I have a few regrets in my life.
I have often regretted taking so long to make any kind of grown-up life decisions, sometimes I regret not going to University (although not that much) and frequently I regret eating a share bag of Giant Chocolate Buttons myself… In one sitting.
I do have a massive regret over an event that happened in the 1980s. An event that maybe only one, possibly two other people in the world remembers but I have felt bad about ever since. In my defence, I thought I was doing the right thing and didn’t think about the implications of my suggestion at the time. I have changed the names of the people involved to spare their possible blushes (although I'm sure they're over it now).
It all began back in the late 1980s on the mean streets of Woodley…
I say mean streets, it was really the mean playground of Woodley C of E Primary School and if I’m really honest there wasn’t much mean about it. They were happy days in the main. All the girls wanted to be Kylie Minogue and marry Jason Donovan and all the boys… Well, I don’t really know what the boys were into apart from being annoying and kicking balls about.
I had a best friend who I had been friends with since nursery school. Her name was Kitty (it wasn’t really, this is just a super disguised name that’s nothing like her real name and definitely not what her friends at secondary school went on to call her or anything). Kitty and I were besties and, other than our deep love for Jason Donovan, we weren’t really interested in boys. In fact, the whole idea of fancying a real life boy was pretty revolting. We didn’t need real life boys anyway because obviously we were going to marry Jason or at a push Morten Harket from a-ha. Kitty’s sister who was older than us was going to marry Nathan from Brother Beyond. (To date none of us have married any of these men.)
Anyway, I can’t remember if it was the 3rd or 4th year (Year 5 or 6 in new money) when the mortifying incident occurred but it was definitely later in our primary school lives. I arrived at school one morning to find Kitty in the playground looking distracted and worried. I was probably eager to discuss the previous evening’s episode of Neighbours but Kitty was having none of it. Something terrible had clearly happened to my friend. Obviously, my first assumption was that she hadn’t been able to get the latest issue of Smash Hits. I mean, why else would she look so worried? But no, I was wrong. She did have it and it had the words to Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry in it. Phew. It was then I noticed she appeared to be hiding something under her coat. She pulled the front of her jacket to reveal… A small box of Cadbury’s Roses.
*Cue dramatic music*
“Look!”, she whispered dramatically. By this time I was totally confused. Why would Kitty have a box of chocolates at school? Why would she be hiding them in her coat? Why would she be behaving as if she were trying to conceal some kind of contraband or sell some knocked off watches like a creepy man in a raincoat? Had she stolen them? Surely not, Kitty went to Sunday School. She was a good girl (she still is!). What on earth had happened?
It transpired that a boy called Pedro (not his real name obviously… Woodley didn’t have little boys called Pedro living there in the 80s) had saved up his pocket money and bought Kitty this box of Roses so that he could declare his undying love to her. Now normal people would be like 'ooh how lovely' but we were not normal people. We were approximately 10 year old girls. HOW TOTALLY EMBARRASSING.
Now we didn’t know Pedro very well but I seem to remember him being quite quiet but nice enough. He certainly wasn't one of the annoying ones. He was tall and quite big and looking back with the benefit of grown-up (ish) hindsight I think he was probably quite insecure so I'm sure buying a girl a box of chocolates took a great deal of courage. He definitely wasn’t Jason Donovan, Morten Harket or Matt/Luke Goss though and therein lied the problem. It’s safe to say Kitty was horrified at this public display, as was I. Something needed to be done. But what?
Thinking back, I’m not actually sure what the issue was. I don’t know whether Kitty was too embarrassed to take the chocolates home and for her parents and sister to know she had an admirer, whether there was a concern that she was leading poor Pedro on by accepting them or what. I do know that we spent the whole day thinking about what could be done about these chocolates but without hurting Pedro’s feelings by just giving them back. Weirdly, eating them didn’t come up at any point. That was clearly the obvious choice.
We wracked our brains to come up with a solution to this not-really-a-problem problem and spent the whole of break time trying to avoid Pedro and his lovestruck face.
Then it came to me!
I still to this day don’t know what made me think of it or why I thought it was a good idea but the ONLY option Kitty had, I asserted confidently, was to take them to Lost Property. I excitedly explained my flawless plan; she would casually saunter over to “The Office” and just pop them straight into the tea chest that sat in the corner with ‘Lost Property’ written on it. It was one of those wooden chests with the metal trim that either gave you splinters from the wood or slashed your fingers with tiny metal shards that poked out of it depending on where you accidentally touched it while trawling through the slightly damp PE kits looking for your school jumper that you only put down for a second before it vanished. In the absence of any other solutions, Kitty agreed and off she went.
Once the drop off had been completed we congratulated ourselves on our brilliant plan. The offending chocolates were gone and Pedro was none the wiser. That was that sorted, so we had time to learn the words to Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry and we once again no longer had a care in the world…
…Until a couple of days later in assembly.
There we were, the whole of the school sat cross-legged after finishing a rousing rendition of ‘Autumn Days’ or some other epic school assembly song when I noticed a pile of things at the front of the hall next to the teacher that was taking assembly. One of the things looked suspiciously like a box of Cadbury’s Roses. It was then it dawned on me. Every week in assembly as well as a good sing-song, the topic for reflection and announcements, the teacher who was taking it would show the school any unusual items that had been found in Lost Property. I imagine this was so anyone who had lost their Care Bear lunch box or Transformers pencil case but hadn’t realised would know to go to Lost Property. Like duh, where else would you go but the tea chest of doom if you lost something?
At no point during my scheming to relieve Kitty of her unwanted token of affection did I think about the fact that this was definitely an unusual item to find in Lost Property and that it would certainly be shown to the entire school in an attempt to find the owner. Dear Lord, what had I done? My attempt to solve Kitty’s problem without hurting Pedro’s feelings was about to backfire horribly.
I felt sick. In fact I still feel sick thinking about it now over 30 years later. Before we knew it, there it was, the box of Roses being brandished aloft by the teacher at the front of the hall before the entire school. I couldn’t bear to look at Kitty but I could see out of the corner of my eye her head hung in mortification. She had wanted so desperately for this really sweet gift to just disappear and instead it was being shown to THE WHOLE SCHOOL. Obviously, nobody else in the school knew the story of how they had got there but it felt like everyone did and, worst of all, Pedro did. Poor Pedro, who just wanted to do something lovely for a girl he liked, then her idiot best friend got involved and ruined it all.
I don’t remember what happened after that. I don’t think Kitty claimed the chocolates, I’m not sure whether Pedro did and I don’t know whether Kitty and Pedro ever discussed the incident (I doubt it). I do know that I really regret my amazing idea and still, to this day, feel bad about it. I don’t know whether Kitty knows how bad I still feel about it but she will after reading this. Pedro definitely doesn’t as I’ve not seen him since we left Primary School in 1990.
My boys are too young to have any interest in gross things like being in love but I know that when they are older if anyone put their expression of love gifts in the lost property I’m going to be furious. I will, however, explain to them that they’re probably just acting on the advice of their foolish but well-meaning best friend.
Woodley C of E Class of 1990
(Pedro, Kitty and her well-meaning but stupid friend are all in this photo)