77. Cell number 5

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In that same autumn 1976 term as the ‘dustbin and barrel sketch’, five Four Pint Can Club members visited Cambridge for a party. Nick Eastwell had invited just me, but Keith drove Simon, Shaun, Paul and myself down the A45 to the calm and cloisteredTrinity Hall buildings.

Predictably, we got drunk. Less predictably, Nick insisted that I leave the party in his college. Our behaviour included raiding the kitchens and beginning to cook a meal, and probably several worse types of general obnoxiousness. Barred from the blue bloods, it was decided to go for a curry. We wandered in an alcoholic miasma, and I found myself on a street corner with Paul, destiny tying us together again.

A group of Cambridge students were milling around several yards away. I felt frustrated on multiple levels. Hearing something something condescending about our accents and general demeanour, I decided to throw a punch. It seemed to my befuddled mind that the biggest would be the best, bravest target. It is chilling and shameful to recall how I strolled across and lamped the poor guy in the mouth, and then sprinted away around a corner when it became obvious that I had inflicted damage.

Paul and I ended up in an Indian restaurant where the other three had already gathered. Blood from my knuckle had stained my Can Club shirt. Meal finished, the plan was to find the car and begin the sobering drive back to Brum. However, as we walked back to the town centre, the lads that I had accosted were still standing around. “There’s the blighter – nab him” said one of them. A memorable phrase. I legged it again, only to see a police car approaching from the direction I was taking. The door opened, and I slowed down, walked across and got in. There was blood on my shirt and at least six witnesses. A slam dunk.

Cell number 5 in Cambridge police station was my resting place. I felt as sick with worry as my drunkenness would allow. It transpired that the punchee belonged to Magdalene College, and had a top barrister for a dad. I had broken his tooth, and they charged me with Actual Bodily Harm. They took mug shots and fingerprints, and told me that I would need to return in a few weeks for the court case.

My misery was broken slightly by the sound of the lads piling into the police station and asking if they could take me home. On the long journey I vowed to give up violence. And never threw a punch again at anybody.

The punishment three weeks later was a £30 fine, and the fear that either my university or parents would find out. Fortunately, neither did.

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