A trusted middle aged woman, who had dedicated her life to the children she taught; dressed in twin set and pearls, tight fitting light tweed jacket and accessorised with a brooch on her left lapel. Her sensible court shoes were patent leather, shiny and gleaming, just like her deep set eyes; hiding behind a pair of thick 1970s spectacles, that usually hung around her neck, on a golden chain. This was my first teacher; a lady I have fond memories of. She was patient, firmly spoken, clear and articulate; her air of authority, respected and rarely questioned. As a young boy attending my first class, Mrs Brooks was the best I could have hoped for; others were not so lucky. She was unassuming, approachable, a little dour but enthusiastic in her role; a position she relished, a job she loved. As a five year old boy, I felt secure in her presence; important during those first few years, away from home and the safety of a Mothers arms.
The caretaker pulled his wooden cart with T shaped handle, along the echoing corridors of the school; wheels squeaking, clanking as he went about his business. Breathing heavily, muttering to himself under his breath, he diligently delivered the warm quarter pint glass bottles, of Co-op milk, to each class. The classroom door would spring open, our eyes averted briefly, as he left the rattling crate of blue top, perched precariously in a corner. I hated this time of day; warm milk was just not palatable. My stomach churned at the thought of having to drink yet more of this white stuff; feeling queasy, gulping deeply, anticipating frantically! Milk would forever be the bane of my life, the smell of it, made worse from the heat of the day; sun pouring through the great expanse of glass encasing the school.
The bell signaled morning break; the silence of the room suddenly became loud and noisy, as chairs were scraped along the wooden parquet floor. Children began chattering to friends on the other side of the table, a play fight by the door, a handball thrown in haste; all the while, Mrs Brooks calming the fray. The milk monitors walked to the back of the class, taking each small bottle in turn, handing them out to each of us, without exception. In front of me was also a straw, used to pierce the foil top, spitting residue over my freshly laundered clothes, lingering on my turtleneck knitwear, proudly sported each morning. The liquid soaked through the wool, as I tried to brush it away; a familiar odour protracted, until I could leave at the end of the day!
I sat there looking at the bottle for a minute or two, thinking about how I could drink the contents fast enough and make the taste more appetising. Gently, not wanting to upset a single drop, I removed the top and straw, looking down at the milk inside; jiggling the bottle gently, left to right. Gripping the flagon tightly, I retched ever so slightly, as the rim of the bottle touched my lips. I closed my eyes systematically, pinched my nose securely, and quickly poured the opaque white liquid down my throat, spilling most of it in my wake. It wasn’t unusual for me to make a quick exit to the toilet at this point, roughly putting my head under the tap, drinking water as fast as I could, trying to take the taste away.
As I look back with affection, at those halcyon days; the lack of stress and worry, playing in the fields, so green and lush in this new and wondrous World. I am reminded that not everything was great back then; bad memories loitering longer. I have never drunk milk since that time and was glad when Mrs Thatcher ‘The Milk Snatcher’ took it away. A difficult part of childhood remembered with fondness, as I write this memory today.
47 year old Author, Columnist and Blogger.