Insanity Crash: Mark & Neds: A Serial Piece about Glasgow’s Ne’er-do-wells.

Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them - a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
Muhammad Ali

Growing up in the late nineties will always be remember for two things; One, the advent of computer games, and two, it is the last time in the human species reign on this planet we would be without the internet. I honestly am amazed at what it was like to be without the internet in schools, and most important, trying to organise a night out.

But the less heralded moments are those with the Neds. Our times at school were always punctuated with run ins with the tough guys, the blokes with big brothers, and the girls who have lost their Virginity before you have lost your VL. In these enlightened times, I think we can all look back on them with disdain and pity, for not did they know the path of the true and good. In the first of these, I shall recount a few tales of my encounters with neds, and hopefully, expunge the feelings that I have carried with me all these years. Basically, what a bunch of twats.

As I am sure you are aware, each year the timetables change, and evidently, your classes and teachers change too. From 1st to 2nd year, I thought I had gotten used to the usual Ned things, like calling you gay, slapping of the fore head, and the all so witty “Did you see “Gayssaywhat” on telly last night?” In my class, there were a few choice members of the school fraternity, and no other boys of my calibre. I say this without ego, and with total modesty – I was the smartest boy in my practical class, and my competition was not of the highest quality, so I had a bit of a hard time getting things right most of the time. But I learned to let the Neds get a good chance to see my answers, and in return, I got protection form the other Ned that they were mates with from other classes. My friends, sometimes were included in this sphere of protection.

But one incident cemented my peer-protection in this respect, and it was one Tuesday in June, 1998. We had just changed from period one into period two, and had arrived at our new SE classroom, in the Home Economics corridor. My practical class arrived before the other half, so I picked a seat next to the most decent of the Neds, and started getting stuff out my bag. I was not paying particular attention to anything, until I heard “Haw, Bawbag!” near my face, I looked up and Mr X was looking at me, plain as day, with a look of “whit!” in his face.

“Yer in ma seat.” He says, rather venomously.
“Er, no I am not” I explain foolishly, “I have just sat down; there is a seat over there.”
As I pointed, a fist came crashing down onto my face, connecting with my nose, and sending bone and tendon into impact with such a force it knocked me off my seat.

When I got up, blood was pouring out of my nose, and the Ned had got into my seat; at least it wasn’t for nothing eh? I turn around and started pouring my life into the sink, and the teacher noticed, and all hell broke loose. I was sent into the next room, the head teacher and the deputy of the year came and spoke to me, I was taken to the nurse and given bits of tissue in large supply, and Mr X was sent home from school with a letter saying don’t come back till Thursday.

On Thursday, the story had spread everywhere, and I thought I was dead. I think some of the stories had me punching him first, or a full fist fight on the tables in the class room – all I had left over was slightly bruised eyes and a blackened nose. The first class we would be back together in was Geography and Mr Grieg, who is known for been a bit of a plonker made us shake hands in front of the class. The respect though gained by the Ned for the incident elevated me almost in to the fraternity, and for a while I think it saved my skin a few times in ways that now you see as petty, but at the time I can remember thinking “Yes, I am included.”

Sometimes, I would not be last to get picked at football. I became known for being a rash tackler, and as such got a little respect from some of the captains that I was an asset rather than a distraction. We also got slight protection. Once I was playing a game a football in the ash pitch next to the school with a multitude of friends from school, whereupon we were happened by a gangly Ned from another school, who proceeded to divide us up into categories in which he could take us. We humoured him, but it came down to me and Ross, and asked Ross his age. Ross was, and still is, two years younger than me, and has never looked it. So when Ross told him, he thought he “wis tryin’ tae be smart” and started going for him. Now, this is where, bravely, valiantly, the Neds from our school jumped in, running down from the school grounds, shouting at this guy, and scaring him away. I think they were more affronted by the attack on someone from Woodfarm, rather than from another school. Good idea to keep it quiet then that Ross went to St Ninians, Woodfarm’s sworn rivals. I also believe it was because we were their squares, and no one, not anyone, threatens their own targets of ridicule.

This encounter was nothing compared to the punch, but another more cary moment as when I was involved in a proper fight outside my local corner shop, against a certain Billy Byres. It was a full blown fight, with kicking, punching and a good amount of homoerotic tussling, and I came off slightly worse. “You shoulda seen the other guy” as he did have a bloodied nose, but I have a large cut on my face where his Sovvy had caught me.

In truth, these run ins taught me a good lesson, and I would probably be totally different if I had not encountered them. To Hazels laughter, she finds these stories incredible, and mostly, she believes I embellish them. The only thing these stories have different from the truth are slight additions of dialogue, and better, more vivid metaphors than in real life. The moment I tell you a untrue story, you will know. Why?

Cause, it won’t be embarrassing for me.