We should have learned by the fifth year at school that all our troubles, by and large, were self-inflicted. However which way this particular descent into hell started, bitter experience should have taught us that there was only going to be one outcome. For most of us, anyway.
We had all grown older and not necessarily wiser together. We were too clever and too soft to be a proper gang, yet we still controlled our own bit of turf in the playground behind the music block. Woe betide anyone who tried to play football on our pitch, just as long as they were smaller than us. And that was no guarantee of success. “Intellectual Terrorists” is what Mr Lewis called us, and I don’t think he was being particularly complementary.
How the whole affair started is lost in the dust of history. Mild-mannered Geoff - my best friend as it happens - had somehow managed to get Ju-vid into trouble with “King Kong” Bull, our volcanic headmaster. Knowing Ju, he probably had it coming anyway, and Geoff was probably doing him a favour by drawing the law onto him sooner rather than later.
A Ju-vid prank had the tendancy to mature. The longer it was left to fester, the worse the outcome, and the worse the trouble. Trouble which usually saw us guilty-by-association.
Like the time Ju left a whole tub of fishing maggots in a science lab cupboard, hoping for a quick scream from some unfortunate girl who’d find the wriggling mess. Unfortunately, the maggots remained forgotten and the cupboard was left unopened for the whole half-term holiday. It was opened by Mr Jenkins the following Monday and we was engulfed in a swarm of flies, which unfortunately, were not of the flesh-eating variety.
Ju-vid was fingered immediately, along with the rest of us. Geoff managed to save our arses with the time-honoured “It was nothing to do with us, sir” speech, but Ju-vid was bang to rights: the bait tub had his name on it.
The long and the short of it was that Ju spent his breaktimes writing a fifteen hundred word essay on the importance of the maggot in modern culture, while Geoff got off Scott-free. Our warped sense of loyalties lay with the suffering Julian. Honour must be settled, revenge must be served. Warm, with chips. And I’m afraid to say, it was all my idea.
I had an older friend at college, and they’d just used the same plan to make some obnoxious student’s life hell. The whole concept tickled me, and it sounded perfect for us.
The world's campest postbox
We got hold of every magazine we could lay our hands on to aid our filthy little scheme. I happened to collect old newspapers from our neighbours to raise funds for the Scouts, so we weren’t exactly short of supplies. Then is was snip, snip, snip, write, write, write, post, post, post. Every mail order coupon we found, allow 28 days for delivery. All we had to do was sit and wait.
Within days Kays, Grattan and Littlewoods and come good, sending three-thousand pages of lingerie, shoes and girly fashion thudding onto his doormat. That was just the advance guard. Before long, all manner of insurance salesmen were slugging it out on Geoff’s front lawn, closely followed by the guy fitting him up for a wig. Well, we weren’t to know that baldness ran in his family, were we?
He’d only just got rid of that lot when the go-faster spoilers arrived for his dad’s classic 1937 Austin Seven on two week’s approval, and while his parents were still fuming over that, they had to turn away the engineer who came to measure their house up for a stair lift. It may have come in handy one day, if they didn’t live in a bungalow.
Oh yes, Operation Postman was working perfectly. Poor old Geoff was drowning in a deluge of junk mail, unwanted collectors plates, Star Trek chess sets and the finest mail order tat that our new friends at the Franklin Mint could provide. The entire family had taken to answering the door armed to the teeth, waving crosses and garlic at the swarms of salemen. It was ace.
The motorbike, on retrospect, may have been a step too far.
Naturally, it was only a matter of time before we were found out. We were caught red-handed in art class. We were supposed to be exploring the use of colour in autumnal landscapes, but we used this two-hourwate of our lives to catch up with some much-needed coupon clipping. From what I remember, Geoff was due to receive a test drive in the latest Ford Escort, a pile of religious literature, a catalogue of clockwork cucumbers, and the coup de grace - membership of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist), the splitters.
There was no drama. Geoff caught us all with the magazines, scissors, envelopes, and most tellingly, a pile of coupons with his name on them.
With Douggie “King Kong” Bull away on a skyscraper-climbing course, we were marched up in front of the fearsome Mr Marx, a man so hirsute that hair sprung out of this shirt collar, sleeves, nose, ears, everywhere. His hands looked like they were grafted on from a werewolf. He needed a shave, big time. Or at least a good brush-down.
With all the evidence on Geoff’s side, we were, to use the correct legal terminology, fucked. There was only one way out of this one. Every man for himself.
“Nothing to do with me, sir”, said the coward, “I had no idea was was going on.”
And so it came to pass that while the gang was led away screaming to the Department of Ironic Punishments, yours truly was sent away a free man, dismissed by a wave of Mr Marx’s hairy hand. Even Geoff was disgusted. Sorry lads, I have an allergy to polishing floors.
Within days, the Kays catalogue thumped onto my doormat. While I was entertained for several evening by the scantily clad young ladies between pages 213 and 247, I couldn’t help thinking it was to be the start of something terrible. Revenge can be a horrible, horrible thing.
I never paid for the Star Trek chess set.
This piccie comes to me from the most excellent Arseblog. It's a shot of Arsenal's French Genius Thierry Henry celebrating his breath-taking seventy yard run and goal in front the legions of darkness of Tottenham Hotspur. Dial-up beware - it's 238kB, but worth it just for the guy in the GAP top.
THIS is mighty good as well, and comes with the Scaryduck seal of approval.