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Monday, 29 October 2012

Blaming the black kid.

Last week I introduced my 'Paki' friends, and talked about how I was raised in an environment where such words were... not condoned, so much as not questioned at all. I had my reasons for bringing up the McA's that went beyond a surface glance at the issue of racism in '80so Britain, or rather, my reason; the eldest of them was to be my patsy in a very near miss with the law.

This is that story. (I tried to pull some stills of the area from google street view to illustrate this post, but the surrounding area has been flattened and re-built and the Speccie itself extensively remodelled and it made me cry because my childhood is gone so you'll have to do without)

I can't remember whether I've talked on here before about the level of 'mischief' we used to get up to at The Spectrum Leisure Complex (or Speccie). I know I've alluded to it, but genuinely can't recall whether I've done a post that delves into the specifics. What's more, I can't be bothered to check, either.

Suffice it to say, our activities; knocking on office windows, running through the ski lodge screaming at the top of our lungs, changing the scores on those little flipboard things during vital bowls games, and pressing the emergency stop button on the rope that pulled ski-ers back up to the top of the slope; did little to endear us to the staff there. We thought we'd keep getting away with it forever. We were wrong.

Twas a day like an other, that it all kicked off. And by a day like any other I mean we were torturing the poor bastards. It was fairly obvious, in hindsight, that we were pushing our luck; they were watching us much more closely than normal, and had chased us more than once; but rather than take that as a sign that we should cool it for the day, we were energised by it. The bigger a reaction you give misbehaving kids, the more they like it and play up to it; that's just science.

But then they got clever.

You see, whenever they chased us, we'd scatter and bolt for home. Then we'd wait five minutes and head back. So, we're strutting through the gates for the tenth time that day, all laughing and full of our own daring, when suddenly, we're surrounded! They're coming out of the buildings, from behind trees, from the side of the gates behind us to block exit... we were fucked. So the panicky, but still fun, scattering began. Twas pandemonium. Glorious pandemonium.

Of course they were never going to catch us all, even as mob handed as they were. The area was too large, the kids too nimble and the exits too numerous. They were pissing in the wind.  Except... well, except for the fact that I was finding the sight of all these slightly out of shape (ironic, given what they did for a living) adults having rings run round them so much that I wasn't actually running myself. I was just standing and laughing. At first it didn't matter, because no-one tried to grab me; the instinct being to go after the ones who were running; but eventually a couple of them did come for me and, although I did make a last minute bolt for it I'd left it too late and got nabbed. Silly me!

Of course these days it would have never happened. In today's age of kid gloves and fear of recriminations the idea of grabbing and detaining a bunch of kids would never be countenanced but we were living in different times (The 1980's! I'm well ancient!) and I'm surprised they stopped short of cuffing me around the head. That was understood though; you misbehaved, sure, but you knew you'd be for it if you were caught; it was all part of the game. In this case though, once my collar was well and truly felt, I was just marched to the office of the manager; a fairly gruff fellow with whom I had so far managed to avoid any dealings with. Gruff as he was though, I wasn't intimidated; I was 10, I had no fear.

He told me that my parents would be informed and that I would 'get a hiding' from them, which if nothing else marked him out as a good judge of character; he told me my school would be informed and I would be ridiculed in assembly, as if being told off in assembly would do anything other than boost my reputation; and he told me that he was going to call the police.

That one gave me pause. You see, we weren't all that far removed from this incident, and I was still very much entrenched in my 'all cops are dickheads' phase. I was also, don't laugh, convinced that they would be out to get me after the way I had humiliated them in our previous encounter. Fucking Al Capone over here. If Al Capone was 10, and innocent. Sort of.

Talk of police involvement prompted my next brilliant move. Yes, I lied about my identity. Foolproof! Of course, I hadn't seen The Usual Suspects at this point, so i didn't claim to be called Slazenger Reebok, but I came up with something almost as good; I gave the name of the eldest lad in our old friends, the 'Paki' family. Well, obviously.

Why did I choose him? I could have chosen Ian, my cousin; I could have chosen Wayne, my best friend. Both of them had actually been among the gang of us causing mischief. Or I could have chosen any one of the 20 lads in my class at school. I could even, were I feeling particularly not stupid, invented a name. Instead, I chose him. I'm not saying I did it because I knew my Mother wouldn't mind me getting him into trouble, or because I thought that him doing something wrong would be more believable, given his background; I'm not saying those things, because I genuinely don't think that was my reasoning, at the time. I'm willing to bet it was a factor, sub-consciously, though. I had been, at least partially, indoctrinated into the racist ways of my community.

"Right, stay here and don't move. I'll be back in a minute" he tells me, and wanders off, locking the door behind him. Locking the door behind him! He kidnapped me! What a prick, eh? Anyway, once he was gone there was no way I was sticking around; I filled my pockets with pens, a ruler, and several million paperclips, and was away out the window. Oh yes, you aint holding me for long!

I have no idea whether he ever phoned the police, or indeed whether he ever had any intentions of doing so, but to the best of my knowledge the McA's never received a visit from the boys in blue since the lad in question knew what I'd done, because I told him, and he found the whole thing hilarious; I'm sure he'd have thought differently if he'd had to deal with his parents after a visit from the police.

My whole 'daring escape' thing, thankfully, was considered 'cool' enough by my friends to negate any lingering naffness caused by being the only one daft enough to get caught in the first place, which was nice.

And that's my trip down memory lane for this week. Not one of my finer moments, but not my worst either. There would be another case of me trying to talk my way out of trouble; also including stolen pens, as it goes; about a year later, and in that case I would do something that would have lasting repercussions for my whole family; not to mention it makes me sound like a callous dick.

So look forward to that one.

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