First day at school


            Michael and I circle each other, warily.

Unknown to me, I held a slight advantage – I’d spent the last ten years fighting a two and a half years older bigger brother. Michael had spent his past eight years fighting a two and a half years younger smaller brother. Plus the last time he’d had to perform this new pupil fighting duty, both he and his victim were, more than likely, dressed in nappies and romper suits.

Michael and I continue to circle each other.

As we went round the third, fourth or was it the fifth time I suddenly gained another advantage. Watching intently from the front row was the most beautiful girl in the world. Dark hair, light skin, blue stripped sailor style dress, and cheeky overbite peeping through her smile. I was instantly Clark Kent, she was gorgeously Lois Lane, but the phone box was across the road, outside the schoolyard.  

Michael and I circle on, warily.

The crowd were getting restless. It was becoming a no-contest. They expected blood but they were getting Come Dancing. Michael was losing his audience, they were drifting off to play tag, play hopscotch or have their own little fights. Mr Mann was probably taking his tea and biscuits.

We circle, one more time.

Michael, desperate to re-establish his ‘cock of the class’ status made a lunge at me, I ducked back, he was too quick, I was too slow, at last, we grappled. He caught me by the shoulder and in astonishment said: “You’re wearing braces!” Me, in defiant desolation: ‘So!’ He started to laugh; I had to join in, the last of the onlookers left.

That was the end of the fight; I’m brought down by my braces. I was desperately embarrassed. I’d been arguing the ‘belt v braces’ case with my mother since the previous Christmas. She conceded the weekends; snake belts were OK Saturday and Sunday, but school, and school trousers, my Monday to Friday life meant braces. She did not, would not, and could not; understand ‘cool’ and ‘street cred’ with an eleven year olds mind.

By lunchtime Michael, had become Mick, and we were instantly best friends, I loved him like a brother for years to come, in fact, I still do, and thinking of him still conjures warm smiles and warmer memories.

Lois Lane became Jenifer, then Fifi, she stole my heart in a second, she made it beat faster as she steps close, I was eleven and I was in love, and would, on and off, remain so for all my Newgate Street years, and beyond.

She still fills, sixty years later, a little piece of my heart. I hope she treasures her memories as much as I treasure mine; I’ll talk of her again, later.

My first morning in Newgate Street built on the promise of the previous day, of this new and wonder filled period of my life. My Luton life forgotten before lunchtime.

I was good, it was good, my life would be good.

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