Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Midnight Feast!

Sandi returned from Florida yesterday and among the gifts that she brought back from a British store and restaurant was something quite small, edible and guaranteed to transport me mentally to the mid 1960s.  It was a bag of Walker’s Crisps.  Prawn Cocktail flavour to be precise. Now that flavour did not exist in those young days – the “new” taste was “Cheese and Onion” shortly to be followed by “Salt and Vinegar,” but my mind wandered nevertheless.  And remembered what we used to call the “Midnight Feast.”

Rewind some forty-seven years. I was in the third form at the King’s School, Worcester, and a “day-bug” who had to go home every afternoon.  We of the fifty percent of the school who were day boys would learn of the culture and traditions of the other half – the boarders - which included the time-honoured ritual of the Midnight Feast. This involved secreted food from the school house pantry, augmented by crisps (U.S. Potato chips) and pop (U.S. Soda) bought at the tuck shop. We, as “day-bugs,” would hear of such feasts after the event, usually whispered with triumph by their participants at morning prayers or along the back row of the Latin class on Monday – always the first lesson.

So those of us who had the “burden” of living at home had to surely create our own version of this rebellious meal, egged on not only by the wish to live as the boarders lived, but by the numerous encouragements in the writings of Enid Blyton!  But if we could not be boarders we had to depend on our own siblings. And our own resources.

Remember that for a schoolboy in those days (and how I hate that turn of phrase. Once I thought it an expression of my parents’ generation,) midnight was late. And I mean late, very late. The hour almost took upon itself a aura of mysticism – plus there was the challenge of staying up so late that was an act of rebellion in itself.

My younger brother was not too sure, but the prospect of pop and crisps (and whatever else I had managed to procure. One time I think there was cheddar cheese) would persuade him. And I would somehow stay awake until 11.55, and then wake him to sleepily drink and munch. The food was irrelevant. The occasion was deliciously subversive. And hiding the scrunched-up packets of Walker’s crisps, used cups and the empty bottle of Corona lemonade under the bed I felt equal to those snotty boarders who boasted of their rites!

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