In the year above me at school, when I was about nine, there was a boy that had a skin condition that to this day I still have no idea what it possibly could have been. I remember my mum explaining it to me as his pores not working properly. My mum's explanations always came with a 'that's gonna have to do you' air about them. Anyway, the result was a very red, sore looking skin. As it went in those days, such an abnormality warranted some name calling (oh how better we understand emotional health and well being now!). It was somewhat unimaginative, but he became known as Tomato Head to everyone in the school.
So one playtime, I am there clowning around as usual when Tomato Head passes close-by. This prompts a discussion amongst my friends about who was going to dare call him by his nasty nick-name. I saw that as 'barely-a-dare' so volunteered confidently and delivered instantly. The response was not as I had anticipated. Tomato Head looked directly at me, with understandable anger and stated, 'My parents were up at school yesterday talking to Mr Chouler and he said, if ANYONE called me that name again, I was to go to him straight away and tell him,' which he duly did. How could I have known I was to be the straw breaking the camel's back?
I wasn't a stranger to Mr Chouler the headmaster (being a tad on the naughty side) and TH's response did cause me considerable concern and I did not relish the prospect of another telling off (or possible caning) garnished with a comparison with my wonderful big sister laden with sorry disappointment in me. My response, which seemed perfectly logical at the age of nine - was to disguise myself. My friends were keen to help out (they were strictly speaking accomplices in my crime) and I swapped shoes with one person, a skirt with another, I took off my pink national health specs, I changed my hair from bunchies to a ponytail, swapped cardigans with another and felt safe a secure in the fact that I was unrecognisable. Only, of course I wasn't (in the 'oh so real' adult world) and Mr Chouler marched out onto the playground and shouted,
'Molly Potter (not my name at the time..but that's another story) come to my office now.'
I did and what a sorry sight I must have been for being the smallest in the class by a long way, I stood in front of Mr Chouler with shoes that kept slipping off (entering and leaving was a struggle), a skirt that kept slipping down (I remember having to keep holding and pulling it up), the sleeves of the cardigan I was wearing went well beyond my hands, my hair would have been a mess and on top of all that, I couldn't see.
Mr. Chouler omitted the usual lecture. I think he must have been distracted by something. For all he said, with a smirk on his face, was,
'Don't do it again.'