September 1960. It is day three at the Royal Masonic School for Boys and the penny has finally dropped.
The dorm feasts and other whizzo pranks that seemed to constitute daily boarding school life for Jennings and Co have not materialized. Worse the food is crap and on day two older boys refused to pass me the salt at dinner. I complain “Matron, they won’t pass me the salt”. Immediately a hissing refrain strikes up “Sneak! Sneak! Davies is a sneak”. I colour. The humiliation is intense. I get the salt but nothing can flavour my food now.
I have learnt Rule 1 of the public school code. Never, never sneak. The fate of grasses, snitches, sneaks and squealers is no different at public school than at any other residential male establishment: army, prison, wherever, ostracism and the threat of physical violence.
The dream is dead and on day three I approach the deputy Housemaster “Excuse me Sir. I want to go home now”
With contempt he dismisses me “Don’t be stupid boy. Term ends at Christmas”
Rule 2: The adults are not, and will not be, there for you.
The words land on me with the force of a mountain and I return to the line of boys readying themselves for afternoon school. As I stare across the tarmac wilderness of the playground to the playing fields beyond a lump rises and I fight tears. The future rises up before me like a wasteland an interminable wilderness separating me from the comfort and familiarity of home and family.
Why didn’t someone tell me?