Eating gluten in early childhood

I was lucky enough to go through a four tier education phase: first school, juniors, middle and high.

First school saw me walking there daily with my mum – cars were for the privileged few and no one was driven to school as one parent (mainly mums) didn’t work.

Quite quaint really when I compare it to the torturous school runs of today and the impact school holidays have on reducing commuter traffic.

My body was pained from that undiagnosed gluten allergy, but those formative years of reading whilst prone on a sofa had honed my spelling at just five to Mastermind level.

The abiding memory of day one at first school was me correcting the teacher’s spelling, which she challenged and admitted I was right, setting me up for a lifetime of social media grammar and spelling pedantry.

What Mrs Holiday should have done was smack me repeatedly for precociousness and saved my future keyboard hammering of the poor shift number 8 key – the asterix if *you’re wondering.

But I’ve made a career out of petty linguistic banter – banter, a term I use with some trepidation, in the wilds of east Anglia.

More of that later.

It’s a crime you know in Suffolk.

I made friends at first school quite easily despite my predilection for Scrabble, not football.

Looking back, my best friend was illiterate – but I was drawn to him as his goalkeeping prowess was without equal – perhaps why I liked teaching “The Goalkeeper’s Revenge” so much.

He was an early David de Gea, if you like, except he’d dive to save goals on concrete playgrounds, gravelled surfaces, waterlogged pitches.

He was fearless, if stupid.

Moving up to junior school saw a council house switch for a shorter walk – to save my tweezered legs from snapping on a longer stroll.

This school was more memorable.

It had grassed over air raid shelters at the side of its 1920s quadrangle shaped building and I recall the horrors if you were caught within a pace of this mound by any of the teachers.

Great school though.

This is where I first became latently aware of food allergies at the age of 8.

A classmate was diagnosed with some disease which made us think of lepers and scurvy when really the disease made him allergic to wheat, which we found odd.

His bread was cut out of a tin I remember and he had the honour or dishonour of dining solo without a pupil server, a metal jug of water, but just a demoniac dinner lady fetching and carrying for him.

Oddly enough, I heard he killed himself a few years back and I knew he’d abandoned his gluten free diet from his beer habits when I occasionally saw him in pubs in my home town. He left his engine running, mobile phone in his car and stepped in front of a freight train.

I acquired more cult status (I think I’ve spelled that correctly) at primary with my peasant pedantry.

Okay I might have moved from one council house to another, but physical inertia due to gluten, made my mind razor sharp.

I became a particular favourite of a teacher who was despised by the illiterate but loved by the council estate intelligentsia.

Mrs Kelly.

Mrs Kelly saw my potential – not in sports or anything requiring a degree of dexterity, but in my mastery of words. She fed my love of Literature by recommending books and praising my parents’ attitude to encouragement – we walked to the library weekly for my ration of four fiction books.

She was old skool, Mrs Kelly.

Cross her, answer her back and you’d be forcibly dragged from your seat and poked repeatedly in the ribs.

She never did it to me of course – perhaps she realised her fingers would get stuck in my rib cage?

Me, and next my sister, along with a few others, were favourites – something that would now have Ofsted cussing as she didn’t attend properly to the Pupil Premium kids and why should she? Could she have imbued a love of literature and fostered ambition in a kid who dived on concrete? No. She focused her energies, rightly or wrongly, on the elite in the class.

Ofsted and the government would now judge her Inadequate probably, whilst conveniently forgetting that they were all (the Tories I mean) beneficiaries of private schooling, where Mrs Kelly, if in the private sector, would have 15 like minded pupils and her approach lauded.

Things were better then.

This is not rose-tinted spectacles time.

We were sent to the shop for milk and biscuits for teachers before we as a society became obsessed with safeguarding and child protection.

I remember gratefully accepting biscuits in class, pitying the one gluten free coeliac, who was never offered them.

Life was great, I think, looking back.

Middle school was when life became even better.

 

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