October 1st – All that scratching’s making me itch.

I was the prisoner of halfwits who’d abducted the wrong man. The great thing about passing through the education system is that you leave witless pricks behind you at each stage, never to throw a shadow over your path again. Yet, here I was, the prisoner of retarded teenagers.

The highest compliment you could pay anyone when we became teenagers was to say that they were very mature for their age. Johnny Carver, who increasingly occupies my thoughts again – Big Eggo, was one of us, but he spoiled himself by too often behaving like the Germans on It’s a Knockout. He would occasionally bestow the accolade on others. Boys like me, of whom nothing was said, were by inference, not.

all that quacking making me sick

I sing it as a mantra, ‘he spoils himself, I soil meself,’ in an upbeat 90s House style, over and over again, until Keith gets up and swings his foot at me, just missing my head, before silently returning to his corner. He missed out there, cos I’d worked out the Double-Dutch dance moves for it, and I was about to do an exhibition for him.

It was true though, Eggo looked about three years older than the rest of us. He excelled at sport without really having any special talent, other than being massively confident and bigger than everyone else. He was adopted, and I always suspected they’d knocked a couple of years off his real age to give him an advantage. I, on the other hand, because of my undiagnosed ADHD, had been promoted above my natural age.

Ham n Eggs, Ham n Eggs.

Sam Hubbard even moreso, but he wasn’t one of us, like Eggo. He was acknowledged to be exceptionally mature for his age. At fourteen years old, he actually took girls out on dates and had what was considered to be proper relationships with them. I often wondered what that amounted to. Still do actually. At the time I had a fancy that punting and picnic baskets were an essential aspect of dating. Once, at play-time, I was standing next to Hubby who was in conversation with this reptile known as Nads, who I heard say to Hubby, ‘Are you going out with anyone at the moment?’ Just like blokes down the pub would talk to each other. It was just so… mature – for their age.

 I am sixteen going on thirteen, but how my trousers stink. Better be canny, better be careful, I’ll wash them in the sink.

From that point onwards I adopted it as a conversational ice breaker with Hubby with whom I shared an occasional relationship. My question though, was rehearsed, unnatural, contrived, occasionally awkward and nearly always ill-timed. Nads’ version was meant, because he didn’t think before he said it. He was at ease with himself and knew how to talk like an adult; it didn’t matter that he was a moron, it came out like an adult would say it, with a sort of authority. By the time I’d mastered the line Hubby was probably booking the corner table in nightclubs and going to bistros.

I’m a nazi, soiled my panties …

I possessed the one set of stinking clothes that I stood in. I am sat. By the radiator. I didn’t really see the moment they confiscated my rucksack. At least they left me in the man for all seasons. I need him. Have I told you about him yet? He’s my anorak. Tomorrow maybe.

When Sweet & Sour dumped me in the room and fastened me to the radiator, I fancied that he was examining my shoes. I guess he would have had them were they not so fetid. Thank God for tramping, it has its rewards. Your fate starts to become about forever once the shoes are gone. Suddenly I started to think in terms of beheading. Would I be the first UK national to be beheaded in our own country? It’s not as terrifying as the prospect of torture – but the thought that they felt entitled to remove my head because of their misguided notions of the supernatural suddenly enrages me and I vow to myself not to cooperate however difficult they make it. Why do victims always read a statement condemning the West for what is about to happen to them? Perhaps it is under threat of torture, and they prefer beheading of the two? Perhaps it’s because they acknowledge that they have actually been pretty naughty, and deserve what’s coming to them.

Ed Leeson, now a born-again Christian, distinguished himself by having a fight with Hubby and Eggo in the same term. He drew Hubby into the fight by calling him a nigger, a reference which I never understood, though on the day that me and The Egg went to his house to buy an LP from him, there seemed to be only him and his mum there, if that’s got anything to do with the explanation. Sailors passing through? Him and Eggo sired by the same crew, hence their maturity and common traits – Eggo by the Captain, Hubby, the First Mate. Eggo was singled out by the then sociopath Leeson, because he was one of those golden-balls figures. He gave a good account of himself for a while then he brought the fight to an end by declaring he’d, ‘had enough.’ I didn’t know that you were allowed to do things like that in a fight – my understanding of fighting lore had always been that before starting you had to accept that you may be suffocated to death as a consequence of giving your assent; which was why I was never very keen. It was the only fight I’d ever seen Eggo in too. I ran away from trouble, Eggo sort of knew that it couldn’t touch him. He once said to me that he wasn’t frightened of anyone because he knew if anyone tried to harm him, his dad would come to school and kill them. Polk tried to convey something like that to me once, but he was even older then and I knew it didn’t count. Besides, he had a walking stick.

But the thing that went with the Polk deal was that you got Dolly, and shopping trips, and talk, and aunties and cakes. You see, Eggo would have never experienced soft finger rolls made with thin ham and a cup of coffee in a proper coffee shop. He learnt that game as a teenager with other teenagers in nylon sweaters with interesting patterns on them. That was probably where Hubby went in the off season for picnics, when the boating lakes were closed. Besides, orphans don’t have extended families – they swap it for a greater intensity of parents like a dog does.

I wonder when I started thinking about the provenance of meat products? Farming probably wasn’t too intensive then, but it was almost certainly crueller. I missed my chance to ask Polk about it – he lived on a farm until he met Dolly, but I don’t suppose there was any difference between free range and factory back then; it was just farming. I’m glad of the memory of ham in soft rolls, and coffee. I am going to start doing that again once I get out. You have to do your own now because proper coffee shops don’t exist. Just filthy pig parlours where you can get a keenly priced litre of swill and a piece of continental concrete to dip in it. Those lot will never know the joy of the ham roll. Peasants. What’s their objection, that a pig is unclean? If they didn’t eat them because they revered pigs I’d understand, but unclean? They don’t know the first thing about pigs, how smart they are. Pigs would make monkeys out of the lot them.

I wonder how many poor girls have known Hubby with and without the majuscule?