Butter on the ceiling

I went to boarding school, many years ago. At meal times, if you could call them that as the cooking was a not the very best, but there was alway bread and ‘jam’ to fill up on. The bread was thick white sliced, the butter was margarine in a plastic bowl, and the jam was normally red stuff that tasted of red stuff. No fruit was harmed in the making of this product, except for the year they had a glut of rhubarb and to save on costs, someone in the kitchen had made rhubarb jam. This, like the margarine, was in plastic bowls. One was able to stick a spoon in the green rhubarb gunk and turn the bowl upside down, nothing within the bowl would move, gravity had no effect on it whatsoever. This edition of rhubarb jam did not last long, no one , no matter how desperate would eat it. A fetching green mould similar in colour to the jam grew on it and even the group of retired prison camp guards who’d converted to teaching and had to share a table with us, would not eat it.

We were allowed to bring one jar of jam or marmalade from home at the beginning of term, but they rarely lasted long, so we were reduced to eating school jam, but I knew of no one who ate the rhubarb concoction.

I remember well the day one of us, who was tinkering around with a bendy knife on the edge of the table, generally fooling around, got a large lump of margarine on the end of the knife, put the handle on the table and bent the blade back in what he called a physics experiment. When he let go of the blade/ margarine end, the springboard effect sent the margarine missile in an arc across the dining hall landing on the ceiling.

It was one of the first times that none of the guard staff witnessed the transgression, the rest of us remained very quiet, making sure we did not glance too much at the mound of yellow gunk glued to the ceiling.

There was much talk of what would happen to it, and bets were taken on the possible demise of the blob and the hope that it would fall into the soup of a teacher at a later sitting. It didn’t. It stayed exactly where it had been until the end of that term just a couple of weeks later.

Bets where then taken that it might be there next year. It was.

It was there when I left the school about four years later. The building where that dining hall was sited was demolished about ten years after I left the school, I bet it was still there then.

…and it was never butter!


This is a drawing of Trethewy.

Mr Trethewy was our history teacher and was not amongst the retired prison guards who were our house masters at school. He was in every way an ‘ordinary’ teacher. Teaching was an extension of his passion for history. Students did not misbehave in his class for some reason. He wore a duffle coat and did indeed smoke a huge pipe as he bicycled home down the road with his regulation clips in place on his corduroy trousers. I have no idea what his first name was as we just all called him Sir, and were very fortunate to have him teach us.

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