Homer Simpson’s first law of the playground: “Don’t tattle”.
Look, I had an excuse. It doesn’t make me a bad person.
We were frequently told by our headmaster that we were the worst behaved year he had ever had the misfortune to teach, and it was a badge we wore with pride. He wasn’t far wrong - there had been a spate of false fire alarms that had got so bad that they were considering holding lessons outside to save time, and the Wargrave Fire Brigade was making plans to relocate to the school car park.
Now picture if you will a geeky fourteen year old, coming out of a French class and making his way towards the maths block. A geek. A swot, top sets for everything and frankly suffering the usual bad hair day.
With a couple of minutes to spare before maths, there’s just time to visit the boys toilet in the Old School to lay a log of what promises to be epic proportions. The Old School bogs are the hangout for the yobs, smokers and skivers who’d do anything to miss a lesson and show new kids the Blue Goldfish, but things are getting desperate, and I’ve got to take the chance. By the time I push through the crowd of kids who all appear to be heading in the opposite direction, I’ve got a turtle’s head on, and I’m damn near to touching cloth.
It’s at this point I ask the plaintive question: What kind of fucking idiot puts a fire alarm point in the boys’ toilets in a secondary school? They might as well have painted it red and given it a big “Push Here” sign, which they did. Often.
As I walk into the bogs, I meet Psycho Phil - winner of the legendary School Fight Club competition and the hardest kid you’re ever likely to meet, ever - and his gang coming out, having obviously run out of smokes. And guess what? As they leave, they set off the fire alarm, for only the seventeenth time that week.
For about ten seconds I’m caught between two stools (as it were). Do I take my urgently needed dump, or do I file out into the playground just in case I get burnt to death in this non-existant fire. Better get out. I opened the bog door and ran straight into the Head, rushing to the scene of the crime to apprehend the culprits red-handed. Me. Caught like a Treen in a disabled space cruiser.
Desperate to save my arse I blurted out “It was Phil, sir! Phil did it!”
Only trouble is, I just happened to be standing in front of half the school at the time. Whoops.
A voice came from the back of the crowd: “You’re fucking dead meat, you are!” I’m not exactly proud to say that at exactly 9.54am on that particular Thurdsay morning, I shat my pants.
Still, very kind of the Head to cover for me while I waddled off to clean myself up. Then, with the entire school, and I do mean upwards of 1,000 kids looking on, most calling out “Grass!” and words to that effect, Phil and I were marched to his study for un petit tete-a-tete.
I have never grovelled so hard in all my life. It wasn’t old Bull I was afraid off - it was the near fatal creaming I could reasonably expect from Psycho Phil at the end of the day. Or any day, even, in what appeared to be a very short life.
In short, I managed to convince the Head that I may have been mistaken in identifying Phil as the culprit in my rush to get to the toilet, and in fact, I may even have set the alarm off myself by swinging my bag over my shoulder as I walked past. It was a very impressive performance, and it must have done the trick, as we were both released without charge.
Outside the office, Phil took me to one side and said “I’ll see you after school.”
I shat myself for the second time that day.
By quarter to four, I was a gibbering wreck. Everybody else had treated me like the stoolpigeon that I was, and my day was a living hell. And I smelled of poop. I tried to slip out of school before Phil caught up with me, but it was useless, he’d been waiting for me since lunchtime and I was led by his minions for an audience with his royal thugness. He was flexing his fists, and his Doc Martens looked bigger and clumpier than ever. Doom.
I shat myself. Again.
He swung his arm out. I flinched.
“Thanks for getting me out of that one,” he said, “I owe you one, Bull was gonna have me expelled if I got caught again.” He shook me by the hand.
“Meep,” I replied, shatting myself.
“Now fuck off.”
I fucked off, and hid under my bed for the rest of the day just in case anything else scatalogical happened to me, like both my brother and sister coming upstairs to call me a grass. Which they did. Non-stop. For three weeks. I didn’t mind that. It was when my parents, neighbours and distant relations I hadn’t met for years started that I finally cracked.
The Law of the Playground has no witness protection programme. Arses.