My Hero

I loved Dixon with a passion that was almost immoral. He was my friend, my confidante, and my hero, all in the same bated breath of delicious expectancy. Both around seven years of age, our backgrounds were as far apart as the poles of the earth. He, the son of a coal heaver from Liverpool, and myself, the son of respectable dairy farmer, with a shop on the High Street and strawberry jam for tea.

Mama as she was known to me, popped into the nursery occasionally, presumably to see if I was still there. Going to a London County Council Junior school gave me the kind of freedom that my adventurous soul longed for, and it was thus, that I met Dixon, a boy that epitomized everything that I was not.

Dixon was beautifully obscene. A puny underfed individual who weathered the English winters in tattered hand-me-down trousers, holey jerseys, and wore steel studded lace-up boots whose tongue`s lolled out like a couple of hounds at a race meet.

On those frosty mornings, Dixon`s chapped lips would bleed . Wiping them on the sleeve of his jersey, he would never complain. In some mysterious way, he used that delicious `F’ word to fend off most of life`s trials and tribulations.

I soon became obsessed with Dixon, and slowly but surely, and with a little help from the Devil, became the boy I wanted to be. During those early years, I tore my shirts and jerseys, conveniently lost my school cap, and played whip and top up and down the open streets in order to become a little more like my buddy. Of course, I was punished. Father used the Sam Browne belt from his old army uniform, and every lashing I got, I smiled with secret delight and thought of Dixon, knowing that he would have borne the punishment with the same dogged spirit.

Dixon held the kind of notoriety that might well have gone down in the Guiness book of records, had it been in place during the early thirties. For a lad of eight, his constant repertoire of foul language was unsurpassed, and the obscenities that rolled off his tongue kept me in constant raptures. Indeed, he could match most sea going sailors, and Muff Jessop our village idiot, wasn`t even in the running!

Dixon feared nothing and no-one, and would blast our Headmaster with all he had at every available opportunity, then turn and run with our stick-in-hand red faced Headmaster at his heels, disrupting every classroom in our school.

He was also the best pisser at our school. Something that I envied most of all. For a tuppenny bag of sherbet he would demonstrate his prowess by urinating over the dividing wall that separated us from the girls ablution block.

For a wall almost eight feet high, it was no mean feat for the pint-sized urchin that he was.

The day that I invited Dixon to my home remains in my memory forever. It was a Saturday afternoon, my father and mother were in idle conversation with the Very Reverend Father Isherwood, in the drawing room.
Our sudden appearance at the doorway all but gave my Ma the vapours, and the curious look on my fathers face was enough to give a clear signal that all was not well.

My friend and hero stood at my side in all his glory. Snotty nosed, despicably filthy, with mud caked knees, torn trousers, and those special boots with the lolling tongues and no laces.
Dixon smelled too, tho` I swear that it wasn’t his fault!

My father gagged on his imported sherry, “Get out, you…you…you
ruffians…GET OUT!!!”

We got out of course, and couldn’t for the like of us think why we were not given a better welcome.
Fortunately, the afternoon had not been entirely wasted. The two half smoked `dog ends’ that Dixon had lifted from an ashtray were most welcome. And later, we soothed our frayed nerves by smoking them beneath the Laurel bush at the bottom of my garden.

Looking back, I thank my lucky stars that Dixon didn’t react differently, after all, he could have said a few words in his defence which would really have put the cat among the pigeons.

Later that day, we appeased our disappointment at being rejected by collecting horse manure. Our only all the year round source of revenue.

We followed old Mister Paulfry`s horse and cart for some two miles with our bucket before the old mare was able to oblige.

The soft mounds of fresh dung steamed as it hit the keen November afternoon air. Using our bare hands, we scooped it up and placed it carefully in the bucket, then carried it, like some extraordinary trophy to the allotments, where the gardeners of the town would willingly pay cash for our resourcefulness.

My family moved soon after, and it was many years before I went back to Bernards Heath, where I spent my youth. Dixon it seems, died at Torbruk during the war. A true hero, if ever there was one, and he will be my best friend ever.

Strangely, after all these years, I never knew his full name, we all just called him Dixon. Incidentally, during World War I I he won the George Cross for gallantry in the field whilst serving his country. I reckon my Dad would have been proud that he knew him.

Geoffrey Kennell
Off the cuff

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