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Netball & Equality

"Double double double, Sol Campbell has won the double. And the scum from the lane, 'ave won fuck all again. Sol..." "JAKE!" My teacher yells at me. "Will you sit down and shut up." A poor choice of words amongst such reliable miscreants. This time half the class join in. "Sit down shut up, sit down shut up" I sing along and half abide. Ms Bennett considers a response but seems to accept some culpability and changes gear. "Today class we are having a special afternoon assembly to reveal the winner of our Head-For-The-Day competition." The whole class oooooohhs in excitement except for one troubled little boy who lets out an impromptu villainous "MWAHAHAHAHaaaah", for which Ms Bennett rightly bollocks me. There was an evil scheme I had been working on for a whole three weeks - a bloody lifetime when you're ten.

My headmaster Mr Wright had picked me up in his car following one of my regular escape attempts, when I was struck by something absolutely repulsive dangling from his rear view mirror. A tottenham air freshener. Nobody loves The Arsenal more than an obsessed ten year old - this was treason. He was attempting a heart to heart while driving me back to the place I'd only just escaped, yet my focus was firmly on the central locking he'd clicked. This was my first encounter with a spuds fan and I found it genuinely distressing to be locked in a vehicle with one. I told my classmates but found their under-reaction cause for alarm. I told Ms Bennett but she cleverly changed the subject to the lesson I'd interrupted. So I brought this harrowing discovery to my mum, finally I got some sense. "Well, why don't you write to our local MP?" She said facetiously, assuming that would be that.

Dear Claire Ward, 

I am ten years old and go to **** Primary School. I know you are a girl but please try to listen. I recently found out that our Headmaster Mr Wright is a tottenham fan. How can you let a spurs fan be in charge of our education? Don't the government know these people actually enjoy failure? Their natural antipathy to success, happiness and goodwill poisons our learning environment. How are we supposed to reach our academic potential with an inherently masochistic shit-weasel in charge of a pure red & white soul such as I?

Alright, so I don't remember exactly what I wrote but it was something like that. My mum checked in half way through and put an end to it. "You know, I'm sure Ms Ward is a Tottenham fan." "Mum! Don't you use that fucking word in this house!" In mum's defence she must have read the letter over my shoulder and feared for her job as a social worker. Really, she should have known I wouldn't let it lie. Something had to be done.

The revenge plot (which, full disclosure, was mostly vandalism) was beginning to take shape. This was until school announced the illustrious Head-For-The-Day day. I knew exactly what to do and how to do it. Thanks to my role models Bart Simpson & Dennis the Menace. I felt an alarming weight of responsibility to cause havoc. I made no secret of my intention to change the school into an Arsenal academy if I were to win. Ms Bennett was clearly enjoying the thoroughly deserved mental anguish the competition was causing me. Saying things like "Mr Wright and all of us teachers will do anything you ask." My eyes nearly popped out of me fucking head. The trouble was I was a right little toe-rag. It had only been a month since I stole some industrial cling film from the school kitchen and wrapped the boy's toilets. Hoping someone performed the mythic 'trampoline poo'. (They never did.)

The prospect of behaving until a decision was made seemed a cruel unsurmountable dream, but there was hope. "The winner will be picked anonymously." -Teachers always said big words with a hint of la-dee-da- "The student who writes down the best ideas will win. Remember to come up with a unique title so we know it's yours." I'm not normally an evil genius but on this occasion I feel particularly dirty about what I did. Or to put it more accurately, so proud I've put it in this publication. Instead of writing what I planned on changing during my day in absolute power, I wrote down a load of stuff that I imagined would get me voted in. What an evil shit. Not least because at ten years old, I had so effortlessly exploited the corruptibility of our political system.

I was so paranoid about Ms Bennett recognising my handwriting, that I spent two weeks practising writing with my left hand. It was undoubtedly neater than my usual scribbles. Probably as I had recently broken my right arm at our Isle of White school trip, doing the can can - I wish that was made up. I've always been underweight and had picked the wrong kid to link arms with. In the emergency room at the hospital, Mr Wright encouraged me to lie to the fat kid who broke my arm, tell them it wasn't their fault. I listened as he was still a role model at this point. I walked into the breakfast hall the following morning with a cast on my arm feeling like Evil Knievel. Children may not have the Oscars or the Medal of Valour but we observed a few prestigious traditions. I marched straight up to lad and asked if he'd be the first to sign my cast.

Everyone was excited at the announcement assembly but none more so than little young me. "I am thrilled to announce the winner has the title 'Netball and Equality!'" I leaped up and started twirling, squealing giddily in stark effeminate contrast to the erratic upward air punches I was exhibiting - those of a seasoned football fan. "Excuse us everyone. Jake, may we have a word outside." Mr Wright and Ms Bennett loomed over me in the hallway, holding up my falsified manifesto. Each taking it in turns to stare at it and then to me. Mr Wright leads the inquiry "This isn't yours Jake?" "It fucking is!" The unmistakable madness in my eyes confirms that they had just made a grave mistake. I lived for moments where you could get away with swearing and grasped it with both middle fingers. Ms Bennett butts in "Jake, this isn't even your handwriting. And you hate netball. You told me so five times this... Oh." Her face drops as she realises she has just been had. She looks to her colleague for help but receives the same expression back. A helpless "What have we done?"

I called a faculty meeting to go over my plan for the following day. "Everybody has to wear an Arsenal shirt or red if they don't have one. Mr Wright, you can wear my brother's Sol Campbell top." "Jake, this wasn't in your plan. Your entry was specifically chosen because" I kept interrupting like an entitled prince, high on power and E-numbers. "QUICHE LORAINE SHALL HEREBY KNOWN AS QUICHE GILBERTO SILVA." "Jake, that doesn't make sense. We don't even have a menu" "PIZZA IS ALIADIÈRE." "Who, what? For goodness sake Jake. Are all your ideas going to involve the renaming of food products? I mean, we don't even have a lunch board, for your plan to work each student would have to" "ICE CREAM FOR BREAKFAST. Sol must bring everybody ice cream!" "Anything else?" Mr Wright was keen to get this farce over with. "You must start assembly with a heartfelt rendition of Tony Adams Magic." "I'm afraid I don't know that one, come by my office at the end of the day will you and we can go over the song." 

One can only assume this moment is replayed in his head on a loop. I stood opposite his plush head teacher desk after school hours innocently yelling (at his request) the following "Ohh Tony Adams magic, he's got a magic knob" Mr Wright immediately holds up his hand like Simon Cowell but I just shut my eyes and sing louder. "AND WHEN HE SAW CAPRICE HE STUCK IT IN HER GOB, HE STUCK IT IN HER FANNY, HE STUCK IT UP HER BUM" He jumps from his seat and panics "Jake, please!" "AND WHEN HE GOES DOWN WHITE HART LANE HE SHAGS GLEN HODDLE'S MUM." I had no idea what a Caprice was but Mr Wright certainly did. My innocence (however questionable) saved me and we cut a dirty deal Harry Redknapp would be proud of. I wouldn't tell anyone he just instigated a private rehearsal of a small boy singing about Tony Adams magic knob. And he'd open assembly with 'We Love You Arsenal'.

Are yer Tott'nam in disguise?

Twenty-one years I thought I got away with it. Then mum asks me to clean any shit I don't need out her loft to make room for shit she don't need. During this lost cause to make invaluable space for invaluables, I open up some long forgotten box to find three awards from my final year at the school. Finally, it dawns on me that Mr Wright got his revenge all them years ago. Well, if you can call it revenge when it's between a middle aged man and a ten year old boy.

The first award is a runner up chess trophy. My inability to play chess was laid bare as I lost the semi final in 4 moves to the most mature boy who ever lived. This precocious Grandmaster walked in on cling film gate and noticed the urinal wrapped like ones jam sandwich. He immediately accepted the situation, poked his finger through to make a dick hole and proceeded to enjoy a splash proof splash (No.1 IPX4). How was I supposed to compete with that? I had only played chess against my Grandad and he was literally mental. So I lost the semi final, then lost the third place play off. What did Mr Wright put on such a prestigious trophy? 'School Handicap Chess Tournament Runner Up'.

The second award is signed by Ms Bennett for 'Most Improved Handwriting'. Which I believed to be a totally real and normal thing right up until I stared at it, aged thirty-one in my mum's loft. Undoubtedly they would have expected me to acknowledge this nod to my dirty dealings but I just felt proud to have finally won something. Proving you can't insult the ignorant, I waved the certificate in Mr Wright's face. Gloating "Who's handicapped now?" Even proudly boasting back home "Look mum! Mr Wright awarded me this special!" "Oh dear" she must have thought.

The third & final award is a netball trophy. During our school summer fair, one of the stalls was just a barrel load of inflatable PVC footballs, a netball hoop and a scoreboard. And apparently I was the only one who sunk all five buckets to win a prize. If anyone else had won, they might have won an actual prize. But Mr Wright was the proud presenter of this trophy he clearly had commissioned out his own pocket. In front of the whole school during assembly, Mr Wright handed me a morally ambiguous bronze girl in a skirt - shooting a netball - with a face not unlike my own. I was so embarrassed I never noticed the plaque. It read 'School Netball & Equality Champion'. All these years I feared that Mr Wrights battle with me was all in my head. Or worse, that he rose above it. Staring at these dunce awards with adult eyes for the first time was a strange awakening. It wasn't the discovery that he got me back which moved me. It was the realisation he was willing to debase himself to my level - A role model after all.

Artwork by the one and only Catboy.


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