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Part 12

Dedicated to..
About me
1980 4 idiots
Shpshd 4 dummies
Press Release
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
Other work by Mark!

"For whom the (Shepshed High School) Bell Tolls"

On that fateful sunny Monday morning in August 1982, Burtie called for me along with Daniel Persse, another mate and a nice lad. I felt safe with Dan (ironically he is a Policeman these days I believe, or he was when I was last in touch with him!) but still felt sick to the pit of my stomach. He was quite a tall lad and his Dad worked at the school teaching woodwork. So alongside him, I felt untouchable! I remember Dan’s Dad well, a top-man. Sadly he could not inspire me to be any good at working with wood, but that was not his fault I did not possess the natural talent needed to be a carpenter or a joiner! Id see him at school and at Dan’s house on Oakley Road. He was always cheery, always seemed to be whistling or singing a tune. I remember once him singing “Musclebound” by Spandau Ballet as he was moving these huge planks of wood around the garage, or was it “Chant No.2”? I was absolutely stunned when Dan emailed me about six-years ago to tell me his Dad had passed-away. He was a lovely-man. One of the nicest teachers I met.


I must have looked a twat in my outsized school uniform. If I remember correctly, the SHS colours back then were maroon blazers, grey or light blue shirts, maroon tie, black trousers, socks and shoes. I do recall being dragged across the Market Place at Loughborough to John Justin and John Cheadle, the two shops that specialised in school uniform back then!


Having had the indignity of David Fettis grab my flares and call me “gutsy” (my Grandparents knew his mam Queenie quite well and she soon got to know about it!), I then climbed the steps to our mobile-classroom. The indignity! 1E were being taught by Mrs Richardson in a mobile-classroom. A few years earlier, whilst at St Botolph’s, I had waged war on mobile classrooms. What happened was, in 1977 the Hall Croft school burnt down – the Co-Op supermarket is now there, but for years it remained derelict and charred. Obviously something had to happen to the Hall Croft kids until the new school, imaginatively called New Croft was built. The solution was to put up about half-a-dozen mobile classrooms around the perimeter of the St Botolph’s playground and they would share our other facilities.


I was outraged by the accommodation of these itinerants on our scared grounds and like a junior version of the Serb warrior Arkan, I launched a campaign to rid them from our land. It was nothing like genocide in the Balkans, but armed with sticks and stones, a gang of us attacked the mobiles by flinging mud at them and digging trenches so that the puddles would flood them out and wash them away. I remember quite a few of the Croft kids gathering at a mud-splattered window looking horrified at what was happening.


However a riot-squad of dinner-ladies intervened, we were round-up and tried for our crimes. We were given a stern lecture on compassion and told to spare a thought for these poor kids, having through no fault of their own lost their school – indeed I think the school goldfish was the only casualty in the blaze, but that may have induced trauma in children so young.


My conscience is eased since I saw a recent newsletter from the Coalville Liberal Democrats which fundamentally was devoted to the eviction of some gypsies, who set-up camp in the town. The language and context used would not shame the likes of Arkan!


So now, I was being educated for the first-year at Sec Mod in a mobile by the lovely Mrs Richardson. She was okay actually. She taught dance too and on one of those School Reunion website things, I read some comments from some lads who had a bit of a thing for her strutting her stuff in spandex. She was spoken for though! I remember she and Mr Howe, another teacher ended up together. They were chalk and cheese. She was calming, approachable, kind and I always found him a wee bit scary. He reminded me a bit of John Thaw’s Reagan character in The Sweeney.  However she seemed to bring out the more sensitive side in him and a few years later, when we were doing a project on the village of Long Whatton where they had set-up home, he invited about half a dozen of us into their cottage and made us all a cup of tea, so he wasn’t that bad really!


As well as having to coach my dance and movement skills, which resembled a stunned elephant, poor Mrs Richardson had to endure my first novel “The Boys in Blue”. In English, we were encouraged to write our own book and I chose the dubious title “The Boys in Blue” about an all-action cop hero called Bruno Smith. What an utter pile of drivel it was! Incidentally Cannon and Ball brought out a film of the same name and she probably would have preferred to have gone and seen that at Loughborough Curzon instead of enduring my inane witterings.


In July 2007, I had a letter published in the Shepshed/Loughborough Echo where I praised the demolition of the High School, it has since been replaced by a new building on the same campus. I pointed out that although it was pretty modern by architectural standards, it had long since been outgrown by the growing population in Shepshed and bits had been built on to it – as a result, it was a horrible, modern mish-mash of buildings. Really it should have been pulled down years ago.


I think my least favourite part of the school were the sports-facilities. I soon learned that although I thrashed the pants off most of the kids in our street at football and cricket, I fell woefully short of the expectations of the High School. In the aforementioned letter, I pointed out that the changing rooms were straight out of the Ken Loach film “Kes”. In the film, the brutality in which Sugden (Brian Glover) forces Billy (David Bradley) into having a shower after a games lesson was almost reality. It still amazes me to this day that my own children, primary school age, do not have to take showers after PE lessons but when they move up it is a different story!


Monday afternoons were dreadful in particular. Straight after lunch, we would have a cross-country run through the playing-fields. Obviously being a lad keen on my food, this brought an unreasonable compromise, quit the burgers and kit kats in the canteen fat-boy and you won’t get the “stitch”. Our games teacher, a Mr Driver was a keen or should that be obsessive cross-country runner. I used to pray that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg would thwart Driver and ban cross-country from the school curriculum on account that it was inhumane to fat kids like me. It never happened. But the canteen building, which ran adjacent to the St Botolph’s playground, made a greasy spoon look like a vegetarian delicatessant. It was all burgers, chips, chocolate, crisps, washed-down with gallons of slush puppy and fizzy pop. You walked in, ordered what you wanted, how much you wanted and paid for it! Jamie Oliver would have a heart-attack! There was a small table at the top where a solitary dinner-lady stood forlornly trying to sell salad cobs, but nobody ever bothered.


In the end, Driver took pity on me, this other lardy gutbucket called Granty and a kid with a wooden-leg and he devised a shorter-course. Either that or he got fed-up waiting 15 minutes for us to finish.


I was hopeless at Rugby too, despite my size, it was too-rough. I didn’t want cauliflower ears and once, when Driver walked us through the proper way to form a scrum I nearly ran a mile when he told us where the second-row’s head’s should go! Out on the freezing cold pitch, despite the double-entendre I offered to go as a hooker in a dummy-scrum. Basically I was not meant to hook on this occasion and let the other side win. However, the natural reaction came over me and with some grunting moron trying to shove his head up my jacksee what did I go and do, stick my leg out and drag the ball back. Driver went ape-shit! “You are not meant to hook!!!” he hollered. There was about one natural rugby player in the whole school, a kid called Paddy Dickens who used to waltz through our defence like David Campese would if he was facing the Shepshed Ladies Bowls Club. I remember Driver doing his nut in the mud on many occasions after Paddy had romped home with ease to score yet another try.


My progress in football was grim too. We were relived from our torture with Driver for the far more affable Mr Painter. He was a Londoner, a West Ham fan, so what did he know? Well as far as the “academy of football went”, I would struggle to make the borstal team! I even persuade my parents to buy me an England kit for the school-team trial, which I failed. “Bulldog Bobby, more like Bulldog fatman” remarked one cruel little shit. I still felt pleased with my progress, being the proud owner of a bona-fide Admiral England kit bearing in mind my first kit had been an Aston Villa one. Sportscene on the corner of Biggin Street in Loughborough did not really cater for Leeds United fans, so I had to make-do with a replica Aston Villa kit. To be fair, it did not have the Villa badge on it and West Ham also wore claret and blue and I thought they were pretty cool because an Uncle of mine followed them and they did win the FA Cup in 1980. I remember cheering as Trevor Brooking stooped to repel horrible Arsenal on that day, 10th May 1980. How I hated Arsenal, they were all so bloody ugly and how could anyone forget Willie Young hacking down 17-year-old Hammer Paul Allen at the end (Nick Hornby’s “Arsenalesque” chapter in “Fever Pitch” provides a hilarious parody of that game!) However back in Shepshed my white Villa/West Ham shorts eventually turned pink after an accident in the wash!


Swimming was another ordeal of endurance. My boy/man boobs were the ridicule of the entire school, add that to an old pair of my Dad’s swimming trunks which were blue and white striped, then you have a cast-iron recipe for merciless taunts. However in my later years, the trunks must have sufficiently impressed one lass from Woodhouse (who shall remain nameless of course) who offered to do something quite rude to me in the baths. However the thought of being rumbled by Driver, who was pacing up and down the pool-side yelling at some poor sod just for a change soon cooled my sexual desires. The Shepshed pool broke down one day and because of the education cutbacks I seem to remember it took nearly three years to fix it! I was not sorry, but now I am thankful that despite all the taunts about my not-so-manly figure, I did manage to learn to swim eventually and quite enjoy going now from time to time!


I think about the only thing I was good at was drama, but I never had the nerve to take part in the school play. I was never asked anyway and think I needed that approach from one of my tutors, but it was never forthcoming. I think at times, I was convinced my real life was so grim, I saw drama lessons as temporary escapism from the humdrum reality around me. I still have a commendation for drama from the school on their headed paper signed by Mr Cutler or “Cod Eye” as he was known amongst us. I remember during one drama session he had the class in stitches by joining in by pretending to be a “knicker sniffer”.


You would never get away with it nowadays!


Even Grange Hill had nowt on Shepshed High circa 1982-1986! However those or rather that school reunion website fills me with dread - why on gods earth would I have the slightest bit of desire to reacquaint myself with people who wanted to flush my head down the bog back in 1982?


"Grange Hill was a Kindergarten in comparison to Shepshed High in the 1980's!"

Life in Shepshed, 1980-1986