A night in a shed


           That first night, and the rest of my first Newgate Street week, I settled down to sleep at Mrs Uglow’s. She ran a sort of B&B, my parents were in the main house, I was at the bottom of the garden, in her summerhouse, though it had the features of a shed. For Pete’s sake, I was now sharing a shed with my older brother, worse than our previously shared bedroom, worse by way of possible cockroaches, probable mice, and definite spiders.

The final handover of our new home, the village shop and post office, wouldn’t happen for a few of days yet, but it held the promise, of my own, un-brother filled, bedroom – a boy of eleven needs his own space. I’m sure my brother a few weeks short of fourteen, felt the need even more – he had things to play with.

Monday morning, I woke feeling optimistic and early with a happy sun shining through the shed window, I was thinking I wouldn’t be going to school; I’d be spending the day exploring my new village surroundings.

Unfortunately, my parents had a different plan, they didn’t get it; every boy needs every opportunity to miss a day or two of school, it should always be offered, and always eagerly taken. But no, they wanted my new school routine to start immediately.

So, here I was, nine o’clock Monday morning, packed off to school, St Mary’s, my arrival increasing the school role by 5%, and my year group to six pupils. All of us, the whole junior school held under the watchful eye of just one man – Mr Mann – a row of desks for each age group arranged in order, youngest at the front, oldest at the back.

I still wonder who was most amazed, me joining such a small bizarre school; or the other pupils, having me join their number. It was clear they’d never met a child of their own age who they hadn’t grown up with from birth, and further, they’d never met a child who wasn’t related to at least one of the three of the families that the whole village, and my new classmates, were part of. Most were related to two, some were related to all three.

Looks of curiosity passed between us until 11am, then came our twenty minutes of release. I thought it’d be chance to meet the other boys, get to know them, perhaps start building friendships, or maybe play a bit of footie. In most schools, this was time for play, but not today, not in this school.

We spilled into the playground, me grinning friendly smiles to all, and everything looked promising until one boy, Michael, pushed himself into my personal space with aggression and swagger, he said: “I have to fight every new boy at the school.”

I wondered how he’d come by this task, was he chosen by his peers, or because he was the eldest, or because he fancied himself as a bruiser? Whichever it was, it didn’t seem like I’d be able to talk him out of it.  I quickly gave him a once over to see if he had the regulation number of fingers, limbs and heads, he had, so I said: “OK, if you have too.”

Michael and I took up our position, encircled by the whole of St Mary’s, this time with the older kids at the front. Mr Mann was probably watching though the window. Everyone seemed to be expecting a blood and gore tussle, with one of us, most likely me, the unknown quantity, leaving by ambulance . . . or worse.

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