Round my House (RJV2)

He broke in while I was out.

When I got home he was on my sofa with his feet up on the coffee table. He was reading one of my books.

He looked up as I took a couple of paces into the room.

I’m not fat, you fucking prick! Was the first thing he said.

He was looking at me as though he’d been expecting me. He didn’t get up. He didn’t move his feet.

You need to be taught to mind your manners.

I was stunned. Frozen to the spot. Mouth agape.

I’ll grant you that I’m stout, he smiled.

There he was, in the flesh, as though he’d just leapt off the page of Our Boy’s drawing of the Nativity: all tracksuit, Chelsea shirt and the distinctive check of the Burberry cap.

But I’m not fucking fat! Got it?

My heart was racing and my palms were bathed in sweat.

Ok, I stammered. Not fat. Stout.

I had my hands out in a gesture of appeasement. I had no idea what he wanted or what he was about to do.

Stout is better he affirmed. Healthier.

I think he expected me to nod or something. He wanted a sign that I acknowledged and accepted his distinction.

Stout is better than fat. He was right about that but I wasn’t going to get into a discussion about semantics.

What do you want? I asked.

Nothing you can give me, he answered. But I am here to take something.

And what might that be? I asked.

My heartbeat was slowing and I was beginning to feel a little more relaxed. He didn’t seem to pose a physical threat.

I’m here to take the piss, he announced.

Take the piss? It took me by surprise.

I was convinced he’d broken in to my house to plunder the place.

Yeah, he nodded.

To take the piss…

He smiled an instructive sort of smile. The type of slightly sarcastic smile that you might see a teacher wearing while they are waiting for the understanding to dawn on an irritating, cumbersome pupil.

…out of you. He pointed at me.

Take the piss out of me? Why? I was genuinely confused.

Because you need it, he answered with a shrug.

And you know it, he elaborated.

He squatted at my place for three years. When I was out he’d watch sport on the telly.

Nothing but sport.

You were right about one thing, he said.

Oh? I wondered. What was I right about?

I am a chav, he said, nodding.

There was that beaming smile I remembered from Our Boy’s drawing.


Somehow he’d gone from photobombing a six year old boy’s drawing of the Nativity to photobombing the life I was trying to paint for myself.

But I’m the chav who reads, he declared.

He turned back to my book; the one he’d been reading when I first walked in and saw him.

And I’m the chav who was with him from the beginning and saw it all, he declared from behind the pages, as his attention was claimed, once again, by the words in front of him.

I didn’t know what to make of that so I changed the subject.

What do I call you? I asked.

When I was home he worked through just about everything on my bookshelf and took the piss out of me.

Just Round John, he answered, without looking up from the book.

That’ll do.

Round John liked sport on the telly, reading, and taking the piss.

Out of me.

Round John Virgin (RJV1)

There’s a much-sung and well-loved Christmas carol called Silent Night.

The first verse goes like this:

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace

And while we are on the subject of the Nativity scene, and what exactly happened ’round yon Virgin’ that night, it’s important to dig a little deeper and meet an often overlooked character in the play.

There’s a beautiful story that always puts a smile on my face. Apparently it’s true. This actually happened.

Somewhere in England, not so long ago, there was a Year 2 class in a Catholic Primary school. That makes them about 6 years old.

They were asked, in the lead up to Christmas, to draw a Nativity Scene as part of their Religious Education curriculum. It’s easy to imagine the scene: children huddled over tables strewn with art paper; faces frowning with expressions of concentration; murmurs of cooperation and conflict over wax crayons; the teacher milling from table to table dolling out praise and encouragement to some, and coaxing reluctant responses out of those who are reticent or distracted.

The children plug away at it for twenty minutes or so when one of the boys puts his crayon down, sits back, holds his drawing up in front of his own face and with a bark of satisfaction exclaims, from behind his completed assignment: Done Miss!

It’s an invitation. Our Boy is clearly proud of his efforts and he is giving the teacher a chance to do her job, which is to bestow some well deserved compliments on his Nativity Scene and the artist that produced it. He knows how this works.

The teacher draws alongside him and examines the work. It’s vivid. It’s full of life and energy. She’s drawn in and, somehow, feels like a spectator at the birth of Jesus. A hush descends on her pious Catholic heart.

All the details are there, and in all the right places: Jesus is central, in his crib; Mary and Joseph flank him as proud parents; there are donkeys and shepherds and wise men bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And then she sees him.

In amongst it all, with his thumbs up and smiling like a photo-bomber, is a jovial fat bloke, in tracksuit bottoms and a Chelsea shirt, with a Burberry cap on his head.

In England he’d be called a chav and this chav is beaming like he’s won the lottery!

The teacher asks Our Boy, after engaging him in discussion about his artwork: And who is this? Over here?

She’s pointing at the fat bloke in the sports kit with the cap on.

Don’t you know, Miss?

No, I’m sorry, she answers. I don’t know who that is. I’ve never seen him before.

Come on Miss! Snorts Our Boy. Of course you know him! You’ve been singing about him for years.

By now he has the attention of most of his classmates. All eyes are on the teacher, waiting for her response.

When none comes Our Boy puts the teacher out of her misery.

That, Miss, he points.


He looks up at her. Round John Virgin.

NB: In British slang a ‘chav’, also ‘charver’ and ‘scally in parts of Northern England, is a pejorative term used to describe an anti-social lower-class youth dressed in sportswear