Hi, Tippler here. Just crawled out from under the bed. Thought I'd been stuck in an escape tunnel for the past few days.
Anyway, I like to think I've done quite a few selfless things (wouldn't we all?) but this one came to mind because it looked like going all horribly wrong at one point.
I'll say in advance that I pity the poor copper - it must have been bloody hard for him to explain to two (fairly) innocent ten-year-old boys that the world is sometimes a shithole filled with dodgy characters and often unwarranted suspicion. It hasn't changed much.
Anyway, here goes:
I did some daft things in my youth.Well, back then, you had to make your own fun.
And I found out early that sometimes the law is an ass. But this is a tale of innocence, selflessness and, you could say, crass stupidity.
A long time ago, probably eating a Galaxy far, far away, me and my ten-year-old mucker decided that we both had lots of games, books and toys that were still in good condition but surplus to requirements. Perhaps my dad had told me to clear out the old stuff pre-Christmas. I can't remember.
Either way, we hit on the idea of wandering around our neighbourhood trying to sell the toys, in order to give the dosh to a local charity. No, really. We did.
We probably thought it would get us girls, or something, not realising back then that a large gin & tonic is much more effective and takes about a tenth of the effort. Ah, the innocence of youth...
Anyway, using a homemade boxcart loaded with playthings - you know, Lego, Scalextric cars, Subbuteo teams, etc - we wandered off to bang on doors. After about two days, we'd flogged the lot and raised forty quid, or something. This was a considerable sum back then, being about a fortnight after Adam and Eve had been hoyed unceremoniously out of Eden. You could have bought a villa in Spain with it for all we knew. It was so much it was scary - and we had no regrets at all about our decision to give it away.
(Stop shaking your heads and going 'fookin' eejits'. Idealism is for the young, right?)
That week we made a phone call and pledged the cash to a fortnightly club in the 'hood, which ran discos for mentally handicapped kids. When we called the organisers, they were surprised to say the least but very, very pleased. They duly invited us along to hand over the readies and meet the kids, many of them our age.
Rest assured we were treated like young royalty and had a fine time stuffing our faces with the usual fish-paste sarnies, glugging 'proper' lemonade and generally lapping it up.
Stopping us getting too pleased with ourselves were the kids, who as I've mentioned had various forms of mental handicaps. One boy who stuck in my mind for years after was a good looking lad, my age, with bright, intelligent eyes. One of his 'issues' was that he was obsessed with listening to watches tick.
Go anywhere within reach and he'd grab your arm, put your wristwatch next to his ear and just look at you with utter contentment. He'd smile broadly up at you as if you understood his fascination. He was sharing his joy and sense of wonder.
It still makes me fill up, thinking about it. It was sad and beautiful at the same time.
So, that was one of many great moments we had that night and the whole experience was well worth two days’ trudging around the neighbourhood freezing our (as yet undropped) bollocks off.
A few days later, me and my pal were called out of school assembly and told to go and see the headmaster. Very puzzled, and totally babbing our pants, we got to his office. And there he was with a copper - a local beat bobby with the uniform, notebook, dumb helmet, truncheon, Blankety-Blank cheque book and fucking pen, the whole works.
It turned out that one of the old biddies who'd answered her door while we were flogging our goodies had been suspicious as to our motives and called the station. We, of course, had had no charity ID cards or badges on us. To be fair, we could well have been off to the shops with the dosh later to indulge in an orgy of Jacob's chocolate biccies, Jaffa Cakes, fizzy orange and Sherbet bloody Dib-Dabs.
Trouble is, the miserable old battle-axe hadn't even asked us.
Anyhow, according to Police Constable Trevor McFuttock, such behaviour was tantamount to 'hawking' - no, like gypsies flogging pegs, not the bloke in the wheelchair with the robotic voice - and was apparently illegal.
Mr Plod, who at least had the decency to be slightly embarrassed, was morally and legally obliged to point out that we could have been in the deepest of deep ka-ka. Fortunately, the head had that very morning received a letter from the club saying what fine young fellas we were. He'd shown it to the cop, of course. Thank holy fuck.
That letter undoubtedly saved our arses. The copper left, having given us his half-hearted ticking off, presumably to go off and nick some real villains. The head told the pair of us to go back to class but, just as we were leaving his office, he stopped us.
"Boys," he said, in his usual deep, stern and frankly scary voice. We were quaking in our ill-fitting shoes.
And that was that.
It was one of the finest moments of my life.
(Later, I'll reveal to the house the most selfish thing I ever did. That one's harder. There's an awful lot of material to choose from...)