Some of you may remember Spitting Image. It was a satirical puppet show back in the 1980s, famous for lampooning Margaret Thatcher as a man, John Major as a grey man obsessed with peas, and just about every other politician and public figure going.
For years it was close to being mandatory Sunday night viewing for people of my age. You had to watch the show to be able to talk about it on Monday at school, at work, in the bar or wherever you may be. Which meant that I didn’t watch it very often, partly because I’ve never been one for doing what everyone else was doing, partly because it was on at 10.30pm on a school night, and mostly because I would forget it was on and end up kicking myself in the morning.
Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the programme. Far from it. There was almost always one moment in it which would have tears of laughter coursing down my face. Which is why I bought one of their t-shirts.
At the time, I was at sixth form college. The college didn’t require you to wear a uniform, but it did have several rules about you could wear. Sort of. It transpired that there was one rule – no denim – plus an arbitrary, catch-all, rule which meant that you could be banned from wearing anything which a member of staff took particular objection to. For example, I remember Dave Rex being asked not to wear a particular pair of trousers again, even though there was nothing in the rules to prevent someone wearing tartan bondage trousers to school.
At that age, I hadn’t yet learned not to mind being cold (see here) and so I would often wear a shirt to college, which I would leave unbuttoned and then wear a t-shirt underneath. This meant that you couldn’t actually see very clearly what was on the t-shirt, but it kept me warm.
Every so often I would feel bold enough to wear my Spitting Image t-shirt (well, The Cure had to be washed occasionally) under my shirt. Which meant that for around eighteen months I got away with going to school in a t-shirt saying “If We All Spit Together We’ll Drown the B******s” – only the last word was actually written, in full, in large black letters running diagonally from my right hip to left shoulder*.
Eventually, I got caught. Oddly enough, it was by the French teacher, Mme Davey – a woman about whom I shall write much, much more on Wednesday. I have no idea why she suddenly noticed what the shirt said. I can only surmise that it was either because I did something dumb, like wearing a white shirt over the top, or because she suddenly recognised a word that is the same in both French and English.
I did try to argue that, as the shirt was neither ripped nor denim, it didn’t actually break any rules, but to no avail. Aside from anything else, Mme Davey was incapable of understanding that there was an argument going on.
And so ended my brief and surreptitious rebellion against the dress code. In the six months that were left, I would find other ways to upset the staff instead.
*If you haven’t worked it out yet, the word is the one commonly used to describe an illegitimate child or sporting official. And possibly Ryan Giggs.