• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 02
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Milk Time

Back in my blue sky childhood, when clouds were little balls of fluff, we got free school milk. It came in thick glass bottles, a third of a pint, capped with shiny foil, to be drunk just before playtime. Warm, rich and creamy (no-one thought of semi-skimmed back then), it was food more than hydration. The Milk Monitor – a position hotly contested, and awarded on criteria that seemed unfair to my six year old eyes – would hand out bottles one at a time. Sitting at our desks, mustering whatever patience we could, we sent a silent command to speed up.

Nancy was the worst. A plump child, with glasses whose lenses echoed the base of the milk bottles, she was slow, slow, slow. Each bottle carried in both hands, intense concentration creasing her forehead, she made her ponderous way down the line of desks. Finally escaped to the playground, we would taunt her:
“Fatty Nancy!
Need ants in your pantsy.
Slowcoach Nancy,
Need ants in your pantsy!”

Did the teacher know, or care, that the privilege of being milk monitor would lead to this bullying? Was the selection of Nancy a reward or punishment for her? Or was it a punishment for us, the rest of the class? Nobody knew. Teachers' minds were opaque, but adult ways were constant mysteries.

There was Norman, the strange caretaker, with his glass eye and scarred arms. Parental whispers of POW camps in the far east passed over my head. Some of the boys would jump out from behind the shed to laugh at him cowering, covering his head with his arms. I had no taste for that sport: I was scared by his muttering and sudden jerky movements.


Milk Time

Some adults were predictable. It was best to be in bed early on Friday nights, in hope that you would be asleep when Dad got back from the pub. His beer came in thick glass bottles, too.