Friday, September 24, 2004

Ceiling - Always-walk-on-the-beams woe


"Living on the ceiling
No more room down there
Things fall into place
You get the joke - fall into place"

Sometimes, people just ask for trouble. For example, the architect who decided that an ideal position for the hatch that leads to the attic above our school's main building should be in the boy's toilet. They might as well have painted it fluorescant green with signs saying "Hey Lads! Look up here" just in case, by chance, it went ignored.

Of course, those in charge of the school were no mugs and made sure there was absolutely nothing of value up in the loft space, saving themselves 79p by not bothering to put a lock on the damn thing. "Boys! Boys! Jolly japes and larks up here!" And all within easy reach after a nimble climb on top of the toilet stalls.

It doesn't take a genius to work out what went on. Lads would go to the toilet just before the start of the school day, and emerge smelling slightly of cigarette smoke for lunch, before a long, hard afternoon of smoking and swearing, knocking off at home time. Hard work if you could get it. This tradition, passed down from father to son, carried on for at least forty years, give or take a decade.

The only disadvantage was that the loft ran above the language labs, where silence, and the odd muttered "Ach du liebe Gott!" and "Pompt-de-pompt-de-lu-lu" were all that could be heard from the huddled masses, trying not to stare too hard at Madame Talbot's norks. This meant, while class was in session, the haven of the loft probably wasn't the funnest (Hey! It's a real word. It was on The Simpsons) place in the world.

It had to happen sooner or later. Boys bunking off lessons are hardly the type to sit quietly, cigarettes and porn or not; and discovery was only a matter of time.

It started with a distant thudding. Thudding that got nearer and more disconcerting as we tried not to stare too hard at Madame Talbot's norks. The thudding, mixed now with shouts and cries of "Wanker!" got closer and closer, and soon they were overhead. Madame Talbot stopped trying to get us to ecoutez-et-repetez to "Histoire d'un canne a peche" (History of a can of peaches, apparantly, though there was precious little fruit in the illustrations) and looked up with a worried look on her face. It was just like that bit in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the aliens are rattling over the roof, only with yobs. Confused, we stared at Madame Talbot's norks.

BOMF! That's French for "BOMF!"

A leg appeared through the plasterboard ceiling. Then another.

There was a cry of "Oh fuck!", which drew a certain amount of displeasure amongst us, as this was clearly a French lesson where Anglais was strictly interdit, and the startled figure of Sid Brandon plummeted from the (rather higher than you're imagining) ceiling, landing on his back on Madame Talbot's desk.

Sid lay there a minute, stunned; as Madame Talbot crossed and uncrossed her arms, causing twenty schoolboys to let out sighs of relief.

"Sorry miss."

Plasterboard, cobwebs and years of dust fell from the great yawning cavity, while his partners in crime - who clearly should have been in a Portakabin somewhere learning the complexities of CSE Money Management and crayon usage - stared down at him and called him a cunt. Which was fair enough, really.

"Right, I'll be off then," he said as if he had every right to be there, jumped to his feet, and did what any sane schoolboy would do when caught like a Treen in a disabled space cruiser: he fled.

The game was up. A hit squad led by Mr Ponting the caretaker and the collected might of the PE department raided the forbidden loft space, and the offenders were convicted at an assembly show-trial the following morning in front of the tutting local vicar; their booze, porn and smokes on a table as the most damning of evidence.

But those Jumanji drums kept on beating...

The following term, there we were in the Old School toilets when somebody glanced upwards and uttered the immortal words: "Hey! There's a loft opening here. And it's unlocked..."

As far as I know, it still is.

Firework Woe: Real life imitates duck. Remember kids: don't try this at home.

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