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 When I was a youngster most cutlery was marked as being made of EPNS; that is, Electro-Plated Nickel Silver. For that was an age when stainless steel was expensive. EPNS was comparatively soft and could be easily bent.

 Now at my school a clear social distinction was observable. It lay between the nice clean polite boys and the abrasive, muddy coarse boys (among whose number I, being no saint, might well have been counted). One obvious shibboleth was the handling of cutlery. The nice boys held their forks upside-down and their spoons delicately between thumb, index and middle fingers. The coarse boys grasped their instruments like lump hammers, the forks serving as scoops as if they were spoons.

 My first experiment in the school canteen was to lever up one tine of a fork, so that the nice boy using it would spear his upper lip. This I found amusing, especially if it drew blood, but as a joke it did not bear much repetition. So I turned my attention to spoons. My reasoning was that if you bent a spoon through ninety degrees, levered the stem at its narrowest point through 180 degrees, then straightened it out, a twist would be imparted to the stem so that any polite boy, when he applied pressure to it, would cause the modified implement to rotate suddenly and deposit his rhubarb and custard down his nice clean shirt front. This rotatory theory worked well in practice and provided much gloating and inward hilarity. At this point I have to insist that I kept my dark arts private lest other, less imaginative, boys should capitalise on my efforts.

 Having tired of this, I took to wondering whether a spoon could be tied in a knot. Making the initial loop was simply an extension of the original 90 degree bend. The problem was to force the end of the handle through the loop. It turned out that this could be achieved by pressure of both thumbs, aided by clandestine use of the heel under the table. There was usually enough hullabaloo in the school canteen to mask this operation. Tightening the knot was also achieved by applying subtle pressure of the heel. Finally, it was a simple matter to transfer the knotted spoon to the unused cutlery tray on the way out.

 Once I had taken the art of spoon bending to its highest degree of perfection, I used the interval between courses to produce a number of exhibition models, and, with a profound understanding of boys' psychology, I transferred them to the unused cutlery tray. Sure enough, it became the supreme ambition of quite a number of the more impressionable boys to tie a knot in a spoon. Soon the cutlery tray became depleted, and the “Nothing, Sir” reply to a master asking a boy what he was doing under his desk referred to frantic though unsuccessful attempts to reproduce my masterwork.

  I observed with great satisfaction that some boys clanked as they walked, as though they were wearing suits of armour; these boys had bulging jacket pockets. For me, the matter came to a head a few weeks later. What had evidently happened was that a boy, fearful of being apprehended with several dozen contorted spoons on his person, had tried to flush them down the lavatory and had thereby blocked the school drains. That was when the headmaster got involved. The first I knew of this was in school assembly, when the headmaster described the unblocking of the drains and the discovery therein of “a large volume of school cutlery, all mutilated in unimaginable ways. Indeed, spoons have even been found in the kitchens with knots tied in them!” I do not think I have ever felt so ill as I did then, through trying not to laugh and bring suspicion on myself. Even to this day I feel deep sense of pride in having been the unique exponent of an unusual art form.


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