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There is Always One

Biography > Holidays And Travel

It's not politically correct and it's not nice but there is always one boy in any class who is a world class pain. So it was with Ivan. Even the name is painful.

I was 14 and the school trip was to Paris. It was the trip of a lifetime and Ivan helped every step of the way. The coach set off at 4.00am and by 7.00am we were playing poker, smoking and drinking as the coach moved it's elegant way through the outskirts of London.

The ferry trip followed and then we got back onto the coach and stopped next in a small French town for refreshments. Ivan wandered off and managed to blow his entire weeks money on pinball in this one stop. This meant that he had no money for the rest of the week and was desperate to get some more.

We eventually arrived at the hostel at which we were going to stay. The next day was to be a highlight of the holiday, a trip around the Bois du Bologne followed by a trip to the cinema. Ivan was by now desperate to get some cash. Some one suggested that he could earn some money if he would jump in the lake. He thought this proposition over and announced himself willing. We agreed that we would pay him and piled up a significant sum of money on a park bench nearby. Ivan proceeded to walk into the water up to his knees.

The consensus was that this was not what was required to obtain the large amount of money on offer and greater commitment was necessary. We again gathered more significant of sums of money into a pile and asked the teacher for a contribution. He refused on the grounds that he was waiting to contribute until Ivan demonstrated true grit and jumped off the Eiffel Tower.

Ivan was a little wary by now but we assured him that all we required was immersion to the neck, since anything further was plainly not sensible. Eventually he manfully strode out into the lake up to his neck. Regrettably it appeared that crocodiles did not inhabit that part of the lake but a French gendarme had observed the proceedings. He now approached and fearful that we had broken a French law we rapidly retrieved our cash.

The teacher now had to explain that Ivan was not mad and didn't require locking up for his own safety. Ivan was now sodden and the teacher had to take him off to buy the cheapest clothes he could. Ivan was now worse than broke, he was in debt.

There were those among us who decided that things could only go further. At tea the following day they bet Ivan that he couldn't eat a whole bread roll in one mouthful in one gulp. This of course proved no problem for the redoubtable Ivan. At some point in the evening it became common knowledge that the roll had contained an entire pack of laxatives. Ivan's popularity took a down turn.

The group was a fairly large one and I lost track of Ivan's exploits after that. I had after all just discovered the delights of tobacco, girls and booze. I was relating the episode to a friend afterwards and saying how Ivan had arrived home in debt. My friend said that Ivan had also managed to break one of the coach seats, (don't ask me how) and his father was now lumbered with a bill for £640 pounds. A large sum in 1969. I never did find out what happened to Ivan after that. One day he was at the school and the next he was not. Perhaps the teacher made his contribution after all!

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