Thursday 20 September 2007

Eat, drink, and be merry

A quote from Molesworth seems appropriate at this point:

Acktually whatever boys may sa about skool food the moment deaf master sa lord make us truly etc. whole skool descend upon food with roar like an H bomb and in 2 minits all hav been swept bare.

There's not a lot I remember about Stouts Hill food, but probably you lot out there remember more than I do, so this is just to get the ball rolling. I have a few isolated memories.

There were several dining rooms, presumably used by different age groups. One of them was quite large and squarish and conveniently adjacent to the kitchen. Another was long and narrow. And there was a third that I remember mainly from the Christmas feast; was it used only for that purpose? Seems unlikely.

The Christmas feast at the end of the autumn term was a genuine treat, and I think we all enjoyed it thoroughly. There were candles and plenty of traditionally appropriate food, and the masters served as waiters. I wonder if they had their own more alcoholic feast later.

At some time between meals (mid-morning?) we were given a snack of some kind, I remember oxtail soup in mugs in winter, which I rather liked.

At least once a day we found one or more vitamin pills beside our plates, which we were expected to swallow. I remember a yellow translucent pill; I don't remember whether there were other kinds. (Maybe they were really tranquillizers? Just kidding.)

I detested prunes and could hardly bear to eat them; except once when the chef had a brainstorm and cooked them in cider, when they became quite palatable. But it never happened again. I remember being kept back alone in the long narrow dining room with a plateful of uneaten prunes in front of me, and blurting out to the matron (Joan?) that they made me sick. I meant only that they disgusted me; but the matron evidently thought that I had an allergy and that they literally made me vomit, because she suddenly took pity and saved me from the deadly prunes thereafter.

I remember once accidentally tipping far too much sugar over my porridge. With my fine scientific brain, I theorized that salt is the opposite to sugar, and therefore all I had to do was to tip lots of salt on top to cancel out the sugar. The experiment failed to confirm my theory, and I didn't try it again.


Julian Williams said...

Now you have reminded me about those pills I remember them well. Were they cod liver oil? and I think there was a second hard pill, orange and bitter if you bit them, vitamins?

My big hate was corned beef which I would put in my mouth in tiny bits at a time and swallow with a gulp of water. I still avoid corned beef

I loved the rice pudding and always wanted seconds.

Do you remember the buns? Usually Chelsea buns or Doughnuts.(Were we given them with milk in morning break, or was it in the afternoons?)

I have vivid memories of ladies spreading bread with margarine in the pantry, I presume for our tea. Looking back it all seems so post war.

In my last term at Stouts Hill I remember coming into the dining room and seeing the tables laid with all these little plastic pots of strawberry and raspberry yoghurt, one per boy I had never seen them before. The post war era was giving way to the new consumer society.

Anonymous said...

Blue Dining room, Refectory, (the long one beside the Angus's rooms) which Malcolm and I booked out for our joint birthday parties) and Tavern, beside the Kitchen.
Ken Hunt, ex navy, was the cook in the days and always promised steak egg and chips - still waiting!
My worst was liver, by a long way.
I remember David Ireland, the eldest of Nicholas and Simon, regularly, (once only, perhaps?) taking six buns at a time, and I horrified. I also have a guilty conscience about finding the horde of bread, butter and marmalade in the Pantry, (you remember the rooms beside where they did the washing up), and with David Quinn making HUGE doorstep slices with lashings of butter, etc, and eating them around the grounds in Summer when we were supposed to be picking up loose shirts, tennis racquets and such, on prefect duty.
Does anyone remember the Spaniards, Javier, (who we called Abiel), Celia (largish) and the other, younger one who did the washing up?

Julian Williams said...

How do you remember all those names Robert? Obviously another A streamer.

I remember one youngish tallish slender guy who was connected with kitchen, he got on well witht eh boys. Was he Spanish?

Anonymous said...

You predate me by one year, and there may have been a "tall, slender" guy from '62 to '63. The Spaniard I remember, Javier, was, or seemed HUGE in all directions.
How do I remember these things?
I think that it's because it all mattered to me a lot. We all had to sacrifice some or all of our family life, and I suppose I attached my affections to my surroundings.
How do I remember Jonathan's father's job? Or David Quinn's birthday? Or Joey and Taffy Evans home address to this day? or Uley 233, the school phone number?
I revel in these memories and hope I can help others recapture some of this emotion.

Anonymous said...

The Tuck Shop! Ah the Tuck Shop!
Eat, (not drink) and be merry to be sure.
"Managed" by Pecker, I think, (possibly Colin Dealey), and entruste to us, the boys, to dispense on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday? It occurs to me, only now in 2007, that we were granted this privilege because the adults probably wouldn't have fit inside!!!
9d on Weds, 10d or even 1/- on Sats, and 9d or 10d on Sundays.
The little nook now houses (in these Time Share times) a telephone stool, a table... and a telephone.

Anonymous said...

Robert, I recall up to THREE prefects in that Tuck Shop at one time! With inflation it had gone from a shilling in your time to 10p by '74. I think it was 15p by '79.
The question was did you buy 10 penny chews or a Mars Bar and 2 penny chews. With half the school queuing behind there was a slight incentive to get a move on!
I remember Crinks opening the Tuck Shop up for free scoff after a dozen or so of us went with him in his Land Rover to collect potatoes from the field beyond the cricket pitch. A local farmer ploughed the field and we picked them up and unloaded them into one of the stables by the shooting range.
Deviating slightly, how far back did 'Fortnightly Marks' go? It was more like half-termly marks in reality. Everyone assembled in the gym and everyones marks for that period were read out. If you had loads of 'A's you had to stand up and get a verbal pat on the back. Not so good marks and you had a scowling at instead. If the form did well overall, then Crinks would give you a Reward. This meant sweet talking a teacher to forego their lesson to walk everyone into the village to get a whopping 20p's worth of sweets each!
Alan Davis

Anonymous said...

It's just occured to me that Tea on Saturdays was in the Gym. It was on paper plates and consisted of small sandwiches, crisps, sausage rolls, squash etc. It was doled out on a line of tables down one side. You either had to sit on the Stage or on the floor. Needless to say, the mess left afterwards was terrible, both inside and outside the Gym.
Alan Davis

Jonathan said...

Blimey, whatever you say, sir. My memory is admittedly defective, but I don't think this happened in my time (mid-1960s).

Anonymous said...

I remember the food very well.There was in fact little I could eat without vomiting, though the change from margarine to intervention board butter was a great relief, making possible on special occasions the chip butty, at the time of infinite gastronomic allure. I could also force down, even enjoy, the breakfast fish fingers, which however seemed to have been boiled.But the horror of grey watery gristly bacon, tinned tomatoes warmed through, the amazingly rancid dripping used to cook most things-that fried bread!, the beastly instant mash, horrifying porridge and sometimes powdered milk for the cereal, the ox liver with tubes sticking out,roast beef with the savour and consistency of dehydrated camel; these things have stayed with me and inspired a life possibly too devoted to the pleasures of the table.
Others seemed to cope much better, and I do remember the bonhomie of the christmas feast with happiness,and particularly the chutzpah of Mr.Scott-Clark as waiter.

Jonathan said...

Hello Anonymous, thanks for your robust comments. You certainly remember the food in much ghastlier detail than I do!

Do you want to let us know who you are, or would you rather keep us guessing?

Anonymous said...

This is hardly good maners hem-hem and i must impress on all cads and bounders who sa poo gosh when they see a skool sossage to mend their ways.

When faced with a friteful piece of meat which even the skool dog would refuse do not screw up the face in any circs and sa coo ur gosh ghastly. This calls atention to oneself and makes it more difficult to pinch a beter piece from the next boy.

Anonymous said...

Why has no-one mentioned dog-end pie?
Under truly appalling pastry you could turn up something brown that was supposed to be meat but was horrendous and could have been mistaken for something else. I do not know why we started getting served this terrible food at lunch but it was widely disliked, hence the name, which could have been somewhat coarser but perhaps not so memorable. I used to take a plastic bag into lunch and put the pie in there and then empty it later down the bog as it was called before we started calling it the twa (presumably short for "toilette").

Yet the same cook (who would promise steak, egg and chips for every meal)occasionally produced chocolate pudding with chocolate sauce which was the finest thing you could imagine.

Does anyone remember being a prefect in Blue dining-room at breakfast? Mr Birchall used to cut off the crusts of his toast and give them, along with butter and marmalade, to the prefects in turn.
It was so much nicer than the perpetual fried bread. Mr Birchall had a red blazer with yellow stripes and umpired cricket matches
sitting, as did Mr Kemp, on a shooting stick.

Jonathan said...

Hello Charles, thanks for your memories.

I don't think I ever became a prefect at any school. I was relatively well behaved, but evidently didn't seem suitable prefect material. Maybe it was just obvious that I didn't really want the job.

Anonymous said...

Mr Birchall's blazer was a Cambridge University Hawk's Club blazer. The only one I ever saw worn by anyone other than a tailor's dummy in the Cambridge University outfitters.
My hated food was swede; I remember it regularly being re-served to me at later meals. There was a blocked up door at the back of Tavern which linked into the games kit storage room and which had a conveniently large keyhole for the depositing of surplus swede.
I have seen no mention of 'the Ships' as in 'wait by the Ships'. These were 2 model ships just outside Blue Dining Room at the head of the corridor leading to Boss Angus's study. How well I remember the walk along that corridor! Mid Kemp also wielded the cane; he had a ferocious swipe but was wildly inaccurate, the cane landing anywhere between the back of one's knees and the back of one's head! The caning chair was behind the door of what was the formal entrance hall which contained a rather splendid dining table.
Robert Mills has listed the dining rooms; the dormitories were Blue, Green, Pink, Jubilee, Beech House, South Bend. I cannot recall the names of the most junior dorm outside matron's room or the one in the Cromie's House down the hill.
Does anyone recall Mr 'Gilbert' Harding who taught French?

Anonymous said...

Corrupt memory at work!
Jubilee was the name of the most junior dormitory; Liberty (I think) was the name of the most senior dormitory on site and was situated in the hideous white extension to the main building, which thankfully has now been removed.