I never wanted to do home economics. The trouble was, I already had an ashtray in my bedroom and I didn’t fancy wrapping myself around a lathe making another. On the other hand, the kitchens were virtually empty, with Miss Horton teaching to a small knot of girls made to do cookery class by their parents.
We were given a choice. Hot sweaty metal work with the sadistic Mr Callaghan, or the easy life cooking cakes with Miss Horton.
Mr Callaghan was the king of the cruel and unusual punishment, normally involving particularly inventive ways of inflicting pain on his hapless pupils. We put this down to the fact that had lost a foot in a bizarre and unspecified classroom accident, and as such, it was his life’s mission to wreak his awful revenge on the poor kids that came through his workshop. He was known as the penguin.
On the other hand, Miss Horton was a lesbian, something she told us every five minutes, but as far as we knew, the girls she taught weren’t. It was no contest for me and Tim, who really wanted to be a museum curator. This was about as close as the curriculum got to curating, so we signed up in a flash.
Tuesday mornings became ace. We came in and cooked stuff. Cake. Pie. And once, a whole three course meal, which we then ate, bursting at the seems. Pretty soon, the message got out the Pongo and Tim were having a great time stuffing their faces while Mr Callaghan was crushing their bollocks in a vice, and within weeks there were further defections from the metalwork class.
One day, the fragrant Miss Horton came to us with an idea. Mr Burns, the school head teacher was about to celebrate his 60th birthday. Wouldn’t it be nice if we were to make him a cake? Too bloody right it would, that man made our lives hell with petty rules, meaningless punishments and a habit of lecturing us all to sleep in morning assemblies.
At the time, there was a strict one-way system operating in the school corridors, punishable by instant death. This was one of Mr Burns’ big ideas to, and I quote “prepare us for our entry into a structured and ordered society”. You had to walk halfway round the school just to get to the class next door, and transgressors were taken away to the ‘special’ classroom, never to be seen again. He had to pay. We would make the cake. Oh yes. The cake.
It was a beautiful cake. We spent a wonderful Tuesday morning all doing our bit to give Burns the happiest of birthdays. Sugar. Margarine. Flour. Eggs. Vim. Icing sugar. Some mouldy cheese somebody found at the bottom of the fridge. It all went in, and more. Despite our giggling protests that he was taking it too far, Johnny Sage dropped a huge green, pulsating loogie right into the mix. Johnny had been on the end of Burns’ wrath far too often, and today was payback.
We did, however, physically restrain him from running his finger round the toilet bowl and rubbing the result into the mixture so that “he really would be full of shit”. We didn’t want to poison the old goat, not much, anyway.
The coup de grace was “Happy 60th Birthday Mr Burns” piped out expertly in green icing by Tim, a skill he is undoubtedly putting to use now in his chosen career as a museum curator. We didn’t have any green food colouring. So we used washing up liquid.
At the end of the lesson, as we all packed up for lunch, the door to the forbidden zone opened, and in walked our leader, Mr Burns, for a royal visit. Miss Horton grovelled and fawned round him. Eventually, she led him over to where we stood with The Cake of Doom.
There was a brief, sycophantic ceremony. He complimented us on our cooking skills, expressed his deep joy that his students had thought of him on his most special of days. We sang “happy birthday”, and he blew out the one oversized candle planted in the middle of our masterpiece.
“See that candle?” Johnny whispered to me as old man Burns blew it out,
“it’s been up my arse.”
Then, as I stifled my giggles, we heard the words we dreaded most: “Won’t you boys join me in a slice?”
Not on your bloody life, mate, we know what’s in it.
He took a knife, and cut himself the biggest piece you could imagine, the great guts. He wasn’t known as “King Kong” for nothing. He tucked in. We held our collective breath, waiting for the eruption.
It never came. He demolished the slice in about two mouthfuls, swallowed, and said, “This is actually rather good. You won’t mind if I take the rest home for Mrs Burns?”
Of course we didn’t mind. As a matter of fact, we were all for making him another one, just to finish off the job good and proper. Fair play to him, he showed up for work the next day showing no ill effects. Hardly surprising – the amount of washing up liquid we used to get the icing the right shade of green probably left him with the cleanest insides in the known universe.
A victory for the kids, for the first time ever. And like that episode of South Park where Kenny didn’t die, I felt strangely dissatisfied. It just wasn’t right, and I’m still waiting to be collared for this one now. You’ll be pleased to hear that Mr Burns is still alive and meting out bizarre punishments from the comfort of his centrally-heated bench in the High Courts. I’m still out here, running free and as guilty as hell. The cycle of crime and punishment is yet to be fulfilled.



Cambridge, United Kingdom

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