Au Revoir Les Enfants

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.

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18 Responses to Au Revoir Les Enfants

  1. Joules Garrod says:

    Another great read Chris.
    How did that horrid, power crazy boy become the lovely man I now know?
    Maybe you should have also read “The Education of Henry Adams” – “A friend in power is a friend lost”!

    • admin says:

      Love you too Jules. The horrid boy still has the occasional outing but any increase in loveliness you can put down to the love of a good woman and two spesh daughters. Türkıyeye yakında gerı gel

  2. Sandra Osborne says:

    Brilliant writing.Reminds me of my early days in banking!

  3. Rod Stark says:

    Wow! I just found this blog, and I love it! I was a few years behind you, I think. I was sentenced to JSton in 1965 at the age of eleven. The whole experience of the junior and senior schools ended up being something that, by the time I left, I had convinced myself was great. I did end up getting a very good education, though the senior school headmaster, Mullins, did bully me into studying Classics rather then smomething useful. It did get me a scholarship to Oxford, since when I’ve progressed from success to mediocrity.
    My big unresolved issue about the Masonic schools is how much they may have contributed to my gay sexuality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly content with that, but I do wonder to what extent my boarding school life was a factor.
    Anyway, I’m really enjoying the blog and hope you’ll give your impressions of this issue at some point–without naming names, of course.

  4. David Baxendale says:

    What a joyful find, what a great blog. Well done Chris. As one of the last to go (Warwick 1976) I will post some memories of that time when I can drag them out of what remains of the grey matter. Meanwhile, say hello to Kalkan for me – have visited several times. Wonderful place. But don’t tell anyone…..

  5. Pete McDowell says:

    I was in F house at the same time as your good self and remmber the first two years at Jston as a fight for survial. Once the frist two years had been over come the last two were a walk in the park. Only to find that you had to go through it all again when you got to Ston. Strange how the rules changed with time just when you had done your time and could dish out shoes to be cleaned the powers to be said no its not right you cant do that any more. Any more……………….just let us have a term or half a term just to try it out.

  6. Bob Tetlow says:

    Well Chris, 9 out of 10 for composition, and 10 out of 10 for recall. How well you put it all into perspective. Fate put us all together in a glass bottle with a large stopper. Sadly there were plenty of wasps in the bottle, but happily under the debris at the bottom of the bottle were a few kindly bumble bees…. for me it was Dicky Hamilton for one in the Junior school and Neville Smith and Tony Renoir in the Senior School. Though I think, as my Housemaster at Lathom, Neville became my surrogate father.

    Friendships forged in this adversity are strong and stand the test of time. I have been lucky with this small prize and value my Stonic friends. This brings me to how I found your post. Tony Renoir passed away in the summer of 2012 at the fine age of 91. He had given much to many students and he is well remembered for his generosity. Andy Cade (Derby) and David Jolly (Cadogan) have compiled their memories which should be published in the OM in due course. As I trawled through to see if I could find any picture of Ben, I stumbled upon your blog. Fantastic!

    Is there some long unfulfilled need amongst us all try to make sense of it all? I was one of the lucky ones. Although I had to endure the beatings from King for my imperfect French, I never had to endure anything worse.

    I hope you will find time to illuminate your time at the ‘Massive’ Senior School. It wasnt all that bad. I remember someone keeping their Lambretta just outside school so that we could spend Saturday afternoons as far away as possible.

    Enjoy your happy days in Turkey……I’m still making a living to keep the grand children in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

    Happy days to all survivors of the penal colony!

  7. Roland Johnson says:

    I have found this fascinating so far,please continue with these revelations. Regards Roland(Will) Johnson Kipling and Connaught houses 1969_74

  8. John Higham says:

    How cool it was to stumble across this blog ………
    I was in E House then Derby ……. 1963 to 1970′ left when I was 16.
    recognise a lot of names here, recognise a lot of the stories

    • John Higham says:

      Would love to hear what happened to Brian Cowan and Ian Hamilton, where they are and what they are doing ……..

      • Brian Cowan says:

        John, just found this blog…. we have since made contact,
        Its hard to believe you were up on one of the Forties platforms and I was on the supply boat maybe 100 mts away below.
        both not knowing the other was there. I am still running the care home but will be closing it soon, Our day centre is going from strength to strength and our respite facility is still busy.
        It would be good to meet up again and maybe bring Marilyn next time.

  9. Steve wright says:

    What a cracking story. Very well discribed, even though I attended a few years later, it’s just as I remember some of it.

  10. Roland johnson says:

    Interesting stuff. Want to read more!

  11. Roland johnson says:

    Interesting stuff. Want to read more! I have since joined the masons and people are quite intrigued about the school

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