A few weeks in to the first term at the Masonic School and there is a glimmer of light on the horizon: half-term is approaching.
Half-term: a weekend when your mother can come and take you out on Saturday morning, returning you to school in the evening and collecting you again on Sunday morning before the final return that evening. The joy. It is impossible to describe the thrill of anticipation but I can still feel it 50 years on.
Saturday morning: the excitement is intense and after an early finish to Saturday morning lessons we await the arrival of the beloved parent after seven weeks of separation. Was there ever a child whose mother, for whatever, reason did not/could not attend? I recall that such a lot did occasionally befall a child, but Thank the Lord, never me.
After the joy of reunion, an embrace (probably constrained – those were the days my friend) and our mothers took us off for the day. The Bakerloo Line train from Watford and on to the Science Museum, Madame Tussaud’s or some such, followed by a Wimpy and Chips. Around us the drab 1950s were segueing into the more colourful 1960s as Beat gave way to Beatles. London was not yet Swinging but the plates were shifting. Not that we Masonic boys were aware of anything but the joyful taste of freedom as we trailed around museums and parks (they were free) clutching the reassuring hand of our mothers, eating sweets and other such treats. Ahead of us, on return, the annual fireworks – around a monster bonfire, pride of the Head Groundsman complete with an walk-in entrance to allow him to torch it from inside – which our mothers stayed for. After the display we slept soundly in the knowledge that our mothers were accomodated somewher nearby and in the anticipation of another such day on the morrow. Briefly life felt good.
Sunday dawned clear and we were soon away into London’s parks and low-cost restaurants. However, as the day wore on thoughts of The Return intruded. The final cream tea, savoured for its every moment, before we return heavy of foot and heart through the school portals darkness descending. Parting is unalloyed sorrow but a stiff upper lip is required. Cry-babies along with Sneaks were looked upon with contempt by masters as much as fellow pupils.
As the dormitory lights clicked off down the rows of red brick houses, the air hangs heavy. Each boy’s thoughts a curtain of misery: a perfect storm.
However, in my mind a plan is forming; a cunning plan. An ingenious. A plan so cunning, you could “stick a tail on it and call it a weasel”. But that’s for another day.