When The Going Gets Tough…The Tough Go All Benny Hill

Hey look! My boyfriend’s on the
front cover of Smash Hits!

My memories of my teenage years have become so distorted over the years that I have almost convinced myself that I was a Wild Child, spending weekends cruising the Med on my boyfriend Simon Le Bon-Bon’s boat or going on Christmas ski-ing holidays with Wham.  The truth, however, is slightly more mundane.  Most of my weekends involved memorising lyrics from Smash Hits, watching The Dukes of Hazzard and not getting invited to the cool parties.

In the Eighties, long before GHDs, teeth whitening, Brazilians and push-up bras, it was almost impossible for adolescent girls to achieve the polished, super-model look of teenagers today.  Before I convinced my parents that contact lenses were vital for exam success, any chance of a boyfriend and my future happiness, I relied on huge Deidre Barlow style glasses.  Add orthodontic braces and a fringe cut by my mum, and I wasn’t exactly rocking a look that many teenage boys could appreciate.   The friends I hung out with also battled against debilitating conditions such as acute acne, flyaway hair (no Frizz Ease in those days) and that wretched ailment known as ‘thunder thighs’.  But, with the aid of the little ammunition we had (Chelsea Girl rah-rah skirts, blue eye-shadow stolen from Woollies’ make-up counter and Rimmel’s Hide the Blemish), we tried our best.

Our tentative forays into partying would usually result in some mishap but occasionally, we’d decide that there was only so much Miami Vice we could take, and attempt another night out.   On this occasion, my best friend, Jan, and I had targeted The Restoration which was a bit of a dive but cheap and, with a combined budget of £5, that was a good thing.  It also had the important distinction of serving underage drinkers.

We stood at the bar, drinking snakebites, while Jan fiddled with her new demin skirt, ‘It’s too short, can you see my pants?’  I didn’t really want to look, as Jan was wearing an ill-advised G-string and had run out of Immac so it was not a pretty sight.  ‘Pull your skirt down,’ I hissed at Jan.  Two boys were heading our way: Rob Bennett and Mike Hobbs from the Boys’ Grammar.  It had been a day of great excitement when there had been a joint drama production between the Girls’ and Boys’ Schools, although only those taking part had actually met any boys and the rest of us had merely wasted copious amounts of lipgloss, Harmony hairspray and zit cover.   Rachel Thompson had pointed Rob out to us, adding that she’d got off with him at Paula Allan’s party.  Which we’d not been invited to.  Obviously.

'Hello ladies' Photo © Chris Craymer
‘Hello ladies’
Photo © Chris Craymer

Rob fancied himself as a bit of a smooth operator; he’d modelled himself on George Michael with cropped jeans, espadrilles and a white vest (a look he’d hastily revamp when George finally came out).

'Ooh, sexy'
‘Yes, I know I’m wearing a snood in the middle of July’

Mike had gone for the full-on Nik Kershaw look with bleached mullet, snood and fingerless gloves.

We made stilted conversation about revision, TV and the subtext of The Breakfast Club.  They bought us a couple of drinks (result!), then Mike suggested going back to his house for a ‘coffee’.  His parents were away.  All night…  After a trip to the loo to discuss this new development, we agreed to go.  I was staying the night at Jan’s so as long as we were back by midnight, we’d be fine.

To get to Mike’s, we had to walk through the local park where the boys thought it was hilarious to pretend someone was following us and kept saying, ‘I can hear footsteps.  Wait, he’s in the bushes now’.   Jan and Rob, walking in front, suddenly came to a halt by the entrance to the Outdoor Pool.   ‘What have you stopped – ‘ I began before I realised that there was some major snogging going on.  I shyly looked at Mike who, without breaking eye-contact, starting moving in for a smooch.  The reek of Old Spice blended with White Lightning fumes threatened to overpower me as he leant in closer.  His tongue protruded intimidating from his wet lips and had just begun its journey into my horrified mouth when SLAP!

‘Ow, bitch!  Whadya do that for?’ we heard Rob yell.

‘Just keep your hands to yourself, thank you very much,’ said Jan huffily.  ‘I’m not some bloody slag.’

‘Alright, alright, keep your knickers on.  Oh, you have.’

‘Come on, Barb.  We’re going.’

‘Oh, don’t be like that,’ said Rob in a conciliatory tone.  ‘Look, why don’t we go for a swim?’

We snorted, but he said, ‘No, really I’ve done it before; you can climb over the fence.  There’s a tree we can use.’   After a lot of umming and ahing, he talked us into it.  We found the right tree which had a thick branch lying across the wire fence.  Rob climbed the tree and cautiously put his weight onto the branch.   The branch moved, his foot slipped and he fell onto the branch.  Fortunately, his testicles broke his fall.  ‘Owwwwfubugratbags,’ he croaked, his eyes watering.   This was possibly the funniest thing we’d ever seen (we really didn’t get out much).

‘You alright?’ I asked, when we’d eventually stopped laughing.  After clinging to the branch for several minutes, Rob gingerly picked himself up and carefully pulled himself along the branch before dropping down on the other side of the fence.    Mike helped us up the tree, copping a hairy eyeful as we struggled onto the branch in an extremely unladylike fashion, and Rob caught us as we jumped to the ground.

We’d never broken into anywhere before and I was terrified we’d be caught but at the same time I didn’t care if we were – it would be worth it.   We looked out at the moonlight glinting off the vast expanse of empty, calm water before us, usually full of screaming kids and old ladies wearing flowery swimming caps.

‘Come on, get your kit off!’ shouted Mike, pulling his t-shirt over his head.  We stripped down to our underwear.

‘No, you’ve got to go totally commando,’ said Rob.  ‘It’s not skinny-dipping if you don’t.’

‘Oh, for god’s sake,’ said Jan, pulling off her undies and quickly jumping into the pool.  Being easily led, I followed suit.  I caught my breath as I hit the water; it was glacial but refreshing and exhilarating.  The boys leapt off the diving board, shouting ‘Geromino!’ as they bombed into the water, where Jan and I fought off the boys’ octopus-like hands.

After half an hour or so, it turned chilly.  Rob and Mike got out of the pool and dressed swiftly.  ‘Good idea, I’m freezing,’ said Jan, climbing out.  ‘Hey, where’s my stuff?  I left my clothes here’.

‘Come and get them, you little tease,’ Rob sneered, holding something out in his hand.

‘Yeah, really funny,’ said Jan, ‘hand them over’.

I pulled myself out of the pool, goose bumps popping up as I shivered in the cool night air.  ‘Crap, he’s got mine too!’

Oooh, matron © Rex Features
Oooh, Matron  © Rex Features

Mike and Rob were throwing the clothes between them as we chased them around the edge of the dark pool, dodging deck chairs and sun loungers, hands held over our bouncing bagzongas.  At this point, I’m grateful this happened in 1985, long before iPhones, WhatsApp or YouTube were dreamt up.  I’m not sure I’d be able to laugh if a video of us running around in the buff,  chasing two boys Benny Hill style around a swimming pool, was doing the rounds.

‘Give them back!’ I shouted.  Rob ran into the changing area and threw the clothes on top of the changing cubicles, ‘Help yourself.’

I climbed onto a bench and tried to get the clothes.  I found my skirt and Jan’s top but couldn’t reach the rest.  It was now midnight and we’d had enough.  I pulled the skirt on, like a very short strapless dress, and Jan wore the top, which just about covered her dignity.  She was not happy about the loss of her new skirt and kept shaking her head, ‘£3. £3 that cost me.’

‘We’ll have to go home like this,’ I said.  There was no sign of the boys.  We walked back to the pool where we found our shoes and bags.

‘How are we going to get out?’ Jan asked.  ‘There’s no way we’ll get over that fence on our own.’

The exit was through metal gates in a single-story building, which were locked at night.   Jan looked up at the roof of the building. ‘We could get over the roof,’ she said, ‘It’s got to be easier than going over the fence.’

By climbing onto a table, I managed to hoist myself onto the roof.  Jan got up on the table and I pulled her onto the roof.  There was a bike rack against the building on the outside wall and we lowered ourselves down onto it before jumping to the ground.  Then we had to walk the two miles back to Jan’s.  Fortunately we only saw a couple of people and we quickly ducked down into gardens as they passed by.

We made it back to her house without being mugged, attacked or, even worse, ridiculed.  Jan’s Dad stood in the hall waiting for us.

‘What bloody time do you call this and what on earth are you wearing?!’

Needless to say, he went mental and Jan was grounded.  As was I, after he’d called my parents.  But at least it gave us time to recover before our next attempt at a social life…


52 thoughts on “When The Going Gets Tough…The Tough Go All Benny Hill”

  1. Love it! Really enjoyed reading this, so funny. I also spent a fair amount of my teenage years in my bedroom with a stack of Smash Hits, although I wasn’t learning lyrics… Ah, Debbie Harry!


  2. This is hilarious. So many great pop culture references – I laughed, I cried. It was better than “Cats”.


  3. I’m surprised you ever left the house again after that!! Teenage boys – why did we even bother! I thought I was going to marry George Michael for a while. I still have a little hope 😉 Or maybe I should say ‘Faith’ 🙂


  4. Laughing out loud at this story- thank you for the memories. I also had awful glasses, braces and various scrapes with mates and boys. I think I had that copy of Smash Hits too! Ah those were the days. But thank the lord for the invention of GHDs.


  5. Thank you for the bestest laugh in the whole widest world, just when I needed it the most. You rock, “Barb” 😀 I’m glad I’m not the only one who ended up getting her clothes pinched whilst she was swimming!


      1. They involved a lot of fights with my mother when she would try to force me to go to sleep and threatened to not let me go to school in the morning if I pulled yet another all-nighter because I just HAD to write the best 60-page report on Paul I’s military strategy. Also Calculus. Welcome to Anna’s life in middle/high school.


  6. What a story! A few girlfriends and I were once convinced by some teenage boys to climb a fence to go for a swim in a closed pool (really!) but the similarity between our stories ended there. In my case, the police were called. 😦


          1. Yep! Was raised in Upper Park Street (just off Hales Road) and Sandford Park was integral to my childhood. Moved back 5 or so years ago after living in London for years. Best thing I’ve ever done. Great place to live! which part of town did you live in?


            1. Grew up in Prestbury Road area before enjoying a misspent youth in various flats in Montpellier/Lansdown 😉 If I can sort out job/house/schools (and persuade husband/kids) I’ll definitely be heading back!


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