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Extracts from

Sea Change


 

Chapter 1

 

Frozen Fairyland

 

Monday, January 5th 1958

 

In bed, even before he opened his eyes, Simeon Hogg knew something was different.  Softness had descended upon his world which, mysteriously, magically had become still and completely quiet.  Curious, he dragged himself out of bed, blinked against brightness and stumbled over to the window looking out onto an alien landscape with sculptured curves of sparkling brilliance.  It used to be the garden; now it was fairyland.  Peace and tranquillity presided over a new enchantment of beauty where everything had been purified, even the very air itself.

 

It was cold: an iron grey penetrating cold so typical of a 1958 English working-class bedroom in early January.  Cold struck up through the dull pre-war linoleum forcing a sudden scramble for his putters [slippers] and another scramble for a dressing gown urgently pulled around his pyjamas. 

 

Now it was more comfortable to return to the frosted window and give this new world a detailed examination.  He wondered at an environment where shrubs and dustbins had been adorned by a thick cover of gleaming ermine enhanced by sparkling sunshine.

 

That was the back.  What of the front?  He tiptoed out past the parental bedroom, down the stairs to the first floor which looked out over Red Lion Square.  A foot of snowfall and drifts of three to four times that amount had put the world on hold.  

 

A sudden joy of realisation gladdened his heart!  On this special day, there would be no school, no torment and no pain.  The world was silent and still.  There were no cars, no busses and no people at the point where three busy main roads met in the centre of Heanor, a gritty hill-top coal-mining community in south eastern Derbyshire.

 

Like the boy in The Snowman, Simeon scurried back to his bedroom, donned his vest, shirt, woolly pullover, his ‘Tommy Steele’ powder blue close fitting jeans, thick socks, boots and his recently acquired Christmas present from Guzzly Granddad, a warm fleecy-lined leather bomber jacket.

 

He dashed out to enjoy freedom crunching through deserted streets at every turn transformed into pretty Christmas cards.  He rejoiced at the fall of yet more snow!  Huge flakes gently descended, alighting and tickling a smiling face; smiling because several days of chaos and school closure was now more likely to assist his plan of escape.

 

This same snow brought cold, chaos, danger - to a few, even death.  But this boy was thinking of life.  He would gain stolen time.  An enforced natural festival of white and light closed Mundy Street Boys School and hundreds of schools in Derbyshire.  Snow gladdened the hearts of thousands of pupils like Simeon who are perceived to be ‘different’.  They would be granted a respite from a daily routine of humiliation and despair which, just a few weeks before, had brought Simeon to the edge of self destruction.

 

At long last this carefully planned day had arrived.  It was Monday, January 5th 1958.  Overnight – a magical fairyland of cold white had descended to transform dingy, fog-bound Heanor into a glittering glade of promise cheering Simeon’s heart.  The world had gone quiet – a wonderful chance to escape – his heart was singing.  All schools were closed.  All were indoors.  All cruel bullies were locked in by the grip of winter.  The world was on hold.  Like the fog, an unusual heavy fall of snow gave protection to a vulnerable child crunching, plodding through an immense whiteness to a hot hearty breakfast at Guzzly Granddad’s house.

 

With a cold sadness, Old Simeon recalled his hurried exit from the family flat into that sunlit world of sparkling brilliance.  Never once did he look back.

          ‘You didn’t consider saying goodbye to your folks?’ said a friend years later.  His tone held a note of incredulity and disapproval.  The runaway left at about 8am and the ‘folks’ were still asleep – or so he believed.  Anyway, ‘folks’ suggested people who are warm and caring.  Over the previous 25 days, increasingly, Mr and Mrs Hogg had seen less and less of the son who had entered a different world and discovered a new happiness, a new meaning to life.  He had come alive!  They appeared to notice no change: with no communication it was hardly surprising.

 

Guzzly Granddad was different that morning.  His embrace was more than usually powerful, emotional and completely platonic.  On release, his Piggy (Granddad’s pet name for Simeon) looked into old rheumy eyes.  They were tearful showing a painful concern for the child to be sent on a long trek in a foot of snow.  For the last few weeks within the circle of Granddad’s chums there had been mutterings about the advisability of sending an inexperienced boy alone on a day’s hike across Derbyshire’s hills and dales - even in ideal conditions.

 

Granddad was concerned.  What was going on in his mind?  Unlike Chunky, he knew Piggy had been well cared for and well fed.  Chunky, under-privileged ragged rascal, was one of the old man’s gang members, well schooled in rude requirements.

 

Simeon Hogg was moderately fit with benefit of reasonable exercise – however, this boy was not used to long walks over rough terrain.  Gentle Giant Oaf had already raised the issue of vague directions given to a youngster unlikely to reach a heavily disguised secret destination somewhere in deepest Derbyshire.  This Herculean hulk, in softly spoken tones, had expressed serious concerns about the future of Granddad’s piglet.  Old Simeon concluded his old Granddad must have been seriously troubled by these important considerations on that morning of deep snow.

 

But Piggy could never be dissuaded from the plan which had been carefully set out to save him from Mundy Street Boys School and indifferent parents at 4 Red Lion Square.  Granddad knew that.  His boy had been promised a new home with another paedophile who, Piggy understood, had consented to receive an extra into his harem.  With restrictions of security, no telephone and no proper postal address; communication between Granddad’s bum chums was a mystery.  Old Simeon assumed all messages were spoken, never written.

 

Old Granddad was an outlaw living daily life on the edge of potential disaster.  He knew what happened in prison to men like him.  He was a survivor.  Accordingly, with a heavy heart, he made sure Piggy consumed a big fried breakfast on a hot plate followed by two large mugs of hot milky tea.  Stonch was also anxious.

 

Stonch was not exactly an adult, more late teens, possibly an old boy from Mundy Street Boys School.  This hard-working well built youth, snuffled, sniffed, cooked, cleaned and washed clothes for Guzzly Granddad and his motley collection of ragamuffins.  Hard faced, scar faced: the flaxen haired Stonch had a heart of gold.  It took a while to find that heart of gold.  It seemed a long time since he had first pressed the piglet into sexual service in the Heanor Market Place public lavatory.  With mixed feelings, Simeon recalled looking up into that lustful leer which, at the time, seemed more cruel than kind.

 

Suddenly, Stonch realised Piggy was short of a vital piece of equipment for his arctic trek.  He rummaged through an old box of clothing under Granddad’s bed to retrieve a pair of thick warm gloves.  These were forcibly affixed on piggy paws as he was about to be ejected out of the door into what could have been a pretty Christmas card.  Smaller feral boys, Monks and Muckles up the sun dazzled garden were called away from their snowman, enthusiastically under construction.  It was important to acknowledge Piggy’s launch into unknown territory.

          ‘He’s going a long way.  Give him a hug,’ ordered the old man.

 

Granddad and Stonch scrutinised the arctic explorer checking off all essential equipment.  Boots, thick socks, woolly hat (one size too large), thick pullover and thick scarf were all snugly enclosed in an expensive fleece-lined bomber-jacket powerfully zipped up to jaw level.  The hiker was proud of his quality deluxe rucksack.  It was adjustable, perhaps a touch large for Piggy the boy, but would be a perfect fit for the teenager he would become in seven months.  Indeed, throughout the century and into the 21st century, that Cresta Deluxe was a long lasting invaluable piece of equipment.  On its first outing it was empty, but for two packets of sandwiches (lunch and afternoon tea), several chocolate bars as ‘iron rations’ and several large oranges in lieu of a drink.  Stonch - the randy pock-marked ruffian - had thought of everything.    

 

Granddad, Stonch, Monks and Muckles waved off their Piggy and watched him crunch along the garden path, past the sparkling snowman, past the newly adorned big trees into deeper snow.  Each step sounded a crunch of compaction as if the snow were complaining of being crunched to ice.  He turned round several times to acknowledge the wave.  They waved and waved until he was out of sight.  It took all of Simeon’s will-power not to run back to his beloved Granddad and the good people who loved him.  He came to a halt.  Suddenly his body convulsed and he broke down, shaking, giving way to violent sobs which took away his breath.

 

But it didn’t matter.  No one was watching.  It was private grief.  There was no alternative.  He had to press on.

 

In later years, when Simeon struggled to reconcile Granddad’s love with his predatory lust, he had only to recall that last special day of January 5th 1958.  Guzzly Granddad was a hardened paedophile, but Simeon had touched something inside the old man.  He loved his old Granddad.  And Granddad (perhaps against his better judgement) definitely loved his Piggy with a platonic love somewhat higher than his lust.  This can be said of the other three who had received and welcomed a novice into the erotic family.

 

The snow showers had passed over leaving an intense blue sky, so typical of January radiance.  The sparkling brilliance of low winter sun illuminated a distant tower piercing the roof of Derbyshire.  As he made slow heavy boot-prints through the terraced streets of the old town, Simeon recalled Oaf’s words.

‘You need to keep a simple map in your head.  Do you know of a high a place called Crich Stand?  It’s like a great finger piercing the clouds.’

 

The tower was crystal clear, in perfect focus to the north-west surmounting a stony village.  This prominence, a famous landmark on a wind-whipped ridge would be Simeon’s beacon guiding him to his new home.

 

The streets of Heanor were now behind.  He was in open whiteness trudging up a gentle incline known as Denby Common with views to Denby / Kilburn to his left and Loscoe / Codnor to his right.  These villages, in shadow of pit hills, featured iconic pit wheels marking a winding engine house above each colliery mine shaft.  King Coal was the life and blood of Heanor.

 

From his earliest memories, Simeon’s world had been imprinted with images of blackened, dowdy cloth capped workmen making their way to and from coal mines.  Snap tins [food] and billycans [drink] hung from strong leather belts.  Kneepads strapped to legs and the sound of pit boots clanking along the pavement were familiar to the boy who was expected to join relatives being lowered into the bowels of the earth.  Simeon had grown up with the horror of joining countless ghosts haunting the coal face along miles of subterranean passageways.  These were muscular dust encrusted men who suffered and sweated long dark hours under long gone green fields.  But today, nature had ennobled the common pit hills with a thick coat of gleaming ermine and decorated headgear and headstocks with pristine purity.

 

Distant tower showed the way.  He lumbered on in blissful ignorance.  This was a blessing.  The awful truth would have dispiriting.  Obstacles of hedge, fence and deep drifts causing numerous detours and difficulties extended his journey several miles and slowed progress to a rate less than one mile an hour.  Granddad’s estimate of arrival in daylight would prove to be hopelessly optimistic.

 

He crossed a small snow-blocked road.  Several fields further on, a main road in a shallow valley covered with impassable virgin snow was disturbed as he stomped onwards re-orientating towards Crich.  Simeon had no watch but judged it to be about noon – time for his first sandwiches.  He was not cold.  Hard work and adequate covering maintained a comfortable temperature.

 

The next two and half hours continued the theme of an endless blinding whiteness under a clear sky save for an occasional glimpse of a distant farm house with snowy roof.  All were silent – deserted – no movement – nobody at all.  The world had been put to bed.  The tower, as far away as ever, seemed to be mocking his lamentable lack of progress.

 

In his original directions, Granddad advised him to look out for the village of Marehay and the straggling community of Street Lane.  Nothing like appeared, but a huddled collection of homes answering the description of Heage came into view casting long shadows to the north east by a declining sun and deepening blue sky.

 

He caught a distant sound, a cry, a shout – possibly children at play sledding down a hill.  A hill!  That was a big change!  He had gradually ascended an inclined plain with few features, but now, as he lumbered further towards the all important tower, a massive deep valley opened up before him.  Up and beyond the tower, a grey sky started to glow with a warm hue of gold.  The sun was breaking through.  Breaking through what?  Simeon suddenly realised this was not a good sign.  His perfect sky with its perfect sunny view of distant Crich was changing.

 

Entering the village, alarmingly his precious light began to fail in the most beautiful way.  Perfect round curves of pure white were renewed by falling flakes of a million sizes.  Snow specks morphed into large slow clumps which, in turn, joined to make larger clumps.  Some descended straight down quickly, others at angles swirled by eddies and others fascinated with fantastical corkscrews.  Some twisted and spun – all were delightful.  Some tickled his face, some stung with wet cold.  Village shrubs already embellished from the morning fall were now fast becoming obese white lumps.  And still the snow came.

 

Distance ceased to exist.  In the near distance a light greyness dissolved into a dark greyness.  The dark outline of winter trees was speckled by a living veil of falling snow.  The silence was supreme.  Yet again, the air had been purified.  Hard dirty Heanor was far behind - but Crich Stand had disappeared and it was almost dark.

 

Snow had been heavy – now lighter, but with increasing strength of wind.  For the first time, Simeon began to feel cold – and afraid.  Faint lights from windows, evidence of humanity.  Should he knock at the door and beg for shelter?  Another house sported a powerful electric lamp above its front door when a gust of wind blew lighter snow from its roof.  This caused an explosion!  Glinting, flashing, flickering, swirling fine ice flew in every direction like pretty dust.

 

Behind him, suddenly, a sound!  In a small field, a bright orange Aberdeen Angus reflected the bright light.  It stood silently, studying the winter backpacker.  Simeon stared back.  He feared the wicked looking horns, but took comfort from kind warm brown eyes.  He indulged in a brief fantasy of cuddling up to it in a cosy hay barn.  Temporarily, the snow stopped.  He pressed on.

 

He noticed deteriorating light had been replaced with a bluish light from old virgin snow which speckled and glinted with an eerie intense grey.  This ghostly hue, reflected from a full moon, shone through a clearing sky.  At the same time, the remaining glimmer of sunset highlighted a blackbird – its small black figure darting to and fro in and out of a brave cold tree.  Two distant figures with a smaller one - two boys and a dog? – were moving around a far field above the village.  The dog kept vanishing in deep snow.  Cold wind forced Simeon on – on and down – ever down to further darkness.

 

Here the adventurer learned something about night-time snow-walking.  Once eyes had adjusted, visibility was no problem.  Sheer white brilliance of snow possessed its own luminance.  He could see exactly where he was trudging.  With a bright moon, he could discern a good deal of hinterland with landmarks.  Alas, this did not include the old windmill Granddad had mentioned.  As Oaf predicted, Simeon was hopelessly lost.

 

Suddenly a cheerful thought!  It was the recollection of food still reposing in the rucksack, when his eye caught a patch of darkness within the eternity of whiteness.  A depression, practically a hole in deep snow had formed on the lee side of a massive gnarled oak.  Here, he descended several feet to sit and rest his back against the giant trunk.  Fumbling within, he retrieved and munched on Stonch’s sandwiches, two chocolate bars and three oranges thoughtfully included for Simeon’s afternoon tea.  In that shelter, bitter easterly wind abruptly abated leaving a relatively cosy den for a young lad to contemplate those left behind.

 

He was missing his friends.  Playing with orange peel, he became almost tearful remembering affectionate cuddles with the sniffling youth who looked after them all.  And now they all seemed so very far away – regular visitor Sandy with his cute button nose, Granddad’s grey stubble reflecting, flickering reds and yellows from that ever hot, ever present fire.  Looking at the depth of snow in his hole, he imagined the fun helping his ‘little brothers’, to build the biggest snowman in Heanor.  And Heanor Market Place in freezing fog – Oaf had hugged Simeon with warmth and affection which was something close to love.  Now all so far away.

 

Through deepening snow, he slogged on, despoiling older virgin snow which flashed and winked under that bitterly cold moon.  Occasional dry stone walls, almost hidden, were obstacles which made his increasingly difficult journey chaotic and dangerous.  And, little by little, thick gloves and expensive boots failed in their job to warm fingers which felt like icicles and feet felt like blocks of ice.

 

The snow was all-powerful but for places where it failed to conquer.  These appeared as black cavities in root systems, mysterious nooks and crannies which might shelter small creatures desperately trying to survive – just as Simeon was now trying to survive.

 

Presently he came across a sunken path enclosed by dry stone walls adorned and choked with ivy.  Shelter from the elements created snow-free black spots in the wall and underfoot.  It was very Christmassy, could have been a Christmas card.  Rampant ivy climbed up beyond the wall and appeared to turn itself into a tree.  In fact, it had hijacked another tree.  Simeon had never heard of symbiosis.  Had he been less cold, less tired and less miserable, he might have gleaned some comfort from hawthorn with blood red berries against a background of black stems and wizened black leaves – pretty as a picture.  The spiritual side of this damaged soul derived a measure of hazy comfort from pagan midwinter festivals of long ago.

 

He came on a stand of beech and maple, eastern facing boughs painted white - and still the snow was unrelenting.  Flakes were getting larger, bigger, falling faster.  Wind-swept snow sculptures overhung in precarious folds.  Bare branches were decorated for a second Christmas, more beautiful than any Christmas tree.  Snow on snow made evergreens weigh heavily straining limbs.  An old oak, beautifully adorned, had never looked so good – but Simeon had never been so cold.

 

He was almost too cold to notice the sound of a river, the sight of which was obscured by zero visibility due to an advancing army of giant snowflakes.  Not the big older river he had been told not to cross, this had a younger energetic flow.  Through the blizzard, he bent forward and trudged on.

 

Simeon resolved he would bang and kick hard on the next house door.  He would shout and scream until the occupant came out.  He would beg for shelter – assuming, of course, he could find a house.  As confidence waned, gradually, the hiker began to reassess the general situation.  It seemed less important to find an effeminate old man in a carefully hidden caravan with the sing-song voice.  The prospect had never appealed.  Old Louie’s boys in that dank overgrown quarry were said to be underfed and always cold.

 

He was in this predicament because Guzzly Granddad had expelled him – sent him out alone on this terrible trek.  In Simeon’s hearing, Oaf warned Granddad of a high probability of failure with unknown consequences.  This runaway could not reconcile Granddad’s professed affection with a plan taking him away from that ever-burning warming fire.  Amid the kindred spirits of his newly found cordial family, there had been security, pleasure and kindness.  But Simeon, still months from his 13th birthday, was unable to comprehend the stress and anxiety of adults fearful of brutal punishment in a 1958 homophobic prison.

 

Simeon’s last memory on that day - a vague feeling of climbing up through a steep wood.  So very tired, he sat down and rested by the trunk of another large tree using his rucksack as a pillow.

 

Only weeks before, he contemplated an escape from a life which had become intolerable.  That plan of suicide was his choice.  Now, bitterly cold, tired and dejected, he feared an approach from an Angel of Death who would offer no choice at all.  He recalled the sadness of Scott of the Antarctic.  Eagerly read by candlelight in Granddad’s upstairs toy room, certain lines came back.

          ‘Cold, hungry and weak, these brave men listened to the endless freezing blizzard raging outside their tent.  With quiet fortitude they awaited death in scenes of whirling drift.’

 

Scott’s last diary entry – ‘The end cannot be far’.  Months later, their frozen bodies were found.  The author described the process of death by extreme cold.

          ‘You feel terribly cold for a long time.  There comes a point when you don’t feel cold at all.  In fact, just before the very end, there descends a comfortable warmth and serene peace.’

 

These were Simeon’s meditations before drifting into unconsciousness - into the arms of Morpheus – the god of dreams and sleep.

 

Chapter 2

 

Broken Spirit

 

December 6th to 11th 1957

 

The last few months of 1957 became an intolerable abyss for a child who was trapped inside his personal hell with no support and no hope.  In this Church of England institution he was subjected to a daily routine of physical and psychological torture.  His day started with prayers and hymns and ended with a desire to be dead.  Every day, one damaged boy endured humiliating experiences affording no mercy.  A sadistic schoolmaster encouraged aggressive taunts, brutal insults, screaming jeers reducing an already wretched boy to a very low level of self esteem.  And all that was dismissed as ‘part of growing up’.

 

It’s cultural.  The Hoggs had been lumbered with a lad who was ‘not a proper lad’.  A son who showed no interest in football and could not defend himself with bare knuckles in the playground brought dishonour upon his working class family.

 

Heanor.  Years later, on annual vacations Simeon would return to this begrimed and rather seedy little community which never failed to fascinate.  This was the place where he had known agony, eroticism and ultimately - ecstasy: the place where he had been hated, loved, used and abused.  He would walk over to the cruel Dickensian Mundy Street Boys School and look on, savouring an inexplicable kind of ghoulish compulsion.  It was rather like watching a horror film, but knowing you were perfectly safe, because now, Mr Hogg, the respected schoolmaster, was half a century and an ocean away from that nightmarish regime.

 

Old Simeon often looked into his old playground, a dismal hard flat area bereft of any comforting foliage.  He noted the very places where he had been taunted, shamed and brought low with pig grunts.  In the 'rough and tumble' of the Heanor code of ethics, a boy who would not fight was regarded with contempt and soon fell to the bottom of the pecking order. 

 

Simeon was soft: Simeon was 'fair game'.  He looked at the high classroom window and re-played several excruciating incidents of public ridicule which were frequently engineered by a sadistic schoolmaster - incidents such as the time when this master read out one of his compositions and encouraged uproarious laughter and shouting catcalls.  Inside that hard, unfeeling building, he had been phlegmed on and remembered feeling sick and broken in the struggle to clean off the disgusting thick mucus.  He remembered being urinated upon – several times.  He remembered being made to smell a ruler which had been drawn over the anus of a bully.  The same bully, in front of other boys, forced him to acknowledge sexual slurs about his mother.

 

Cruel words, but there was worse.  There was dead-legging, winding and ear-screaming.  Dead-legging was a well aimed kick into the side of the leg which rendered it useless for about a minute bringing the victim down.  Winding was a sharp punch into the stomach making a boy unable to draw breath and ear-screaming happened so frequently Simeon suffered a lifelong hearing loss – in both ears.  This all contributed to the psychological damage sustained in that Christian gulag which was always excused as ‘a part of growing up’.

 

Head bowed and eyes downcast, Simeon had reached an advanced stage of humility and obedience to the bullies who had - broken him.  It was the end.  On Friday, December 6th 1957, the day the Americans made their first failed attempt to launch a satellite, leaning out of that second floor bedroom window over Red Lion Square, he was trying to find the courage to jump.

 

Simeon's timid and gentle disposition was such that physical force was rarely needed to bring him to heel in that hell-hole.  Encouraged by the all-powerful schoolmaster, other boys found him a convenient target.  Sanctioned by that same authority which was supposed to protect him, other boys felt perfectly justified in giving the screw one turn after another - and then - perhaps - just another turn.  It was easy to find a tender spot, to touch just the right nerve.  A favourite nerve was the Promised Land.  Young Simeon had a great passion for the USA.  One day he would go there.  One day he would be happy.

         

Friday, December 6th 1957 was a particularly bad day for this frightened child and millions of Americans.  Headline news reported the United States had made a failed attempt to launch its first artificial earth satellite.  Newsreel footage showed a Vanguard Rocket crumpling back to ground amid an inferno of exploding flames at Cape Canaveral after achieving barely ten foot.  The tiny 14 kilogram sphere in the top cone was still pathetically sending out its radio bleeps when the smoking stricken vessel lay prostrate.

 

The schoolmaster, in a school which had yet to convert to electricity, made comment on this exciting futuristic news.  He reminded his class, only two months before; the Soviet Union had astonished the world.  For the first time ever, they put into orbit an artificial 'moon', six times heavier than the sad little American satellite.  He added further weight to the Russian cause by drawing attention to the ground-breaking event of November 3rd.  The Communists had launched a device thirty times heavier containing a doomed dog called Laika.  It was sent to test conditions for the first manned space flight.

         

The thrust of this lesson was to show that the Americans were well behind in the space race.  Other boys took full advantage as they loudly leered, jeered, hooted and mock machine-gunned one miserable little boy in their midst, who, although suffering internal agonies, was still trying to put on a brave face.  This conduct was tolerated, nay encouraged by the schoolmaster.  The ordeal ran its full course.  A popular record sung by Perry Como ran -

          ‘Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day.’  A revised version was sung at Simeon in the playground -

          ‘Catch a falling satellite and put it in a matchbox, send it to the USA.’

 

Having brought their victim to a very low point of esteem and easy malleability, it was now possible for one particular boy (with the reputation of being a 'dirty sod') to put his slave to good use in this all boys school, this culture of cruelty which was also a culture of homoeroticism.  Groping was commonplace and 'ticker-on-balls' a favourite game in the school-yard.  It was only a matter of time before Simeon - broken in spirit, pliable and obedient to his masters - was ordered into the boys’ lavatory.

 

Simeon never forgot the appalling stench of that filthy place.  Depressing Victorian brick walls were decorated with stinking lines drawn by crayons of excreta.  As far as possible, to avoid a visit, he ignored the call of nature and, as a result, suffered constipation for the rest of his life.  Looking back over the years (with an honest smile) he admitted that these coerced erotic activities became more and more agreeable, albeit in such a malodorous venue.

          ‘Didn't need to be threatened the next day!’ laughed Simeon to a friend years later.  ‘Make no mistake; in front of others he was often very nasty to me.  But in the dark and silence of that reeking WC, I suppose Sandy was as near to a friend as I was ever likely to get.’

          ‘You couldn't have been very old.  What was it like?’

          ‘What was it like?  It was a form of ... sensual sanctuary.  It was exciting.  I was very excited!  So was he.  Nothing elaborate, quite simple, two lads satisfying mutual curiosity.  Gentle examination with little touches, strokes, caresses, pats and pets.’  Simeon stared into the infinite distance.  ‘Could have been yesterday.  It's odd, but ... I can still recall his body scent ... I can smell it now ... ’

          ‘Cute?’

          ‘Oh yes!  Boy was he ever cute!  Not much room; we were very close in there.  Turned-up nose, sweet little button nose.  Light sandy hair. Freckles ...  Yes, very close, face to face - but it never got friendlier than that.  The action was down below, down in the hairless, milky white, nether regions.’

          ‘Did you cum?’

          ‘At the age of eleven!  Younger perhaps.  No, not for a long time, but ... well, it did happen - eventually - to me.  We were both quite shocked - and him none too pleased.  Got a bit messy then.’

 

Simeon never spoke to anybody about that other boy, the bigger dark boy who, in the end, nearly pushed him over the edge.  The Big Boy was not so bad at first - a simple command was easily complied with.

          ‘Oi!  Come here.’

          ‘What?’

          ‘There's a pencil in my pocket.  Put your hand in.’

 

Rather more one-sided than his usual partner, this was a different task but just as interesting.  Raggy britches [breeches], often handed down from older brothers, seldom had sound pockets.  But at Mundy Street Boys School power had nothing to do with smart dress.  Power was established by force of personality and, more important, force of the bravery and skill of bare knuckle fist fights in the play-ground.  This high ranking pupil was a particular favourite of the schoolmaster and, just as long as his disciple was receiving pleasure, Simeon was useful and relatively safe.  It happened at Big Boy's bidding - in the lavatory, in the playground, even in the classroom - often in the classroom.  In the few minutes duration, it had a beginning, middle and a wet sticky conclusion when the worker was usually thanked with – ‘Get lost.’

 

The beginning looked innocent - just two boys sitting side by side apparently absorbed with work, writing in an exercise book.  The middle would see the larger boy's penmanship get slower, become less accurate, less steady.  Having achieved so little in his short miserable life, Simeon noted these subtle changes to his desk-mate and became intrigued with the practical, pleasing results of his own delicate handiwork.  Subtle changes to Big Boy's breathing were noted - unsteady, slightly deeper and more intense.

 

Occasionally the servant would steal a glance at the face of his close master who was attempting to maintain an air of detached industriousness but, affected by ever mounting ecstasy, was gradually failing.  Just for these precious moments, Simeon, working skilfully with his soft, sensitive, naughty little hand - it was he who now had the power: the power to speed up or slow down: the power to fumble, fondle and seek out those special little places, special little favourite places - the nooks and crannies of bliss. 

 

Eventually the subject had ceased all pretence to write.  His eyes were half closed, legs slowly widening, lifting, plus small changes in posture to improve ease of accessibility.  At this familiar point Simeon would look upon that face: a face handsome rather than cute: a face darkened by sporting hours under the 1957 sunshine: a face in seventh heaven but too ashamed to look upon the face of his adept and conscientious servicer: a face more and more transported with sexual euphoria...

 

The end was near.  The end had to be near.  That deft little hand, wet and gooey with excited dribble, was too clever, too cunning in technique.  Simeon was accustomed to the signs, the opening mouth and a low, slow, barely audible moan ...  Sometimes a gruff 'finish it' was uttered in a shaking whispered voice.  Sometimes it was an urgent breathy order.  Sometimes that weak adolescent croak was almost pleading.  Sometimes it could not be articulated.

 

The climax subsided and so did the protection.  A thin shabby little boy wiped his hand on his drab post-war pullover, slunk away back to his usual desk, hoping, once again, not to be noticed by any opportunistic tormentors.  But, for a few boys at Mundy Street, the fun went on and on - as on that terrible grey cold morning when Simeon, possibly for the first time ever, combed his hair.

 

Simeon was alone, always alone.  As usual, for security, he made himself as small as possible, his back pressed hard up against the school wall.  Warily he watched Big Boy and his small Mafia of thugs stroll by.  Even in fear, he was unable to keep his eyes off the well proportioned Big Boy who, so nicely, filled out those raggy britches of which he was so very familiar.  But this was an unkind hour.  Having noticed the neat hair, three lads detached themselves from the group and confronted him.  Just for a moment Big Boy looked over and, just for a moment, Simeon hoped he might intercede to prevent the coming atrocity.  But nothing was done to stop that vicious and total humiliation of ruffled hair, pokes, pushes, pig grunts, jeers and sadistic twisted leers from that cruel gathering congregation of amused faces. 

 

A whistle stopped the show.  Blown by a schoolmaster, this was the command for all boys to freeze and be silent.  A second blow was the command for all boys to walk, not run to their class lines.  A whistle stopped the entertainment - but not the intense shame and pain which would last all day and all night for one slow walker who had been brought very low.

 

Five minutes later, all boys were marched into the Hall for morning assembly where they faced the stage.  All were strictly standing to attention in straight lines, hands by sides in stillness and silence.  No talking, no whispering, no shuffling, just waiting respectfully to receive the headmaster.  On dark winter mornings, in those few quiet seconds before the appearance of his Dread Lord, Simeon could hear the gentle hissing of gas lamps.  Boys at his side, boys to the front and rear, clean boys and dirty boys all created an unpleasant Dickensian crush of musty odour and stifling lack of ventilation.  He looked up at the high open window hoping that some fresh air might enter, and, less likely, that he might fly out to freedom and away from the pain of school, home and Heanor.

 

All eyes focused on the strict headmaster, a stern theocrat, distant and detached, who reigned with absolute power over this culture of cruelty.  His baton, seen daily as an instrument of oppression, would be raised -

"To whom the lips of children

Made sweet hosannas ring."

 

One of the head's frequent favourites, but this dismal, doleful dirge will always be associated with humiliation, pain and suffering.  In later years it came as a surprise to Simeon that some people actually liked hymns!  He assumed they were deliberately composed to be depressing and dreary to enable the suffering singer to atone for his sins.

 

After a sleepless night came a morning when his spirit was broken beyond repair.  He was afraid of the consequences of failure to attend school, but, could not find the courage to walk up that hill from his home at Red Lion Square, a first floor flat above a tobacconist.  Simeon was totally alone.  He had no friends to advise him.  There were no adults he could approach.  He was disliked, nay, detested by his parents.  They could not stand the sight of him – could not bear to speak his name.  When a direct reference became unavoidable, it was uttered as ‘im’ [Him].  Mr and Mrs Hogg died in 1972 and 1995 respectively – events observed by their only son holding a coldness of stone in dry eyes. 

 

Consistent with a long held working class ethos, they took the view that boys must learn to fight their own battles.  Sink or swim, he sank.  A boy who could not mend a puncture, a boy who had no aptitude for football (in a macho culture where football was important) was a great disappointment.

 

For the first time ever on that dreadful day, Simeon feigned illness and stayed at home.  He was unable to think beyond the next 24 hours, but with both parents out at work, he was savouring a period of calm and respite until...  He heard ominous footsteps along the dark narrow entry.  Silence.  He waited.  He had half expected this would happen.  The insidious tentacles of Mundy Street Boys School would reach out into the safety of his own home.  The door reverberated and filled the building with several loud bangs.  Cautiously and quietly he crept down the stairs and peered through a peep hole to see an alarmingly familiar face.  Big Boy was excited.  He was bobbing around, impatient and keen for an answer.  He had been sent by the schoolmaster to investigate.  He had been given a mission to bring Simeon Hogg back to school.  Such was the power of a classroom teacher back in 1957.

 

Stealthily the truant withdrew, ascended the stairs and hoped that the unwelcome visitor would give up and return to the evil hell from whence he came.  But no: utter horror: the door handle moved: the unlocked door opened and the intruder entered.  Like a hunted animal in fear, Simeon, barefoot and still in his pyjamas, silently sprinted up two flights to conceal himself in a small box room on the second floor.

 

Big Boy had no fear at all.  Why should he?  He was the 'chosen one' who was expected to do a good job.  He was acting in the name of the schoolmaster who authorised this errand.  Had he encountered Mr or Mrs Hogg, he would have asserted his delegated authority and claimed it included permission to enter and search.  This was no trespass.  'The Hogg' had to be, if necessary, dragged back, had to be taught a lesson.  The schoolmaster knew how to deal with 'the Hogg'.  If Big Boy succeeded, they would all be in for a good show that morning.

 

From faint sounds heard inside the box room, the intruder appeared to be taking his sweet time to investigate the main front living room.  Family photographs would be studied providing information which could be useful in the playground at a later date.  The kitchen and bathroom were next.  Simeon, remaining very still, held on to the hope that the explorer would get bored and go away.  Matters could hardly get worse, but they did.  He heard Big Boy creaking up to the second floor coming to rest in front of the box room door - which was not quite closed.  Curiously, the snooper gave it a little push.  Clutter caused resistance and, just for a moment, a partial view of miscellaneous junk was now possible in poor light.  Just for a moment - but for the pathetic cringing child, deep in shadows only inches away - that moment was an eternity.  Old Simeon often looked back on this excruciating moment and angrily asked -

          ‘Why?  How?  How did I let that happen?’    

 

A systematically bullied child, bereft of wise counsel from any adult, is imprisoned in his own private hell.  This child had been groomed as a victim and was, as usual, obediently behaving as a victim rather like the unfortunate captives who were brainwashed in Korea just a few years before.  Indeed, this child had already reached an advanced stage of humility and obedience to his class guards, to Big Boy and to the schoolmaster whose sarcastic tongue he dreaded daily.  Simeon's usual body language in and around the area of Mundy Street Boys School said it all - head bowed and eyes downcast.  After the style of the concentration camp, Mundy Street Boys School, if not tattooed on his arm, was, and would be for the rest of his life - tattooed in his mind.

 

Big Boy did not notice Simeon in the box room.  He passed on.  He prowled on to the principal front bedroom; neat and therefore not very interesting save for the long view from the north western facing window: an uninterrupted third of a mile, way down High Street to the very bottom of the hill.  On a clear day, he might have lifted his eyes to distant hills and a lighthouse, a stone tower on top of a jagged wind-whipped village called Crich.  This famous landmark touching the roof of Derbyshire would soon acquire a special significance in the life of Simeon Hogg.  

 

Back on the landing, once again passing the box room, Big Boy found the back bedroom - his coup-de-grace.  On the door, a child-like crayoned sign was incorrectly spelled PRIVET.  Mortified, Simeon heard the click of entry into his own inner sanctum.  Leisurely, the prowler set out to examine all parts of the interior which included the contents of drawers, diagrams and pictures on the walls, clothes, books, comics, toys and all manner of personal effects.  All this took quite a span of time for one miserable shrinking child now cold and huddled nearby.  The agony of these minutes was not born of the fear of burglarious activity: the agony was born of sadistic objective - the intent, to bring low one who has already suffered much.

 

Descending steps announced the end of the ordeal.  The measured unhurried creaks seemed to enhance cruel satisfaction of the exercise.  A smug hint of a smile playing around Big Boy's lips could be imaged.  The door closed – he’d gone.

 

Arriving at school the next day confirmed Simeon Hogg's worst fears.  Hesitantly with stony expression, he approached the entrance and halted before a large group - gloating, smirking and sensing blood.  A raucous chorus quickly surrounded him to shout, stab and wound him with the news of the previous morning.  The schoolmaster had invited Big Boy to deliver his report publicly before the oversized class of 48 pupils - and that class was allowed to break into a rapture of noisy merriment.  Included in the entertainment was a reference to the 'Privet' sign, drawings of space rockets on the wall, a painting of an American car, comics considered too young and any amount of embarrassing material which could be retained and used at will for future tortures.  Simeon's private world was laid bare.  Uproarious laughter, catcalls and continuing ridicule followed him throughout that terrible day, one of many bad days in the year of 1957.

 

It had been going on and on, day after day, week after week, month after month.  Like the wording of a medieval torture -

'... as much as you can bear, and greater.'

 

On that day after school it was too great.  Relief came over him when he contemplated a drastic solution.  It was under a bleak mid-winter miserable sky, darkened by drizzle when Simeon opened the sash window and assessed the length of drop from that second floor bedroom onto the glistening pavement below.  It seemed like a high fall, but would it be enough?  Would it be quick?  It needed to be quick.  These contemplations were a relief for the unhappy little boy.  Despair had produced its own balm.  The resolution itself made things better, because, now, there was a way out.  The intolerable had now become just a fraction more tolerable.

 

During these cogitations he leaned out further and noted the views.  In the far distance, the hills of Derbyshire were shrouded with low grey cloud.  He noted industrial scars of mining and, in the near distance, the foot of that long straight road.

 

Simeon the man has often looked back at that moment.  He often stood on Red Lion Square and looked up to his old home which still had the date marked out in carved bricks - 1888.  And above the date, there was that depressing, now slowly rotting top window, the window of despair.  He was thankful that Simeon the boy did not jump, because Simeon the boy was only weeks away from escape and adventure.

 

Chapter 3

 

Urchins in an Orchard

 

Wednesday, December 11th 1957

 

‘Now the day is over, night is drawing nigh.

Shadows of the evening steal across the sky’

 

For most pupils, this slow, simple couplet, droned out of 48 mouths was a welcome end to a bleak, blackening, mid-winter’s day.  The sad song was followed by a mad, shoving, push onto the street to reach freedom, fresh cold air and open space beyond.  In contrast, in that same crush, Simeon ran the gauntlet of a daily dash to escape from that dingy late Victorian place without pity, hopefully, without incident.

 

Ominously, Sandy noticed Piggy looking particularly miserable during that dark day of Wednesday, December 11th 1957, even more miserable than usual.  Most boys at Mundy Street Boys School had a nickname.  Hogg suggested a pig and ‘the Hogg’ or ‘Piggy’ received a standard punishment of several grunts each wretched day.

 

In orderly lines, each row was dismissed in turn.  Boys were ordered to ‘walk not run’ out of the school.  Hoping for invisibility, Simeon dawdled and sought refuge in any convenient alcove en-route between the classroom and the school gate.  He was found.  It could have been worse because Sandy found him.  Sandy usually demanded a sexual encounter in the lavatory as opposed to more brutal youths who had honed a sadistic repertoire of effective methods to thoroughly abase their victim.  It was in the period of September to December 1957 when Simeon sustained emotional damage which manifested itself in various ways throughout his life.  He could not tell left from right.  The sight of a group of youths on a street corner triggered a panic attack and any depiction of school-bullying in films or TV caused extreme distress.  These and other confidence destroying traumas disabled him until well into the 21st century.

 

On this day, Sandy wanted something different.  He said – ‘I’m taking you to Granddad.’

 

They set off down Market Street.  Under gathering gloom it was brilliant with bright shop windows.  The two boys turned into a dark narrow entry opposite Woolworths, emerging into a space behind the shops in this busy locality.  It was not exactly a garden, but a small area of old brick pavement broken up by invading shrubs and bramble, the result of decades of neglect.  Clearly, Simeon and Sandy were trespassing which mattered not a jot.  The place was deserted; nobody around to look through the filthy windows and nobody was likely to notice a couple of scruffy urchins who blended into the damp, dirty, dismal background.

 

Obediently, Simeon followed his master to a ramshackle shed situated up against a robust high wall constructed of soot-blackened boulders.  Carefully they avoided nettle stings and bramble barbs to approach a water barrel.  Using the rim, at almost their own height, they quickly scaled up to the shed roof and only just managed to achieve several footholds between the boulders to mount the great wall.  Such is the agility of two pre-adolescent lads who had just ascended an obstacle which would have defeated many less fit adults.

 

Up on a level plain of small craggy trees, in fact, an orchard; Simeon began thinking questions he dared not to ask.  Why?  Where is Sandy’s Granddad?  Why does he want Simeon anyway?  The ground was still littered with windfalls in various stages of decay and a few brave apples still clung to their place of birth.  The traffic noise of Market Street was now far away, and, as they advanced deeper into the orchard it disappeared completely.

 

Sandy leaped up a branch, reached out and plucked an apple.  Even in failing light, it looked tempting.  It was well past 4pm, getting cold and damp with an oncoming drizzle.  Lowering dark clouds mixed with murk and muck of a thousand chimneys had hung and threatened this pit town all day long.  Simeon was envious.  He watched the other boy eagerly crunch and chomp into his juicy acquisition. 

 

These were the days long before pupils were chauffeured to and from school by concerned parents.  The time between the final dismissal and arrival at home was hardly considered.  In mid December, on a dull day, it started to get dark at 3.30pm.  If considered at all, this absence would be accepted and dismissed as lads being lads, out and about, playing about, mucking about until approximately 6pm when they drifted in, expecting their ‘tea’.  Tea was the evening meal, for many, the main meal of the day.

 

The apple had been chomped to a core and thrown down.  As Simeon’s soft sensitive hands were conveniently near, another temptation came to the fore.

          ‘Do it,’ barked Sandy.  Piggy complied.  As Simeon’s status in the pecking order had steadily declined, the original mutuality of earlier play had now disappeared.  Not only did he have to ‘do it’, he also had to unbuckle to get access to the milky genitalia, the main member standing to attention in anticipation of Piggy’s ever improving skills.  Under constant trauma at Mundy Street, he learned little, but when it came to adept stroking of erogenous zones, practice led to increasing perfection.

 

Sandy and Simeon were almost the same age, perhaps youngest in their grossly oversized class.  In the homoerotic culture of an all boys environment, they had already seen several ejaculations from older classmates.  They knew all about ‘spunk’, the Derbyshire word for semen.  If a lad boasted about ‘fetching spunk’ he had achieved orgasm.  Further on in sexual development, some of these boys had already passed their 14th birthday.  With the post-war baby-boom together with a severe shortage of teachers, Simeon shared a class crammed with nearly 50 boys spanning two forms.

 

Quite frequently, the schoolmaster left the room for long periods.  Sometimes a lower lad would be put on guard duty to give the alarm if the master returned.  In these interludes, public masturbating ‘wanking’ sessions were possible for seniors, like Big Boy, who occupied the higher echelons.  He preferred private stimulation via hand in pocket.  Other boys, like Blubba, the king pin who could beat up every other boy in the school, he wanted everybody in the class to see and admire his magnificent manhood.  He also wanted to show off his power to command lesser boys to, as he put it, lick the excited dribble off his bell-end.  Legs obscenely splayed; smugly he leaned back in his chair observing workers who were instructed to make it last as long as possible.  His pale fleshy face with protruding rude tongue wore a cruel sneer as, without warning, a powerful jet of spunk suddenly hit his two workers in their mouths.  This would be greeted by a raucous cheer from a small audience enjoying the show crowding around the big guy’s desk.

 

Simeon was intrigued with Blubba.  As the name suggested, he was a large stocky lad, not handsome, with a thick neck and thick head under a golden wispy mop looking as though it had been hacked with a basin cut.

 

After hearing glowing reports of Piggy’s ‘nice little fingers’, their adept dexterity around balls and bum hole, Simeon was pressed into service as a third pair of hands to stand behind Blubba and pleasure the anal regions of the Top Dog of Mundy Street Boys School.

 

Against that background, Sandy was middle ranking in his school status in this culture of cruelty where you were graded by your ability to inflict humiliation, pain and suffering on others.  But now in the orchard, Simeon was in his familiar mode of dispensing pleasure to Sandy’s recently dropped, delicate testicles, which, at first touch, produced a long-drawn, half-stifled sigh from a mouth which had already been opened by sudden delight in such a dingy place.  Piggy’s naughty hands sought out other sensitive zones including the protuberance now developing.  Tickling and caressing randy regions underneath with one hand, combined with gentle forward and backward movements with the other, seemed to create a crisis of pleasure in that secret, hairless and creamy grotto between slim white legs.

 

Years later, speaking to an older friend about this incident, Simeon was told about a pre-adolescent phenomenon termed a ‘dry orgasm’.  Did this happen to Sandy?  Piggy looked into a pretty face under untidy corn-silk hair.  He scrutinised a small freckled turned-up nose over a small, slightly opened mouth.  Notwithstanding, beyond the small sound, the aforementioned sigh, the smallest of indications; no real evidence of orgasm was given.

 

They left the orchard and skipped over a low fence.  There was just enough light to discern an untidy jumble of obstacles such as bean rows, raspberry canes and dark compost heaps.  Several rickety wooden sheds, an upturned wheelbarrow and a well rotted scary scarecrow with a pumpkin head startled Simeon.  He continued to meander around a restricting complication of narrow paths, struggling to keep up with Sandy.

 

Heanor allotments, the pride of pre-war gardeners, now lapsed, seemed in steep decline, unloved and unlovely.  A discarded brass bed head signalled the end of a cabbage patch and appeared to proclaim itself part of a border.

 

It was a grassy, weed-infested track separating the allotments and the far end of very long gardens.  These were typical for colliery towns and villages.  Each elongated plot belonged to a terraced house probably built in the early 1800s by wealthy coal owning land owners.  The Squire of Shipley Hall, Alfred Edward Miller-Mundy gave his name to the school which blighted Simeon’s life. 

 

These monotonous drab terraces, of which Heanor had many, were built for miners and their families.  The slow decline of the coal industry started just before the First World War.  For Heanor, it ended in 1970 when the Ripley & Heanor News announced ‘The Last of a Proud Pit’ – the closing of Ormond Colliery.

 

Sandy turned left along the rough track.  They had hardly completed ten strides, when he abruptly turned right skipping over another brass bed head into a thick jungle of shrubs and bramble which might have once been a well tended garden.  A narrow gap allowed them into a space created by the shade of several mature trees.  The trek to a distant home soon gave onto more jungle.  Eventually they approached a bricked back yard connected to a much neglected house strangled by decades of ivy and numerous weeds sprouting from its precarious chimney.  High walls gave adequate protection from the prying eyes of neighbours.

 

As with all such properties, a crude outbuilding incorporated a lavatory, coal house and wash house with a big old copper cauldron heating six pails of water for wash day.  From the example of his own grandparents, Simeon was familiar with the ceremony of lighting the fire under the copper cauldron to heat the water for the Monday laundry.  His grandmother ‘ponched’ clothes in the dolly tub using a long handled, wooden dolly peg and a bar of Sunlight soap.  In the dying days of 1957, it will be some years into the new decade before Heanor homes achieve the status of electric washing machines; and before that can happen, Heanor homes will need to be connected to a supply of electricity.  In the 1950s, most were not.

 

At a glance, Simeon took it all in.  Even by working class standards, this Heanor home with filthy rags passing for curtains behind rotten frames was decidedly primitive.

 


 

 

 

 

_______________________________________________________

 

NEW
Sea Change





Secret Summer



Scruffy Chicken



Lost Lad



A Judge Too Far



Death on the Derwent

 



Heanor Schooldays

Copyright 2006 Narvel Annable. All Rights Reserved.