Saturday, 13 November 2010
Wistfulness, milk and Liff Road School
When I was a wee boy in the early 1950s, every morning at school playtime we were all given a free one third of a pint bottle of milk which we took from square metal crates that held 36 bottles. The previous Labour government had arranged that this milk would be provided to make sure all of us, whether we from poor or less poor backgrounds - though all of us kids at Liff Road School, rich in many ways could never be described as well-moneyed - were provided with the essential nutrients which milk gave. The teacher on playground duty would distribute straws through which we took in the milk. Some of the older boys - who I thought rougher, tougher boys - would drink it direct from the bottle. This naughtiness was very worrying for me because although I knew our teachers frowned upon such behaviour I was secretly impressed by it. Every morning one of the boys brought to school an old empty babies' dried milk can to which he attached, through two small holes he had punched near the rim, a long loop of string. He would ask those kids - and they were,as I remember it, usually girls - who had not drunk all their milk to pour the remains into his can. When it was about a half full of milk, he began to swing it around rather in the way a hammer thrower swings the hammer before he releases it. The magic for me was that not a drop of milk ever spilled from the can as it rotated around him and got up to such a speed that it could only be seen as a blur like an aeroplane propellor. Later I discovered the science going on was centrifugal force. Yet, it is the magic of unspilt milk which makes me wistful, and is at the core of me, not the science.