I returned to my old school the other day. Yes, that’s how desperate things have become. I forgot how close it is to our home. We, of course, drove and with the roads still relatively empty, it took only twenty-five minutes to get there. If only I were able to drive in my school days, it would have made my escape to London at weekends so much easier.
It was to be my first visit in a very long time. When the car turned on to Harrow on the Hill, my stomach turned over in a knot as it always had. The familiar roads and buildings made me uneasy as the memories popped back in my head.
It was a difficult period for the school. The headmaster despite being a major in the war had little idea on how to organize people, and so the school went only one way, and that was down Harrow Hill.
I recently told an old Harrovian friend of my father’s about my time there. He answered that it was not the headmaster’s fault, who was a close friend. ‘ He believed he had been sent from above to save the once-great school, but he found it difficult as the school had ‘ a shortage of boys of the right sort.’
What do you mean?
‘ Harrow boys had lost their identity,’ he said.
‘ To whom?’ I asked.
He ignored my question. ‘ The school wanted to get back to the halcyon days,’ he continued, ‘ when boys knew how to talk proper, have cold showers, compulsory craps, carpentry, cricket and chapel.’
I fixed a smile.
‘ Most of us only go to school to able to prattle on about most subjects without making a fool of oneself and to apologize properly even before wrong has been done.’
He then asked for another drink, and I quickly changed the subject.
As a little footnote, the old boy died a couple of weeks later but not before writing me a letter saying how disappointed my father was by my ‘ shitty’ book about school. I answered that my father wasn’t too wrong about the book, but I was not so sure that he had reacted in the way he described as I don’t think my father ever read it.
I was expecting the school to have got smaller, more compact and bland as things tend to do when you revisit somewhere that has affected your life. But I was wrong. The outside looked stately and rather magnificent. My house, classrooms and local shops were all locked up, so I didn’t get the chance to show your mother the inner sanctums of the place. But I think she enjoyed seeing part of my life from the outside – she has heard certainly enough about it.
Although I have written two books about my years at boarding school, I still manage to hide a remarkable degree from those closest to me of the disasters that occurred there. They still haunt me, and although deep inside I hoped the return would help bury some of them for good, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps when you are much older, I will reveal everything to you, but probably by then, it will all seem rather insignificant.
Just nine days to go my darling before your grand entrance into the world although the way you were kicking about over the weekend, we thought you were going to get here early. But for now, why don’t you take it easy. Being patient is a painful lesson to learn but important. I, for one, still haven’t learnt it and it has got me into trouble.
Tomorrow we are heading in for another scan so we will have another chance to see how big you have grown; I can’t wait.
Te Quiero mucho,