Friday, 2 November 2012


I was born in 1973.  That made me four at the silver jubilee and the release of Never mind the Bollocks.   Eight when I bought Swords of a Thousand Men and Kids in America on seven inch single. Nine during the Falklands War.  Eleven buying When Doves Cry, by Prince.  Fifteen when Ben Johnson was my mum’s favourite athlete for a very short time.

During my secondary school years (the demarcation in my life that my mother reminds me, ‘You were ok, until you went to that school’) I was landed in the playground- the yard, much bigger and more complex than that of my earlier school.  It was 1984.  I think the Prince purchase reflected the priming lust that I began to feel for Miss Beedham.

The playground was a desolate ashphalty expanse that had many, shadowy and unusual smelling corners, nooks and passages.  I felt like a goldfish knowing the universality of clean underpants everyday, being poured out onto a coral reef.  The darkness and protocols of yard life became quickly apparent. 

I had not yet had my head flushed in the toilet, like my brother had warned.  But, on snacking innocently into a bag of Monster Munch during what may have been my first day at school, I was made aware by a bigger, older boy at the apex of a formation of boys- some stern, some cowed and that he was, ‘having the nick on that’.

‘Dimp’, said a boy obscured behind him.  A square headed boy with a very short haircut and a faint odour of fags combined with the vague funk that emanates from a fake Ben Sherman coat not washed since his mum bought it from the market in Rhyl a year previous.

‘OK’, I offered, nervously.  Squarehead peered into my bag of Munster Munch, as you might, looking over the edge of a building to the street below.  ‘That’s a nick’, he said swiping the bag from me.  He turned, walked through the formation- they, parting like cattle.  I watched, electricity gossiping in my head as an albino kid pestered Squarehead with tongue flapping pleas for the dimp, the dimp.

Squarehead contemptuously stuffed the remaining contents of the bag into his mouth, dropped it, licked the essence of deep fried snack from his fingers and ignored the protestations from the albino.  No dimp for him.

I learnt quickly the protocols of scavenging snacks and smokes.  The Nick probably evolved from the last part of a smoke.  Fidgety, spermy teens with creamy eyes, hungry since a breakfast of white bread, margarine and jam were hyena quick to say, ‘gis ya nick on that’ as their partner in loitering drew a match to a fresh, straight Benson.  It was always Bensons in our school.  The Dimp, even lower in desperation was the nick of the nick-  the last few tar filled draws ‘till the filter. 

This lore of the smokers somehow spread like a cancerous culture to the rest of the yard and hundreds of children ceased to savour their Monster Munch and crammed that shit in before anyone could pounce from the shadows to cast a contract: NICK!  That kid, in turn would hop about as if they needed to urinate, stressed that a lower scavenger would appear to bark, DIMP!

One clause did exist however.  If no one around you was harder than yourself, you could, as soon as you pulled the crisps from your bag announce, ‘No nicks.  No dimps’.  And as long as Markie Rowlands didn’t swagger up and say, ‘Nick on ‘at’, you would be free to go to the bottom of the bag.

Next week in Vernacular of 1980’s north Wales:
You used to be alright.
Sly (meaning cruel).
Fuck spelt fock
Going With as opposed to Going Out