Saturday, 10 April 2010

Tales from the Not Too Distant Past II - Come on, Mrs Thatcher

It is just after 10 on a winter’s morning. In Miss Pickard’s classroom, everyone is bent over their Cuisenaire rods. There is a faint click as the minute hand on the clock moves forward. My stomach churns as the moment of dread draws near.
They are there. I can see them. Their squat little figures crouch on the radiator. They are waiting–just like every weekday morning.
Another minute clicks by. My friend Penelope walks past them and they rattle quietly – ‘Just a reminder that we haven’t gone away.’
And then it is time. Miss Pickard lifts them out with bird like movements, piercing each one with a paper straw. She hands me mine and looks at me sternly. ‘I don’t want any nonsense today,’ she says.
I grasp the thing’s stout little body, warm on the bottom, but icy cold towards the top. ‘Come on, drink up,’ Miss Pickard tells me, and I put my lips to the straw and suck. The warm, half curdled bit that has already melted mixes with fragments of still-frozen milk. The taste, the texture, the temperature - it is all absolutely revolting.
Hurry up, milk snatcher. I can’t take much more of this.


  1. One of my most-hated school memories, from the school i attended from 1982 to 1986 - tepid milk, the forced drinking thereof.

  2. Ditto. Very well described! The horror...

    I found our school milk drinkable when very cold. The worst time was the summer when it would be left in crates in the sun. By mid-morning break it would be curdling. Probably the most unpleasant taste experience of my life.

  3. I dunno, I remember skool milk being excellent, and those little third-of-a-pint (wasn't it?) bottles were rather cute. (Though Mrs Thatcher was very possibly correct on economic grounds.) In Romania they still provide free school milk but in cardboard cartoons and, this being Romania, we are sometimes given some by a teacher friend, and we don't ask any questions...

  4. I had the idea the bottles were gills - as in measurement rather than fish appendages. Although, if I were a wine reviewer and I was writing an appraisal of the contents, I would probably have to say they had fairly dominant notes of rotten fish.