Rock Climbing With The School Bully, Part II: Secrets and Lies

Public Service Announcement: I had a pair of Adidas Sambas a few years ago and was well pleased with them. Very nice trainers, as it goes.

My son is diabetic. Well, to clarify – he isn’t, but I have told him and his school and his friends’ parents that he is so that he eats well without me having to watch him all the time. I mean, yes, you can go through all the rigmarole of explaining that overly processed sugary food is bad, and watch him eat it anyway because it is delicious, or let the world do the job for you by virtue of a small but significant fib. No-brainer.

Prior to this, when he was for some reason banging on about MacDonalds, I put some hospital sandwiches in a MacDonalds bag and told him I’d been to the drive-through on the way home. I’ve never liked MacDonalds and now, thanks to ham and pickle sandwiches from the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, neither does he. I remain disappointed, however, that he thinks I am the sort of person who would visit a drive-through, but you can’t have everything.

To continue our train of thought from the last post, it could be argued that the examples given above are a type of bullying, in that I am using knowledge and therefore power inappropriately. On the other hand, bollocks to that, because parenting is as difficult as you make it. That said, bullying can sometimes be controversial. For example, I once found myself in a room with a human resources lady who, to my astonishment, advised me that I was the subject of bullying in the council job I had at the time. I felt reassured by her cable knit jumper, which suggested both empathy and sincerity, so explained that if we were simply allowed to punch our colleagues, I wouldn’t need to waste time having conversations like this. I was immediately signed off for six weeks of my year-long contract, which I spent reading on my sofa and watching Minions films with Sid. It was a very happy time. After that, COVID happened, and although I went back to work, I never saw my colleagues again. When my contract ended, they generously sent me a load of booze as a leaving present – an ideal gift for the angry.

While we all find a cable knit jumper reassuring, the same cannot be said about golfing jumpers. Actually, the worst thing about golfing jumpers is being around people who play golf but, when combined with Adidas Sambas and Farah trousers, they were also once part of the uniform for the most violent people I have ever met. This Casual look, as it was known, was ideal for physical assault, not least at West Ham, as detailed here. I had older friends who sold Pringle jumpers to Northern casuals on away days in London. They were just ordinary jumpers with Pringle badges slashed out of bona fide goods from Lillywhites of Piccadilly by me seamlessly sewn into them, so the enterprise was built upon a solid foundation of good business sense.

One afternoon though, I discovered injustice. I’d already discovered theft, fraud and football hooliganism and found them quite exciting, but there was an annoying quality to injustice. It happened next to a school vending machine with ‘Toot Toot’ written on it in marker pen homage to the hit of the same name by Denise Lascalle, when Nat Baker, whose brother had been on HMS Sheffield in the Falklands when it was hit by an Exocet missile, stole my Minstrels. I was fucking outraged. Also, he once got off with Kelly Williams, who told me that her dad was Bungle on Rainbow. This was my go-to first-date anecdote until 2009 when she revealed that, in fact, he was in prison at the time for a failed robbery on a Highbury post office. On the other hand, Nat’s brother actually had been on HMS Sheffield because he came to school assembly one day to talk about it, and this gave him a certain kudos, if only among fellow pupils who I expect now have Help For Heroes bumper stickers on their Toyota Corolla hatchbacks. He also had a twenty a day Benson and Hedges habit, which was nice because I have always found a hint of fag smoke on clothing comforting. Preposterously, was something of a face at Tottenham, too, despite being 13. I wanted my Minstrels back, but Nat had eaten them. We had clearly arrived at an impasse.  

Incidentally, in case you’re wondering, Runton hasn’t fallen off the planet or anything. Only bits of it survived COVID, with ‘Anton’ and myself obliged to seek other jobs once that somewhat suspicious global pandemic took hold. The currently operable bits are concerned with taking llamas to visit the terminally ill and growing root vegetables with criminals, and Joe organises that. I should send Kelly Williams’ old man up there dressed as Bungle.


Main: Sundry cannulation equipment, including three-way taps, bionectors, flushes, Octopus singles and doubles – I usually like to say that this is a tennis tournament when discussing with patients, or that Octopus singles is a dating app – sterile wipes, tape etc.

Top: All the stuff I gather around myself during a quiet day with the Vascular Access team. We have here Huel savoury, Huel Black, plain water, Kindle, SIS energy drink, diet Coke, two mugs of strong black coffee and a book of crosswords I am usually too wired to do.

Lower: Peppermint-scented bike chain lubricant. Conceptually ridiculous, but an excellent lube.

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