How many tyres can he deflate?

Two-minute story

How many tyres can he deflate?

The bike shed ran along the length of the building and we counted two hundred places where our bikes could be slotted into the metal frames. At four o’clock there would be a rush out of the top entrance which only cyclists could use. I passed the school only the other day, on my way to visit another old student. I was tempted to stop, to see if that long shed was still there, nestled between the original red-brick school building and the gardens of the adjoining houses.

For a couple of weeks, when we were about fourteen, Mike Calvert’s German pen-friend came to school with him. Our heads were, I suppose, fairly stuffed with post-war nonsense about Germans – no sense of humour and inclined to obey orders. Impressed with compound nouns, words such freundlich – friend-like or friendly – we took to enquiring, Wo ist das schittundpissundvaschenhandsenhause? – Where are the bogs?

Then we invented a tradition; a regular competition to see how quickly one person could let down tyres in the bike shed. The idea was to set off as soon as the last bell of the afternoon rang and deflate as many tyres as possible before the first cyclist appeared, then escape through the school’s top entrance. That afternoon we managed to leave class early and set our new classmate to his task. He soon got the hang of things and carried on as if his life depended on it. As we fled along the side of the building we looked round to see where he was still making his way steadily along the row of bikes, with an anxious Mike wondering how soon he should tell him to stop and join us up the road.

There were no repercussions, no angry assemblies, no detentions or directions to report to a senior teacher at break. At the time it was great fun. I cannot remember any trouble for our visitor either. However, if you remember having to pump up your tyres again one afternoon at Wanstead in the summer of 1961, you can get your own back. I still ride a bike, and if you can find me, you would be welcome to let down my tyres, just for old times’ sake.

Are there practical jokers at your school?
What sort of tricks do they play?

What do other people think of this?
Was it right to persuade our visitor to take part in this prank?

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