In 2007, I was sufficiently impressed by a young Scots lad called Calvin Harris to rush out and buy his "I created
disco" CD -which has a very eighties feel to it (even though the creator was not born until 1984). Fast forward to April 2009
and in the middle of moving house, three of my sons (aged 9, 7 and 5) argue which one of them is NOT having the Pink Bedroom
(as left by the previous occupants). They also hate Calvin's track "The Girls" because it is about girls. I have to laugh,
there are of that age when girls are uncool, like pink bedrooms and at all costs must be avoided.
I think I was like that until 1985 at the very least! The first inkling I had that maybe girls were not so bad after
all and perhaps I would like one of my own came with one of the many "non-mainstream squares" that I would knock about
with. His name was Adey and one lunchtime we were busy scoffing our chips from the Fish Bar on Charnwood Road, leaning against
Like me, he was a big, unattractive kid (must have been the chips, but Adey insisted they were good for us because his
mam worked in the chippy and said they fried them in pure Sunflower oil). During the usual chit-chat between mouthfuls of
golden fried spuds, the conversation diverted from footie and the telly to Ade's girlfriend who apparently came from Loughborough.
I was horrified, a fellow thirteen year old going to Loughborough in a neat pair of Farahs with a Kappa
jacket blessed with his mam's consent, holding hands with a girl, kissing a girl. Then I
thought to myself, if big Ade can get a girl then surely I could too?
Another day, another Chippy! The Hastie Tastie that stood in Britannia Street (when I last looked it had become a Pizzeria).
I had my first erotic vision, Denise, the fittest girl in school by a country-mile. Full of confidence in her tight,
above the knee school-skirt, fish-nets and heels she strutted into the Chippy and ordered a bag of chips and a can of Top
Deck Shandy and I watched awestruck! I knew she wouldn't look at a troll like me, other than to say "Move Fatty,
I'm spilling my chips cos you are blocking the door!" but it did not matter. I watched as she wiggled away
towards Glenmore Park, like a mini-version of Debbie Harry.
(I console myself with the fact that like Debbie Harry, perhaps gravity has not been kind on Denise too and she looks
like a contender for the Jeremy Kyle show these days!).
Thanks to the NUT's "work to rule" circa 1984/85 the chippies in Shepshed were doing a roaring trade when the teachers
cut-out "unpaid duties", such as supervising the dining-hall at lunchtime. The only kids that were allowed to stay on-site
at lunchtime were kids who came from outside of Shepshed, such as Belton or Woodhouse Eaves (amd most of them had to
bring sandwiches) or disabled kids. As a result, several hundred would be turfed out onto the streets for an hour.
For years, we had been told that even "Contacts" shop was out of bounds. "Contacts" was legendary, it was a sweet-shop
on Forest Street near to the main entrance run by a miserable old-git who earned the nickname because he wore those
specs with the thick "Coke bottle" lenses. Now we had the whole run of the town to ourselves!
For me, my puberty and hormones were running wild.
My desperation must have acted as an anti-pherome. Desperation must have clearly seeped from ever pore. The summer of
love circa 1985 had blossomed and everyone appeared to be going out with someone, except me of course. "Is she really going
out with him?" asked Joe Jackson, Will Powers talked about "Kissing with confidence" but for me it was very much "How soon
is now" (The Smiths).
In order to create a mystique about my persona, I toyed with the idea of acting camp to attract a girl - reverse psychology!
I think I read somewhere that girls liked that sort of thing, effeminate, androgynous males, not quite to the extent of the
"gender benders" of the time though. Sooner rather than later, some fit girl, maybe ice-queen Denise herself would take pity
on me and take me off to Loughborough, arm-in-arm we would go and look at chintzy, girly things in the precinct. Then it would
dawn on her or whoever that my gayness was all an act and beneath the "fag-facade" there was a hot, red-blooded roaring
boy waiting to get out.
I spiked up my hair, bought a copy of Bronski Beat & Marc Almond's "I feel love" and adapted a Morrissey-esque mystery
about my sexuality. Alas it failed. I got noticed and in blunt, Shepshed terms I was told "Monkey, you're nowt but a great
Around about the time I abandoned hybrid homosexuality, I fell victim to a cruel hoax. If the fittest girl in school
was miles out of my reach, then the second fittest girl suddenly emerged on my horizon! Her name was Jo and she had been a
relative newcomer to our school having moved to Hathern. Without warning, she let it be known that she wanted to be the first
to untangle the mystery that was Monkey. Well according to my mate Freddy that was the word on the street!
By doing so, she was risking ridicule, humiliation and social exile from her peers. As her reputation plummeted, my own
soared and as did my ego. No-longer was I Monkey "wouldn't-touch-with-a-bargpole", suddenly I was Monkey "potential stud".
Then on the Monday afternoon after double-science, the worst kept secret in Shepshed High School was out! Jo did the
asking and delivered the immortal "Would you go out with me?"
That's right! No shit! She did the asking! And what did I do....
Alas, like a century-old tortoise, I retreated to my shell! My reply was "I will think about it". Luckily the bell rang
for end of school and I was saved!
Think about it! There I was, after all those days and nights agonising that everyone else had found love (or a quick fumble
in the long-grass behind the tennis courts) now I had the second-most-fittest girl in school perhaps wanting to pop my overipe
For three whole days and nights, I agonised over Jo's proposition. Could I live up to being a desired sexual species
for the first (and probably only) time in my life? What would my parents say? I could hear my Grandma now guffawing "Oooh
our Marky's gel-lin!" then. predicatably she would make some comment about it only being five-minutes since she was changing
my shitty arse.
Thursday morning and Drama in the Common Room with Mr Higgs. Before he could even draw breath and start the lesson, the
rest of the class who had been waiting for my answer raised the question. I think Jo had been off ill for a couple of days,
probably traumatised at what she had asked that fateful Monday afternoon. Amongst much sniggering, the class wanted to know,
were Jo and Monkey an item?
Even Mr Higgs appeared to have developed a lust for my personal agony. Jo sat there, cool
as you like and some sage delivered the immortal question: “Well Mark, are you going to go out with her?”
I felt my skin burning up, I must have gone crimson.
“Uh er um I er dunno!” was all I managed to say! Suddenly Mr Higg’s
lesson became an open-forum on the non-existant relationship
between me and Jo, “Just Good Friends?” Shepshed’s very own answer to Penny and Vince, although I was nothing like Paul Nicholas with his blond bubble perm and I hate to say it, Jo was nothing like the
demure and well-spoken Jan Francis. She had quite a big gob if I am brutally
honest and she put it to good use that morning when her secret was exposed. She defended herself by saying: “Do you
really think I would go out with that twit” – but as Jon Gaunt when he used to be on Talksport would say, she
used the twit word with an “a”!
I reddened. As I had agonised over this dilemma for three-days,
deep-down I was right, she would not give me a second-glance. Ugly, unfashionable, disenfranchised, a loather of Duran Duran
and Wham and lover of the Smiths and yes, I admit it Status bloody Quo.Why would she look
at me, when she could have older guys from Loughborough, with cars or mopeds even? I did not speak, but my mate Freddy bless
him, stood up for me.
“Well if you weren’t serious, then why did
you get me to ask him out then!” he snapped. Her credability sunk like Bucks Fizz’s career after the 1981 Eurovision
Song Contest. I doubt if Raymond Burr had rolled into the
High School “Common Room” on than Thursday morning, not even his famous character Perry Mason could have done
a better job defending my manhood than Freddy did that day. And alas ultimately preserving my virginity.
Jo went several shades of green and declared it had all been a hoax. As far as she was concerned, I was the last person
on the planet she would go out with. She had a boyfriend anyway, he came from Loughborough, worked as a mechanic, drove a
Capri Ghia and was called Dave (the usual thing). That was it, end of story as far as she was concerned and content she had
done enough to cement her place back amongst the untouchables, she sat back.
However Freddy continued his tirade against her.She was humiliated, shamed, she squirmed in her seat, biting her
nails, her reputation as a teenage sex-goddess in tatters. His honour Mr Higgs stepped in to save her even more
loss of face and to this day, Jo and the rest of class 3E never knew what my answer was to her charming but fatally
To be honest, I'm still not sure about that one either! The truth was, even at that moment in the drama-class when
the hoax was exposed I still had not decided and part of me was relieved that she had made the decision for me!
I don't want to give myself too much satisfaction or credit, but I don't think she ever recovered from Freddy's
devastating delivery. She moved on a few months later, I'm sure primarily this was because of her parents job and not
through the shame of being the one and only girl in school to contemplate a relationship with yours truly.
Our paths did cross again, about six-months later. Loughborough Town Hall, late one Monday evening after the Wrestling,
I was part of a throng of people queing for an autograph from the legendary Shirley Crabtree better known as Big Daddy. Her
face was partially hidden by a Big Daddy rosette, but I recognised her big, green eyes and we exchanged a cool
"hello". I did contemplate warning dear Big Daddy about the lurking teen temptress who could ruin his reputation
as a family-man and great entertainer, however he was busy talking to some woman about the amount of Leicestershire folk he
would meet in "Skeggy".