From blagging penny sweets to riding in the boot on a night out. We were all petty criminals once.

1. Watching 18s when you were definitely not 18

‘This film contains strong language, violence, sexual content and drug abuse’.


I used to select ITV movie premiers based on the adult content teased in their Radio Times listing. I chose VHS' from my local and legendary (50p for Critters) Video Solent based upon a combination of how graphic the sleeve was and what violence and sex the 18 certificate sticker promised. I doubt I was alone.

For your pre-pubescent self this announcement was the best of Hollywood marketing tools:

2. Blagging Penny Sweets

Your youthful, eager eyes look down upon a sweet selection Willy Wonka would be proud of: chocolate mice, strawberry laces and fried eggs, to name but a few, stretch out across your panorama.

And the crinkly old Newsagent has her back turned.

Here’s your chance. Grab it.

She turns back to you and looks down on the bulging, white paper bag you have crammed full with more E numbers than a Coke factory.

‘How much?’ she asks, knowingly, tauntingly, almost mockingly.

’20p’ your unbroken voice brazenly offers. As if it could be anything else, like, for example, £1.12; the true value of the flying saucers, Catherine Wheels and refreshers that sprout out from this sugary paradise.

The irony here is twofold. One; silver and copper jangling in your grass stained school trousers, you could actually afford the 5 and 10p sweets you choose not to pay for and two; on leaving your local newsagent, you will have to return soon.

3. Paying A Passer-By To Buy You Fags

Who was this man? Where did he come from? Why was he always perfectly placed outside Alldays in your time of nicotine need?

You’d stroll up to your local 7-11, debate about who’s buying the fags just about resolved. Responsibility fell on the shoulders of your more hirsute (fellas) or buxom (girls) friend. And then, as you approach the doors, there he is…that man. That nameless man. The man you salute, the man you adore, all fears about not being served 20 B&H allayed.

‘Excuse me, can you buy us some fags please?’ your voice trembles.

You are in the presence of greatness. You are in awe of his cancer stick acquiring ability.

His hand extends. You place the pounds in there. The deal-sealed.

Later, huddled together in the local park you’ll two toke pass your way into a nicotine nirvana. But now, as the shiny gold packet hits your hand, you look up to thank this mysterious man but he’s gone…. in a puff of smoke.


Remembering My First Pill: Leeds Festival, 2010

4. Riding In The Boot On A Night Out

6 people. 5 seats. 1 question:

‘Who’s going in the boot?’

‘Not fucking me’ comes the answer, in a harmony Brian Wilson would be proud of.

There’s only one way this impasse will be resolved – free beers.

So in you step/clamber/crawl. Your ‘mates’ kindly close the boot. Darkness. Cold. Then… the engine starts…

‘Oh, dear God, no’.

The giddy pre-drinks mix of Fosters and Vodka can’t summon so much as an ounce of Dutch courage as fear takes hold of you. You are about to be driven into town by your 17 year old mate, the ink barely dry on his license. Sweat pricks your forehead as your body, all contorted like a Francis Bacon portrait, trembles. The motorway awaits. Your life is in his hands.

And then…light.

Not the police ones you feared or God turning the lights on in heaven but…streetlight. You roll out of the boot, aided in the most half-hearted way by your pals. Regaining some semblance of human form despite the spare wheel print on your jacket, you console yourself with the money saved on the taxi to town, your beating heart and the knowledge you get a seat on the 3am trip back to sleepy suburbia. Some other drunk fool’s going in the boot then.

5) Fake ID

Hmmm…. I’ve got a problem here’, you think. You’re 16 and you’ve got a taste for it. That IT being alcohol. The problem being you’re 16. The solution? Simple. Fake ID. 

At college you get word…there’s a boy….a boy with special skills, very special skills. Showing Sugar-esque entrepreneurial endeavour, he’s only gone and bought himself a rudimentary yet surprisingly effective fake ID making machine. Where? Don’t ask. Just slip him the fiver and the gates to a neon paradise await (if you’re prepared for the occasional spare wheel print). Oh, and your local offy.

The guile, skill and love with which he crafts these golden tickets is admirable and a lesson to us all; hard work does pay. And so it is this Thursday night in the early Blair years that you find yourself in your best Ben Sherman, or YSL if you had a touch more class, eyes trying to avoid catching the burly bouncer’s at the top of the club queue.

Trust him. Just trust him. Have faith. The five pound came with a promise, a guarantee of success; ENTRY NEVER REFUSED.

You tiptoe your way to this hulk of a man, all shaved head and muscle.


Cool. Calm. Collected; ‘I’m 18 mate’. The swagger in your voice isn’t impressing anyone.


You reach into your wallet, peel it out and pass it over. Your night rests on this moment. His eyes dart down, then to you, then down again.

‘Date of birth’

You’ve practised this. Remember the formula; ACTUAL DOB-2 YEARS = THE LIE BEFORE HIS EYE

A synapse in your brain snaps. Words form. Next, they are in his ears. It’s a match. You’re in…but wait, no, not quite yet…

His sausage shaped fingers caress the college emblem in the ID, raised, like the real one. A beautiful touch. The crowning glory of this illegality. He looks up, passes you it back, you take a confident step forward, to the music, to the life, to the party.

Across town, a smile cracks out across the face of someone who can afford more expensive aftershave than you.