I must say the shock-horror story gracing the front page of The Wee Paper last week was well worthy of its place.
I was horrified at the absolute scandal of those poor wee bairns out in all weathers growing leeks and sprouts, perchance the odd neep, on their school veggie plot – and then not being able to partake of them in their school dinners. It was deeply distressing.
Or was it?
As a gardener I take a casual interest in produce grown in the high school gardens as I pass by, often as not wishing I had been given the chance to have gardening as a subject when I was at school – a place I detested. Maybe something practical like turning the soil, or even an hour or so spent weeding, might have mellowed my views a little, failing which I suspect a direction to tend the raspberry canes would have allowed me the chance of a swift fag in deep cover before the bell rang.
It is commendable that in these days of exam fever, sport mania and other subjects the majority of pupils would prefer to dodge, something as useful as growing food is still on the curriculum and should be continued, maybe even expanded. Much of education is stressful these days, so a little time spent gently gardening can be relaxing and most beneficial.
As far as I can see the purpose of the gardening classes is to teach the basic skills of growing and caring for plants. From my observation this is competently done as on many occasions the stuff growing behind the railings is a lot better than mine. In copping days long ago, complaints of the high school garden being raided were not unusual, although the passing of time now means those who were once up for pinching the odd cabbage would consider it below their dignity to swipe anything as humble as a bit of brassica.
If the kids who grow the stuff get to take examples of their newly-acquitted skills home for the pot, so be it. But as for home economics, this subject, in my time called domestic science, revives memories of early attempts by older sisters to bake buns that I was expected to consume and look delighted at the same time. Not easy I can tell you when faced with a real hazard to my dental structures.
I expect things have changed a lot since the 1950s and 60s with the present-day students carrying home mouth-watering delicacies for the family.
For my personal safety I must now add the information that both sisters went on to be first-class cooks, thanks to my Mum’s tuition as she was top notch, specialising in creating nourishing meals from not very much, using skills acquired during post-war food rationing.
I weary of the incessant preaching from media pundits who would like us to believe they are all-knowing about everything, without first checking a few basic facts. The notion of taking Selkirk High School to task over a few items of veg is absurd enough, but to drop in the idea that to include some home-grown items in school meals might offend the guys who are contracted to supply food is stretching belief a bit too far for me.
For starters, the amounts involved would be so small that it would make little difference. Does it mean a school dinner cook finding herself a few leeks short for the daily bowls of thin gruel could not nip out to nab some stuff to make up the recipe? I don’t think so.
I have often tuned in to Louise White’s fine morning news show on BBC Scotland and appreciate the informative content she delivers. However, as in all such shows, modern radio practice insists that any subject aired on the air must contain a certain amount of combative dialogue between presenter and guest, including anyone choosing to phone in to add their opinion. This inevitably gives rise to a degree of mischief-making of the kind locally paraphrased as agitating the manure, which sometimes goes on too long and clouds the vital elements of the subject under discussion – and that is a real shame.
I have no doubt this incident has generated a fair amount of focused discussion in educational circles and we will need to wait for a while to see the true fallout of this rather silly matter.
I retain a nagging fear that given the tight budgets within education these days and a fear of controversy, there might be moves to take the easy road out and quietly bring gardening to an end at Selkirk High School. After all, if that was the case it would create room for a purpose-built school bus parking area where the bairns could board their transport other than on a narrow street where frustrated motorists zoom past an obvious traffic hazard that might one day produce a casualty.
But what of the main players in this slightly Clochmerle-type drama? I realise the programme was dealing with many aspects of school meals, maybe inspired by recent electoral promises of free grub for a wider range of pupils. If that was the case it looks as if the topic suffered from a fair amount of subject drift if it latched upon our local knowledge shop.
I might even be tempted to take a sly peek into good ol’ Ken’s garden to see how his winter veg is coming along, and as for the all-knowing Mr Nairn? Well, as a radio pundit he makes a damned fine chef! Although there are probably strict protocols as to what a school headie might publicly say by way of comment, I think there are a few well-known folk who would benefit from being told to mind their own business.