As you can see from the inset I was not an only child. Taken around 1957 the photograph reveals me as the jug eared one leaning on my father’s knee. He was Cmdr. Stanley Davies RNR and if you are interested in his wartime exploits commanding 159th Minesweeping Flotilla, as narrated by my older brothers Hugh and Jeremy respectively, you can read them here (you will need to scroll down the page on the website until the article Minesweeping Heritage – Cdr. Stanley Ewart Davies DSC** RNR)
He was a warrior and let us just say that his story makes my life seem pretty tame. “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea” said Samuel Johnson 250 years ago and it still has the ring of truth today.
My father did not survive many years beyond the year of the photo; perhaps three and he was gone: within nine months I for my part was trundling along the old London Road heading for the Masonic School, a couple of years prior to my 10th birthday.
This separation from bosom of family was cunningly done by nourishing me on a diet of Jennings books, with their tales of midnight feasts and other whizzo pranks, japes and escapade (see earlier post), all of which inclined me favourably towards the idea of a boarding education. I stepped thus with a light heart into Uncle Fred’s Wolsey on the appointed day.
However,reality shot that fox and after three years my brother could have few illusions about boarding school. A different strategy was required if he was to join me for an education at the expense of the Brotherhood.
And actually, with both the eldest brothers long married and my sister very recently also hitched, my mother was evidently liking the idea of keeping one in the nest.
It became clear that if I did not act he would be continuing to live a life of comfort(relatively speaking) at home, whilst I followed the path of cold showers and lumpy porridge. Already he had missed the first two years of Junior School and I was certainly going to make sure he kept his date with destiny for Year Four. My mother put up some resistance but ultimately I played the “both or neither” card and it was agreed that Rich would finish the local junior school but then join me for the Autumn term 1964 at Bushey instead of taking up the place at Fairfield Grammar that was awaiting him.
I have a feeling I have still not been forgiven.
Oh and worse still, he was planning to take his favourite teddy with him; inseparable as they were. This was not in my game plan, however, as a) it would mean certain death by ridicule for him and b) shame on Davies Senior. Actually reason b) may have been reason a) in my hierarchy of thinking: it was a long time ago. Je ne me souviens plus.
What I do remember is snatching it off him in the back yard of the house and hurling it up on the roof of our two story Edwardian semi. Not an inconsiderable feat but that is not, of course, the point. He was inconsolable and the act and the memory of the act still, I fear, casts some slight shadow over an otherwise close sibling relationship. That and my role as principal actor in ensuring that he served a seven stretch at Bushey, that is.
On the upside I may have saved both teddy and its owner from a worse fate at the hands of his merciless peers at Ston. Furthermore there is more than one woman who has felt it incumbent to offer solace of the Ugandan variety, as a result of hearing the Teddy and Heartless Elder Brother story. So in the end was I really so bad?
Judge me as you too shall be judged.