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This is a question Caught!

MJPerry asks: Masturbating, stealing, making the cat dance... when did someone catch you doing something you wanted to remain secret?

(, Thu 3 Jun 2010, 14:01)
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How long have you got?
I spent 5 years of the 1980s at a slightly famous public (boarding) school in Scotland; a school that, predictably, was full of privileged twats (I suppose in relative terms you could include me in that - and indeed the point of this story is me being a twat) - offspring of minor celebrities and royals, etc. To succeed in such a place you needed to be either a) academically bright, b) particularly good at sport, or c) rich. I wasn't any of these, because I am naturally lazy and spend an awful lot of time pissing about - hence why b3ta has such appeal (and I have about £3 to my name). I spent my first two years there realising that I wasn't academically bright enough, so I resigned myself to getting by on the bare minimum. The spare time previously invested in academic effort would now be invested in pissing about.

The new intake of kids in 1987 brought a new guy, Paul, straight into the 5th form (15/16). He was rather odd: his 'music' collection consisted of a complete set of Churchill's speeches and nothing else, and he had a thing for knives, but nevertheless we got on because he was a) academically lazy, and b) spent all his time pissing about. We soon found out that two people can do much more pissing about than one person.

At that time drinking and smoking at school was completely banned - get caught 3 times and you'd be out. The height of rebellion was to acquire a single(!) B&H and sneak off into the woods with your 8 mates, and share it - then return to a ritual of chewing gum and dousing yourself in deodorant - as much to say "Look, I've just been for a fag, I'm well hard" as to say "I haven't been smoking, honest sir".

Not for us - too boring. In our final 2 years there, Paul and I embarked on what we would have said was a trail of destruction, but in fact was a string of petty, minor 'offences'. We started with the easy stuff: letting teachers' car tyres down. Phoning teachers at 3am (and 3.30am, and 4am...etc.). Ordering them pizza. Ringing the chapel bell at night (a long-standing challenge: see how many rings you can do before a teacher turns up and you have to leg it). We put on balaclavas and spent the occasional Saturday evening jumping up and down on the roof of the detention block until the teacher came out - then we'd soak him with water pistols. We bugged (thanks to some friends who were in the electronics club) the staffroom and our housemaster's office, listening in on 108.8 FM - range of about 250 metres.

So far, so petty. Soon it expanded to the slightly more serious. The fairly large school grounds were next to an RAF base. Paul had a plan for it. We donned our balaclavas and...er...camo gear, and armed with a pair of wire cutters (where did he get this stuff?) we sneaked off, snipped the wire and went trespassing. Outside one of the hangars was a Hawk - a training jet, same kind as the Red Arrows use - which was the 'victim' of stage 2 of our plan. We'd brought with us a shoebox covered in brown paper, with BOMB written on it. We gaffer taped it to the plane's canopy and legged it. The massive rush of adrenaline we got soon faded - we were disappointed that there was no comeback; no mention of a bomb scare, no RAF people at the school asking for an inquiry. No satisfaction of thinking "Yeah, we did that".

We upped the stakes a bit. A new boarding house - strictly off-limits - was being built. We investigated it quite often at night - but one evening we found a 2-ton dumper truck (one with the skip on the front) on the site, and - oh dear - the key was in the ignition. We started it; fucking hell, what a noise - and took it for a spin round the site. They're not easy to drive, but they are easy to drive into trees. And also remarkably resilient when being driven into trees. After about 20 minutes we got a bit scared that someone would turn up because of the noise, so we decided to call it day - only the fucking thing wouldn't stop. We turned the ignition off but no luck, it was still grinding away. We tried to stall it - put it in 4th and drop the clutch. No difference. In the end we just left it in neutral. It was still idling away the next morning when the site staff arrived.

The next day, at morning assembly, the headmaster strolled up to the lectern. If that happened, you could guarantee that something serious was up, and indeed it was - he gave it the "own up and your punishment will be lessened" treatment. Paul and I sat poker-faced and anonymous among the 500 or so other pupils as he read out the details. The "own up" tactic was an empty hand - they hadn't a clue who'd done it. We got away with it.

We also got away with stealing and joyriding a school minibus - the keys were kept in the staffroom which was always unlocked (duh!). Neither of us had a licence. I'm aware that this probably would have got us a criminal record had we been caught; I'm in equal parts proud (for sticking up two fingers to public schools) and ashamed of it. This was another one for the "own up" speech in assembly.

In my final term we got a bit creative: one of the things at school which gave you some kudos was having a treehouse (sounds a bit childish now!). A friend of ours was doing Woodwork A-level and had a key for the workshops, which we stole from him while he was asleep, and helped ourselves to supplies. We ran a cable from our treehouse to the canteen (about 150 metres away), plugging the extension in behind a freezer so we could have a TV in the treehouse. It was on this occasion that we noticed an opportunity to liberate as much chocolate as we could possibly eat, as we found out the location of the (locked) canteen storeroom.

We broke in through a skylight, then in through the crawlspace above the false ceiling - polystyrene tiles. It appeared to be the EU Chocolate Mountain, and we nicked it, along with - for some reason - a box of forks (curse you, forks!). We ferried the boxes of Mars bars, Marathons (those were the days) etc. back to the treehouse. Into assembly the next day and we managed not to smirk as an increasingly frustrated headmaster let us know that someone had burgled the canteen and they ought to own up.

About a month after this I accidentally (honest!) set my bedsit on fire (I wasn't in it at the time); I left a lamp on which had fallen over and set fire to the curtains. I remember hearing the house fire alarm and seeing the fire engines roll up, then going to see what was going on, only to find them pumping water through my bedsit window. Everything was ruined - either burnt or had water damage, including my precious Sisters of Mercy 12"s.

The next day I was in the housemaster's office.

"Ah, Nibus. The fire crew found these in your study. Can you explain?"

He handed me a small box. In it were 8 forks. The same forks I'd stolen from the canteen and which had eventually made their way, stupidly, back to my now burnt-out bedsit. Fuck.

"Ahhh, errr, I don't know where they came from sir."

"Well I'll tell you. They're from the canteen. I think you know exactly how they got into your study."

Fuck it - he had me. He'd caught me on the hop enough for "I don't know sir" to hold no water. He'd searched Paul's study as well and found a rather large amount of chocolate, plus Paul's ever-increasing collection of knives (which were also contraband).

We were both expelled the next day. The housemaster had been after us for a while - he'd twigged we were up to something - and he'd finally got us. He could pin all the chocolate on Paul (and of course his knives) but all he had on me was the fucking forks! Expelled for 8 fucking forks!

That was it for my criminal career, and a good thing too. Paul, however, is due for release in 3 years' time. Convicted in 1994 for a £300k armed robbery that went wrong, he served 8 years. He'd been out for a year when he was up before the High Court in Aberdeen accused of a stabbing and firearms offences. He got 15 years, reduced to 10 on appeal.

I eat my dinners with a knife and spoon now.

Length: I'm sorry.
(, Tue 8 Jun 2010, 20:39, 10 replies)
Excellent story
I too attended a well known Scottish private school (not the one you went to) and remember fondly some of the japes that went down on a regular basis, including getting caught by undercover cops drinking K cider in the back alleys, getting stoned in a kirkyard before going back to the boarding house and having to sign in whilst caned to the dribbling max; and learning what the best hiding places for contraband are, even in the smallest of rooms.

None of those stories are good enough to tell in this qotw, and nowhere near as good and well composed as your tale.
(, Tue 8 Jun 2010, 21:26, closed)
odd places, public schools - dysfunctional micro-societies
(, Tue 8 Jun 2010, 22:15, closed)
Watson's ?

(, Wed 9 Jun 2010, 1:11, closed)
Famous scottish school..
You didn't know a Nick Ratsey there did you... ?
(, Tue 8 Jun 2010, 22:07, closed)
ah, the name rings a bell
blonde guy?
(, Tue 8 Jun 2010, 22:11, closed)
"We bugged (thanks to some friends who were in the electronics club) the staffroom and our housemaster's office, listening in on 108.8 FM - range of about 250 metres."

Is classic. Proper 'boys own' but with a vengeance type stuff.

Probably best that you 'gave a flying fork' (sorry) otherwise god-only-knows!

I wonder if you ever feel guilty for feeding the man's voracious sociopathic appetite? Nom nom nom

(, Tue 8 Jun 2010, 22:42, closed)
...what is it with you Gordonstoun boys?

I met that Petrolini once - he was a twat. Paul sounds like another in the "violent fantasist with sense of entitlement" mould.

Not criticizing you of course - I got up to all sorts of similar stuff at school at that age, and it seems you were pretty harshly treated just for breaking the 11th commandment. I doubt more than 10% of all boarders would finish school if all their escapades were known.
(, Wed 9 Jun 2010, 2:17, closed)
I remember him - he was 2(?) years below me - the school liked him because he was pretty good at skiing

I deserved everything I got (which didn't in fact amount to very much - it was about a month before I was due to leave anyway) for all the things I did. Had I kept in touch with Paul (I last saw him in 1991) I wonder how different things would have been :/
(, Wed 9 Jun 2010, 6:17, closed)
At Gordonstoun we aim to produce young men and women of independent judgement who can express themselves articulately in speech and clearly on paper.

Well done
(, Wed 9 Jun 2010, 5:09, closed)

(, Wed 9 Jun 2010, 10:34, closed)

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