Thursday, May 10, 2001

I was seven or eight when it happened. I was getting ready for school, and my older brother handed me a pair of undies to put on. But these weren't my usual white Y-fronts. They were purple, with no hole for your willy. "They're gurrlz' knickers!" I wailed. Antony patiently told me that they weren't knickers, but modern boys' undies. (This was the 70s, when purple was the in colour, along with orange.) "I'm not wearing gurrlz' knickers," I cried, and, although I told Antony I had put them on, I went to school with no undies on.

And that would have been the end of it, except I had forgotten that we had PE that day. I dawdled in the changing room, intending to wait till everyone had gone into the gym to set up the mats and stack the pommel horse together. But I hadn't counted on weird Catherine Harrison, who spotted me as I hurriedly wriggled, naked, into my PE shorts. "David's nekkid!" she shrieked. Mr Webb came running in to see what all the fuss was about, and made me sit out the PE lesson.

Word soon got around the school that David wasn't wearing undies, and Antony cornered me at break. "Is it true? Aren't you wearing any undies?" he demanded. "No, I am, Ants, honest." "We'll soon see, then," he shouted, and pulled my trousers down in the middle of the crowded playground. "You liar! You're not wearing any!" he shouted at the top of his voce, "What are you? Some kind of pervert?"


I'd like to thank Jonathan Coe's wonderful new novel The Rotters Club for releasing that hitherto suppressed traumatic memory.

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