21 July 2006


Shocking Truth

Up north for lunch with close friends of Mum but a family unknown to me. They turn out to be absolute winners, every one - father, mother, daughter, son. Know that feeling of instantly liking and trusting someone? That was it.

So there we are, irrigating the heat of the day with chilled cans of Mythos, dispensing my usual surface gloss of urbane BS in the good cause of appearing urbane and one of those types totally without  the crap, and the chitter chatter turns to the dread subject of schooling.

poolOne minute, as I say, I'm being my usual impeccable imitation of a like-minded "one of them", next I'm looking into this lady's eyes and coming out with the unvarnished truth.

I don't know how it went down with the others, but it was a bloody great shock to *me*, I can tell you.

For some reason right out of the blue, I could not insult these people with the usual mendacious claptrap (and I have 'insulted' some pretty heavy-duty good types in my time).

Out if all came, with mama right there, probably hearing the true truth for the very first time. I tell you, children - not an exercise to be performed at home without very close supervision.

patio and poolMy absolute terror of the 5-days-a-week pummeling on the 'games' field. The physical inability in my legs to carry myself out there for the battering. Crouching in the top-floor loo for whole afternoons til the bell for supper went, then sitting there as invisible as possible, praying that no one noticed me and might recall my absence.

The sudden entrance of the games master, striding red-faced up to me in front of the whole school. His roar of:

"You boy! How DARE you miss MY game? Report to the headmaster's study after supper."

aerial viewI depress myself just remembering those days and the ruthless stock in trade of both establishments to absolutely kill the spirit and 'school' us to the extreme foolishness of ever succumbing to initiative or the temptation to try anything on.

Day by day, we learnt to make ourselves the smallest possible worlds out of which to watch the world and protect what we could from the appalling loneliness and futility of the place.

The outburst only lasted a minute at most and then I regained my composure and lapsed back into that smooth-tongued duplicity that is the essential mark of such schools and the only way to survive.

beach viewIt probably shocked me more than it bored them: This skeleton of honesty suddenly tumbling from the carefully furnished cupboard of pat phrases and generally oily, distance-ensuring unctuana.

I've no idea how it happened - something about the sincerity and palpable honesty of the mother, added to which she had a fib-detecting gaze that I did not want to take on.

So weird, this sad business of all those years dedicated to grinding me down to this pusillanimous wreck of a mummy's-boy yes man. Anyone's boy, actually, but one doesn't like to lay it on with a trowel.

People don't believe one, and why should they when you're making all the right toadying noises?

driveway entranceI tried it once with the analogy of that St Paul's plaque to Sir Christopher Wren, suggesting to any passersby seeking a monument to the man that they just look around them.

In my case, it's anyone quibbling with my interpretation of those crippling years, and suspecting that I harbour some deep success story, should look at my past 20 years with their inexorable failures and disappointments to everyone around me; the complete inability to hold a steady truthful course in anything I wheedled myself into; and, of course, the genius for the instant cave-in to and adoption of any opposing view-point.

So there we were, lolling in the lap of luxury, friendly smiling faces, blue skies above, groaning luncheon table below, sweetmeats and vino of every hue.

And throughout these convivialities - not one wonking word about the vile G-drudge. There *is* a God. It *can* be done.

To boot, even the ultimate happiness of my angel gals arriving in a few days - everything I could ask for - and there's me throwing a wobbly and coming all over truthful of a sudden. Blithering idiot.

Funny old life.

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