Boys Don't Knit

Meet Ben Fletcher: accidental criminal. Liar. Master of mohair. After an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady, Ben narrowly avoids the Young Offenders Unit. He is told to Give Something Back to the community to develop his Sense of Social Alignment, so he takes up knitting. Of course.


4. 7th July

7th July


So, the lollipop lady.


We met back up with Joz and Freddie after the great Martini Heist.


‘Well, look who it is,’ I said as they sauntered up. ‘Usain Bolt and Jessica Ennis.’


‘Did you get busted?’ Joz asked.


Gex showed them the bottles and we all grinned. Despite my misgivings, I have to admit I was enjoying this. I had the theme tune to The Sopranos in my head.


‘Shh,’ Freddie said, not at all suspiciously. We stopped talking as two fairly attractive girls walked past wearing crop tops, showing off their belly buttons. Joz ogled them unselfconsciously, turning to watch them go by.


‘Joz,’ I sighed. ‘Try to be less obvious.’


‘I’m just being polite,’ he protested. ‘Girls dress like that because they want to be looked at.’


‘Not by you,’ Freddie said.


‘You take these,’ Gex said to me, holding out the clinking bag of bottles.


‘Why should I take them?’


‘Cos you got the bags on your bike, innit?’ he said.


This was true. The others all have BMX bikes with no seats or gears, let alone racks. I, on the other hand, have a twelve-speed hybrid with rear panniers. I take my cycling seriously.


I jammed the bag into one and we set off back down the hill.


Repton Street runs off the High Street right down the hill to the river. My house is down at the bottom. Halfway down there’s a pedestrian crossing next to the Infant School where Molly goes. Freddie, Joz and Gex shot off down the slope, for once able to show some speed. I’m usually miles ahead of them, trying not to go too fast as they peddle furiously on their tiny little bikes. This time all three were ahead. I took it easy, the incline is substantial and it’s easy to go too fast.


I could see there was going to be trouble as they approached the pedestrian crossing. An old man was moving across slowly on a mobility scooter and Mrs Frensham, the crazy lollipop lady, was standing holding the traffic, which was two cars on our side of the road and one coming the other way. Mrs Frensham takes her job very seriously. Arguably too seriously. Mrs Frensham hates cars, and she hates cyclists even more than she hates cars. She’s got mad hair and looks really tall because of the lollipop thing. She stands there, on her crossing, like Boudicca holding a huge spear except with a large circle on the end. She glares at the drivers as though they’re Roman legionnaires, daring them to move, keeping them waiting for ages.


The problem was that my idiot friends didn’t look like they were going to stop at all. They didn’t want to get stuck waiting for Mrs Frensham. A dozen metres from the crossing, Joz, who was in the lead, bunny-hopped up onto the pavement, followed by the other two. It was clear they’d have time to whizz along the pavement and get by before the old codger in the scooter reached their side of the road.


I had a choice. I could have done the right thing, which was to slow and stop behind the cars, wait for Mrs Frensham to move aside, then proceed carefully. Or I could have followed my friends up onto the pavement and carried on, illegally, but perfectly safely, as it was clear there was no risk to pedestrians.


I got it wrong. I was still feeling reckless. I thought I could do anything, break any rule and get away with it. So I did something I’ve never done before: I cycled on the pavement.


There. I’ve said it.


Unfortunately, Mrs Frensham had seen the others shoot past.


‘Hooligans!’ she yelled and ran towards that pavement. She was too late to catch them but then I came hurtling by, already starting to regret what I’d done. With a roar she swung the lollipop like it was a pole-axe and smacked me on the head. I was wearing a helmet of course, but the blow stunned me nonetheless and I clipped the fence to my left. I ricocheted off at an angle which took me back onto the road, right across to the far side and into the path of a Porsche Cayenne. The Porsche had to swerve and hit a Skoda with a sickening crunch. I swerved too, came back in a big, uncontrolled loop and slammed into Mrs Frensham, who’d come charging after me. We went down together in a tangle of spokes, limbs and lollipops and I heard the crunch of breaking glass under me.


I lay there for a few seconds, dazed and confused, and when I finally managed to sit up, my heart leaped into my throat as I saw blood everywhere. All over my bike, all over the road, all over the lollipop, and all over Mrs Frensham. Oh my God. For one surreal and horrifying moment, I thought I’d killed a lollipop lady. Which is proper serious. It’s worse than killing a cop, almost.


But then she groaned and lifted her head. I sighed with relief.


‘Are you all right?’ I asked nervously.


She looked at me, puzzled, then licked her bloodied lips.


‘Martini Rosso?’ she said, then slumped back down, unconscious.


It all went even more Pete Tong after that. The police figured out where the bottles had come from when they searched the bag they were in and found a Waitrose recipe card for courgette pasta bake. They checked the CCTV footage. Joz, Freddie and Gex got away with cautions but because I’d caused about £13,000 worth of damage to the Porsche and the Skoda and the lollipop, I got probation.


I’m obviously not cut out for organised crime. I’m straight as an arrow now. Never again.

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