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Chapter Four: Luke Walker and the Eatwell Guide
It was Mum and Dad’s anniversary so Luke and Jared were going to spend the night at Auntie Joan’s.
“Don’t see why we’ve got to go there,” grumbled Luke, “I’m fairly sure we could stay ‘ere by ourselves for a couplov hours without dyin’!”
Mum didn’t bother to answer. She’d told him ‘you’re going and that’s final’ three times already and, since Luke obviously couldn’t comprehend the word ‘final’, there seemed no point in repeating it.
Luke didn’t like going to Auntie Joan’s, it was boring. Jared usually spent the whole time playing chess with Uncle Brian which left only one person for Luke to play with: Amelia. Their cousin Amelia was sooo boring. She wouldn’t make mud pies, or play soldiers; she refused even a game of Battleship because it was too noisy. All she wanted to do was dress up like a fairy and colour in her colouring books. Colouring books were boring but Amelia had tons of them. She got more for every birthday and Christmas because all her friends and relations knew that that was what she wanted. She couldn’t get enough of them. Luke groaned at the thought of eighteen hours in that house. He decided to have a go at persuading Dad to get him out of it.
“Dad, can’t I jus’ stay here?” he pleaded, “I’ll be good.”
“Even if that were true,” said Dad, eyebrows raised, “you’re too young to stay home alone.”
The phone rang. Mum put it on speaker so that she could carry on doing her hair. It was Auntie Joan. Again.
“Will he eat an omelet?” she sounded stressed.
“No eggs. No cheese. No meat. No fish.” said Mum matter-of-factly.
“So what can I give him for protein?”
“Give him beans. He loves beans.”
“Won’t that make him windy?”
“Oh Joan, stop worrying! Just fill his plate with vegetables and he’ll be happy.”
It was true, Luke did love vegetables. He hadn’t been too keen on them before he stopped eating animals but, as hunger tempted him to try different things, he found he liked them more and more. Broccoli was his favourite, closely followed by spinach and baked beans. Joan still wasn’t convinced.
“I don’t know how you cope,” she said, “I’d be so worried he wasn’t getting a proper balanced diet. He is just a child Marian, do you really think it’s wise to let him decide what he does and doesn’t eat?”
“I was skeptical myself at first Joan, as you know, but I’ve had him tested. The doctor says he’s fit as a fiddle.”
Luke dreaded the thought of Auntie Joan watching him with concern all through dinner.
“Mum, don’t make me go, pleeeeease,” he whispered.
Mum frowned and shook her head.
“Joan, I’ve got to finish getting ready. We’ll see you in forty minutes. Bye.”
“Come in boys and take off your coats, dinner will be ready in twenty minutes.”
Auntie Joan smiled as she waved to Mum and Dad and closed the front door. Luke and Jared sat down quietly in the living room and looked at their hands. Auntie Joan disappeared into the kitchen and nothing happened for three or four minutes until the front door slammed. Uncle Brian was home from work. He burst into the living room loudly.
“Hello boys! I forgot you were coming! Ready for a re-match Jared?”
Jared grinned shyly.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Great. We’ll set up after dinner. Hey, where’s Amelia? She must be in her room. Why don’t you go and see what she’s up to? We’ll call you when dinner’s ready.”
The boys looked at each other uncomfortably and then quietly did as they were told. They knocked on Amelia’s door and entered when she said ‘come in’. Their six year old cousin was dressed in a pink tutu with pink tights and wire-framed white lace wings on her back. She had a pink plastic tiara on her head. She was bent over a colouring book, colouring butterflies.
“Hello,” she said, without looking up.
“Hello,” said Luke.
“Alright?” said Jared.
Jared sat down on the bed and picked up two of Amelia’s soft toys.
“Ah, pink pony! Today you will fight blue dolphin to the death! And whoever wins will fight yellow kitten to the death!” he said in a fake evil voice while making the toys wrestle.
“Stop it! You’ll spoil them,” said Amelia.
Jared laughed and continued tormenting her. Luke shook his head at his brother’s predictably boring behaviour and browsed Amelia’s bookshelves. Colouring books, colouring books, colouring books. He wondered how she hadn’t got tired of them. He took one from the shelf at random and flicked through it. It was full of pictures of sea creatures and shells and seaweed. Under each one was its name and a brief description. Amelia had coloured it in very neatly, Luke had to admit, and she’d ended up with a full colour encyclopedia of the sea. He picked out another one – it was about birds. Every other page had a drawing of a different bird to be coloured in, with the name, description, habits and location of the bird on the opposite page. There was another one about fish, another about wild flowers, another about trees. There was Animals of the British Isles, Jungle Animals, Arctic Animals; Space, Planets, Stars; Fruit and Vegetables; People from History. There were also quite a few with fairies but Luke had seen enough to know that he had misjudged Amelia. Not all colouring books were boring.
So the visit to Auntie Joan’s turned out to be not so bad after all. Luke was given beans on toast with tomatoes and leeks for dinner, which went down very well. And Amelia kindly let him do some colouring in her History colouring book from which he learned that Albert Einstein, who was famous for being a very clever man, was a vegetarian like him. He showed that page to Auntie Joan.
Monday morning Luke sat in awe, watching Joe draw a brilliant picture of Mrs Tebbut. It looked just like her. He was especially impressed with how Joe had captured her eyebrows, the way they each did their own thing when she was angry.
“Joseph Currant put down your pen!” Mrs Tebbut shouted from behind her desk.
Luke looked at her and then at the drawing.
“Amazing!” he breathed.
As she stalked towards them, it dawned on Joe that it would have been better to have drawn it on paper so that he could tear it up. He licked his finger and tried to rub it off but the ink had already sunk into the wood.
“Headmaster’s office! Now!” she boomed when she saw his handiwork.
Joe was already on his feet. He knew the routine. Luke tried not to smile.
“And you, Luke Walker,” Mrs Tebbut still had some rage to vent.
“What did I do?” asked Luke incredulously.
“You two are as bad as each other. Move to the front where I can keep an eye on you!”
“There’s no room at the front,” said Luke with relief.
“Katia, Shania, swap desks with Luke please.”
She had an answer for everything.
“I didn’t do anything,” he said plaintively.
Joe was gone until after playtime and when he did come back he had to stand in the ‘naughty corner’. Luke sat alone in a haze of Lily of the Valley, trying not to make eye contact with his teacher. At least Joe was allowed to sit with him after lunch. Well, sort of.
“Luke and Joe, sit at either end of your desk, facing each other. I’ll have no more whispering and conspiring.”
The boys moved their chairs, turning sideways to the white board.
“Great,” muttered Luke, “now I’ll get a stiff neck twisting round to look at the board.”
“And I’ll have no muttering either,” said Mrs Tebbut, quiet enough to let him know that, at this distance, she could hear everything.
While the class got themselves settled in for afternoon school, Mrs Tebbut directed Miss Shaw, the new classroom assistant, to the photocopier.
“Just make 30 copies – I don’t want spares cluttering up my desk – and then put the Master Copy back in here,” she said, indicating her desk drawer.
Miss Shaw went to the staff room, where the photocopier was stationed, and Mrs Tebbut wrote on the board: The Eatwell Guide
“This afternoon we are going to start our half-term project about health and nutrition. When you’ve finished this unit you will all understand how to eat a healthy, well- balanced diet.”
Mrs Tebbut was interrupted by Miss Shaw returning with the photocopies. She nodded at her assistant’s suggestion that she distribute them and then continued.
“Miss Shaw is putting before you a copy of the Government’s ‘Eatwell Guide’. Before we look at that, let’s find out what you already know. Can anybody tell me what type of animal the human is?”
“Yes Katia, good. Anyone else?”
“Yes Jonah, very good. What else can you tell me, specifically about the eating habits of the human?”
“Humans are omnivores,” said Simon Butler, “so they eat plants and animals.”
“Well done Simon, yes, that’s what I was looking for.”
“Pff,” Luke couldn’t suppress his derision.
“Something to add, Luke?”
“Well, I’m a human and I on’y eat plant food so that’s herbivore, not omnivore.”
“Yes, some people choose to be vegetarian Luke but most eat a varied diet of plant and animal food which gives them everything they need.”
“ My food gives me everythin’ I need.”
“Stop being argumentative. You’re not the only person in this class and I refuse to let you monopolise the lesson.” Mrs Tebbut looked down at her notes to remind herself where she’d got to. “So, we know that humans are natural omnivores, in spite of the fact that some choose to eat only plant food. Now, to understand in more detail how much of each type of food we need to be healthy, it’s important to be aware of what nutrients we need and which foods contain them. Look at your sheets.”
“Foxes are omnivores,” said Luke.
“Carnivores,” Mrs Tebbut corrected him.
“They eat berries and other fruit when they can. Not on’y meat.”
“Fascinating. Now can we get back to the lesson please?”
“And badgers are omnivores,” said Luke, “and dogs, and rats. That’s why they ‘ave long pointy teeth and claws.”
Mrs Tebbut sighed.
“What is your point?”
“Humans don’t ‘ave long pointy teeth and claws. For killin’. Like omnivores do.”
Luke was really glad he’d read some of Amelia’s colouring books at the weekend. Mrs Tebbut took a deep breath.
“Luke Walker. I believe I said ‘don’t be argumentative’. I believe I also stated that you would not be permitted to monopolise this lesson. This lesson, by the way, was informed by the Government Luke. Do you know better than Government experts?”
“I’m on’y sayin’,” said Luke.
Mrs Tebbut fixed him with a hard stare before averting her eyes to address the class.
“Everyone look at your sheets please.”
“The diagram shows all the elements that a healthy diet contains and in what proportions. The written chart lists specific vitamins and minerals and where to get them.
I want you all to study these sheets and think about your own diets. Where do you get your Vitamin C? Where do you get your Calcium? This week I want you to record in your exercise books what you have for every meal and then try to work out what nutrients your food has given you. You may take these sheets home with you. Hand in your exercise books next Monday.”
Luke looked at his sheets and the wheels of his defiant mind began to turn.
“Ok,” he thought, “I can do that.”
Mrs Tebbut noticed how engrossed he had become with the printouts.
“He’s finally paying attention,” she thought.
She looked across at Joe who was drawing skeletons all over his Eatwell Guide. She shrugged.
That evening Mum was pleasantly surprised to see Luke doing his homework in his room after dinner instead of rolling around in rough play with Dudley or staging Return of the Jedi with his action figures.
“Good boy Luke,” she said, “lights out at half past seven.”
Every evening that week was the same.
“I really think he’s changed,” she told her husband, “our little rebel is settling down.”
On Saturday morning, during breakfast, Luke proved her right.
“Mum, can I go to Auntie Joan’s? I wanna ask Amelia if I can borra one of ‘er colourin’ books.”
Everyone froze. Jared started coughing violently as a sharp intake of breath made some cornflakes go down the wrong way.
“Mum? Can I?”
“Er, yes if you like. I was planning to pop in anyway, Joan asked to borrow the sewing machine. Yes, you may come with me. That’ll be nice.”
“Thank you,” said Luke and left the table.
Mum looked at Dad.
All day Sunday Luke was shut away in his room, finishing his homework. Amelia’s book – Colour By Nutrients – was a great help. By tea time he was all done and was actually looking forward to Monday morning when he could hand in his exercise book full of long lists of the vitamins and minerals in his plant food meals.
But first on Monday came the school assembly. Luke was again reluctantly granted permission to go to the toilet. He slipped back into the classroom and opened the top drawer of Mrs Tebbut’s desk. She usually kept it locked but, since last Friday, she hadn’t been able to because she couldn’t find the key. Without difficulty Luke found the big yellow folder labelled Master Copies and removed it. Then he replaced the Eatwell Guide diagram and the Primary Nutrition Class chart with his own home-made versions of those documents.
“Perfect!” he thought, smiling with satisfaction, “by the time Mrs Tebbut gets ’em out for next year’s Class 4, she’ll ‘ave forgotten exactly what they look like and won’t notice they’re a bit diff’rent.”
He was confident the new ones looked similar enough to the originals to fool anyone who didn’t look too closely. He returned the yellow folder to the drawer and quietly slipped back into assembly.
Click here for Chapter 5
All Luke’s adventures are available in paperback from our shop 😀
Can definitely relate to kids being bored at certain relatives’ homes. Like this story.
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Thanks Art, me too. I used to dread going to my cousins’ houses 😀
This is a really great story. I like stories which are set in an independent sub-universe, like an office building or a school, like this one, where there are actions and consequences which are unique to the situation. It is comforting, and there are infinite opportunities and problems which arise, which are unpredictable, because this universe is not familiar to the reader (me). 🙂
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Thank you so much Ruthie, I’m really glad you liked it 😀
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Thank you 😀 😀 😀