A Life Less Scary
"The interesting and varied life of Scary Duck, Genius, French Cabaret Chantoose and small bets placed."
"The Great Chair Race"
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I'm old enough to remember the days when schools used to have chairs
made out of wood. You know, the brown stuff that grows on trees. You
know, squirrels. None of that cheapo metal-and-plastic rubbish - our
school had top quality wooden seating, lovingly crafted by prisoners of
war in the 1940s.
After decades of misuse, it was pretty safe to say that our
chairs were falling to pieces, and with Thatcher stealing everything
from milk to library books from our schools, Berkshire County Council
simply couldn't afford to replace them. Every lesson was like Russian
roulette as students gingerly placed their bottoms onto their seats in
case it finally gave up the ghost and left them sprawling on the floor
to hoots of laughter.
Those of us in the know would attend lessons with a
screwdriver, tightening or loosening screws as necessary. After all,
you didn't want to be the one with matching bruises on both arse and
But it wasn't all fear and loathing in the classroom. By
sitting facing backwards on one of these wooden chairs, and working the
seat-back like a rowing machine, we found you could walk the chair
across the finely polished floors, reaching terrifying speeds if the
chair was knackered enough and you had muscles on your forearms like
We were kids. We were competitive. When two or more are gathered in the name of dossing about, you're going to have a race.
Wet breaks are great, because you've got whole classes to
yourself without any form of adult supervision. Any teacherless moment
can be used for the latest round of the World Championship of chair
racing - the aim being to hold a race in every room in the school and
beat the crap out of the person who wins the most.
I have seen with my own eyes, in Room 4 of the Old School as
rain trickled down the windows, all the desks pushed back and a dozen
drivers going hell-for-leather for the blackboard.
I have heard with my own ears the sound of a portakabin falling to pieces as a not-so-secret race meeting got out of control.
It couldn't last.
There we were, just before the end of the school day, waiting
for our tutor to come and fill out the register, and we would be free
for another day. Just time enough for Ju-Vid and I to race down the gap
between the desks in round 27 of the World Championship, then.
Go! Working our chair backs like crazy, we skated across the
wooden floor to the finish line where Ernie waited with a makeshift
chequered flag we'd knocked up out of an old towel whipped from the
lost property basket.
Neck and neck, the crowd roared us on, and girls rolled their eyes to the ceiling.
Two things happened.
One: "What the bloody hell's going on here then?"
Oh, spoons. Mrs Gibson.
Oh, spoons. Ju-Vid.
He landed with a clatter at Mrs Gibson's feet, performing a
neat half twist to enable him to see right up her skirt. He was still
clutching the back of his chair which had snapped off in his hands, all
the evidence she needed to convict the two of us.
As you'd expect, deathly silence. The only movement was Ernie quietly concealing the chequered flag in his school bag.
Mrs Gibson was normally, friendly, quiet, reserved, blonde and the
owner of a number of tight jumpers. I think the description I am
scrabbling for her on this occasion would be "fucking ape-shit
Caught like a pair of Treens in a disabled space cruiser,
Ju-Vid and I were marched off to Mr Marcus, the world's hairiest man
and middle school head. We were forced to confess our involvement in
the illicit chair-racing cartel, which was apparantly destroying the
morality of the school thanks to small quantities of tuck money
changing hands in side bets.
Marcus sat on the corner of his desk, legs akimbo in a shiny
Man-at-Burtons suit, hair spilling out of every orifice, as he laid
down the law to the pair of us. We swore he put socks down the front of
his trousers. Disturbing was not the word for it.
By way of punishment, we were to spend every day after school
for a whole two weeks tightening up the screws on every single chair in
the establishment, and hammering home wooden wedges to ensure that
wobbliness was a thing of the past.
Not so Marcus's desk, which collapsed one afternoon as he
perched on one corner whilst teaching geography. I swear on my dog's
life I had nothing to do with it.
The day the plastic chairs arrived was a black one in the history of our school.
While this story is based on actual events in the life
of Scaryduck, certain identities and venues may have been changed to
protect the innocent.