Chocolate Mountain

I suppose the Maltesers were the start. I was a bit of a chubby kid at school, and needed my sugar fix. Those Maltesers tasted amazing; me slumped, panting, at the base of the tree half a mile away from the garage. I shouldn’t have nicked them. I know that now. But I did feel a sense of power, like I’d taken charge of the situation. The dickhead at the till shouldn’t have been so slow, should he? I wasn’t hanging around, bugger that. It was as good a way as any for my career to start.

Except, in 1986, it wasn’t a career with an employer, with workmates. My mates were interested in football and girls, me into the removal of crisps and chocolate from local shops. Anything to make money and keep the buzz going. I was on my own, self-employed. Robert Johnson, fifteen years old, with bags of nickability and pockets full of chocolate.

I wasn’t unhappy or unpopular. Stealing wasn’t some sort of a cry for help. I was just immensely greedy, both for money and for chocolate to stuff my face with. But what did I buy with my ill-gotten wealth? More food! A sly portion of chips on the way home before dinner, to celebrate the goodies in my sports bag. Saturdays were the best; Late am: steal chocolate. PM: buy various comfortable slacks and colourful, XXL polo shirts, with chocolate money. Later PM: blag way into local pub for cider and pogo music. Early am: no snog, more chocolate. My cider induced vomiting was usually brown in 1987.

My mates were brilliant. I can’t remember any “you’re out of order Bobby” speeches. My pilfering was accepted as part of my character. I was the fat bastard who would always make you laugh AND sell you a King Size Mars Bar for 20p. I was useful. Eating school dinner meant less footy playing time or losing out on a quick feel with the latest school bike. I always had plenty of customers.

You would have thought that my first arrest would have scared the shit out of me; waiting for the police to arrive, being driven home in their car (did they really need to flash the lights?), the look on Mum and Dad’s face.

But I enjoyed it. I was being acknowledged, attention was on me and not the pros and cons of carpet in the bathroom, or how long broccoli should be boiled for.

I should never have been caught. As the “Tangerine Flash” in the playground, I was lightening over 10 yards with a ball at my feet. Not so quick, however, over 300. Especially when you stop to pick up your ill gotten gains. I didn’t struggle. I was an eater, not a fighter.

Not much of a catch, eh? Overweight, always acting flash, really shit clothes if I’m honest (no tight stonewashed denim here!). But I was popular. I got invited to parties. Girls spoke to me. And they didn’t always want chocolate in return. I was a good listener you see. And I wasn’t trying to get into their pants. Honestly. I enjoyed the fact they would give me the time of day.

By the time I had reached my twentieth birthday I had reached triple figures: 100 kilograms. At first I thought that as long as I exercised, I could eat what I wanted. I developed a strange habit of eating a massive pizza, then “burning it off” by going for a swim. Followed of course, by chocolate, sometimes paid for, sometimes not. It was OK as long as I walked home. I was at university, and I was supposed to be sowing my wild oats. Problem was, instead of sowing them, I was scoffing them!

The polo shirts grew in X’s, the slacks got more comfortable. I couldn’t wear jeans anymore, stonewashed or otherwise. Thank God for the “baggy” music movement of the early 1990’s. At last, a music scene that allowed me to wear loose fitting clothes and flares! (Although I never fancied those T-shirts that changed colour as you sweated.) Cider gave way to lager, but my zest for chocolate remained. But there was now a multitude of “way home” options. King Size bars were now family packs. I had lots of grannies that needed their birthday chocolates at 2a.m (of course the cashier believed me).

On one of these detours home, I collapsed. On my own, on the pavement, with the remnants of a Christmas chocolate assortment box. I had suffered a heart attack. Fortunately I had paid for these chocolates. A passing motorist saw me (a great spot, I was all in black, my colour), and called an ambulance. I had what I call a “Sunday night moment” after I came round in the hospital. Sunday night was when I was usually racked with guilt about my weight, and was usually the time that I resolved to do something about it. Except I had a feeling that this Sunday moment would last more than a week.

I hadn’t listened at all. Surrounded by my bed was the sum total of my selfish greed; my parents, racked with guilt, all my close friends, some in tears. Nobody had brought chocolate. I realised then, in my semi consciousness, that fruit was the future. You haven’t heard about my interests, my passions, and my dreams. Because I didn’t have any. I lived purely for the present, and could plan no further ahead than the next bar of chocolate. Or the buzz of nicking a family pack of crisps from the local garage, and cooling down from my escape by eating the whole lot. If I wanted to gain an appetite for life, I needed some dreams. December 12 1992: the last time I ate chocolate. Or stole. I’m a listener now: I teach nine year olds. They know that chocolate is bad for them.

Chocolate Mountain


Joined October 2009

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