Gerald was leaning against the wall of the corridor fidgeting, cracking his knuckles and occasionally scratching some extra graffiti on the whitewash; a bold 'Newton Hills FC Rools IDST' set amongst the more childish 'Lisa Revell is Fitt,' and 'Fook off Teecherz.'
'Feels like waiting for a fahkin trial, this,' he grunted, his voice stale, cheese-spread-thick. 'Dunno why I agreed to do the fahkin thing in the first place.'
He looked sulky, not quite right despite the great tailoring in his shiny new suit. I also noted that he'd now started pulling his trousers high up, almost to his chest, as befitted the status of a man who was now, officially (or at least according to Howdy magazine) Simon Cowell's Best Mate in the World Ever TM. 'Know something?' he growled. 'This place seems much smaller than when I was here. It's like we've been taken behind the scenes of a TV drama, like fahkin... fahkin Emmerdale Farm... and shown how the I nodded. These days there was even less leeway with Gerald. Even less wriggle-room. It was agree with him or hit the road Jack. Not that he was like that with Cowelly-baby. With Cowell, he was all like, sure I'll do the high-pitch vocal
on your new charidee single, Si. Sure I'll monster that Ashley Cole if he steps outta line with the missus
again, Si. Sure I'll try and do me hair all like Jedward, Si. The last thing I wanted to do was upset the great,
hulking brute, but I didn't agree with him. The school wasn't like Emmerdale Farm, even though it stunk like
the Yorkshire Dales. It was a goddamn public school, and despite the graffiti, was one of the poshest places I'd ever seen. It was more like To the Manor Born; all gravel driveways, west wings and ha-has on the lawns. Whoda thunk Gerald had passed through the bowels of a place like this? Gerald was now standing looking at the display boards which were fixed to the wall opposite; press cuttings and photographs of the famous graduates of the school. 'I always knew I'd be on here one day, me old china,' he said, reverentially. Gerald pointed to the rather ridiculous publicity mug-shot to the far right of the board. Him standing next to Cowelly-baby, reaching down for something (as though he was about to
cup the great man's balls). Immediately to the left of these images of Gerald as the gurning village idiot I
now realised he was, there were other famous former pupils. There was Deborah Winterbottom (who’d
be better known to you under the name she’d adopted for her middling modelling career as the rather
top-heavy Sandra Symons). Then there was Terry Gritt, the third division footballer who once held the
record for the fastest booking in league history. The notice board was like a time-line plotting the rapid
decline of morality and the cheapening of fame. On the far left of the board, there were sepia-toned
images of brave war captains, England cricketers, Nobel-Prize winners and government ministers.
Getting on the board now seemed a matter of being good at scrapping , making cheese and kissing arse.
I was shaken out of my reverie by the sound of the careers room door opening. A pupil – amazingly young-looking - stuck his head around the jamb and called us in. In my unofficial role as Gerald's agent, I felt the twitching of nerves at the bottom of my stomach. I didn't want anything to go wrong. In the hospital visit last week, Gerald had pulled the cord out of some poor bugger's life support system when he tried to use it to whip the back of my legs in a jocular fashion. Now, I wondered whether he would start launching desks or pupils out of the window. The old Ultra Violence was never far away where Gerald was concerned.
We stepped into the room. The careers teacher, Mr. Chalmers, was leaning back on the desk, looking rather pleased with himself. Perhaps it was because by bringing in a ‘guest speaker’ to the careers lesson, he didn’t actually have to do any teaching. But he couldn't stop himself from being slightly taken aback when he first saw Gerald. He’d clearly not been expecting his guest to be so soberly dressed; the well-cut grey suit, with a tie. Clearly, Chalmers (no charmer he) had reckoned on my mate Gerald coming in wearing the Newton Hills footy kit with knuckle dusters on his hands and pig-sticker boots on his feet. Nevertheless, the old bastard set aside his surprise and attempted a broad smile. Probably buying himself time as he tried to work out whether he should proffer his hand for the ex-pupil to shake.
‘Ah… welcome back, Gerald… uh… Mr. Gerald…’ he said. ‘Children; I’d like you to give a warm welcome to our former pupil, and now hard-man extraordinaire…’
‘Bodyguard,’ interrupted Gerald, looking slightly annoyed.
‘Yes, ahem,’ mumbled Chalmers. ‘Well, Gerald is here to tell us all about what he does for a living and how you too can make a career for yourselves in the circus of celebrity.’
Chalmers then allowed himself to seep into the background as Gerald took centre stage. Gerald took a
moment to suck in the moustache of his imagination. He couldn't have looked more like a Crimewatch
photograph if he'd tried, despite the permatan. ‘Hello boys and girls,’ he said finally. ‘And thanks for
coming to hear me today.’
‘Do us an impression of that death-grip you put on Alexandra Burke when she asked for a new recording
contract!’ shouted a boy from the periphery of the room.
‘Show us how you battered Marti Pellow out of Wet Wet Wet when he was brought in as the new judge!’ roared another; a burly, ginger-haired lad with a fuzz of bum fluff on his top lip. The boy attempted a rough approximation of the Pellow-ster's Scots accent and the rest of the pupils started to roll around their red plastic seats with laughter. ‘Quieten down children,’ said Chalmers from the back of the room.
The children took no notice. Even at my old school, it was always easy to act unruly in the careers room, with its theatre-style seating which was supposed to make it seem less like school and more like you were actual human beings not to be imprisoned behind a desk.
‘Bodyguarding is a noble art,’ said Gerald, trying to fix his eyes on the troublemaker (was he imagining him
naked, like they tell you in public speaking classes? If so, it was a dangerous game, being in school and all
that). 'One part Ninja, one part SASman, one part...'
'Do the bit when you run on stage and clock that lad who looks like Michael Jackson in that group!'
'Do the bit where you're all like, now it's time for an ass-whuppin''
'Simmer down!' said Gerald. Too late, I realised he sounded exactly like Chalmers; King Canute against the relentless pressure of the tide. And he was getting Hulk-angry with it. He slammed his hand down on the teacher’s desk. Everyone shut up. Then he launched into a song:
‘We are Newton Hills lads we’re here,
Shag your women, drink your beer!’
Chalmers looked worried. I was worried. Gerald was about to explode like I'd never seen before.
But then something very strange happened. Gerald started singing again. But this time, he was singing Tracks of my Tears:
‘People say I'm the life of the party,
Because I tell a joke or two,
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty,
Deep inside I'm blue.’
He stood at the front of the classroom with his arms outstretched like Jesus, like a performing seal. When he
finished, someone chucked him a bar of chocolate. And in that moment, I realised Simon Cowell had poisoned
Britain far more effectively than I could ever have imagined. He'd even managed to turn this hulking barrel of shit
and cheese into a passable karaoke singer.