24 March 2008


When I was too young and too sensitive to be sent from home, I was sent from Hong Kong to England to a boarding school where I slept and ate and sat at the same desk and memorised from books so that the sarcastic teachers wouldnt come up and pull the hair over my ears or stand just behind me and then suddenly cuff me backside of my head.

I went inside myself and hid in books and my letters back to my parents were full of lies about which schools we played against and what the score was and who took the most wickets, or what I said at Debating Society and which friend I went out with on Exeat Sunday and where we went and how nice his parents were and what a great time I was having.

I never liked games and only liked school match days because it meant that I wasnt the one being thumped and kicked; there was no debating society; I never knew anyone well enough who'd ruin his Exeat Sunday taking someone else along. Other boys did share their Sundays but they were the ones whose dads had gone to the same school (sometimes *that* school) and it was a good excuse for them to sit in a bar while the mothers went shopping and the boys sat and read the porn of the day (which as mild) and sneaked cigarettes that their dads had sneaked them.

There was another boy who also read and was good at words and he and I would take turns winning the weekly spelling bee. The teacher preferred the other boy to win because he was in the school rugby XV and I was just a homesick weed who didnt know how things were done.

One day we tied and the teacher decided on a sudden death plucking of words from the dictionary. I got 'homogeneous' that I pronounced 'homo-ja-neeyus' rhyming with ho-t mo-p ger-bil knee us even tho the teacher said homogenuss.

I spelled it 'homogeneous' and it was wrong because the teacher said it was homogenous. The other boy spelled his word right, so I lost and the other boy got the full marks which put him top of the class for the week.

That evening I took my copy of 'Brideshead Revisited' to the teacher's room and showed him page 9 and the 3rd paragraph of the Prologue where Waugh talks of where the 'close, homogeneous territory of housing estates and cinemas ended and the hinterland began."

The teacher was furious at such insolence and looked at the cover and then threw the book across the room and told me that i shouldn't be reading such muck and that I was lucky he didn't write to my parents to inform them of how I was misusing my time and abusing their money.

Yesterday I plucked a book from the shelf and it happened to be BHR and I started reading and when I reached the word it all flooded back.

"Do you know how terrible those 8 years were?" I asked my mother, who happened to be pottering in the background. "How wasteful and hurtful and alienating and frightening ...?" But it registered nothing.



Identical to my school experience. Very well narrated. Top of the class — after all these years. I'll bet your mother's proud of you — and probably privately feels it was money well spent to make an Englishman of you.
And you still have your mother.

Busker said...

Thanks. I hope, I hope, I hope - and I voice the point aloud at every opportunity - that *no one* of my family thinks now, or ever has, that the killing of spirit across those two schools was worth a single cent.

Coincidentally, the son of the mistress of my first school's headmaster lives here in Corfu. On finding that I attended the school, he beamed and asked did I like it. I told him that in my Will, I ask that my trusty Ovation guitar be taken to the playground and driven over and crushed. If the Ascot press can be sneaked in (not that the school will want such publicity), I suggest they be fed some fanciful image such the scrunched guitar representing my youthful spirit. The second school was a complete waste, merely duplicating the spirit-kill of the first. I'd say the job was done in the first two rugger terms and I could have been removed without much danger of the return of any spirit or self-esteem.