It is 1964. I am Captain of the School Cricket Team and Head of ‘F’ House; the Big Cheese, Top Dog, Head Honcho, King of the Castle or to adopt the terms favoured amongst that most alpha of alpha male worlds the financial industry, I am a rainmaker, a Big Swinging Dick. Which metaphor is on reflection peculiarly inappropriate to the petite monde of a junior boarding school. I am just 13 and adolescence with its acne, oscillating vocal chords, sprouting hair and descended testicles had hardly begun to assert itself let alone swing.
However, you take my point. I have power. In a very small pond – I grant you- I am a big fish. Which means that if Davies says fetch you fetch, Davies says carry you carry, clean you clean and so on. I do recall telling one boy to hand over his orange and when he spiritedly refused, taking it anyway and making him stand in the corner for an hour as a punishment. Yes, I do blush. I even apologise, belatedly.
But I was only a petty tyrant abusing my bit of power, and doing in turn as had been done to me. I ought to have read Machiavelli “People should either be caressed or crushed. Do them minor damage and they will get their revenge;” I was about to be taught a lesson in realpolitik.
Oblivious to it though I was, a muttering was about. It was the sound of the worm turning.
A normal morning: I awake, ablute, dress and take the concrete steps down from the dormitory two at a time in glad, confident stride. Thrusting the shoes I am carrying at the first Second Former I see, I bark. “Clean these and bring them to me in the dayroom, whelp!”
Discomfort. Small boy’s eyes cast down. Nervously replies “I can’t, Davies!”
“What! You bloody well can and you will. What do you mean ‘Can’t’?”
“Melbroke and Foster told us not to do anything you told us to do or we would cop it worse from them!”
“We’ll see about that. I will sort them out. You just get these shoes cleaned or else!”
“Alright Davies” small boy squeaks. Goes off unhappily.
Despite my bluster I have a sinking feeling. I have been called out and suddenly the Emperor has no clothes.
My premonitions of doom prove all too well founded. I confront my fellow prefects who tell me the game is over. They are calling the shots now and nobody is going to take shit from me anymore. I rage and storm off unconvincingly but the tide has turned. I am sent to Coventry. Excommunicated.
There follows a hellish time until the usurpers start to make themselves pretty unpopular in their turn, offering me a window to re-invent myself but things are never quite the same again. I have had a corner knocked off.
And now the Senior School beckons and soon I will be once again a small fish in a big pond. We are all scared that we will have our heads stuffed down the toilet and the flush pulled (No, since you ask and I never heard of it actually happening to anybody else).
With no regrets at all I pass through the Junior School gates for the last time. In September it will be Ston Massive, Senior School.
But before that eight weeks of glorious summer holiday. Au revoir les enfants.