Friday, July 21, 2006

Mirth and Woe: School Milk

School Milk

When Thatcher closed all the school canteens in the early 1980s, as part of her government's vicious cuts to public services, they simply cleared everything out of ours and locked the doors. That was it - either you brought in a packet of sandwiches, or you starved, kid. That was unless you were on free school meals, then you suffered the shame of your lunch arriving in a van, and sitting amongst your peers labelled a spazz on free school meals.

Just another reason to look forward to dancing on the old goat's grave if and when she finally carks it, but I wouldn't hold your breath - she's going to go on forever like Monty Burns. Only less funny.

Anyway, with the kitchens closed, the school was at a loss as to what, exactly do with the building, so they simply left them empty for a couple of years. Empty, except for a pint of milk on the side, clearly visible from one of the windows.

We watched, over the space of a year, as the bottle slowly changed colour from white to puce to a greeny-reddy-grey.

It was a fascinating study of the fragility of life, the temporary nature of the natural condition, and, if it had formed part of our science coursework, it would have given our gang all straight A grades. Instead, there was but one question on our lips:

"I'll give you any money if you drink it."

"How much?"


"Bugger off."

On the last day of term, and with the pot up to a cracking 59p, Ju-vid broke into the old kitchens with the intention of liberating the bottle and getting as much money as he possibly could.

Jemmying open a window, we heaved him up onto our shoulders and launched him in.


His trousers had caught on the window latch, and now, he was in the forbidden zone, split from cock-to-ankle.

"Aw shit, me nuts are hanging out!" he complained.

He could count himself lucky. An inch or two to the side, and his nuts would have been hanging off. And still the complaining continued.

"Pissin' hell, it stinks in here."

We had watched, right at the beginning of the school year, as they had cleaned the entire place from floor-to-ceiling. The smell could only have come from one place, and our hero was going to drink it.

If he could.

He popped the lid, and the smell wafted out of the window stronger than ever. Ju-Vid winced, but remembering his bet, held the bottle up to his lips for The Great Swig. And nothing happened. The milk had separated into two layers, with the liquid sloshing about in the bottom underneath something dreadful and horribly solid.

"Bet's off," Ju-Vid ventured.

"Not on your life," replied Ernie, "bring it out here and we'll mix it up for you."

With great reluctance, and no little struggle, Ju handed the bottle out of the window and clambered out, his trouser leg flapping in the breeze. The stench now was quite unbearable, made worse once somebody found a stick, prodded through the solid stuff and gave the whole fetid mixture a stir.

It was awful. It was like something had died, mixed with all the shit in the world, and left to stew in the sun for a year. Which it had, and as the bottle was handed back to Ju-Vid, he had the look on his face like a condemned man going to the gallows.

"Drink! Drink! Drink!" we chanted, and like a trooper, Ju-Vid drank.

Just a sip.

He hardly touched the bottle to his lips before he bowked rich, brown vomit everywhere. Mostly onto us, the bastard.


The bottle fell from his hand, and smashed to the ground, just as our arch-nemesis, Mr Prince came round the corner from the staff car park.

"What the bloody hell's going on here then?"


"What, in the name of God is that smell?"

And what a sight to behold. One gang of furtive-looking teenagers. One vomit-spattered boy with only one leg to his trousers. Broken glass, and some fetid lump that may or may not be the abortion of a new life form.

"Well sir," beamed Ju-Vid, "I've just won 59p."

"Have you now? All of you - my office."


Prinny must have been filled with end-of-term joy, for he spared us the cross country run that was his usual sentence of choice. Instead, his cruel and unusual punishment this time: clean and disinfect the entire home economics classroom, paying special attention to the fridges.

"Hey! I've found some cheese!"

"Eat it!"

"Nah - 59p says you're going to - next term!"

"It's a bet!"

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