Monday, 4 April 2011


Jennospot 22  Milk

D'yew loike milk? Durin' the war, ev'ryday at school, we 'ad ter drink milk. A third of a pint, it were. Well Peter St John, 'ee weren't too fond o' milk; an' ol' Golfball, din't loike it much neither, so between them, they set up a little scheme so's they shouldn't 'ave ter drink it. This is 'ow they worked it; at least at first...

‘I need two volunteers for milk monitor today,’ said Miss Ufford.
At the risk of being taken for a teacher's toady, I put up my hand.
Miss Ufford selected a weedy-looking individual from a desk on my left. ‘Spalding, you can be the other milk monitor.
I caught a sour look of resignation on Spalding's face.
The clock on the wall showed when Miss Ufford called out: ‘Right, the two milk monitors can leave now. You've ten minutes to get everything ready.’ Then she said mysteriously, ‘The number is twenty-eight.’
‘Yes Miss, twenny-eight,’ repeated Spalding and I realised that that was the number of pupils in the class. He got up, beckoned to me with his head and moved towards the door. I followed him. ‘Okay Spalding,’ I said, ‘what do we have to do?’
‘You c'n call me Golfball,’ he said gloomily. ‘Ev'rybody else does. Spaldin's the name of a make of golf balls.’
‘But what's your real name?’
‘Archibald,’ he replied. ‘An' you might as well know, that after that comes Spencer. Imagine 'ow that looks as initials.’ He sighed heavily.
I stifled a guffaw and tried to look sympathetic. Some parents are extraordinarily short sighted when it comes to giving names to their children.
‘Okay Golfball, what do we have to do?’
His answer surprised me; I would not have thought this gloomy, strangely-named Golfball capable of such a flight of dry humour. ‘What we 'ave to do is our national duty,’ he declaimed, drawing himself up into a parody of stiff military attention. ‘We administer a government programme for the benefit of present and future generations.’
‘See this table at the classroom door?’ he went on, saluting it smartly. ‘We 'ave to go'n fetch, from the duty teacher at the service entrance, twenny-eight bottles of milk and twenny-eight straws. We place the bottles on the table. As the pupils come out for mid-mornin' break at 'alf-past ten, we 'ave to see that each one takes a bottle and we give each one a straw.
‘When they've drunk the milk, we 'ave to make sure that there are twenny-eight empty bottles come back. We 'ave to make sure that the waxed paper cap is still on the bottle and that each one 'as a straw passing through the 'ole made for the purpose in the cap. If anyone 'ands in a bottle what is not completely empty, or without a cap or a straw, we 'ave to take 'is or 'er name.
‘When all the bottles are back, we return them to the service entrance, then we can go back into class.’
He made a face and shuddered. ‘I 'ate milk and I 'ate bein' milk monitor.’
‘I hate milk too,’ I said. ‘Can't one refuse?’
‘No way,’ he replied decisively. He then recited, as though he had learned it by heart, ‘We 'ave to be thankful for our free Government milk, provided generously at the risk of men's lives so as we can grow up to be strong an 'ealthy.’
He shuddered and made a vomiting noise. ‘Leastways, that's what Uffy says.’
‘Uffy?’ I asked.
Golfball looked at me as though I were daft, then he grinned. ‘Miss Ufford, natch,’ he explained.
I nodded my understanding. ‘Can't you just pour your milk down the drain in the washroom?’
‘No way,’ he said again, making an even more disgusting retching sound. ‘They watch the washrooms, and you're not allowed to take bottles into the toilets outside either. Come on, we'd better get those bottles or we'll not be ready when the bell rings.’
We went to the service area. Just outside was a pile of milk crates and the duty teacher. ‘Hurry up,’ she said tetchily, ‘you're late. Get a move on or the bell will ring before you're ready. How many?’
‘Twenty-six,’ I said quickly. Golfball gave a gasp, opened his mouth to speak but shut it again quickly when he saw me glare at him.
The duty teacher wrote ‘26’ in the little book she held in her hand; pushed over two crates of third-of-a-pint bottles, each containing a dozen; placed an additional bottle on top of each crate; added the straws and said, ‘Buck up now, it's almost ten-thirty. Hurry along now.’
We staggered off with our loads, dumped them on the table outside the class room and stood behind it waiting for the bell. Golfball gaped at me with a look of apprehensive admiration on his face. ‘Quick thinkin',’ he remarked, ‘but if we're found out we'll be for it. Kept in for a week I shouldn't wonder.’
‘We'll not be found out, but if we are, I'll take all the blame. I'm new and I was never very good at figures.’ At that instant the bell rang and we readied ourselves behind the table. ‘I'll hand out the bottles,’ I said, ‘you distribute the straws.’

("Gang Territory" Chapter 2 – Amazon Kindle)

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