Wednesday, 28 March 2007


Hubby and I started courting when he was a fervent and zealous Petty Officer caterer. Always enthusiastic, when it came to Her Majesty nothing was too much for him and when, just before some hellish deployment I would ask him, “What have you been doing today?” he would reply “Storing ship”. I didn’t quite understand what this meant in those far off days but he soon informed me that basically he and his team literally had to hoik up from the wharf, ten tons of tinned and packaged food, meat and veg and pack them away neatly – farinaceous in one corner of the cupboard, dried fruit and God knows what in the other. Then of course there were the awful jobs of standing, shivering half to death in the walk-in fridges and making space for all the perishable goods, not to mention storing the meat in the freezers. I was always amazed when he told me how much stuff would be carried on board and how they found a space for it all. As one who squishes the cartons of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream into the freezer only to find the door ajar and everything melted in the morning, I have always been in awe of those who can find a space for everything and everything in its place. Someone I know, most certainly not a friend, has a ‘freezer check list’ so that she knows at any given moment what is lurking at the back. She will never find four packets of frost burnt chicken breasts, a dodgy looking, lone fish finger, one teaspoon of melted ice-cream still in a promisingly full looking tub, nor a couple of handfuls of emancipated petit pois rattling around under everything. She’s very organised but that woman will neither never find surprises in her life like a packet of forgotten falafels, a fillet steak nor a Walls caramel Magnum that I just happen upon occasionally.
Anyway, this storing of ship and organised packing away came to mind last week when a rota informed me that it was my turn for a shift at my youngest daughter’s pre-school. I’d been dreading it because Wednesday mornings are my precious two hours when I am not attached in some shape or form to a young child but this would have to be surrendered to be a volunteer helper. On arrival I was immediately given my tasks which was firstly to open this massive walk in cupboard and remove all the pre-school equipment for the benefit and general education of our children – thus, out I dragged several trestle tables, thick, padded play mats, a pretend kitchen, soft play shapes, a box of toy cars, a wire book shelf and books, jigsaws and construction toys, Playdoh trolley and arts and crafts. I didn’t of course do this alone but under the strict guidance of the pre-school leader. There was a most definite method to this madness and no sooner had the sand been poured into the sand table than I had to don a tabard, remove my shoes and get down and dirty with the under 5’s. God it was hell. I have never seen so much snot. There were torrents of it. Every couple of seconds it seemed I was wiping the green rivulets from the nostrils of some poor unfortunate child. Nits? Don’t talk to me. I can’t think about it without scratching like a mangy dog. Now I’m no stranger to nits – with four children one could almost say that they have become like family pets but to be surrounded by kids scratching constantly made me paranoid. Not that I actually saw any actual lice leap into the air but I was cautious all the same. Keeping a hopefully, warm distance I embarked on a complex construction of a den made from the supersized soft shapes when suddenly Johnny wanted the triangle shape but Andrew was not letting go, instead he whacked Johnny on the head with it with a certain vehement, single mindedness. Johnny stood there bawling, cue yet more snot. The playground leader ran over with pursed lips. “Mrs Band, would you please go and get snack time ready”, she instructed, “You’ll find the rice crackers in the pantry and the milk and cheese in the fridge” and bending down she scooped beleaguered little Johnny into her arms, flicked out a magic tissue, wiped his tears and nose, admonished Andrew and within seconds calm had been restored and everybody was best friends again.
Standing in the kitchen of the village hall I was a little lost, not having been there before and knew not where things were kept. My bewilderment was obviously seen as malingering and before I had time to say, “Where the hell is the fridge?” the leader’s face popped into the kitchen hatch,“Mrs Band. Is there a problem?” I stood there as though caught out by a headmistress and hung my head and shook it, guiltily. “It’s just that we run a tight ship here and the children will be lining up for their snack in approximately” she looked at her watch, “Two minutes and forty three seconds”. Hurriedly, I cubed the cheese and just as the little darlings entered the dining room I put a jug of milk on the table with a flourish. “Nowhere near Jenny please, she is lactose intolerant”. ‘And I am infant intolerant’ I wanted to reply but of course I didn’t. Worse, as always, was to come by way of the clean up. Suffice it to say, I have more respect for Hubby’s ship-storing days of yore and was aghast at the prospect of neatly putting away all the flotsam and jetsam of nursery school life, it seemed to have doubled in volume in the previous two hours and there was no way I would get away with kicking it in, willy-nilly. Finally, the hall was immaculate and ready to welcome the Ladies Indoor Bowls Team. I returned home to take Nurofen- intravenously.


Anonymous said...

hi mum im glad you finally found a title for it.

Anonymous said...

hi mum im glad you finally found a title for it

Emma said...

I love you and sympathise with you and wish we all could have your humour , strength and courage !
Love from (Cornish ) Emma , stuck in USA !!