Hobnail Boots, a Grandfather Vest, Faded Blue Jeans and a Short, Scut of a Jacket
Hobnail Boots, a Grandfather Vest,
Faded Blue Jeans
and a Short, Scut of a Jacket
In the primary school that I went to there was a pupil, a boy called Tony. Let me tell you about him…
Although baptized Anthony, everyone knew him as Tony. Although he wasn’t a bad child, not really, he was always doing something that he shouldn’t be doing, to divert people’s attention from the bugbear of life – his height – or lack of it. You see, Tony was small.
While Tony was attending primary school, this strategy worked well for him. No harm ensued from the many bold things he did, to impress his taller friends, but when he progressed to grammar school, his challenging behaviour was seen in an entirely different light. And it had far reaching consequences,
culminating in a set of events that were talked about for many a year after they happened…
Arriving at school on Monday morning, Tony sported a wide, defiant grin on his face. Wearing hobnail boots, a grandfather vest, faded blue jeans and a short, scut of a jacket, he broke the school rule, the compulsory school rule that pupils wear the school uniform.
I can still remember the atmosphere in the playground, when the bell rang. Line upon line of neatly dressed pupils gawped at the boy, the renegade child who had dared defy a school rule.
Despite his diminutive size, Tony was ten feet tall in the eyes of his fellow pupils. His face beamed with happiness, knowing that every pupil was looking at him.
Tony was still feeling happy when the teacher in attendance singled him out. “You, boy,” he snarled, “come here, and tell me why you are dressed, so!”
Do you know what Tony said to him? I’ll tell you what he said; he told the teacher that he had fallen into the canal, while cycling to school. He told him that he had gone home, to put on his spare uniform, but it was in the wash. He said that all of his other clothes were also in the wash, except for the ones he was wearing.
Silence prevailed as the teacher digested the tallest tale he had ever been fed. “Go to the headmaster’s office, and stand outside it. He will know how to deal with the likes of you.”
“Okay, I will,” Tony answered. With that, he strolled away from the teacher as if he had not a care in the world. The boys watching were so impressed by Tony they let out a cheer so loud the teacher in attendance almost fell over, in shock.
As he waited outside the headmaster’s office, Tony felt every inch of the ten feet in height his fellow pupils had imagined he was. He felt as if he was a celebrity.
The headmaster’s office door opened. A stern voice commanded, “Enter.” Tony entered the office.
The headmaster was an old man who thought he had witnessed every conceivable misdemeanour it was possible for a pupil to perpetrate, from stink bombs to itching powder, from broken windows to truancy, from missing homework to bullying and everything else in between. However, when he saw Tony standing before him, in his hobnail boots, grandfather vest, faded blue jeans and short, scut of a jacket, he thought he was seeing things. “What have we got here?” he asked Tony.
“A boy,” Tony answered.
“Hmmm…” the headmaster replied. He studied Tony’s attire in minute detail. “I hear you fell into the canal…”
“Yes, sir – headmaster,” Tony answered.
It happened to me once, many years ago,” the headmaster told him. “I smelt like a drain, so I did, for almost a fortnight…” Circling Tony, the headmaster sniffed the air around him. “That’s strange…”
“Yes, it is!” the headmaster insisted. “I don’t smell canal water, not anyway near you!”
Thinking fast, Tony said, “They dredged the canal, only last week, sir – headmaster. It’s now as clean as a whistle, so it is!” he lied.
“As clean as a whistle, you say.”
“Yes, sir – headmaster.”
“If you think you can con me that easily, child, you are as stupid as you look, in those…those monstrous clothes,” the headmaster said dryly. “Go home, this instant, and put on your school uniform, then return here, to my office, with a note from your parents, explaining your unruly behaviour.”
Tony’s plan to wear his hobnail boots, grandfather vest, faded blue jeans and short, scut of a jacket, while at school, had backfired on him. “I really did fall into the canal!” he spluttered. “I really did!”
“Off with you, child,” the headmaster roared, “lest you feel my wrath!” he stretched a hand, threateningly, towards his cane.
Tony was in dire straits – and he knew it. If he told his mum what he had done, it would surely mean a hiding at the hands of his dad. “I need a plan B,” he whispered on his way out of the office…
No one cheered Tony as he pedalled his bike away from the school. No one cheered him when he returned home. And no one cheered him when he put on his clean uniform. “If I go back to school without a note from mum, saying I fell into the canal, old misery guts will cane me, for sure,” Tony bemoaned. He thought and thought and then thought some more, trying to work out plan B.
Tony had almost finished dressing, when it came to him. Although it was only a spark of an idea, he fanned it into a perfectly formed plan B.
Smiling from ear to ear, he took off his school uniform then donned his jeans, boots, grandfather vest and short, scut of a jacket. Racing downstairs, he searched for a carrier bag. Finding one, he stuffed his school uniform into it and then set off for school, via the canal…
Arriving at the canal, Tony jumped off his bike and covered the last few yards on foot. Crouching low at the water’s edge, while making sure that no one was watching him, Tony lowered the bag containing his school uniform into the murky, smelly water…
“Phew, what a PONG!” a boy said when he passed Tony, sitting outside the headmaster’s office, in his school uniform, a while later. Tony smiled; plan B was working.
By the time the headmaster told Tony to enter his office, almost everyone in the school knew he was there, so smelly that he was.
Entering the headmaster’s office, Tony closed the door behind him. “What have we got here?” the headmaster fumed, the instant he saw – and smelt – him.
“A boy!” Tony told him for the second time that day.
His eyes bulging with rage, as the veins in his neck and head swelled horribly, throbbing in time with his heart, the headmaster stood up and asked him again, “What have we got here?”
“A boy,” Tony told him again.
His face turning deep red, the headmaster roared, “WHAT ARE YOU WEARING?”
“My uniform,” Tony modestly replied.
“YOU CALL THAT A SCHOOL UNIFORM?” the headmaster hollered. “YOU ARE A DISGRACE TO THE SCHOOL!” he told him, as he delved a hand into a pocket, searching for his handkerchief.
“I fell into the canal! Don’t you remember me telling you that?” Tony asked him. Shaking and sweating profusely, the headmaster patted his face with the handkerchief. “Are you alright?” Tony enquired.
“I WAS, UNTILL YOU CAME INTO MY LIFE!” the headmaster roared.
The headmaster’s face contorted disgustingly. Then, clutching his chest with both hands, he fell to the floor as if he was dead.
Stunned, Tony stared at the body lying on floor in front of him. “What shall I do?” he said to himself.
“Try and save him or let the old coot go? And if I do try and save him, can I save my own hide in the process? I need a plan C.”
Despite having no plan C, Tony picked up the phone on the headmaster’s desk, to call for help. The line, however, was dead. Abandoning the phone, he exited the office, shouting, “Help, help! The headmaster has collapsed! He has stopped breathing! I think he is dead…” But there was nobody outside the office, not anywhere. “Where has everyone gone?” he asked.
With the headmaster’s chances of survival diminishing by the second, Tony returned to the office. “If I had listened to the first aid training they gave us last month,” he grizzled, “I might have some chance of saving the old coot.” “How did it go?” Remembering some of it, Tony pulled the headmaster’s desk out of the way. “That’s better,” he said. “I have some room, now.
Kneeling adjacent the headmaster, Tony loosened his tie and shirt collar. “It’s no good; the old coot is not breathing! What do I do, what do I do?”
Remembering some more of his first aid training, Tony reeled away from the man, repulsed by what he had to do next. “No, no! I am not going to do THAT, not ever!”
However Tony was, as I have already told you, not a bad person. So, leaning down over the headmaster, he made ready to give him artificial respiration – and the dreaded kiss of life.
Setting to work on the headmaster, Tony pressed down on his chest, again and again and again, trying to get him breathing. Then, pinching the headmaster’s nose, he gave him the kiss of life, sending life giving air into his lungs. Moreover, he did it again and again and again. Suddenly, the headmaster coughed. He was alive.
When he opened his eyes, the headmaster was at first shocked to see Tony above him, but when he realised that Tony had saved his life, the headmaster was ever so grateful. “You might be a smelly, awful, disrespectful and dreadfully bad pupil, Tony, but you saved my life. Thank you, thank you so much.”
“That’s okay,” Tony answered.
“What on earth is going on in here?” the Assistant Head, Mrs Whittaker, asked when she entered the office.
“I think sir has had a heart attack,” Tony told her.
“Nonsense,” she replied. However, when she inspected the headmaster, she knew this was indeed so. “I will ring for an ambulance,” she said to Tony She picked up the telephone.
“It’s not working,” Tony told her. “I’ve already tried it.”
“Keep an eye on him,” she ordered, “while I ring the hospital from the phone in my office.”
Although Tony was sent home from school because of his smelly uniform, the school management did accept his version of events regarding it. After all, he had saved the life of the headmaster.
Tony’s friends and acquaintances, however, saw the incident in an entirely differently light. They were shocked by what he had done, because, no matter how good his intentions were at the time, he had kissed the headmaster.
There was no excuse for that, not ever. Furthermore, they saw him as someone who was favoured by the enemy.
How did Tony feel after this incident? Well, he knew – and accepted – that his position in the pupils’ hierarchy was shot to pieces. He also knew – and accepted – that he was placed in a unique position to carry out his private agenda, where anything was possible, if he so chose. Moreover, during the following weeks and months, Tony exploited this position, carrying out daring raids on the tuck shop, staffroom and anywhere else he saw fit, without anyone suspecting or at least suggesting that it was him.
Tony did, however, suffer because of this incident. He smelt like a sewer for almost a fortnight!