What A Difference A Hat Makes

Posted: February 1, 2012 in Back To The Edge, Chawn


It is bonfire night, and I’m going to Himley for the fireworks. It’s a bit kiddy, and pretty pants; but I’m bored. I and Big Boots are about to set off when there’s a knock at the door. It’s My Brother and His Wife. With a present! I do that thing that grown-ups do where they act all shocked and humbled when they secretly desperately want to rip the paper off and dive right in. My Brother’s Wife smiles, so I dive right in.

It’s a hat.

A deerstalker.

The only hat ever designed to look good on nobody. Why do people buy them? I put it on, and it looks mad, like a man pretending to be a cat but not being aware of it. They explain that it’s for a laugh and that I have to wear it once. I laugh, and decide to wear it tonight. At least that way it might be a bit funnier.

We arrive at Himley and it sucks. Like a parents’ evening at an orphanage. I can cope as long as it isn’t raining. Our snowballed gang now guest starring Hayley, MGL and Phil navigate the money-grabbing candy floss dross and find a place to stare at the sky for a few hours.

It starts raining.

We’re standing still in a crowd. Getting soaked. And muddy. Coats surf the sea of wet teenagers as we struggle to stay dry.


The music’s started, with a boom. Lights swerve around the sky like two drunks on a trolley dash around a shop with no doors and diminishing oxygen levels. It is… alright. But looking up hurts my neck.

Hang on.

Is this how it feels to be near me… but not me?

This sucks! I decide never to be near me and not me.

Ages go by. The Spice-Girl-solo-career lightshow is insulted by my decreasing delight. It’s all just a little bit meh. We’re drenched, aching, and far too tall for the 13-year-old’s-height Reebok canopy. Finally the show comes to an ITV-quality end and we escape the literal drudgery; leaving Phil and MGL to find the bus queue for Stourbridge. The rain’s turning people into 28 Days Later and the mud’s eating the small ones. Big Boots is escorting Hayley home, so loyally pulls out a can of chac to protect the three of us against the dogmatic Golgotha demons running around. We pneumonia our way through 30 wet, Cillian Murphy minutes until we reach the front of the queue, where the bus pulls up.

The bus to Gornal.

Oh no!

We see the next bus down. The bus to Stourbridge.

That is typical.

We stand helplessly watching every teenager ever born form a shapeless, gelatinous growth around our bus. The conductor forcibly I Am Legends the queue and locks out queue skippers. He’s the Guantanamo Bay of bus conductors!

I decide that now probably isn’t the time for that half an hour bus conductor joke.

Big Boots and Hayley are small enough to creep aboard unnoticed. They’re wet, muddy, and not thinking about me! They slip through the crowd like the Desire of Nations and Alex Mack themselves aboard.

Mother of pearl! Now what the heck do I do? I’m definitely not waiting on my own for the next bus! I decide to Mohr-subtly skip towards the doors. This is never going to work. I grit my teeth, and calmly prance closer. It goes well, and I find myself next in line. The conductor looks at me. A genuine giant you can see coming miles off.

Who he hasn’t seen coming miles off.

He stares into my soul. And opens his mouth. Maybe to eat it.

On you get, mate.”

Phew. My lips wobble. I’m last on, and text Big Boots, who is only now realising that Super Tall Guy is forced to disguise himself as a crowd of 13 year old girls to get on. He’s relieved, and replies to say he’s sitting upstairs.

Upstairs! He’s got a seat! What a rat! I can’t move for toffee. Not that toffee’s much of an incentive. It’d have to be a lot of toffee. Like a million pounds’ worth of toffee. Or a trip to a toffee factory with Jennifer Aniston. Or a trip anywhere with Jennifer Aniston.

The downstairs festering fireball of teenagers settles to a simmer. Space appears, and I inch my way upstairs. I can’t stand up straight on the top deck, so stand on the stairs looking for Mexico. He’s sitting two rows in front of me in the aisle seat. Big Boots is a sniper, so his decision to put Hayley by the window is as lax as a left-handed axe. His eyes lock onto mine. I’ve been owl-turning my head, with a blank but jaded expression caused by being in a can of condensed kids. I am wearing a deerstalker. And I look mad.

Big Boots!”

He looks around, and asks the person in front of him if he knows me. Housemate-bluetooth kicks in and I clock on to his comedy charade. “Mate!” I exclaim in my high-pitched fake-Black Country accent. The shoddiness compliments my guise.

I cough up a furball. Apparently.

Big Boots continues to ignore me, as Hayley laughs into her knees and makes everyone think she’s crying. The teenage je-bus-ites sense the fake stalker sitch and jump to Hayley’s defence by giving me united looks of disgust. Fortunately, this is how all teenagers look, all of the time.

I knock it up a notch.

Can I stay in your house?


Did he just ask if he can stay in your house?

People are scared and idiots. Big Boots loves it, and confusedly refuses. I accurately ignore him and expertly step up the intensity of my request.

Can I stay in your bathroom?”

We’re nearly at our stop. And somehow we’ve got to get off without destroying the illusion that I’m not right in the head.

Shut up!

Big Boots loudly announces that he’s getting off, and leads Hayley past me, refusing to lock eyes despite my trying elaborately to make him. I stare with RichMossGormlessnessᵀᴹ as they squeeze by cringingly closely. I look up, and see the most incredible look of hilariously traumatised disgust possible without stapling on a second face.

It’s a girl.

Fortunately, this how all girls look at me all the time.

Still, I’ve never been good at talking to girls. I decide to do what I always do in these situations. I gamble.

Can I stay in your house?”


She squeals, making the folk downstairs ask each other what’s happening. I carry on the illusion, and walk slowly and stalkerly downstairs.

And off the bus.

The three of us look back, and fall about laughing as the busful of freaked out teenage faces pressed up against the window drives away. My face hurts from laughing! Tonight’s been brilliant!

And all because of the deerstalker!

And suddenly I get it.

This is why people wear deerstalkers.

I smile.


  1. Also nice to see Rockwell make its debut.

  2. I now realise this is the first time I’ve been on the site since I installed Rockwell, so it’s probably been there all along while I’ve been headlined by boring old Georgia. Could be worse though. The font-stack suckers may be stuck with Times. Ugh.

  3. Andrew Wan says:

    For the record, parent evenings at orphanages do not suck. I actually find them quite pleasant. Undoubtedly though the feedback that I get will always be negative.

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