Thursday, 10 May 2012

The wrath of Orange Head

I always was an easily influenced kid. Anything to impress my mates. I guess most of us are at that age, only some of us take it further than others. Like the time when we were playing football in the tennis courts and the ball went sailing over the 10 ft high fence. I could have quite easily ran around and retrieved the ball but oh no! I just had to scale the wire fence with the skills of a spider monkey and jump down the other side. All fun and games, until your trouser belt hoop gets stuck around the loose piece of wire at the top. Which is fine if you notice it but can end in disaster if you don't. In my case, I didn't and consequently I ended up in my underpants on my hands and knee's after literally being ripped out of my trousers. The pain of falling ten ft head first, was nothing compared to the emotional scarring I was left with, after being surrounded by a mass of kids, all giving me the wanker sign. The image of my trousers flapping in the wind from the top of the nets, will live with me forever, as will the humiliation I suffered during the walk of shame to the lost property room in my skid marked underpants. Like Jesus with the cross on the via Dolorosa, I was taunted the whole way along the route.

My whole 5 years from 1980 to 1985, at Haslingden High school were plagued by such self inflicted events and the following one is no exception.

It must have been around 1981 I'd say. I was a Second year senior. In those days the first years went to Ryfield Avenue, an old Victorian school some miles away. This meant that effectively the Second years were the new kids in town, and were treated with contempt. We even had our own little area in the tennis courts where we played, although we weren't the only ones suffering segregation. The Pakistanis or Pakis as they were commonly known, had their own section as well. Half the tennis courts were for the "Pakis" and the other half for the whites - further segregated into Second years, geeks and other such sub denominations. Essentially though, half black and half white. Come to think of it must have looked like a chessboard from any passing aircraft. The common joke was "Look over there. it's getting dark and it's only 10 am". I'm not saying that England was racist back then but the kids went "Paki bashing", as an alternative to playing conkers.

Anyway, this one particular day, our little band of foolish Second years, decided that it would be fun to start hurling objects across the playground, at nobody in particular. You know, like little stone or sweets. It was fun to see the object hit people and then watch their confusion as they looked for the source of their discomfort. This little game went on for 10 minutes or so and was beginning to fade out when I discovered a semi decomposing orange, somewhere on the tennis court perimeter. With haste I return to my mates like a dog who has just found a bone. They immediately spot my orange and know from the look in my eye, that it's going to get launched.

"Go on Mits, let em have it", they prompt me. And that's it, in my head, my rotten fruit is going to make me the star of the playground. I take a run, pull back my arm and launch my orange as if it were a grenade. Behind me, my band of mates cheer me on. We all stand back and watch on with bated breath as my orange sphere soars through the air. Their excitement and my anxiety increases as it hurtles towards Earth. But wait, is that Stuart Ashworth standing in its path? Yes, I think it is, in fact, I am sure it is "Fuck".

My aim could have not been more accurate, even with the aid of laser guided sights. The orange hits with such precision and impact, that it literally explodes on the back of his head. This in turn causes a minor eruption in the playground, as Stuart Ashworth, so angered by his citrus juiced humiliation runs around the playground in an attempt to find the culprit. Fortunately for me, my friends don't dob me in and nobody else witnesses my throw. Eventually, he gives in, blames it on the Pakis and bashes the first one he encounters.

This story does not end there. Six years later in the summer of 1987, I am riding the bus to my girlfriends house in Stubbins. I am sitting alone on the top deck and as we pass through Edenfield, who should get onto the bus but old orange head himself. Who has no choice but to plonk himself down next to me because all the other seats are occupied. He has no clue who I am, but as always I manage to spark up a conversation, and it goes as follows.

"Are you Stuart Ashworth", I enquire.

"Yes why"? he cautiously replies.

"Oh, I just remember you from school", I nonchalantly respond.

And so the conversation continues for quite some time and we are getting on really well. I find out that he is working in a local factory, has a girlfriend and lots of other casual information. All along of course, I am thinking about the orange exploding on his head and trying to weigh up whether or not to tell him. "Oh fuck it", I think, 6 years has gone by, surely nobody can bear a grudge for so long. With this in mind, I begin to retell the tale.

"Remember, around 6 years ago when you got smacked on the back of the head with an orange"?, I cheerfully ask.

The look on his face could not have been more pained if I had just told him his mum had died. It's apparent from the second that this sentence exits my lips, that he is still deeply angered by the event. I mean, how was I to know that he's been referred to as Orange head for the rest of his teenage years?

"Yes, I fucking do", he fires back at me. "Do you know who fucking did it do you, cos I'm going to fucking bury em"?. This last sentence is said with such conviction and venom that I am sure that he is on to me. His eyes burrow holes right through my cranium.

"Erm, erm, yes it was Chris Mayer I stammer out", with the backbone of a spineless weasel.

Fortunately for me, the bus draws to a halt at his stop and he gets up to leave.

As he gets to the stairs, he turns around, points at me and shouts.

"I don't know who that fucker is, but I will hunt him down for the rest of my days".

I never did tell Chris Mayer that he was on the wanted list.

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