I came to this country (that is to say the United Kingdom for those of you who may be reading this blog elsewhere) in 1976. I was very little and spoke barely any English. I had been privileged enough to attend an English speaking Kindergarten in my birth country of Tanzania but it wasn’t enough to prepare me for the onslaught of different speeds and dialects I faced on starting school in London.
An early memory that comes to mind at this time of year was my very first Christmas at primary school. I wasn’t allowed to be an angel in the school nativity because I was ‘from Africa’. There were apparently no angels at that time ‘from Africa’. I would get into trouble because I couldn’t sing the hymns and more than that, I didn’t want to. What if my God got upset that I was singing another God’s songs? Not a risk I was prepared to take. I wasn’t able to help with any preparations because my teachers didn’t have the patience to sit with me and explain things more slowly at this busy time.
The single comfort I had was school lunch. And most especially Christmas school lunch. As I don’t eat meat it was all about roast potatoes for me. Roast potatoes with extra roast potatoes on the side. I would tolerate the soggy sprouts if I had extra potatoes. And for dessert a chocolate yule log. At first I wondered why anyone would ever want to make anything in the shape of a tree stump. But then after I had taken my first mouthful I understood. It was simply the most divine thing I’d ever eaten. Way better than the jammy spongey thing they slathered with thin, milky custard.
My daughters’ experience of primary school is so far from my own. They have been beautiful angels in their nativity plays as times and attitudes have thankfully moved on. They bellow out hymns in the choir and at church as they have two faiths and Jesus is of course best friends with Lord Krishna. Everybody knows that. But I am sad to say that their school yule log isn’t a patch on the one my old dinner ladies used to make. It’s shop bought fluff which is sickly sweet. Never mind. At least they can come home to mine…
Ginger and Caramel Yule Log