Monday, November 07, 2016
Reflections on a kind of bullying and not growing up: Secondary School in the sixties was a bully's haven, there were so many fine opportunities designed into the school system that allowed it to flourish as some second line of pupil discipline working behind the tawse and daily classroom humiliations to maintain a solid state of fear amongst the kids. One example was the jungle like atmosphere in the dinner hall. This was before the days of actual choice or cafeteria type systems. This was dog eat dog and possibly included dog on the menu, you couldn't be sure.
We were seated at tables of eight, three on each side and a "monitor" at each end. The job of the monitor was to collect the food on warm trays, bring to the table and then dish it up to the hungry young would be recipients. Simple arithmetic said that each serving should be one eighth of the contents of the tray but that seldom happened. Generally the monitors were the most aggressive, worst off, toughest kids on the block (or in the housing scheme). They all had big brothers and a tale to tell and they ruled the table as well as the playground and distributed the food according to their own warped whims.
We (the bullied, as it now turns out now thanks to my enlightenment) knew them as "starvers". A really bad starver would feed himself and any of his tribe or followers present and leave the rest with a few chips or a sausage or sometimes next to nothing. Funnily this system was accepted and understood, few complained. They knew fine well that if they did then after lunch there would be an ambush and they'd get a good kicking so we silently went along with this and learned more of life's bitter lessons on a daily basis. Often the water jug doubled as a makeshift spittoon to add to the glamour of the occasion of this fine dining. The fact that we'd paid for this princely meal at sixpence a day seemed unconnected to our treatment. It was just a part of the general misery of the grey Presbyterian Scottish education back then. Of course teachers would hover around but they remained indifferent and aloof and seldom intervened to bring justice. A misheard complaint could be seen as cheek and that would result in a good but undeserved belting.
I guess a couple of years of this haphazard diet explains in someway why I'm on the short side. A long day a school with whatever I could scrape up as a main meal and then potatoes and butter (?) for tea when I got home after my double bus journey. Growing up was tough. Still they were reckoned to be the happiest days of my life although and now I can relax, look at fine art and sip asparagus and lime juice whilst munching on fresh French bread and Marmite. Never had it so good I suppose.