food should be equally awful, but after swapping her main course with her mum, Phoebe did manage to eat everything. Thus proving she is not my child.
In two months she will be a schoolchild and that is a terrifying and wonderful prospect. I will cry loudly and histrionically at the school gates in the hope that she will remember that and pass on the story to her own kids.