Oh yes, Dean and Darren. Cousins, all-but twins, best of friends. We tried splitting them up in year 8; it was hell for everyone while it lasted: about a fortnight. Having them together is purgatory, but sometimes it’s magic.
I treasure these essay plans and have their permission to include them here. Just so you know what sort of lad they are.
English Assignment Plan
Name: Darren Hogben
Title: A day with my best friend
Characters: me, Dean, my mum, anty June
Where? When? Home, bus, shops.
What happened first? We went round Dean’s
Who did/said what? Anty June says we would miss the bus but we never. We got off at the bus station and went for lunch at Anselmi’s café. Dean got his rat out on his lap and fed it on chips.
Then what happened? Some stupid woman saw it and began to scream and then the waitress come over and started to shout and she got the manegeress and she got ratty and we got chucked out.
How did it end? Trouble. It weren’t my fault but anty June and my mam both blamed me. I got grounded agen.
English Assignment Plan
Name: Dean Hogben
Title:A day with my best friend
Characters: Darren, me, my mum, aunty june.
Where? When? Dazzie’s house, bus station, town
What happened first? We went round Aunty May’s because it was our birthdays and they was going to take us up town to get our new Rovers shirts and get a nice lunch.
Who did/said what? Mom said no rats allowed. Dazzie said okay we’ll be good. We had our lunch then the old girls got chatting to some old woman in the café so me and Darren legged it.
Then what happened? We nicked their butter because they was losing weyght and me and Darren plastred it on the handrail of the moving stares. The people got it on their hands and one old lady gets really cross about her white gloves that were not white any more and she called the maniger a blithering idiot because he was blithering at her like nothing. We got found out because the CCTV showed Darren doing it. Really it was Aunty May’s fault because she would not go home when we said.
How did it end? Trouble as usual. The security man and the manager went banananas. We both got grounded.
I had been Dean and Darren’s form tutor and English teacher since Year 7. You see how full my hands were! Their writing may lack polish, but I give them high marks for speaking and listening. Once I’d persuaded them to take notice in class they became adept at asking awkward or cheeky questions. I got used to it, but they always play up the student teachers that get wished onto me. They also have a great time when other pupils do their little prepared speeches about anything and nothing, but I have house-trained them enough to allow even shy-boots like Gemma to get through their recitals of poems or passages from Shakespeare.
Their class stayed with me until Christmas of year 9. Then the Deputy Head went on maternity leave and I took over her form and exam groups, and said goodbye to the Hogbens for six months.
Or so I thought.
Then came the cloud no larger than a man’s hand, the fly in the ointment, the stone in my shoe: Year 9 residential trips.
I avoid these like the plague, letting the young and fit, like Ms Trilby, (Deputy Head, Pastoral and inconveniently pregnant) go along to bond with the little blighters. I had done enough bonding with Dean and Darren, thank you very much, but then the call came from the head. My apologies for his rudeness.
“Ah, Will: your application for this new pay rise. Interesting! You must be in with a chance, but one in three to get it, the ministry says, just one in three. I’ll have to write my report to the governors, of course. Contribution to the ethos of the school, blether, blether, blether. By the way … Since Ms Trilby can’t go climbing mountains now, with her belly, I thought maybe you’d like to go to Wales with Mr Cockle.”
I thought, not with my belly, the result of careful attention to Belgian Abbey beers, but I hadn’t done any sort of school trip for years and I did want the next pay rise. One last effort to get out of it: “What about Miss Jackson? She’s young, single, and gets on well with year 8.”
“Gets on well with them?” Three times this week I’ve had those Hogben boys up here, working in my office, because she can’t handle them! She bores them stupid as well with that infantile Jacky Treacy book! What’s it called? Calling All Cards? Why can’t the English Department lose it?
“Anyway, I can’t ask her to swing at the end of a rope with Dean and Darren at the top. The woman needs a rest before she gives me a nervous breakdown, never mind herself. To cap it all, she tells me she’s already booked into an English lit conference somewhere.”
First I’d heard of that, but Tracey Jackson always did keep herself to herself, off home before 4.30 every day, never lingering in the staff room, hardly the life and soul of the English Department.
Meanwhile I could look forward to a dry week in wet Wales. Not just with Dean and Darren, but Charlie Cockle as well – failed footballer, fitness freak, diet freak; no smoking, no drinking, no fun; smell of sweat and aftershave – and no doubt his beefy spouse Cecilia, sometime shotput champion of Salford under-16 girls, and still wearing the vest to prove it, or so my daughter tells me. Jenny goes to Almond Hall School, where Cecilia C is head of PE. Sorry. This was not meant to be a poetry book, so my apologies. It will keep on coming in. I can’t altogether control it. We had enough trouble with controlling the dog.
But I was coming to that.
I’ll spare you the build-up to the trip. I’ll spare you the ill-concealed glee on my wife’s face at the prospect of getting our bedroom decorated in my absence. I’ll spare you the colour charts and swatches of hideous green cloth, the grins and giggles passing between her and Jenny. I’ll spare you the scene when Dean threw a wobbly because I said he’d have to leave his rat at home. I’ll pick you up at the school gate on Saturday morning, as the bus is being loaded. Dean and Darren rolled up at the last minute, after Charlie had taken his superfluous register. With Dean and Darren, everyone was here!
I forgot to tell you – Charlie C appointed me official video cameraman to the expedition, even if all the students, but not their English teacher, had video cameras in their phones. I guessed Charlie wouldn’t want his precious camera ruined by being dropped off the wrong end of a waterfall, so I could safely stay at the bottom and watch. I seized what looked like my best chance of staying on terra firma for the week even if it meant being best buddies with Paul and Emily from sixth form Media Studies and helping with their project. But they have helped me no end – where would the story be without them?