March, 1985. Mother's day in fact, and in one of those 13 year old mischievous moments, I went out with my friend and neighbour Steve down to my school. I seem to remember it started off innocently enough, with a bit of running around the empty playgrounds, going into other playgrounds that were normally out of bounds, and general adventure. Before long, I came across a window that had been broken and then boarded up, presumably only the Friday before that weekend. It was to the lower floor of the first year centre, a block in the school that kept all the newbies (or freshmen as they'd say stateside) mostly in one place. I bit of gentle persuasion saw the bottom nails holding the board against the window frame freed up, and the world's largest cat flap was now accessible by two youths. Steve stayed guard, and more importantly, stayed outside. I, meanwhile, and stupidly in hindsight, went inside to see what I could find. The problem with the first year centre was that there was not a lot to do there. The doors into the rest of the school, and the more exciting places like the science labs, were all locked. And so, without anything to do, I hatched a plan.
Fire Extinguishers contain carbon dioxide. We all know that carbon dioxide can be very cold when it comes out, and so I took an extinguisher and we legged up to the playground that did have access to a science lab. The fire escape for this lab had a Yale lock, and I'd seen that if you get anything cold enough it becomes brittle. The science teacher had only shown us a few weeks before what happens to rubber when dipped into liquid nitrogen. Taking the newly acquired fire extinguisher, I proceeded to empty the entire bottle over the Yale lock of the door, in the genuine belief that the metal would freeze, crack, and fall off leaving the door open to all to enter. Not surprisingly it didn't, on account that CO2 only freezes at -78°c, whereas liquid nitrogen works best below -150°c. With the failed attempt at freezing the door lock, I chucked the now empty extinguisher in the school pond (yes, we had a pond in our school, and how no one ever died in it I'll never know) and we went back to the lower half of the school to break back in to see what else we can find.
As I clambered through the large cat flap for a second time, Steve started saying "perhaps this isn't such a good idea" and exclaiming that he'd seen a jam sandwich going past. I said we'd be OK, and carried on rummaging through the empty drawers and cupboards looking for something else to provide adventure. Suddenly Steve, still outside, now could be heard walking away from the window and a solitary voice said "I'd get out if I were you. The Police are here."
In one of those "Oh Shit" moments, I peered outside to see the local bobby running down the bank from the school gate with his mate in tow. I thought about running, but being the school fat kid, I realised I didn't stand much chance of getting away. I then envisioned hiding in a cupboard, but then I knew Steve wouldn't have THAT much loyalty to me and point them in the direction of any covertly selected hidey hole. I walked out saying "Thank God you're here. We just found the window open. Someone else must have broken in."
This yarn was believable for about 3 seconds because Steve burst into tears and admitted everything, the little supergrass. I was arrested there and then for breaking and entering, and burglary. Steve, meanwhile, was also taken into custody, for being a copper's nark. The rozzers collected the now spent fire extinguisher, covered in my fingerprints, and took it in as evidence. Our parents were called, and we were then interviewed in South Norwood Police Station. Steve's parents lied about his age, making him out as 9, whereas in reality he was 10. This meant that he got off scott free, on account of him being below the legal age of criminal responsibility. Meanwhile, they threw the book at me. My mother sat there sniffling. My father sat there glaring at me because I'd had him brought back within contact with my mother only 6 months since he'd left. The copper sat there glaring at me because I'd wasted what could have been a perfectly good afternoon kicking in nonces in the cells. I was bailed (can you imagined if I'd been remanded?) and reappeared some 3 weeks later to be cautioned. Once again, me, my father and my mother went to meet the inspector in the regional station Norbury. I have to admit I don't remember a lot about the 'chat.' Apparently my father had parts of his anatomy puckering from sheer terror from this inspector. All I remember is him talking about the fact the Met has enough gendarme to fill Wembley Stadium. I meanwhile had no interest in football, so this was an empty threat because I had no idea as to how many police this really was. It was drilled into me that if I stayed clean until my 17th birthday I'd get away unblemished, and I nearly made it.
But that's another story.
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