I went to a church school and my favourite time of year was Harvest festival. The school would tell us to ask our mums for some cans of food which would then be donated to local old people. The display of foods by the altar in church was always a source of fascination: so much food and so many different types, an insight into the kitchen cupboards of our mothers. The star of the show would be plaited breads or enormous loaves in the shape of a wheat sheaf.
One year our school had a project in which pupils would pair up with elderly people in the area and visit once a week. My old lady was a holocaust survivor who often did the tarot cards. I’m not sure she even liked being visited!
At Harvest festival our old people were invited for lunch in the school hall. This time the food was piled up on the assembly stage.
The head teacher said we could go up and select some food for our old people. My lady gazed over the selection from her chair, then, spotting the jewel in the crown, whispered to me “I want that huge loaf, get it for me”.
Dutifully I took it, handed it to my old lady who snaffled it into her handbag. We carried on drinking tea. A little while later, the headmistress, looking stern, said:
“There has been a problem.” She paused dramatically.
“Someone has taken the harvest loaf” Gasps all round. Surreptitiously I looked sideways at my old lady. She poked the loaf further down into her bag with a determined expression on her face.
The headmistress continued: “Who has taken it?” She swept the room with a steely gaze.
“Nobody? This loaf has been made specially for this festive occasion, it’s for decoration only.”
I did think the loaf was rather hollow sounding and dry.
When the headmistress had stopped, I said to my old lady “Look we’ve got to give it back. You can’t even eat it” and wrestled it out of her bag, much to her annoyance.
I was always in trouble at school. I was known as the naughty one. This time however, it wasn’t even my fault. Why did they have to pair me with an equally naughty old lady? This wasn’t going to help my reputation.
I removed the loaf from the bag as discreetly as I could, not easy, it was about two foot long and, I noticed, had a metal spike jutting out the bottom. I sidled up to the headmistress trying to explain that it wasn’t me, it was my naughty old lady.
Coffee by Douwe Egberts