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SHEPSHED MCMLXXX

Part Eleven
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Contents
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
Part 14
Part 15
Part 16
Part 17
Part 18
Part 19
Part 20
Part 21
Part 22
Part 23
Part 24
Part 25
References
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Other work by Mark!

"High School Hell"

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Whilst around 8,000 miles separated Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands to Shepshed, the journey between the St Botolphs and the High School would take less than a minute to walk!

 

My time at St Botolph’s seemed to end quickly, those final few weeks dominated by talk of the Falklands War and the World Cup whizzed by. I remember our entire class sobbing on the final Friday afternoon. We weren’t even ashamed of openly crying in front of Mr Spavin, a teacher from Yorkshire who reminded me of Geoffrey Boycott. We were no longer juniors, but fodder for the bully-boys at the High School.

 

One of my mam’s friends sensed my fears and during the summer, she gave me a good talking too. She worked as a cleaner and she assured me that the Headmaster, John Fox-Russell, a barrel-chested  booming Welshman and his deputy Mr Ikin would tolerate no nonsense from the local hard-nuts eager to flush our first-year, nit-infested heads down the bogs. I understand both Mr Fox-Russell and Mr Ikin are still alive to this day, I read in the Echo of Mr Fox-Russell's good deeds for charity of late and saw Mr Ikin a few weeks ago in Ashby!

 

I think the cleaner was called Sylvia, but over the road from her lived a fiercesome skinhead who I shall refer to as Shere Khan from Rudyard Kipling’s "Jungle Book", because every time his name was mentioned I shivered and thought of the evil tiger in Kipling’s novel.

 

I feared S when I was at St Botolph’s. For some daft-reason, the High School kids were let loose 15 minutes earlier than us Primary School kids and I often feared that S would be lying in wait, his eighteen holers polished and ready to impose his one-man National Front agenda on this chubby little half-caste kid who lived a few streets away.

 

My fear of him was that bad we would even walk the long way home to avoid him!

 

The NF were quite well-supported back then. Obviously due to my ethnic background, I could not join them even if I had agreed with their vile policies. I was often quite alarmed how many kids at school would talk about joining-up, or come in with a number-one crop all over, green jacket, DM’s with red-laces. At the time I felt quite aligned to the skinhead scene, I loved all the two-tone stuff of the late 70’s, early 1980’s and could never really understand why white skinheads who loved black music, such as Lee Scratch Perry etc hated “coloureds”.
 
I did dabble with the "skin" image, just to look tough basically, but I was thwarted by the fact that my mother would not buy me any "eighteen holers" so I had to make do with Dr Marten shoes, they did not make skintight jeans for chubby kis, braces had to be worn properly, a number "four" crop (three, two or one out of the question) and a Union Jack t-shirt (sleeveless of course) purchased from up Donington Market.
 
The Union Jack t-shirt caused a bit of a stir. One football lesson, I was told by a supply games teacher if I was thinking of wearing that then to think again. The Union Flag had been hijacked by the NF and the far-right and it took years for attitudes to change. It grates but in 1992 Morrissey was slaughtered for "flying the Flag" at Finsbury Park whilst supporting Madness (Madness had universal appeal to all ages, they even did matinee shows for kids however they did have a small and nasty NF following). Just five or so years later, the same journalists who criticised Moz were creaming their pants at the sight of Gerry Halliwell in her tiny Union Jack dress at the Brits! Such hypocrisy! Britpop became cool, so did the flag! "Cool Britannia" and all that! Noel Gallagher hobnobbing at number ten with Blair etc
 
I was also told by a kid in my neighbourhood that the blue St Andrew's "saltaire" looked more like black and was appropriate because as far as he was concerned, I was black and I should not be wearing such a thing! He was such a nice kid this one, turned out to be a real diamond and I could say plenty more about him but it would be inappropriate to give him even more notoriety.
 

A friend and one-time skinhead Tony Bullock has since filled me in on the original skinhead movement of the late 1960’s and the fact that many skinheads were apolitical back then and the NF faction did not creep in until later, the point was well-illustrated in Shane Meadow’s brilliant 2006 film “This is England”. Indeed they had a mixed-race sorry that should be dual heritage English/Jamaican skin in the film.

 

That long-dreaded day in August 1982 was soon upon us. I had spent the summer building a go-cart with my mate Burtie (Paul Burt) a lovely lad who had the misfortune of having been born with a cleft palate and got a lot of stick about it. With me getting stick about my dark-skin and chubbiness, we made a good pair of disenfranchised outcasts!

 

The day before our first-day at SHS, was a blistering hot Sunday afternoon. Some good friends of my mum’s Dennis and Rosemary, who used to own a shop in Kegworth had a narrowboat and they held a birthday party for another one of my mum’s friends. I went along and Dennis let me steer the boat, I was still a picture of misery as everyone else got pissed down at the pubs in Trent Lock.

 

My place at Shepshed High School lay in wait! It would be an experience I would never, ever, forget!

 

 
 
 
 

"Shane Meadow's film 'This is England' is not the best film I have ever seen, but it incaptulates magnificently the divide between NF and non-NF Skinheads...no prizes for guessing what camp I was in!"

Life in Shepshed, 1980-1986