This is another ‘memory’ post, in line with my board school food memories. Now days, Friday seems to be almost the best day of the week – it’s the last day before two days of weekend. Days of freedom for most, to spend doing what they please. Only in the last few years have I come to see Friday as the fun day others have always been thanking goodness for!
When I was at boarding school, there were two types of Fridays. Those preceding an ‘in’ weekend, and those preceding an ‘out’ weekend. When I started at StM in 1995, the in and out weekends were dictated on a calendar. This made staff management easier – the school knew when it would be empty, and when it would be full. I gather the older students hated it! They had to find somewhere on random weekends, but on other weekends, when they might want to be ‘out’ (to attend a party or similar) they may not be allowed to go.
In 1997 (I think) they moved to a more flexible system, where each student was permitted 4 weekends out a term. How it worked was that you could take both Friday and Saturday night. Or just one of those nights. But you were only allowed four instances, up until Year 11, where you got some additional privileges, such as party leave – which was essentially ‘day’ leave so long as you were back by curfew.
Also, in the later years, maybe 1997 too, they added a Friday afternoon activity of shopping at the local mall. This required a hired coach to take all those that were interested. It was a boon to have this easy access to grocery stores, clothing stores, hairdressers etc. As I was only 11/12, I didn’t have such a long list of needs and wants, but I can imagine for 16 and 17 years olds, the addition of this weekly pilgrimage was warmly welcomed.
So, Friday – fun or not? Well, it was ALWAYS fun to go to Toomba’s (Toombul, in Aussie school girl slang, is a suburb in which the shopping mall was). We slouched our way around in our full uniform, complete with panama hat, slurping soft drinks, and scoffing McDonald’s fries, or Wizz Fizz sherbet, or even sucking on baby bottles. We had all sorts of ‘trends’. Sometimes we bought pet fish. Or CDs.
We were spirited back to school in time for dinner (5/5.30pm). It was usually deep fried fish and chips. Or a BBQ, during summer. The return to dinner and the thoughts of the predictable meals, particularly weekend meals, to this day make my stomach and heart sink. Imagining this Friday dinner, and it’s start of a long and boring weekend, usually gave me a dull ache for a more interesting life. Something more ‘fun’.
What’s even more interesting about these memories of 7 years of my life, was that after a few years ‘out of the system’ I put myself back IN the system, by being a boarding house supervisor. For almost two years, I worked weekends at boarding schools. I rejoined the predictable, bland Friday meal, with nothing exciting on the horizon, til everyone’s return on Sunday night. And like my school, other schools feed you with a routine menu. Different to the last place, but the same every week!
Nowadays, I think about Friday as a night I can stay up. I don’t play sport on a Saturday morning, as I did all through school. I don’t even work on a Saturday now I’m in my career job, and if I do, it’s on overtime rates. Fridays mean I can drink some wine, maybe even outside the house! I can go out for a meal! I can sleep over with friends (if we have too much wine!). I can go wherever and do whatever. I’m not ‘locked’ in. At any time, I can make or change plans, without a form, without a leave balance to consider, without needing my host to ring in by Thursday 9pm to verify they are in fact an adult and will care for me for the times I indicated on the said form.
When I look back on boarding school, I was incredibly fond on it on the whole. I loved the order. I loved the noise and bustle. I loved the convenience (which I have largely emulated in my own home by living on top of shops!). But I did not relish weekends. I did not look forward to Friday dinner, which marked the start of a barren expanse of time and loneliness.