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Lindsey Jenkinson
Lindsey Jenkinson

Native Londoner Lindsey Jenkinson hails from a large English/Irish family. She originally trained to be an actor and spent several years touring with educational theatre companies, but found trying to teach pregnant teenagers about NVQs through the medium of mime & contemporary dance strangely unfulfilling so is now studying Creative Writing at Birkbeck.

Four Star Deluxe


I stomped over to the tape recorder and punched the STOP button. I turned to the other girls and put my hands on my hips in a stern fashion. The shoulder pads made it a lot more difficult than you might imagine.  “Listen, if we don’t get this right we’ll be the laughing stock of the whole bloody school. We’ve got three weeks to go! That was rubbish! Get back into formation and let’s go again.”

          Stedman and Delroy got back into their line-up beside my bedroom window, Lorraine and Doris were standing in front of them. I - Denise - pressed PLAY and ran to my starting place.  “Ready?” Nods all round.

          “Five, six, seven, eight!”

          ‘System Addict’ started blaring out of my tape deck.  I bloody loved the start. I bloody loved Five Star. We all did. 

 

It was June 1986. Wham! were at no. 1 with ‘Edge of Heaven’. They’d just split up. Some of the girls at school had gone to pieces and cried for days. Maria Taylor’s mother had to come and collect her from school early because she went all hysterical in French when she saw Meg Browne’s Andrew Ridgeley pencil case.  I wasn’t that fussed to be honest, my allegiance was elsewhere - hence the dance routine.

          Me and my friends, Anne-Marie, Alicia, Suzanne, and Caroline were in my bedroom practicing our routine for the upcoming Inter-School Annual Talent Contest. We had three weeks to go before we’d be performing the dance routine to ‘System Addict’ by Five Star. We weren’t copying the dance routine from the actual pop video; we’d opted to go for the routine that we’d seen them perform on the Wogan show several weeks earlier - I’d taped it off the telly and we’d watched it hundreds of times. We were thirteen years old and we were Five Star’s biggest fans. We’d managed to get through the first hurdle – the audition – and now we needed to go on and win the coveted plastic statuette.

 

My main reason for wanting to perform at the Inter-Schools Talent Contest was simple. I wanted the world to be aware of my complete and utter devotion to the best pop group to have ever come out of Romford. When I say ‘world’, looking back, it would realistically have only been the people who went to the trinity of ‘Inter Schools’ - St Mary’s C of E, Palmer’s Road Comprehensive, and our school, Rowley Park.  The three schools were fiercely competitive when it came to sports, and even worse when it came to the summer talent contest. To win the plastic statuette meant becoming a local celebrity. You could walk around our little pocket of north London confident in the knowledge that anyone who was anyone in the 11-16 age bracket knew who you were. If you had, at some point, been the recipient of the plastic prize then you knew you that your side pony-tail would be safe from being pulled, spat at, or set fire to on the bus. 

          I did have another reason for wanting to perform at north London’s version of New Faces: I had developed a bit of a crush (well, full-blown love) on Dave Smyth, who was also competing in the Inter-Schools with his band ‘Death Threat.’ Dave Smyth was 15 and in the first year of his O-Levels. He was two years above me in school and was the most beautiful person I had ever seen. He had longish brown hair that was nicely permed like Kevin Keegan’s, and he had the most amazing blue eyes. They were the same colour blue as the curtains in our lounge – whenever I had to draw them I’d get all hot and have to sit down. My mother thought I was allergic to chintz for most of 1986.  Along with Five Star, Dave Smyth was all I thought about, and once I heard that Death Threat were entering the contest I knew that us girls needed to get Five Star involved.

          Luckily, Anne-Marie Clarke, fellow Five Star enthusiast and one of my best friends, was Dave Smyth’s cousin. I had casually confided in her that I thought he was quite good-looking and she assured me that he definitely did not have a girlfriend. He preferred bands like Queen and Marillion, but she didn’t think his appalling musical taste would have any bearing on our future marriage and children. Anne-Marie agreed that entering ourselves into the contest would be brilliant as she had her eye on Kevin Peel from 4c who was apparently going to be performing a selection of magic tricks with his dog, Steve. I wasn’t quite sure if Kevin was going to be allowed to perform with Steve, because as far as I was concerned the only dog who was allowed into our school was the guide dog who belonged to the blind piano tuner – and even he had to wait in the staff room with the caretaker while the pianos were being tuned.

          Anyway, once Anne-Marie and I had decided to go for it and enter the competition, we needed to recruit the three other members of the group. This wasn’t particularly difficult as our little gang at school were all massive Five Star fans. Alicia Lopez, Suzanne Meehan and Caroline Barker all jumped at the chance. Everybody at our school knew that winning the Inter-Schools was the coolest thing that could ever happen to anyone ever, so we made it a priority to rehearse every Thursday evening and all-day Saturdays in the bedroom I shared with my sister Nicki.

 

At our first rehearsal we had to decide who was going to be playing who. As it was me and Anne-Marie who’d had the initial idea, it was decided (by us) that we should have the first choice of roles. I baggsied Denise – if I was to stand any chance of being noticed by Dave then I’d have to be up front. Anne-Marie opted to be Doris. Caroline Barker made the excellent point that her mother was a mobile hairdresser who would happily supply us all with tight perms for the big event, so she got to play Lorraine. The other two would have to be the boys - Stedman and Delroy. I think it’s fair to say that neither Alicia nor Suzanne were particularly cock-a-hoop about this arrangement.    

          “Why can’t I be Denise?” moaned Suzanne. I knew she was upset because her glasses were all steamed up like the time she tucked her gym skirt into her knickers by mistake and all the boys saw.   

          “There can only be one Denise, and that’s me,” I retaliated. “I am probably Five Star’s biggest fan out of all of us.” I pointed at my bedroom walls. There were no less than 46 posters from Smash Hits, Look-In and Just 17. I also pointed out my collection of Five Star badges adorning the edges of my bunk bed. “You’re just going to have to be Stedman.”

          “Gny gnoo ay haff to ge Gelroy?” Said Alicia. “I gont gnook gnike a goy”.  We all looked at Alicia. Her eyes looked pleading and angry all at the same time.

          “Alicia,” I said “there is no way you can wear that dental headgear during the competition. Them braces are well scary, you look like Metal Mickey. You’re Delroy by the way.” Alicia head butted the side of my bunk bed. She was always angry.

          We were also faced with the dilemma of what to call ourselves. Your act had to have a name to enter the Inter-Schools, so we mulled over a number of choices, mainly ones like Four Star and Six Star. We all agreed that they were predictable and rubbish. Alicia suggested ‘Gnive Gnirls’ but none of us knew what she was talking about so we ignored her.

          “How about System Addicts?” said Caroline.

          “No, too much like the name of the song,” I said, shaking my head. “We need something that’s like Five Star but isn’t.”

          “My auntie’s just got back from Majorca,” piped up Suzanne, “and she was telling my mum that she stayed in a hotel that was like a five star but better.” We were all rapt - this was more like it.

          “Go on,” I said, hardly daring to breathe.

          “It was called a ‘Four Star Deluxe’, and they had a full buffet breakfast every morning as well as a mini-bar and a trouser press.” The others looked impressed, but I was suspicious.

          “Hang on, if it’s four star, doesn’t that mean that it’s worse that a five star?”  I asked. “I thought that posher hotels had more stars?” Suzanne gave me a withering look; I don’t think she liked me questioning the international jet-set that was her auntie Carol and uncle Pete. “They normally do, but in Spain, a four star deluxe is way posher than a normal five star. Especially when there’s a buffet breakfast involved.” She had me. She knew I’d never been on a plane. I didn’t have a clue about Spain.

          “I like it,” chirruped Caroline.

          “So do I,” said Anne-Marie.

          “Gnee Gnoo,” gurned Alicia.

I was outnumbered. I eyeballed the girls sitting on my bedroom floor from the elevated position of my Five Star beanbag and addressed Suzanne: “okay, if you swear that four star deluxe is like five star, only better, then I suppose that’s what we should call ourselves.” I still wasn’t convinced.

 

A couple of weeks later we were practicing for the first time in our costumes. It was three weeks ‘til the competition. The outfits were great - white leggings and oversized white t-shirts with shoulder pads in them the size of bricks. Anne-Marie’s mum had ironed four glittery star transfers onto the front of each t-shirt, and we all had a sparkly American flag on the back. We’d come a long way, but still need to get the routine perfect. We were about go again when Anne-Marie pulled me to one side.

          “Listen, I thought you should know,” she whispered. “It’s . . . Dave.”

I blanched. Her face was set in stone. I could tell there was bad news coming. Oh God, oh God, please don’t let him have a girlfriend. Anything but that. I couldn’t bear the thought of another girl running her fingers through that perm.

I steeled myself. “Go on.”

Anne-Marie’s mouth was a tight, thin line of seriousness. She put her hand on one of my shoulder pads as if to steady me.

          “He’s turned vegetarian.”

          I was mute. I had nothing to say. I slumped onto my beanbag, Anne-Marie still standing over me. The other girls were chattering amongst themselves and fixing each other’s make-up. I couldn’t focus on what they were saying.  I was trying to make sense of it all. I’d heard that a couple of older kids at school had stopped eating meat, but I had no idea that Dave was like that.

          “Why?” I eventually muttered.

          “He read a book about cruelty to animals,” Anne-Marie said. “His mum’s furious, she thinks he might be lefty, or . . . gay.

Oh God! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. My shoulder pads felt like lead weights, and I slumped off the beanbag on to the floor of my bedroom. My life was over! At thirteen!

          Eventually, after passing the falling-off-the-beanbag incident as a mild asthma attack, I picked myself up off the floor and somehow managed to get through the rest of the rehearsal.  My head was spinning. How could Dave do this to me? I needed to formulate a plan.

A couple of days later I was with Anne-Marie and Alicia in the school canteen. I’d seen Dave Smyth hanging around the jacket potato station, which sent me into a depression. I needed him to notice me, even with his new-found vegetarian status. Anne-Marie let us into another secret whilst she was shovelling a spam fritter into her mouth: Dave had, in the last week, joined the Rock Against Racism - his mother had found a badge on his school blazer.

          “Dave’s dad’s well worried,” Anne-Marie earnestly relayed, remnants of fritter going everywhere. “He wants him to work for Barclays, but he’s worried Dave will end up a homeless anarchist.”

          I couldn’t help think that having a homeless anarchist rock-star boyfriend sounded quite exciting, but I didn’t say anything – Anne-Marie told her mum everything and I didn’t want to be marked out as a troublemaker.

          “Gotta go,” said Alicia, “lunchtime detention.” Alicia didn’t have to wear her dental head brace to school, so she was much easier to understand between 9am and 3.40pm.

          “What is it today?” I asked.

          “Hair.”  Alicia was always getting into trouble with her hair. She was half Spanish and had a huge mop of unruly curly hair. School rules stipulated that ‘hair must be worn up at all times’, but Alicia’s hair seemed to repel any efforts to control it. She would come in at 9am looking impeccable, but by first break at 10.30 her hair would look like it’d had a massive fight with a combine harvester, lost, then been mugged by a maniac wielding an electronic cattle prod. Neither man nor beast could tame it, so poor old Alicia was constantly getting into trouble for not adhering to school rules.

          “What is it today? Lines?”

          “Nah, I’ve got to clean the mice out.”

          “Mice?”

          “Yeah, you know. The mice in the science lab. There’s twenty of them – really cute. They’re the ones we’re going to be cutting up in biology. See ya!”

With a shake of her mental curls, Alicia was off. But I had an idea . . .

          “Anne-Marie, you like animals don’t you?”

          “Well, my nan’s got a budgie . . . so, yeah.”

          “What do you say we go and pay the mice a visit?”

We grabbed our coats and made our way out. I was pretty sure I had the perfect plan to get Dave to notice me; I just needed my fellow Four Star Deluxers to cooperate.

 

The following week I arranged a pre-rehearsal meeting in my bedroom. We only had two weeks to go, and the routine was coming on a treat. Learning the moves was all well and good, but we’d heard on good authority that Amanda Rickard’s gang, ‘The Bracelets’, who were performing ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, were going to town with the set.

          “They’ve made pyramids out of shoe boxes and painted them yellow. I saw them drying in the art room,” Caroline volunteered. “They look amazing.”

          “They’re also borrowing some toy camels from Argos”, said Suzanne. Amanda’s mum works there on Tuesdays and they’ve agreed to let her borrow them provided they don’t take the plastic off.”

          “How do you know all this?” I queried. I was grateful for the insider knowledge, but I didn’t want us getting into a frenzy over nothing.

          “My mum’s friend works there, and she said that Amanda’s mum asked the manager if they could have the camels and he said yes.”

Caroline’s mum was a devout catholic – there was no way she’d lie.

          “Right!” I said, reaching for my costume, “that’s it. We’ll just have to go one better!”

‘System Addict’ was all about electronics, so we decided to make some computers and TVs out of cardboard boxes. I knew we needed an excellent set or we’d just fade into the background, and I did not want that. I’d die if Kevin Peel and his dog did better than us.  After much discussion, we all agreed to snaffle any cardboard boxes we found prior to the show and turn them into consumer durables.

          “There’s something else I need us to do.” I ventured, after we’d discussed ‘operation cardboard box’. “I need us to rescue the mice from the science lab before the show.” I said it as casually as I could.

          Blank faces all round.

          Eventually Alicia piped up: “Gnot?” The headgear was back.

          “Yeah. What?” Said Caroline.

All eyes were on me. Their faces suggested that they might need some convincing re the mice liberation.

          “Think about it,” I started. “Those poor little mice are stuck in those cages in the science lab. All they’ve got to look forward to is being carved to bits by us. It’s no life.”

          “But they’re mice.” Suzanne pointed out – she was sharp, that one. “Why would we want to rescue them?”

          “Like I said, they’re going to be murdered! We can’t let these poor innocent animals be treated like that. They need our help.”

I looked at all of the girls with my best ‘RSPCA’ face. “Imagine if somebody wanted to carve your cat to bits, you’d put a stop to it, wouldn’t you?”

          “I suppose it is a bit cruel” agreed Suzanne.

          “If we rescued them then I suppose we wouldn’t have to cut them up in biology. Do you remember how sick I was when we had to cut that frog up last year?  Anne-Marie’s face was green with the memory. “I was sick all over your school bag wasn’t I, Su?”

          “That’s that sorted then!” I chirped. “We’ll rescue the mice then win the contest. It’s gonna be great! Right, let’s practice!” I bounced over to the tape deck and turned up the volume. Everything was working out brilliantly!

 

Two weeks later the day finally dawned. Saturday 28th June 1986 was going to be a good day I decided as I lay in my bunk. Today was the day when my allegiance to the best band of all time ever would be made public. It was also the day the Dave Smyth would fall hopelessly in love with me - mainly for my dance moves, but also for my devotion to saving the lives of harmless rodents. When he saw that I was prepared to risk my own life to save the lives of some mice, he was bound to fall at my feet and perhaps behave like the woman in Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Hello’ video and make a sculpture of my head out of plasticine.

          The Inter-Schools was due to start at 6pm. All competitors had to be in the school hall and registered by 5pm. Our plan was to register, then sneak up to the science lab while everybody was doing their last-minute rehearsals and sound checks. I was sure that we wouldn’t be missed as everybody knew it was chaos on Contest Day – the teachers were run ragged. Once we’d rescued the mice, we’d go back to the hall, win the contest, then Anne-Marie was going to find a way to let Dave know about our heroic rescue mission, and then I could start planning my wedding. I hadn’t worked the finer details out, but I knew it’d be fine. I hopped out of bed and strutted towards my tape deck. I needed a blast of Five Star to get my day off to a good start. Nicki would complain, but I didn’t care.

          A few hours later we were struggling through the school gates with fifteen cereal/food boxes painted to look like computers, TVs, and a Sinclair C5 (Suzanne’s Dad’s idea).   The idea was to frame the perimeter of the stage with our cardboard ‘systems’ and look like we were addicted to them whilst adhering to the strict dance routine. I was starting to get nervous - what if something went wrong?

          The school hall was a hive of activity, with all twenty acts milling around warming-up, singing, juggling, stapling bits of set together, trying to control dogs with anger management problems (Kevin Peel), and burning themselves with heated rollers (one of The Bracelets). We quickly registered with Mr Picanto – the drama teacher - and put our cardboard electronics backstage. We were act ten, and due to be on just before the interval. Kevin Peel and Steve were on before us.  The atmosphere backstage was electric. I couldn’t believe we were here and about to perform in front of nearly three hundred people!

          “Guys,” I swaggered, “we’re bound to win. Most of the other acts look a bit rubbish.” I cast my eyes around my immediate vicinity. There was Kevin Peel trying to control his alsation with a rolled-up newspaper and a bar of Dairy Milk, there was Annabel Cleft and her twin sister Caitlin, from 3b practising their gymnastics – it just looked like roly-polying to Paul Hardcastle’s ‘19’ to me, and there were 4 boys from the sixth form body popping badly in the corner. They looked like they were having a group fit. As far as I was concerned, there was no competition!

          “Gnen are gne getting gne gnice?” Unfortunately, Alicia had to wear her headgear until her dad arrived. He was very particular about her dental health, and had only very reluctantly agreed to allow her to remove them for the duration of the performance.

          “What?” retorted Suzanne. She had opted to do without her glasses in a bid to look more streamlined, so her eyes were all over the place. “Are you on about the mice?”

          “Yeah, when are we going to get the mice? Caroline whispered. “The show starts in less than an hour.”

I could see Dave Smyth arriving at the hall with the rest of Death Threat. I knew it was time to fulfil our destiny.

          “Now.”

          Minutes later the five of us were climbing the steps to the science department. Alicia had found out from the work-experience lab technician that the lab was left unlocked at the weekend to allow the cleaners in. As long as we weren’t noticed leaving the hall we’d be fine - there would be nobody around on the upper levels of the school to disturb us. I could see that Mr Picanto was embroiled in a guitar issue with somebody from Dave’s band so we made a break for the stairs. As cover, Anne-Marie had brought a cereal-box computer with a slight tear in it so that we could say that we were looking for sellotape to mend our set with if anyone asked.  Luckily, we got up to the science lab without a hitch, and apart from Suzanne falling over a chair (she was blind without her specs) the journey was uneventful.

          Once inside the lab, we approached the cages. There were four cages, each containing about five mice. They were very lively, running about and squeaking. They also looked quite fast. The five of us stood there for a few moments eyeballing the mice.

          “Well, go on then,” Anne-Marie said, nudging me.

          “I’m not getting them out,” I replied. “I’ve got asthma.”

          “There’s no way I’m touching them,” said Caroline. “My mum said you can get cancer from rats’ wee.”

          “These are mice, not rats.” I witheringly replied.

          “Everybody knows that mice are just small rats.” She said, folding her arms with triumph.

          “They are not!” 

To be honest, I didn’t know whether she was telling the truth or not. Mice do look like little rats. I didn’t like the look of them at all – all tails and claws. I most certainly did not want to pick one up. I pictured Dave’s perm and our future Five Star themed wedding and tried to regain control of the situation.

          “Suzanne, get your hands in.”

          “I would do, but I can’t see a bloody thing. I should have brought my glasses, I’m getting a headache.”

          I looked at the gaggle of idiots around me, and my pleading eyes fell on Alicia. I think she could see my future happiness slipping away because she plunged her hand into the first cage and was soon shoving mice into the torn cereal computer. In my haste to marry Dave I’d completely forgotten to bring suitable animal transportation.

          “You can’t, like, put them all in together,” Anne-Marie said. “They’ll . . . you know . . . do it.”

          “Well, we haven’t got much choice,” I growled. “The contest starts soon and we’ve still got to do our hair and make-up. So unless you’ve got a better idea I suggest you shut your trap.”

          Anne-Marie, Caroline and Suzanne (I think) were all giving me evils. I started helping Alicia with the liberation. The mice were wriggly and scratchy. Ugh.

          Once all the mice were safely in the cereal box, we scuttled out of the science lab and made our way back down to the hall. It was buzzing now, the audience had started to arrive and we were ushered straight backstage. I was getting mildly concerned with the welfare of the mice – I’d planned the ‘rescue’ part of the proceedings with military precision, but I wasn’t really sure what to do with them now we’d freed them.

          “Come on girls,” Cooed Mr Picanto as he approached our little gaggle. “You need to get changed pronto, the show starts in twenty minutes and I want everybody in full costume asap. Alicia, why are you cuddling that Weetabix box? And why is there liquid coming out of it?”

I looked at the box that Alicia was clutching. There was blatantly wee coming out of one of the corners. Also, judging by the aggressive squeaking emanating from within, the mice were now having a massive fight.

          “Quick! Toilets!” I shrilled. “Hair! Make-up!” The girls followed me towards the toilets. Alicia was looking at me like she wanted to kill me slowly with a very painful instrument. Her t-shirt was awash with wet-looking yellowy brown patches.

          “I gnwill knill gnu.”

          I hoped her dad would show his face soon - that headgear was going to put a serious dampener on our image.

          Once in the toilets, I had mutiny on my hands.

          “We were supposed to be ready ages ago!” Snarled Caroline. “I’ve barely got time to put my shoulder pads in, and we haven’t even had chance to practice the routine again. Also, my mum’s out there somewhere waiting to do our hair!”

          “What are we gonna do with the mice?” Anne-Marie sneered. “They’re chewing their way out of that box. Where we gonna put them?”

          “Listen, it’s all under control,” I replied, trying to calm the group. “Caroline, you go and get your mum to come here with the costumes. Alicia, why don’t we split the mice up and put them into other boxes from the set – stronger ones. We can decide what to do with them after the show. Anne-Marie, you go and find out when Death Threat are on. Suzanne, you stay here with me – you’ll never find your way back if you wander off. I’ll wait with the mice until you others are back.

          My fellow Four Star Deluxers must have trusted my leadership skills because they all did as they were told. Caroline scooted off to find her mum, Alicia went to get a couple more computers and a cardboardy tape deck, and Anne-Marie went to harass Mr Picanto and his clipboard.

          Twenty minutes later we were ready to go. Caroline’s mum belted through our hair and make-up like the clappers. The mice were firmly ensconced in the boxes, and Anne Marie had discovered that Death Threat were on eighth. This was perfect. I could watch Dave from the wings, but once an act had performed, they had to go and sit on the front row of the audience. Dave would be on the front row while Four Star Deluxe performed. Our eyes would meet. The perm would be mine. The only minor spanner in the works was that Alicia’s dad hadn’t shown up so the headgear was still firmly attached to her bonce. Caroline’s mum had done her best with Alicia’s hair, but she was already at a disadvantage.          

          “Listen, my love,” she said to Alicia, “I’ve done my best with the backcombing, but all that metal makes it difficult. You don’t really look like a boy. Are you meant to be Delroy?” Alicia nodded. She didn’t look too upset at not being a boy. I was cross, but in fairness we all looked wicked in our white sparkly outfits. Caroline’s mum had gelled our hair and bronzed our skin. We looked the spitting image of Five Star.

          “Four Star Deluxe,” I said, as the Inter-Schools Talent Contest introduction music started playing, “we are gonna win that statuette!” We looked at each other, huge grins on our faces. This was IT!

 

The first few acts flew by. The body poppers were a big hit, as were the Irish Country Dancers. Alicia had checked on the mice, and all was fine. She’d found a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich in somebody’s lunch box and had thoughtfully divided it up amongst the boxes.  We figured it’d be fine to have the mice in boxes during our set because they’d be distracted by the sandwich and not try and escape.

          All of a sudden it was time for Death Threat. As Dave stood there, microphone in hand I knew I loved him more than anything. He sang a song that he’d written about dolphins. I thought of the mice and knew that saving them was what Dave would have wanted – he’d be amazed when Anne-Marie told him what we’d done. As I daydreamed, Death Threat finished their set to rapturous applause and made their way to the front row. Kevin was on next with his alsation – then us!!!

          I’ll remember what happened next for the rest of my life. Kevin and Steve’s act passed by without too much ado. Steve did eat a pack of cards meant for a trick, but Kevin managed to gloss over it.

          Cue music.

          The five of us took our positions. The cardboard computers and electronics were strategically placed around us. The music was booming. We looked great. We felt great. Everybody in the hall was looking at us – including Dave!

          “Take a look at me,” sang Denise via the sound system while I mimed, “wired to a machine.” Everybody in the hall was going crazy!  “Boxes that go beep, little lights that leap.” Before I knew it we were in the chorus. Everybody in the hall was up on their feet – Four Star Deluxe were a hit!

          “System Addict...”

          Everyone was singing along now!

          All of a sudden, in slow motion, the following happened:

I noticed one of the cardboard-box computers moving on its own. I was dancing, so didn’t know what to do. Alicia had also noticed it and was trying to edge forward, but Delroy’s moves were at the back of the formation, so Caroline, confused, pushed Alicia back into line. The momentum of the dancing combined with the sharp jolt of Caroline’s shove made Alicia’s hair go bananas. It started to wrap itself around her dental headgear like poison ivy and she was reduced to pulling at it like a maniac to stop it blinding her. The cardboard mice-box-computer had now walked itself slap-bang into Suzanne’s path and, being visually impaired, she promptly fell over it, knocking the box over.

          Within seconds there were mice everywhere. Not only that, the stage was now coated in a combination of bacon, lettuce, tomato, brown bread and mouse urine. Anne-Marie, trying to hold the routine together, skidded on this lethal cocktail of slipperiness whilst coming out of a turn and slid into Alicia, who was still clutching at her face like a drowning woman. The pair of them veered into a cluster of mice and knocked them straight into the front row of the audience. Steve the alsation caught two in his mouth and promptly ate them, blood spewing everywhere. Another one landed in Dave’s perm and bit him on the neck.

          It was carnage. Five Star were still blaring out of the music system. Most of the audience had their hands clasped over their mouths in horror. The rest of the mice had escaped and were running amok on the stage and amongst the audience. Mums were screaming and hitting mice with handbags. Alicia and Anne-Marie were writhing around, both now attached to the dental headgear in a ball of gel, hair and metal. Suzanne walked straight off the stage into the front row and chipped her tooth on the edge of a chair, only to be attacked by Steve, who after sampling the mice was now ready for fresh blood. Kevin did try to restrain him with the rolled-up newspaper but Steve was having none of it.

          As I stood there amongst the devastation and the screaming, I saw Mr Picanto talking to one of the cleaners. He was pointing at me and swearing. I looked down and saw Dave’s mum trying to wrestle a mouse out of Dave’s perm. Dave was crying.

          System Addict was still playing.

          I knew what I had to do.

          I grabbed a microphone from the side of the stage and took my position. I knew that if I could just impress Dave’s mum with my routine and singing I was still in with a chance...

          “Five six seven eight...!”

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