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My Funny Valentine

by John Connolly


My school was massive, over 1600 kids from all the choice neighborhoods of the South End. The school had 300 in each year and was split into three separate mini schools. The 1st and 2nd year were in 'lower' and each morning we'd trundle off to the main hall for assembly. Being semi pagan comprehensive, assembly was mixture of bible stories and fables with the odd Islamic folk fusion tune blasted from the PA. Indeed, the head of lower
school 'Gale Baggy Balls' started the morning drudgery off by playing 'Morning Has Broken' by Cat Stevens over the coughs of the fledging smokers committee.

Assembly on Valentines was different. With 600 eyes on you in the main hall, here was your chance to look the Don. Of course you always had to look the part. Grey Farah, adidas Palermo, grey Ben Sherman and grey Pringle but Valentines day you needed something extra. You'd strut into the hall like Tony Moreno, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life probably replacing Night Fever as you bowled along plus you'd substitute the tin of non drip gloss for a rack of Valentines cards. This was status. Forget having a 20 box of Embassy filter with two 'loosies' in, a tell tale pink envelope or two, adorned with lipstick kisses and S.W.A.L.K. in girly writing meant you exuded sexual majesty. The fact that you just about had pubes didn't matter. A few cards in your desk was you passport to cooldom.

It also meant the disco that evening would be a fun packed rollercoaster ride of slow dancing and the odd french kiss. I hurried home on the school bus, naturally stashing the cards from my dad who was a sure fire bet to rip the bejesus out of me if he found them. I threw my snappiest duds on, making sure I didn't wear the same clobber I'd worn for the Christmas school disco. The lads would start the night off dancing on their own to such drivel as Phil Collins butchering 'You Can't Hurry Love' then proving they were cool by singing along to 'the Cutter' As the night wore on you'd seek out that Valentine and bust some moves with them to Billie Jean or Princes' 1999. Then the fabled slowies would break out. You'd know if them Valentines were genuine by offering your hand to 'Too Shy'. Cringeworthy now but lyrics like 'Something's wrong, you're not naive, you must must be strong, Ooh, baby, try...' probably meant something to a awkward pre-teen, I didn't know he was probably singing about getting bummed by Paul Gambachini.

If things went to plan you get a kiss and a cuddle at the end of the night and with it being the half term, you'd spend the week at the usual hang outs, the museum, the arcade or take them the pictures (think I took my beloved to see Superman III). The relationship usually wore off by the time you got back to school but the memories for me lasted forever. Once we moved to the middle school and things looked like they'd get more interesting, the girls stopped sending the Valentines. They grew tits, started wearing make-up and hung round with men who had Cortina's...they dropped spotty little herberts like me quicker than Suzuki dropped Ronaldo after them New of the Screws rapes stroies...




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