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Excerpt from Chapter 2 of ‘Two’s Up’

That night back at the dorm and lights out I was introduced to a dubious piece of dormitory entertainment known at ‘The Boat Vote’. It was always played on one of the first few nights after a recepo had landed in the dorm.

The idea was simple, all of us in the dorm are in a lifeboat after a ship had sunk, however, there were too many in the lifeboat for it to stay afloat, so, to save it from sinking two people had to be thrown out. Each person in the dorm had a choice of who would be ejected, so we went around the room starting with the dorm leader.

‘OK, I’ll set the ball rolling and end up with Chris Saunders’ Pete was silent for a few moments, ‘not too difficult a choice, Cohen and Anderson.’

Now it was Phil Johnson’s turn, I hadn’t really spoken to him yet but despite the bad start we were to have we would become very firm friends before he went out.

‘No, Anderson’s all right, I’ll chuck out Cohen and the recepo.’

I was surprised and hurt, not only because someone that I didn’t really know was evicting me from the boat but also, by being referred to as ‘The Recepo’ rather than by my name. I later learnt not to take the boat vote seriously; it was standard procedure to throw out the new guy to put them in their place.

Now it was my sponsor Alan’s turn

‘Mitchell and the recepo.’ I began to sink below the sheets, although I knew Alan Mitchell was Welch’s friend it still didn’t occur to me that it was all a set up for my benefit.

Alan Mitchell took up the challenge.

‘Well, after that Welch has just got to go!’ A deep chuckle came from Welch’s bed, I grew to know and love that sinister laugh very well. ‘And let me see, ah yes Cohen.’ I was beginning to realise that Russell Cohen was one of the dorm fall guys; the other one was Chris Anderson.

Now it was my turn, I didn’t really know anybody so I just plumped or the two I thought wouldn’t take it seriously.

‘Kevin and Pete,’

‘Cheeky bastard,’ came Pete’s voice as the whole dorm burst into laughter, it would seem that the dorm leader was very rarely thrown out. Even then it was usually by a friend as a joke.

Chris Anderson was in the next bed to me and despite the fact that most had picked on him he made an honest choice.

‘Welch and Coles.’ Gavin Coles was next to him, he was a giant and knew he didn’t really have much to worry about from anyone else, accept maybe Welch. They seemed to have a healthy respect for each other because, I was certain, that they weren’t quite sure of each other’s abilities in a straight fight. To show his disapproval of Anderson’s choice his bony fist came over to thump him in the chest.

‘Fuck you Coles!’ Chris wheezed, everyone else laughed.

‘You great big tart Anderson, if I could chuck you out twice I would and that dip stick front wheeler Cohen.’

Harry Norton was the strong silent type who lay in the corner bed on my side of the dorm. I was sure he could look after himself as well.

‘Cohen and Coles.’ Coles didn’t hit him

In the opposite corner lay big Jim Groves, ready to go to the discharge unit in four weeks time and pretty much kept himself to himself.

‘Anderson and the recepo.’ I was beginning to feel as disliked as Cohen and Anderson. Sid Cohen was next, the dorm metaphoric punch bag, a little Jewish boy who everybody picked on, including, I’m sorry to say, myself. Well I did to start with because everyone else was but we would quickly become friends, especially when his girlfriend would come and visit with Moira.’

‘Anderson and the recepo.’ I guessed he’d chosen Chris and me to be on the safe side; anybody else probably would have punched his lights out. I think the one who disliked him the most was Gavin Coles and Russell was scared shitless of him.

Steve Waller, he of Dagenham fame chirped up next, he was known as the dorm reest, a word that meant someone who was, dirty, scruffy and untidy. Steve was a great guy but no matter what he did or how he dressed he was, without a doubt, a reest, he always looked like a tramp. Perhaps it was the Dagenham connection, you know, you take a boy out of Dagenham but……! We did became very good friends.

‘Don’t know why you’re all picking on the recepo, he’s all right by me so let’s get rid of the creeps like Anderson and Cohen.’ It would appear that I had a friend, a good one at that.

‘I’d get rid of Coles and Ollie.’ It was Kevin’s turn

‘You’re a cunt Ross, I’d kick you out as well.’ Coles certainly didn’t like anyone to throw him out; he could be very childish really despite his tough guy image.

Ollie, Oliver Troughton, although he looked a little bit weak was far from it, came next. He sat in silence for a few moments considering carefully what he had to say.

‘Well, logically speaking, the reason for discarding two people is to make the boat lighter, preventing it from sinking. Right? Therefore I propose the obvious choice, without any malice to those concerned, just pure logic, is Welch and Coles as they’re the biggest.’

Everyone roared with laughter, Ollie certainly had a logical mind, although he didn’t always apply it to the boat vote. Now last but by no means least came Chris Saunders, a long serving lad solely because he wouldn’t talk to the staff, something I soon came to realise was a very important factor to getting out.’

‘I suppose Ross really has to go, I’m not logical like you Ollie, and the Penguin’ there was silence.

‘Who?’ asked Welch,

‘Penguin, the recepo.’ I really wished that I wasn’t there; I knew what he meant it was because I had kipper feet but had never before been referred to as a penguin. I was stuck with that name for a long time before the novelty wore off.

Well, that was the boat vote, not the last time I would be ejected but it hurt a lot less on subsequent occasions. There were a number of variations like whose girl friend would you like to sleep with, favourite film stars and pop stars. Then there was the shoot and shag, again two names, one to shoot and one to shag but you never said which was which.

I was learning a lot about survival at Gaynes Hall, perhaps it wouldn’t be that difficult after all.

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