September 1961: I am nine years old. My mother is in the passenger seat of Uncle Fred’s Vauxhall and we are on the road to London from Bristol.
My father, a freemason and distinguished naval commander, left this earth ten months previously November 12th 1960 and I am in the back seat on my way to the Royal Masonic School for Boys in Bushey, courtesy of the Brotherhood. All expenses paid.
How do I feel? Since you ask, I am excited, keen to crack on. For the last six months my mother has carefully served up a diet of Jennings books to me and at some, no doubt carefully calculated, moment popped the fateful question “Would you like to go away to a school like Jennings’, Christopher?”. Is the Pope a Catholic?
Here I am, on the road, sucking my way through a tin of travel sweets and keenly anticipating a future of dorm feasts and spiffing japes. We arrive and are greeted by matron and ‘F’ House’s (I know, imaginative or what?) Housemaster, Mr. ‘Bertie’ Breckons. After the formalities I wave mother and Uncle Fred off, ever keen to press on.
First night, moon through dormitory windows falls on serried ranks of iron bedstands and pale blue counterpanes. The quiet is broken by the pitiful sobs of new arrivals. Not mine though: what are they like these idiots? This is going to be FUN
How little I knew. Altogether more prescient my fellow travellers had already grasped what took me a couple more days; alone and pathetically unaware, I had entered a long, dark tunnel.
Into my still early life a whole lot more rain was about to fall