to 2008, I’m in a well-known supermarket in Coalville and for less than a price of a pint, I am able to buy a two-disc
DVD edition of Jimmy McGovern’s “The Street”. Initially I buy it for that brilliant rant in episode
2 by Stan (Jim Broadbent) where forcibly retired and tired of life, he wanders
into a pub full of burly Manchester United fans and starts ranting and raving about Ferguson's Evil Empire ("Ruud Van
Horseface" and "that ugly, fat, money-grabbing bastard Rooney" –
classic stuff!) There’s loads of other good stuff on this DVD and episode three is worth a watch, Neil Dudgeon
as a school-teacher who is wrongfully accused of exposing himself in a park whilst out jogging. Yes I know, I don’t
jog, you can tell that by looking at me – but I could empathise with him
– twice over!
Having been exposed to the ritual cruelty of school and school-children, indeed I was at a
pecuniary disadvantage during my initial education because at the time, I hated children! However dinner-ladies provided some
form of warmth, protection and they were very much en-loco-parentis.
For me, that relationship however reached breaking point!
There was a song going round St Botolphs school, that went along the lines of:
“School dinners, school dinners,
“Concrete chips, concrete chips
“Soggy semolina, soggy semolina,
“I feel sick, toilet quick,
“Its too late, I’ve done it on the plate”.
I bet that song was sung at every school up and down the country.
However, a shock revelation here! The school dinners at St Botolph’s were not that bad!
Okay the semolina (craftily re-branded in a cheap, cynical, Blair-esque before-its-time piece of spin as “tapioca
pudding”) was vile, but generally it was not such bad food served in the dining hall.
Having served up the fayre, the dinner-ladies then acted
as “Minders” – not necessarily in a Terry McCann protecting an ill-fated Arthur Daley
money making scheme, but they always seemed to wear burgundy coats and they would relentlessly patrol the school playground
keeping order. I was
no exception and when the going got tough,
Id run to the dinner-lady before some infant, National Front wannabee bovver-boy could put the boot in!
However, as I grew more older and confident,
it was seriously un-cool to cling to a dinner-lady during lunchtime, a bit like having your mittens stitched into your cuffs.
As the weather improved, we would be allowed onto the field near the college and the Scout Hut. I think it proudly said the
"No.4 branch of the Shepshed Scouts" and I used to think where the other three battalions of Baden-Powell
types were stationed.
The fire-escape from the college sports-hall
had a certain appeal, because there was a wooden banister you could slide down. Of course, we were told not to do this and
if we were caught, instead of the reassuring comfort of the dinner-lady, we would feel their wrath and some of them were pretty
scary! However one such sunny day, I threw caution to the wind and joined the throng to ride the bannister of doom and damnation.
I straddled it and away I went, the wind whizzing
in my ears, half anticipating a cry of “Mark Monk, Mr Saddington’s office – now!” It never
came! However, I suddenly felt a sharp prod of pain in my “neither regions”. I suspected that a splinter had been
embedded into my testis! When I reached the bottom of the stairway, I do what any self-respecting eight year old kid would
do eg, get the tickle-tackle out and have a look myself.
Racked with pain, I am blissfully unaware of
the watching dinner-lady who in horror views every moment of my impromptu self-examination and yes, aged just eight-years
of age, I attain what a Criminologist may call master-status of sexual deviant.
“You filthy, filthy boy!” – it
reminds me now of that scene in Waterhouse and Willis’s film “A kind of loving” where
Alan Bates incurs the venom of Thora Hird. His crime however was merely throwing up on his mother-in-law’s
carpet after a boozy night out in Bolton, not exposing
his knackers to a shocked, underpaid, "holding-out-for-my-pension" Leicestershire county-council employee.
I stand there, protesting my innocence and
suddenly fearing the worse! A forcible escort to the offices of Mr Saddington, the dreaded cane, a
letter home to my poor parents, expelled even?
The truth is, it never was mentioned again until I decided to bring it up on this website.
Common-sense prevailed, I’m pleased to
Admittedly, it did burn my bridges with respect
to seeking any future sanctuary in the safety of a burgundy coat when a mini-skinhead took exception to my presence, but I
was growing-up fast and getting bigger and I was slightly more agile back in the day than I am now!
Around three-years later, about
150yards from my St Botolph’s indiscretion, my second “dirty old man” moment came after a Games
Lesson. We were getting changed in the dingy, dour changing-rooms at Shepshed High School when the
fire-alarm went off. At the time M’Lud, I was wearing one school shirt, half buttoned, an admittedly hideous
pair of purple and yellow Y-fronts and a pair of socks.
My memory was scarred from my first ever fire-drill, back over the road at St Botolphs
in 1977 when scuttled out into the playground, I became traumatised at the fact that I had left behind my coat. Wracked by sobs and mortified that my coat would perish in the fire – as it turned out it was a fire practice.
However, the message has always been clear
in every fire-procedure/emergency announcement I have ever heard, for example when flying on a plane. You are clearly told
to “leave all personal belongings behind” and back to Shepshed High Boys Changing Rooms circa mid-winter 1983,
that is what I did! I left behind my unloved, over-flared, school-trousers scrunched up on a peg and got the bollocking of
my life for running down the steps from the changing-rooms to the car-park in my y-fronts and in front of a bemused class
of giggling-girls who had just returned from a hard-slog at hockey with (appropriately named for those Thatcherite times)
It was not Miss Dole who delivered my latest
damnation, it was Mr Driver, the cross-country obsessed games teacher who yelled at me “Monk! Get back in there and
put your trousers on, you will be done for indecent exposure”. So off I slumbered, for all I knew, into a towering inferno
to retrieve my kecks, to a chorus of jeers from my class-mates. Any harbouring desire to become a fully fledged sexual-deviant/a
nonce ended that cold winters day so any self-respecting Criminologist can rest assured my adult master-status is
respectable, married, family man who fully adheres to fire-drills et al.