…It was the beginning of a new term. There was a volatile mix of the noisy, frantic new starts, in amongst the typical surly teenagers. A man stood staring at his new charges. If you didn’t know otherwise you‘d never have taken him for a teacher, he looked like a yeti. He eyed them up and down and tried to spot the ‘Wee fudds.’ He had tolerance and intolerance in compassion with sarcasm. There was also a mix of shyness with confidence but this would never be shown to the kids. His intelligence was well-known amongst his work-mates and friends. He kept it hidden though, his brains were covert. He was a person of opposites. He was by no means atypical, more unique.
“Oh Sir! Sir!! I can see you!!!!”
Boaby looked up and saw the third year who he had a running battle with every day, stick his tongue out between the railings of the stairs.
“I made you look Sir!!!”
He sighed before he roared.
“Johnston!!! You little turd!!”
The gruffness and volume of his voice made all the students look over.
“You better get used to that view because I’m quite sure you will be looking through bars before you are much older.”
He turned to walk away.
“And don’t even think about sticking your finger up at me!!”
Even though he was frowning he struggled to hide his smile.
He went into his classroom, poured himself a coffee and sat at his desk. He opened up the drawer and took out the paper. He chuckled to himself. If any of the legends were true about him, there should have been a six-pack of Tenants Lager in his desk. He had also been alleged to beat up the pupils, fight with the headmaster and smoke doobies. Boaby would never have given anyone the satisfaction to either admit or deny any of these allegations.
He flicked to the back pages and sighed heavily as he read ‘United beat again!’ He was a lifelong fan of his local team. He considered his masochistic tendencies as he looked forward to Saturday’s game.
“We’re bound to win this week!!”
The bell rang and he met his new first years. They were terrified. He thought about relaxing them and reassuring them but decided against it. First years turned into obnoxious second years who became cocky third years and then lethargic leavers. He taught them by letting them find their own way. He considered that this was giving them a heads up on how shite life could be. He would teach and help anyone no matter what their ability but they had to want to learn. He wouldn’t waste time on any little scrote who thought that it was funny to disrupt the others. That was why he was offhand with the first years. They had to want to learn. They had to want his help. Most did. Due to his legends he was considered a cool teacher who was as mad as a brush.
…Saturday finally came and Boaby was where he normally was with his pal.
“I can feel it in my water George. This is going to be the start of something good.”
His friend ordered another two lagers off a very arrogant and obnoxious barman.
“Are you sure you haven’t just got a chill?”
They took a mouthful out of their beer. To first meet them, you probably wouldn’t have thought that they would have got on. George was full of nonsense and the most intellectual he had been was completing the kid’s crossword in the Sunday papers. He was married and had a family whereas Boaby was a confirmed bachelor. Boaby had been his best man and that may have been the last time that his hair was cut. There were others in the company but these two reacted off each other. There were many times with them; strangely enough in the same pub, as they laughed and slagged each other off. There was never any bad feeling between them, never a crossed word. They accepted each other, faults and all. This was emphasized by some of the stories that were told.
“Go on Boaby; tell us what happened when you went to take her home.”
He took a long swallow of his pint.
“Well, we were talking about this and that and she suddenly said to me that she was feeling a little tired and that she wanted to sit down. We weren’t far from the park so I took her in there. I put my arm around her and she snuggled into me. I decided to give her a little kiss. I made sure there were no crisps in the beard. Again she seemed quite happy. I heard her breathing get deeper so I thought that I must have been doing something right.”
He took another drink.
“I totally misunderstood her fumblings”
They all began to laugh.
“She wasn’t trying to get her zip down. She was looking for her puffer…Aye, asthmatic and having a turn!!!”
The other men began to laugh again.
“What did you do!?”
Boaby looked at his other friend indignantly.
“Unlike you, you moron; I escorted the young lady home. Never to be seen again.”
“Why not? You didn’t do anything wrong!”
“I know that George but how could I be with a woman who whenever we were getting intimate I would be wondering if I was being stud like or she needed an oxygen mask!”
Boaby was most comfortable in a pub with male company. Time after time the pub’s clientèle would be laughing at his stories. Like his rendition of being attacked while in his tent in a men only camping site in The Netherlands. According to him he whipped out his Swiss Army Knife and shouted in a broad Scots accent, “There will be no fuckey-fuckey here!!”
The assailant turned out to be a curious sheep.”
He was also alleged to have avoided being beat up by a very large gentleman by pointing out their physical differences. He bowed his head with an, “Aye OK, take me outside! Beat me up!! See me bleed!! Break ma bones!! Just please let my mother know.”
The man in question ended up buying him a pint to shut him up.
Everyone loved being in Boaby’s company. His wit, intelligence and knowledge drew people to him. There was something beyond this though. Shyness!! No matter how outgoing he could be with men, he was shy to the extreme with women. Nobody knew if he was lonely, hell, Boaby didn’t even know if he was lonely.
…The, for want of a better word, stadium, was half empty. George and Boaby were in amongst their fellow United fans. A roar went around the ground as the teams came out. Boaby was facing the other way trying to light a fag.
George’s voice bellowed from the crowd, “In the name of Fuck!!”
Boaby was still struggling to get a light as the wind was howling through the holes in the stadium.
“What is it?”
“You better look at this!! Did you know anything about our new strips?”
“Do I look like Rolph Laurent?
…Oh my God!!!”
He had finally managed to light his fag and he looked up to his team which was a vision in the brightest yellow.
“What the … The last time I seen a colour like that; it was produced from the back-end of a new cow!”
George shrugged, “Well maybe we’re seeing something that is actually worse than the fitbaw!”
The two men cheered when the first goal went in, jumped up in the air for the second and shared a very enthusiastic hug for the third. They couldn’t stop talking about the win all the way back to the pub. The banter went for yards between the multitudes of the five of them. The euphoria was only slightly dampened by the barman, he really was a prick.
After a few hours Boaby and George stood in the corner of the pub. They were not swaying to some football chant. This was more to do with the copious amounts of lager that they had both consumed.
“This has been the happiest day of my life George. Here we are in the second round of the cup!”
“We’ve never been this far before.”
“See, with those yellow jerseys… It was just like watching Brazil.”
George looked at him with pride in his eyes… “I know!!”
George sat at his bed; he’d been there for some time. He stood to get up.
“We’ve had some good times George.”
“We’ve drunk some lager!!”
“… And we got to see Brazil play into the second round of the cup!”
George reached forward and embraced his friend. He left the room with tears streaming down his face. That was the last time that he saw Boaby.
In the pub every week, the regulars still tell stories about him. At the school where he taught his legends have become even more exaggerated and the students organised a fund-raising for a plaque for ‘Sir’. The boy Johnston was one of the most enthusiastic fund-raisers. There were many comments from past students all talking about him with fondness. Even in a volunteer tutors training day, there were two men who mentioned the school where Boaby worked. One went on to state that he was ‘The most intelligent man I have ever met’.
A report in the local paper was also printed about the passing of a United stalwart.
I can guarantee that there is not a day that passes that Boaby is not mentioned somewhere in his home town.
A year after his death, George had put in a remembrance. The last two words were ‘United Forever’.