Father's day

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Michael Cook wonders if his life of crime will come back to haunt him

Before I can start helping at the children's new school, I have to wait for the results of a police check. For teachers, this is routine; a professional inconvenience, like having to pay full August prices for your summer holiday. For a civilian like me, though, the ordeal ranks somewhere on the scale between gross infringement of civil liberties and that slight surge of guilt felt when you see a blue light in your rear-view mirror, even when you have done nothing wrong.

And believe me, I have done nothing wrong. Ever. Let the local constabulary trawl their data oceans, they will find no stains on my lily-white cowardly character. I have nothing to hide.

Well, OK, in the summer of 1977, history records that I put an Irish 10p piece in the chewing gum machine outside Chattern Hill sub-post office, Ashford, in defiance of my mother's instructions (being equally opposed to both theft and gum, as she was). But in my defence, my big sister made me do it. And in her defence, she had been emboldened by the buzz of punk anarchy. If anyone is to blame, it is Johnny Rotten.

Furthermore, much later in my otherwise trouble-free youth, I did indeed pay pound;60 to a man outside a pub in return for an illegal FM transmitter which I was convinced would make me the pre-eminent pirate radio broadcaster in suburbia. But this is more a case for trading standards than the police, as the device in question, far from turning my bedroom into Radio Luxembourg as the gentleman had implied, barely sent a signal into next door's garden.

But, yes, it is true that once, at a student house party in the late 1980s (in the catchment area of Jesse Gray primary, now I think about it!), I did, while under the influence of alcohol, cross the line to perform an act I most deeply regret. An act of theft.

I make no excuses. It was wrong. I knew this as I hovered round the stereo on the pretence of "seeing what we could play next". In mitigation, I can only say that I have learned my lesson. Crime did not pay. Especially when the C90 cassette that I smuggled into my pocket as my heart beat louder than the booming Amstrad turned out to contain a selection of painfully obscure goth tracks of frankly lacklustre recording quality. I was terrified someone had seen me do it and would conclude I was a wretched sneak thief who would steal from a fellow student. And simultaneously terrified that nobody had seen me do it, and would therefore conclude that the gloomy mix tape was my own.

So, check away, constable. I am throwing myself on your mercy. In the light of the available evidence, would you want this man to be assisting in the education of your children?

Michael Cook is a freelance writer and parent-helper at Jesse Gray primary school, West Bridgford, Nottingham, which his children Alfie and Poppy attend

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