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“If only I’d known” could be the title of my autobiography. The words sprang to mind after reading this little gem – resurrected from a couple of months ago – in today’s Guardian: Five-year-old misses friend’s birthday party and gets invoice for £15.95. Why do they keep re-running yesterday’s news as though it’s today’s? Sort of defeats the idea of calling it news.
Still, to get to the point, remembering the humungous number of dates who stood me up as a teenager, I could’ve easily made a fortune by invoicing them. There was Paula Hallam for a start. Two times she kept me me waiting in the cold for ages, before I realised she wasn’t going to turn up. I could’ve invoiced her twice. Like a prize lemon, I stood at St Margaret’s bus station for a couple hours one freezing November Sunday afternoon in 1964, the first time. Two hours of expecting her to step off the next bus, only to have my hopes dashed each time a new one arrived. Swearing to myself I’d never ask her out again, I only went and asked her the following spring. That time I sat perched on a wooden stile down by the River Soar in Birstall, till it was almost dark. I’d walked all the way from Syston. I had to walk all the way back feeling sorry for myself, being the idiot I was. The ridge of hard skin that formed across my buttocks that afternoon is still there to remind me. I lost all feeling in them for several days afterwards. Maybe it’s not too late to bill her for the humiliation I still suffer thinking of it.
I knew why she didn’t turn up, and it wasn’t because I had a faceful of spots. Just a few blackheads needing attention from time to time, to which our bathroom mirror gave testimony, that was all. I told mum the tiny specks were fly shit. Embroidering the lie by saying there’d been swarm of them while I was trimming the clump of hairs round my chin mole. She said not to be silly; it was my blackheads. Paula didn’t want to be seen out with me that was why she didn’t turn up. It was impossible not to know why she didn’t with my dad telling me I was “as skinny as a rake” all the effin’ time. What with me being “daft as a brush” and “as dim as a 15 watt lightbulb” I was well on the way to starting up my own hardware shop of hurtful insults.
Though I liked to think of myself as interestingly svelte, I had the type of body that Charles Atlas, the world-famous body builder, said was the reason young men got sand kicked into their faces. My own personal theory was that he shared some of the blame, as the fact he kept publicising it only encouraged the practice further. He could even be held responsible for the severe shortage of skinny boys on beaches throughout the 1950s and 60s, for bodybuilders to kick sand in the faces of. Luckily, we lived about as far away from a beach as you can get in Britain. Come to think of it, my grandfather once owned a sand pit in nearby Thurmaston. Perhaps that’s why it got fenced off with a big sign warning trespassers they would be prosecuted. Obviously, grandad didn’t want to be held responsible for hordes of musclebound bullies dragging knucklefuls of nerds down there to kick sand in their faces through a lack of beach.
The nerd’s version of bodybuilders kicking sand in skinny men’s faces is pulling girl’s hair. Apparently, John Key’s idea of a bit of a wheeze is to creep up behind waitresses before yanking their pony tails. I can almost hear the nerdish sniggers. The Guardian headlined this story New Zealand prime minister John Key apologises for pulling waitress’s hair.
Can you credit it? Even more nerdy than tugging girls’ hair, Key compounds the crime by saying sorry for doing it. Bullies don’t say sorry. You don’t get men like Charles Bronson or Steven Seagal saying sorry for kickin’ ass or pulverising someone’s face into mush, so why say sorry to a mere waitress for pulling her hair? I mean she’s not going to throw a punch, is she? Actually, that’s exactly what she threatened to do, shouting “Please STOP or I will actually hit you soon!” after one tug too many. The prime minister issued a grovelling apology once he’d skedaddled to the safety of faraway Turkey on the other side of the globe. Seems Key doesn’t quite get the meaning of being out on the pull. Like a lot of nerds, he probably spends too much time watching re-runs of The Flintstones.
Pictured at the Young Nats’ Ball John Key manages to stand completely motionless for the entire evening. Note the background moves about more than he does. A man not able to panic in a crisis, Key is completely unmoved by everything going on around him.
Talking of keys, here’s a hobby for teenage nerds, who keep getting stood up, involving Mon-keys. Not only will Sea-Monkeys keep you amused for ages, but the whole family can join in. These fascinating creatures will turn your thoughts away from girls, and help put an end to any monkeying about that could lead to bedsheets getting as stiff as boards.
Copyright © 2015 Bryan Hemming
To write about my memories, past and present
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