10 February, 2006

the school lunch dilemma

It seems a universally accepted truth: lunch at school does not count as food. OK, it's hampered from the get-go by the sad fact that the street where the school is located, has some arcane prohibition against food preparation in
commercial, non-residential spaces. So Avery's poor school gets its food from its big sister senior school in Harley Street. I already think it's tempting fate to cook in the great medical street of London (you know how in stories someone's always
saying lugubriously, "I'll go up to town and see if someone in Harley Street can do anything to help me"). So the "food" is placed in a van, although I like to exaggerate and say it's wheeled along on a white enamel trolley alongside sterilised medical instruments, and taken all the way around the corner to Avery's school, which does not have even reheating capacity. You can imagine.

Monday is generally what Avery calls "bendy chicken," pointing out that chicken in its usual forms does not bend. Then Tuesday could be shepherd's pie, that wonderful concoction, when done properly, of a sort of bolognese sauce covered with mashed potatoes and baked. At school it's apparently not quite of that description. "There's something slimy and red all over it and it MOVES," Avery asserts. Then Wednesday might be pasta, just penne, with no salt or sauce or anything else. Thursday could be lamb, Avery says sliced super thin and it's grey. Oh, speaking of slicing, I read the funniest joke in one of the tabloids yesterday. "How many men does it take to wallpaper a house? Four, but they must be sliced very, very thin." Mmmm.

Friday is fish, of course, being a nice Church of England school. Then there's allegedly only warm, dirty water to drink, with a fly floating in it once, and never forgotten. Apparently early on in the school's history my friend Emily appproached Mrs D about, er, um, the food, and the fact that no one at ALL eats anything for lunch. Mrs D was completely taken aback and said, "But my dear, the food is delicious!" We have a problem.

So yesterday over a consoling slice of apple pie after school, Avery was telling me all about the three times a day they pray. She demonstrated her pose with her little hands clasped in front of her and an unbelievably innocent look on her face. "First we pray at assembly, then before lunch, then after lunch. Before lunch we say, 'for what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly
thankful." "But Avery," I said, "don't you feel a bit odd, hoping to be thankful for such awful food that you never eat?" "You know, I DO! But I have to say it. It's just a white lie." "Well, maybe you could say, 'for what Lily is about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful,' because you say Lily actually likes the food."

"Yes," she said, warming to the theme, "or I could say, sort of under my breath, 'for what I'm about to put in my mouth because Miss Clarke makes me, but then I'll spit it in my napkin, may the Lord make us truly thankful." We finally decided she can be thankful for having been offered food. That works.

Fully half the teachers were ill this week (maybe they ate lunch one day). So apparently some controlled chaos reigned. I went to read with my kindergarteners and the Upper Kindergarten assistant teacher was clearly not in her element without trusty colleague by her side. "I'm flying solo today, so I'm AWFULLY glad you're here!"

Well! I just got off the phone with my friend Becky, and Avery is having her first London sleepover! It was half day today for the start of the winter break, and Becky and I took the girls to Villandry for some ruinously expensive farfalle bolognese (have to say it was really good, though), and then Avery went home with Anna to play. Becky says they're having the time of their lives, laughing their heads off (it really reminds me of the way Avery plays with Cici, totally goofy and out of control), and could she stay. So she'll stop by here on her way to pick her youngest at a playdate and get Avery's beloved Bumper without whom she'd rather not sleep, and perhaps Abby Bear and Chestnut the Pony. And John and I can finally have my birthday dinner by ourselves! Peking duck without having to feed Avery ahead of time, since she is a conscientious objector to duck, on
cuteness principles. What a nice surprise!

Just to keep things consistent here, the washer had an adventure today. I saw that the cycle had stopped and there was an error message flashing, so I looked it up in the maintenance manual and the
instructions said, "The drain pump has become blocked. Place a shallow dish under the pump, open the lid and drain the water out, taking care to mop up any extra water with a towel promptly." This last phrase should have clued me in. Maybe if the shallow dish had the square footage of Waterloo, Iowa, I could have taken care of the
situation, but as it was I held a dish under the pump, opened the lid, and let me tell you, Niagara Falls was no rival. Honestly, galllons and gallons onto the laundry floor where it slid slyly under the boiler, who's already been through enough. I shoved the lid shut and mopped frantically with all the dirty laundry on top of the washer, but to no avail. I began to have visions of electrocuting myself on the boiler, so I just shut the door and left. When I got back from coffee, I decided that since the boiler was standing on little feet, maybe it would be OK, and most of the water seemed to have gotten soaked in one thing or another. Urrrrggh. The problem, though, seems to have righted itself without any further intervention (probably the thing blocking the pump is now under the boiler), so disaster averted.

I'll let you know how the sleepover goes!

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