Even the Pigs Complained

My love of rugby took a severe knock at the end of the forth school season. I was playing in the school under XV’s and in the dying moment of the game I dived onto the ball to stop our opponent scoring a vital try. Fr my pains, I received a mouthful of apposing boot and staggered to my feet with blood pouring from my mouth.

The final whistle sounded to end this the final match of the season, and I was cursing my bad luck. Running my tongue around my teeth to determine how many were left, I discovered that a front tooth was missing. On further examination of my mouth this was found not to be the case. The poor tooth had been kicked right into it. In the first aid room it was found that my lower lip was cut right through and that there was another cut under my chin. Visits to the hospital and the dentists were prescribed.

My first trip was to our school dentist who happened to be a keen follower of rugby. He was very sympathetic and said that he would have to split open my gum to try to retrieve the embedded tooth. This filled me with abject terror, but after a local anaesthetic I hardly felt a thing. The tooth was returned to its proper position and surrounded by surgical cement. Unfortunately this attempt at rebonding was unsuccessful as the as the tooth worked loose and finally had to be removed. It was replaced by a false one on a small plate, which caused further problems. Some months later a friction caused by the rubbing of the plate on the surrounding teeth had decayed them. A further three were then removed and a larger plate fitted. Eventually five more had to be removed for the same reason. The way things were going I would soon loose all my top set, but luckily there were no further problems for several years.

The visit to the hospital proved to be a daunting experience. I was informed that they would need stitching, but local anesthetics could not be used because they were too close to my mouth. The pain was excruciating as the curved needle was forced through my flesh, accompanied with assurances that it would not hurt. I staggered from the hospital with legs like jelly and made my miserable journey home to tell my parents what had happened.

I returned to the hospital a few days later for an examination on me cuts. I asked how long my stitches would have to be in. I gave the wrong answer and they removed the stitches prematurely. It was my own fault and I still bear the scars to prove it. Their remains a small lump in my mouth where the wound trough my lip healed. This acts as a break in the tendency to bolt food, for if I don’t chew carefully I bite the lump and bring tears to my eyes. In order to prove that my passion for sport is not all consuming, I must mention other interests. My family saw me as a sports fanatic, so no time for serious learning.

As mentioned previously, I joined the school scout troop where I became a methodical, if undistinguished collector of proficiency badges and awards. Although never really cut out for the outdoors life, I was skilled at peeling spuds and washing up, which, I admit, is hardly the stuff that leaders are made of. By quite persistence I finally achieved my ‘Scout’s Cords’, an achievement below the ultimate of the ‘King’s Scout’. My camping exploits were memorable, if only for the wrong reasons. The campsite was reached by a trip on the Oxton Flyer, a bone shaking old single decker bus that traversed the undulating country roads at break-neck speeds. It was ideal for anyone who had taken their medication without shaking the bottle. This ride on the flyer provided an unsettling introduction to the joys of camping as it transformed my neatly packed kit bag into a confused jumble of clothing and provisions. I did nothing for my image having to tip out a managed heap in front of my superiors for the initial kit inspection. Ass you have guessed I got no medals for presentation.
We were introduced to the joys of tent pitching and latrine digging. To be precise the toilets consisted of three metal buckets sitting in holes in the ground (covered with a thick coating of creosote). Thus was born of the legend of the Three Black Buckets, for anyone squatting on them arose with a black ring on their posterior. The feeling of post toilet relief was tempered by the feeling of being sized by fellow scouts and ‘de-bagged’ to expose the damming ‘brand’. This fear was only surpassed by the fear of latrine duty, which consisted of digging a pit and emptying the contents of the buckets for proper burial. The sight of small boys struggling with large buckets was awesome. Accidents were common and the unfortunate victims were treated as outcasts.

Cooking was another uplifting experience. Large ‘billy can’ filled and placed on crackling wood fires, ensuring that all food was smoke flavoured. Tin openers were indispensable, as the menus were somewhat lacking in culinary imagination. It was here that my skill with the potato peeler came into its own. I was the only scout that could peel a potato that would end up larger than the one that I started with. The thickness of the peal, which was so deftly removed, was so thin that the pigs at the neighbouring farm complained.

Former Mansfield resident Alan Plowright, who now lives in Shipley, West Yorkshire, continues his ‘Diary of a Nobody’ with his memories of school days at Southwell at the end of the Second World War.