I was there the day Smelly Smith got suspended for feeling Betty Hardcastle’s bum during morning assembly.
It seems a long time ago now but I remember that day quite clearly.
He had always been an objectionable chap, given to being decidedly verbose in a way that revealed more his lack of intellect, rather than an ability to hold an opinion of value on any given subject. However, that never seemed to inhibit his involvement in any discourse, whatever the subject, abstract or factual. Whenever an opportunity presented itself, and frequently when it didn’t, or was even wholly inappropriate, he would interject with a flow of grammatically incorrect invective directed.
Tall and large, the description that always seemed best in conveying his appearance and character was gangly, uncoordinated and intrusive. He proceeded through school (and one could only assume the rest of his life) lolloping around as if any possible direction had long since been forgotten, progress was coincidental and it was his God-given right to be as obnoxious as was humanly possible.
And Smelly’s obnoxiousness was certainly emphasised by what can only be described as a chronic (and, I am quite sure, in due course would be terminal) aversion to any of the known and efficacious methods of cleanliness. Quite apart from his olfactory affront was his ability (if you’ll excuse the oxymoron) to be both threatening and inconsequential simultaneously.
Yes, our Smelly was a classic bully. At least he tried very hard (and it has to be conceded, to the best of his limited ability) to be so. The sad fact was that most of the people he came up against backed down merely to be rid of him. All in all, he constituted an unusual example of the species of idiot in search of a village; well up (or, more precisely down), to the standards of required IQ deficiency but with just enough threat of really violent capability to be menacing.
However, it had been at the Christmas party at the church youth club that Betty first felt that Smelly had overstepped the mark. She had been with a group of her girlfriends chatting about whatever girls chat about when foregathered. I was on the opposite side of the room, discoursing with a group of the lads, pretending to enjoy the glass of fruit punch I had been handed. This enthusiasm was purely for the benefit of the vicar who was patrolling the room, smiling aimlessly. As soon as he was safely out of sight, Ritchie topped up the glasses up with a drop of the vodka he had managed to snaffle from somewhere. We were all really waiting for the DJ to start the proper music (well, Christmas carols have a place but they’re not something your average teenager rushes to the youth club to hear).
Just then, I saw Smelly (who must have just arrived) lurching across the room heading for the girls. Whatever he did or said when he joined the group, I’m not quite sure, but it was apparent that the girls had taken exception and there was quite an altercation going on with Betty and Smelly at the centre of it all. ‘Enough!’ I thought, quickly making my way across the room. I was just about to wade in and drag Smelly outside to have a ‘talk’ with him when Betty held me back.
‘Thank you but I’ve got it all under control, really.’ Was all she would say on the subject.
By then, the vicar had just joined the group with a couple of the larger helpers and Smelly was encouraged to leave. The rest of the evening went by with everyone having a great time.
The following morning, we all arrived for assembly, a little bleary eyed as once the vicar had announced the evening closed at 10.30pm, we drifted off to various venues to continue the festivities.
As we all entered the hall, I was amazed to see Betty give Smelly a quick, shy smile and took a place standing next to him. The gathering for morning assembly was always a bit of a crush, with us all standing (no chairs for us, standing made us that bit closer to the Lord Jesus). I decided to keep a close eye on Smelly and managed a place directly behind them in the middle of the hall.
We had just finished the opening hymn when Betty let out a loud scream and was seen to be hitting Smelly as hard as she could. She then broke down in floods of tears with several of her friends rushing to comfort her. One of the teachers pushed forward to question Smelly who promptly lashed out at him. I joined the process of subduing Smelly and he was led off to the headmaster’s study without further to do.
Of course, he denied it vehemently but it had been Betty’s tears (floods of them) and her high standing that had really been the clincher. I was able to speak of what I had seen both at the youth club and at assembly (together with one or two other highly relevant instances of Smelly’s behaviour in recent months).
The outcome was a two-week suspension, parents summoned to the school and the threat of expulsion should any further misdemeanour occur. I also heard that there had been requirements made clearly relating to matters of personal hygiene.
Later that morning, in-between lessons, Betty met me behind the bike shed and let me have another feel of her bum. Things were looking up.