For a special treat, mum had bought two ounces of potted beef from the butcher’s, peeled off the layer of yellow fat that protected it from the polluting air and made sandwiches with four slices of medium cut Wonderloaf, fresh from the red and white waxed paper.
I was delighted that mum’s terrible baking meant that the buns, had not risen in their little paper cases, as it meant she had to fill the gap with icing, made with real Kake Brand, the waxiest, most flavour-free chocolate covering the 60s ever produced. I loved it.
The buns and sandwiches, wrapped in greaseproof paper and tied with string, were carried to school where the dreary classrooms had been transformed into a banquet hall, with every pupil a guest and every teacher a server.Gone was the sour smell of old cabbage and peppery mashed potato, scalded custard and undercooked jam roly poly. Instead the feast of flavours from sandwiches and buns made by mums that very morning or, for the posh ones with a fridge, the night before and set on the old trestle tables, scrubbed clean and decorated with red and green crepe paper.
Those Christmases at junior school were full of excitement and anticipation. I remember thinking to myself, as I carried the precious packages of food, hoping I’d get to swap with someone who had real salmon paste, real butter and battenburg, that I couldn’t possibly wait for the games to be done, the food to be eaten and Santa to appear.
Santa, who bore more than a passing resemblance to PC Lorrimer, the local bobby, would enter to cheers from the older pupils and excited screams from the young ones and call each of us by name, handing out presents. How did he know I wanted a geometry set, complete with protractor, set square and ruler? How did I know I wanted it? What did I want with these clear plastic toys, with their lines and numbers? Santa knew. He knew everything. He knew I’d used these mathematical implements, some cello-tape, foil and a yoghurt put to make a skyscraper for my dolls.
What days, what fun, what memories. Christmas past, Christmas present and the Christmases to come. As Tiny Tim said, ‘God bless us, every one’.