This is the story about a very special pen. I’d like to show it to you, but I can’t. At the age of eleven I went a Secondary Modern Catholic school. I didn’t achieve eleven plus stature because, well, I didn’t take it. The school I am talking about was a feed for the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham. That is where most boys were destined to end up when they reached the tender age of 15. Everyone had resigned themselves to this inevitability. That is, except me. The school was tough. There was a lot of bullying and gangs. If you were not of an aggressive leaning. then life could be difficult. Boys with a gentle nature or an academic bent were prime targets for the swaggering Teddy boy styled twelve year olds. The sort of boys who would while away their time in metal work classes fashioning knuckle-dusters. The school wasn’t a nice place to be and I hated it. You had to learn survival skills. Now that’s where the magic pen comes into this story. I was very good at drawing – about all I was good at, apart from daydreaming. My refuge was the art room and the local library. In the latter I would while away my afternoons looking (I never read) at pictorial reference books, and a favorite, The National Geographical Magazine, in which I would lust over advertisements for American cars, especially shooting breaks, which always featured a rife totting huntsmen sporting red plaid jackets, with roomy patch pockets (I wanted to be them). But I digress. About the pen. Well, to avoid being picked on by the school ‘Ted’s’ I would offer my services as resident tattoo artist extraordinaire; serpent entwined daggers, pieced hearts with droplets of blood or a neat little flying swallow that fitted snugly between fore finger and thumb. You see I had this Biro – a rocket pen I think they called it back then in the 50s– it had three colours, blue, red and green. The perfect combo for a very believable tattoo effect. So there I was, a twelve-year-old artist in residence, shielded from the threat of bullying by my knuckle-duster brandishing friends by my magic pen. All went swimmingly well for months until the gang rounded on a rather quite and introspective boy – An orphan from a Barnado’s home, and prime target for bullying. Things didn’t go well. The quite boy turned into a homicidal maniac. The next thing that happened is a blurry memory. A fist squarely in the face. Blackness. Deep spongy thuds about my head. Shouts and screams. I felt like I was underwater. Sounds were distorted. Through the haze there was a blizzard of legs. The sound of a whistle. I was being lifted and dragged away with muffled conversations spinning in my ear – ‘He’ll be okay.’ ‘Let’s take him to the changing room.’ When I finally recovered I realized that my pen was missing. Later I searched every inch of the playground. And there it was prostrate and crushed into a thousand shards. And the only sign of blue, red and green was on my swollen face. What I leaned on that fateful day was that the old adage, "the pen is mightier that the sword”, doesn’t quite hold water.