I was so excited to turn five. Not just because it was my birthday but because it was the day I started school. In New Zealand you didn’t start school on the first day of the new school year like everyone else in the world, you started on your 5th birthday. I don’t know how the kindy teachers coped with new five-year olds being dropped off on different days throughout the year but that’s how the system was when I was growing up and it’s still the same today.
My last day at pre-school was very exciting. I was the only one turning five so there was a farewell party just for me. Sadly, I didn’t have many friends at the pre-school because they’d all turned five a few months before me and had moved on. My farewell party went ahead regardless and the teachers did the catering. They went all out and bought a box of potato chips. And that was all.
At my very exciting farewell party the teachers made us sit cross-legged on the floor in a circle and the teacher that held the box of catering in her hands came around and dropped a single potato chip in our laps and we were thrilled. I think I must have indulged in about five whole potato chips at my party. I don’t remember there being any drinks. And I don’t remember anyone suffering from childhood obesity with such limited opportunities to over-indulge.
Party over, everyone waved me goodbye and home I went to get ready for my big day – birthday and school in one.
It’s a tradition on your 5th birthday that you be given presents to set you up for your first day of school. I unwrapped a Globite school case, a lunch box with all sorts of exciting compartments like somewhere to put your hard boiled egg, a drink bottle for my cordial (it wasn’t a crime back then to let children take cordial to school), a pencil case, a few wax crayons because textas were not yet heard of, and probably a cardigan with my name sewn into it.
I was so looking forward to starting school especially as my big sister was already there. I ended up in a class with a very pretty, lovely teacher and I was so relieved I didn’t get the cross old teacher with the wooden leg.
My teacher liked to eat oranges. She would come back from the staffroom after lunch and ask me to line up the Cuisenaire Rods from smallest to largest but without looking. She would cover my eyes with her hands and her hands always smelt like she’d just peeled an orange.
For writing lessons we had to stand around the perimeter of the room and write on black boards with chalk. We were only allowed to sit down at a desk when we’d mastered writing the letters. It was a great day when I progressed to a chair with a desk, an exercise book and a pencil.
There was a ‘Murder-House’ on the school grounds. A horrible, grumpy, child-hating, non-smiling woman worked there. She was the school’s dental nurse. Her building was separated from the rest of the school and stood at the end of the oval looking ominous. All the classroom windows seemed to look out on it. Twice a year we were summonsed to report to her ‘Murder-House’ and have her inspect our teeth. She wasn’t a dentist but she drilled your teeth if you had holes in them and did fillings and there was no anaesthetic or any form of pain relief offered.
When it rained (which was often), we had ‘gumboots and slippers’ days where you walked to school in your gumboots then left them outside the classroom stuck together with a peg, then slopped around all day in our slippers.
You were never dropped off to school by car. You walked no matter how far away you lived or how dreadful the conditions. And you walked home again too. So we were all very lean and obesity in children was unheard of. The fact that there was no canteen also helped to ensure we didn’t gain weight. You had to bring your lunch to school and we had all sorts of things that are banned today like peanut butter sandwiches and packets of nuts and cordial. Allergies were unheard of. There was one boy with a condition called ‘asthma’ and we didn’t know what that was,we just knew if he ran across the oval he’d stop breathing.
And I was very happy at my new school even though through my classroom’s windows I had a fearful view of the murder house.
How was your first day at school?
Back in my school days my mother was ‘quite the cook’ and always in the kitchen. She made these pickles and they were a family favourite. Great on a cracker with a slice of cheese or in a sandwich with your favourite meat, or like the name suggests, perfect with bread and butter. Do give them a try!
Bread and Butter Pickles
Makes: About 10 cups
Degree of Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: Gherkins are in season at the moment. I bought my gherkins from Harris Farm and they cost $3.99/kg. This is a very affordable way to make some wonderful pickles for your own use and as gifts for family, friends and neighbours.
- 2kg (3-4 pounds) gherkins thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)
- 6 small white onions thinly sliced (I used a mandolin)
- 1/2 cup cooking salt
- 4 cups sugar
- 4 cups white vinegar
- 1 tbspn mustard seeds
- 2 tspns celery seeds
- 2 tspns ground tumeric
Place gherkins, onions and salt in a large bowl. Cover with water and sit for 24 hours. Drain well.
Place sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, celery seeds and tumeric in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add gherkins and onions. Return to the boil then remove from heat. Pour into sterilised jars.