The title is a doff of the cap to Somerville and Ross – Further Experiences of an Irish RM. My father was such a fan of the 1980s television series. This will not be a linear account of my time at Eton. It is more thematic. However, in this piece I have tried to restrict myself to covering the first year. As I said in a previous piece – the characters described herein are altogether figments of my creativity. Any verisimilitude between personalities written about in this work of fiction and real persons whether living or otherwise is completely accidental. Does that libel proof me?
In my first few days I turned up for some rugby trial. It was on Agar’s if I recall rightly – one of the nearer pitches. I had been asked what XV I had been in at prep school. I looked quizzical when asked and answered hesitatingly – the 1st XV. Much later I realised that most boys had been to large prep schools that would have a 1st XV, 2nd XV and 3rd XV. My prep school had had only one. There had been the under 11s too. So it befell that I went for a trial with some of the best players in the year. I thought I acquitted myself well. But I found myself on a list in School Yard to go to a practice on another field on Dutchman’s.
Some time later I realised I had been demoted. This was for the 5ths! I was embarrassed and could not admit it to my friend in a letter. I claimed it was the 4ths.
I had an enjoyable season playing rugby and we won more than we lost. Our coach was a tall, youngish woman Miss Auchinleck. A woman coaching teenage boys rugby may seem curious. It was perhaps fortunate that she was not blessed with beauty. My mother was astonished about a woman being our coach. ”Does she get in amongst you?”
Miss Auchinleck was accompanied everywhere by her waist high brown dog. Miss Auchinleck was so bereft of pulchritude that there was a running gag about her. People would see Miss Auchinleck and her faithful hound and remark, ”I would love to fuck her, The dog that is.”
Sport was status. If a boy was a gifted sportsman than he had the respect of the others. I was no sportsman!
There was one boy in the 5th XV whom I shall call Melbourne. Melbourne aged 13 was already about 6’2”. You might think this was an immense advantage. But he was ponderous and malcoordinated. In fact our captain was Domitian. Domitian was very short and had a curtain hairstyle. What he lacked in stature he compensated for with extreme aggression on the pitch. This even went to the extent of growling and he charged forward with the ball.
After half term I remember Domitian telling of us of what he got up to in London. How he had been drunk and wandering around in a dinner jacket till the wee hours. He was short of the grey matter. In his second year he apparently tried to slash his wrists and promptly left the school. I never found out what he did since but he is on FB.
We went to play at Tonbridge and I think Byranston. Pangbourne came to play us. We would meet them at the Burning Bush and take our opposite number back to our room to change and then off to the pitch. I played as a second row.
I think it was at Tonbridge when I managed to catch the ball in a line-out – it was Tonbridge’s throw so that was a coup. The ball came loose in a ruck one time. I fly hacked it on out of the melee. I managed to get it all the way to the opposition try line. Somehow I think a try was not scored. In fact I do not remember scoring at all that season.
I was weak at Maths – certainly by Eton standards. Maths could have proved a stumbling block to my getting in. My Common Entrance gave my Maths as ”borderline” which was a sensitive way of saying I failed it. I think that was for Maths II. For Maths III I am pretty sure it used a less sensitive word for ”failure” and that is ”failure”. But they took me anyway.
We sat in the Maths department on the morning of our first Maths lesson. The rumour went around that the chap about to teach us was a rabbi. He was short, bearded and styled the reverend – he looked a bit rabbinical. I shall call him Gnome since that was his soubriquet among the boys. If that indicates disrespect then you have understood it right. We pronounced the silent G in Gnome just to emphasise our disdain for this creep.
Gnome went through the list of names. He observed, ”There is a distinct Scottish flavour to this division.”
We were given a calculator that showed the last few calculations one had done. This was useful to the teacher because he could see how we had messed up earlier on. There was the manual for it. Our first EW was to read the manual that weekend. EW stood for extra work. It was an example of Etonian lingo being inaccurate. It was not EXTRA work – we had to do it. It was our homework.
I reasoned that I would soon have to do a lot of work that I could not avoid. There was no way I could assimilate everything in that calculator manual. He would not test us on it. I did not do the EW. I got away with it. So there Gnome!
After only a few lessons Gnome realised I was already falling behind. Maths was a bugbear of mine. My Maths teacher at prep school said he knew Gnome.
In the afternoon I had to come in for a brief one on one session with Gnome. Gnome had a few algebraic equations for me to do. My hopelessness was soon apparent. He said I needed extra lessons. Soon enough these were arranged with a female teacher. I paid attention in these
Gnome was a bit of a cunt. I cannot think of a single person who ever said they liked him. His lessons were purgatorially boring. Some of his behaviour would these days lead to official complaints. I am not hinting at sexual misconduct. I do NOT accuse him of anything of that nature. When I could not remember some rule in Maths he huffed, ”When was the Battle of Bannockburn fought?” / ”1314” I answered. ”So why can’t you remember a basic mathematical rule?” he screamed. This would these days be called emotional harm. ANyway, we treat teenagers too softly now. He was very impatient with low ability boys. In fact we were not THAT low ability. I passed Maths GCSE. Bear in mind most people do not do that. So even the slowest of us was above average. It is a sobering thought.
I did sympathise with Gnome even at the time. He had to teach us thickoes and it was a waste of his talent. He was into higher Maths. He taught the top scholars and he even wrote Philosophy. Well tough! You are a schoolmaster and you have to teach the thickoes as well as the bright ones. I suppose because he was head of department he manfully took on the task of teaching the dim ones.
I was feeble at Latin. This was partly down to lack of ability and lack of application. I had not been taught much of it at prep school. I was the only one to sit Latin Common Entrance. If memory serves me right it was the night before the exam that the headmaster sat me down with a Common Entrance paper for the first time. Alcazar was what I called the headmaster. He bore a resemblance to Alcazar – the Latin American strongman in Tintin and not to the castle in Granada. However, Alcazar in Tintin had a lantern jaw and this headmaster was weedy. I cannot blame Alcazar overmuch. I sensed he was deeply unsure of Latin. Even if I had had a terrific Latin teacher I only would have been a bit better.
My Latin beak in my first half had the name Shortland-Jones. Mr Shortland-Jones was bald, elderly, diminutive Old Harrovian with a cut glass accent and an inability to make the ‘R’ sound. They do not make them like him anymore We called him ShortHAND-Jones. This cruel epithet was owing to the fact that the middle finger on one hand had been amputated half way up. Occasionally we called him Shorthand-Finger but not to his face. Shorthand-Jones turned this to his advantage. He knew we were grossed out by it. Mr Shorthand-Jones would ask us a declension. If we could not recall it he would use his gnarled digit to poke up on the head. These days people would complain – as though this were abuse. His strategy was somewhat effectual. We really did not want to have his deformed finger jabbing into our scalps. So boys who endeavour to learnt a bit of Latin.
I was in the 6th of 7 Latin divs. The other boys in the class were faineant at Latin. I found the grammar as dry as dust. No attempt was made to make it appealing. We did not think we had any business complaining that it was taught in a desiccated style. It was Latin! The ambience of the class was that of being proud to be idle. There was little sense in trying since we were all useless at Latin.
Nickerson was in my class. Nickerson was a skinny blond boy in another class. He excelled at the guitar and nothing else. He must have been at Ludgrove with Norbert. Norbert was also in that Latin div. Yes, I was that woeful at Latin that I was in the same class as the notoriously dim witted Norbert. Nickerson encouraged me to mime at Norbert – pretend to speak to him for a while but say nothing. I tapped Norbert on the shoulder and then moved my lips as though speaking. It took Norbert a few moments to figure out that I was not actually talking. Norbert was half deaf but in fact he took this vicious prank very well.
I turned up a minute late for a div and Shorthand-Jones rebuked me. ”You’re late.”/ ”Am I?” I retorted. He took that fairly well. Rawlings and Udo later said I had been wrong to be so bolshie. In fact I got some street cred for my truculence.
I was performing abysmally at Latin. Conjugations made me lose consciousness. Shorthand -Jones wrote a letter to Sagar saying how dismal I was at the subject and that he forecast I would fail trials. These were the exams at the end of the first term. I was worried by that. At this point Sagar told me I had to do a GCSE in the subject. I had not realised that.
I was summoned to a room near Jourdelays to resit a test I had failed. A few others had been called to. I simply forgot. I got away with it.
The next term I did make more of an effort. Sometimes I could memorise the tables but I could never remember the rule and then make it operate in a practical example. Try as I might I was dreadful at Latin. It was incredibly banal. I was good at the Classical Civilisation side of things. A quarter of the subject was just history.
Rawlings and I used to test each other on vocab. We would speak in pukka accents and the voices of old men. We affected the personas of crusty dons and dropped hints as to the right answers.
My next teacher was Mr Bren. I shall call him this as I found out later he had fled Czechoslovakia as an infant in the 1930s. I presume he was Jewish. He was bald and cantankerous but I got on well with him. He openly verbally abused some boys.
Bren was of middle height, chubby and bald. He had an acerbic manner but I got on well with him. He openly despised Norbert. ”Ooga, ooga, ooga Norbert!” he would say whilst doing a chimp impression scratching his arm pits. It makes me crack up to recall it. The class would be in paroxysms of laughter as Bren mercilessly took the piss out of the dunce.
There was another boy called Cardboard – not his real name – in another class. Cardboard made the immense mistake of opting for Greek despite being dyslexic. Cardboard performed terribly at Ancient Greek. Bren also ridiculed him in front of the whole class. Cardboard was a fat, speccy, adinoidal voiced, pigeon toed Physics freak with minimal social skills. He was enough of a target for malicious mirth anyway. Bren used to lampoon Cardboard for having illegible handwriting. This often reduced Cardboard to tears in the lesson. Oddly, parents never seemed to complain about that sort of thing back then. These days the headmaster’s phone would be jumping off the hook if a teacher merely said ”be quiet” to rowdy pupil.
Luckily I had pulled the finger out with regard to Latin. I was performing half-decently. As I was punctual, polite and industrious Bren took to me. He would often sing my praises to the class. ”Woode is a man among boys, a beacon of light amidst a morass of idiocy.” You may think I am inventing these words but I am not.
There was a boy in the class named Earl. He was not an Earl – that was his surname. He sat at the back of the class and we all knew he kept his textbook open during tests. He would get full marks in tests every time. We did not really resent this. He was cheating his arse off but was still well liked since he was a fairly gifted sportsman and conventional in every way. In the end there was poetic justice. About 12 years later he lost his job and his fiancee on the same day. He was caught fucking his secretary in the office. So much for cheating!
Teachers at Eton are officially called beaks. We did not use the word beak very much. I have no idea of the etymology of it. They had to wear a uniform. This consisted of a dark suit, white shirt with a detachable stiff collar and white bow tie. Many of them wore a black jacket, black waistcoat and blue and grey striped trousers. Women could wear something along these lines.
9/10 of them were men. A large number were ‘not the marrying type.’ I was too green then to realise that some of them were gay. There were others whom even at the time I realised were as queer as cum flavoured quiche.
There was an English teacher known as Wetty. Wetty is no longer with us. Wetty taught me Drama. He must have been 50 when I arrived there. He was tall and not fat. A thin thatch covered his dome like head. He spoke in a camp and languid drawl. His movements just screamed ”homo”. We found him hilarious. It is surprising people did not ridicule him more.
Oswald was another beak who was as queer as a three pound note. Wisa, an Egyptian in my house told me a story about Oswald. a Latin lesson the class came across the word that was construed as ”bent” but not to mean ”bend the metal bar”. One of the boys asked the meaning of this word. Oswald said, ”Hmmm… bent… the way I am.” Wisa chortled, ”And nobody got it.” Oswald has accidentally admitted being homosexual to his class . Was that a paralepsis? Perhaps it was an awkward attempt to define ”bent” as in ”inclination, character, tendency.”
Oswald later confided in a tutee of his that whilst he was homosexual he had not tried it since it would be a sin.
The head of art was Mr Mugglestone. Mugglestone was skinny and mischievous. He had mousy curly hair that was a bit unruly. He was very likable and the most immature person in the school. Once he took us to some gardens to draw. He ran ahead and his behind a tree! He was forever cheekily smiling. Despite his childishness people did not misbehave because he was just so sweet. He seemed feeble and effeminate. Udo remarked to me of Mugglestone, ”Did you ever see anyone so insanely homosexual?” Mugglestone told uus how he had been in the cadet force when he was at school and detested it. He was the most unsoldierly person of all time. The sergeant major who shriek at him ”Mugglestone – you are naked!”, / ”No, I think you will find I have one button undone.” Mugglestone would be marched off the parade to await some horrific punishment for his insubordination. Mugglestone said how he had been working on the second floor of the Art Department late at night when he saw some boys smoking below him. He could have busted them for smoking but devised a more apposite punishment. He filled up a bucket of water and poured it out the window and onto their heads!
The teachers had mostly been to Oxford or Cambridge. The ubiquity of Oxbridge graduates among the staff made getting into such universities seem very possible. Plenty of them had PhDs. A few of them had regional accents. Perish the thought! I could tell that some of them looked askance at our arrogance. It must have been galling to teach 13 year olds who were so stuck up and complacent. Others did not hide their left wing views. It is breathtaking that some of these leftists had the hypocrisy to teach at Eton. Perhaps it was outreach in a place riddled with right wingery. There were others who had the same snobbish attitudes as most of the boys.
Chevalier was a French beak and he was French. He refused to wear beak’s uniform. I do not know how this little beardo got away with it. Why was wearing the right clothes unbearable for him? He smoked in lessons. It is an astonishing thought these days. His Gallic rebelliousness garnered him a little respect among the boys. In fact Chevalier never taught me.
There were four beaks who were Irish. All of them were northern and I am fairly sure that all were Protestants. One of them spoke in Received Prounciation. The other three had mild Ulster accents. The boys called them Irish. Doing impressions of them boys would speak in Dublinese. They were unable to distinguish between that an a Northern Irish accent.
That summer half the house was under renovation. One of the builders was a Southern Irishman. He was straight from Central Casting. He was short, podgy and had a potato face. He wheezed and had eyes popping out of his red face. He was not very mannerly. Rawlings quipped that this chap must be my father. Rawlings was partly Irish on both sides.
Prunella had been dead against me going to Eton. She had remarked, ”I am not surprised so many Eton boys end up gay of they only women they get to see are really old” My father testily chided her. Those were the days when homosexuality met with frank disapproval from most people.
I considered being gay to be at best risible. So did the rest of the school. It was the subject of endless mirth. How much of these was mere badinage? Some of the behaviour there had homo overtones.
One of our favourite things to do was a pile on. Of a weekend we would be in the Quiet Room watching telly. The Quiet Room was named in that Eton manner of giving something a totally misleading name. During the week the telly was locked so the room really was quiet. But when it was the weekend and the television was out we gathered there and it became raucous.
Someone would shout ”pile on” and roll onto the carpet. One person would like on him. More people would jump on him. Before long everyone in the room would be lying on top of each other. The poor sod on the bottom would be crushed half to death. AFter a few seconds we would pile off. It is surprising no one got asphyxiated with 20 boys on top of him.
These pile ons were not always voluntary. Sometimes someone would be lolling on the carpet and someone else who leap on him and shout ”On Perkins!” or whatever the name was. ANother one was to see someone sitting on the carpet watching tell and then t jump on him and lie on him bodily – exhort the others to pile on.
These pile ons lead to a lot of physical contact. To some extent it was just horseplay. There must have been an element of orgiastic homoeroticism to it. So twas totally innocent then. Oh such frottage!
Then there were bugger trains. One boy would be seated on a chair in the Quiet Room. Someone else would sit on his lap and someone would sit on the second boy’s lap and a fourth would sit on the lap of a third until about 10 boys were sitting on each other as though engaged in rectal intercourse. We would all laugh ourselves silly at this. Sometimes it would be voluntary but sometimes a particularly feeble specimen would be seated and a hefty lad would sit on him and loudly demand others to sit on him.
There was an unwritten rule that one did not engage in bugger trains or pile ons after D Block. After that is might be faintly well – gay. Moreover, it would seem not quite right for an 18 year old to have such close physical contact with a 13 year old.
The strange thing is I never heard of a gay relationship there. Nor so far as I know did anyone engage in gay acts – not even mutual masturbation. Reading memoirs from as recently as the 60s such conduct was rife. Back then it was mere situational homosexuality. Those boys experimented with queerdom due to the absence of girls. As soon as they left school 99% of them were straight.
There was a tall and skinny lad in the block above who had been orally raped the year before I came up. His assailant was expelled. This victim must have felt eyes boring into him as the story went around about what happened to him.
Those were the days when people voice undisguised disgust at homosexuality. Arse bandit, colon commander, rectal ranger, sod, poof, queer and so forth were among the milder epithets for what was widely considered to be something shameful. People were fixated with queers partly because they were fighting an inner battle against such instincts. It is not that most boys were really gay but that there were no girls around.
In my house we read Empire (a film magazine), Loaded, FHM and lads’ mags. In the back of these supposedly hetero magazines there would be advertisements for ”Gay X Change” and other gay chatlines. We would cut these out and stick them on the door of another boy as if to say that he was a homo.
There were endless jokes about queers. In my second half a boy in my year wanted some favour from the house captain and said to him, ”May I offer you sexual buggery?” It was meant as a quip but the house captain was stunned at how perverted this child had already become.
Just occasionally girls would ring the house phone. This was before mobiles. Boys would sometimes answer and say, ”We do not like girls we re all gay here.”
We did not have any chances to mingle with chapesses in the early years.
TWO YEARS ABOVE
I had been warned that when I went to public school I would get grief from the boys in the year above. They were very keen to demonstrate that they were no longer the sprogs. They could push us around. The boys in the top year would be far too lofty to even notice us yet alone mistreat us.
The boys two years ahead seldom felt it worth their while to mistreat us. Seldom. Bullying at Eton was never severe. There would be a few punches on the shoulder. That was as bad as it got. There is such a tendency to alarmism these days. Any unpleasantness is treated as though it is the most horrendous crime. Bullying is certainly distasteful but let’s keep things in perspective.
Anyway, there were a few boys two years ahead who are worth limning.
Ram was a British Indian. As a typical British family they had moved to Spain. Having said that this was a time when it was not the done thing for posh people to move to Spain. That was ”ra-ther” nouveau. His mother even spoke with a British accent. Judging by her age she was almost certainly not born in the UK. Back in the 1950s very few Indians had been born in the United Kingdom. Ram was shorter than me despite being two years older. He was spindly but a skilfull footballer. He went out of his way to be kind. When I was verbally abused for being Irish he was the only one to spring to my defence. I admire him greatly for that. I would guess that he occasionally got insulted over his ample melanin. I never heard anything like that except when looking up which shirt colour to wear for house football. It was either white or blue. ”We’re white” someone would shout. ”No, we have Ram on our team.” That was the size of it. Some people came to loathe Ram for wearing a medallion. When he was in library (i.e. a house prefect) he actually did his duties of trying to make us go to bed on time. Why should he care? I was a courteous and obedient boy and did as I was told. I was also grateful for him having the courage to do the right thing by me in difficult days. Rawlings in particular despised Ram.
Forest was aptly named. He was as tall as one. He was Forest mi to be accurate. Forest ma was in B Block when I arrived. Forest mi had an especially upper class accent and a filthy sense of humour. He was formidably clever. He was doing Russian and only the cleverest boys did that. Forest was a gangly 6’2” when I met him and he had not finished growing. He had trouble playing football because he was so tall it took a long time for message to get from his brain to his feet – a bit like certain dinosaurs. He sucked his thumb – even when dribbling a ball. He was volatile and intolerant. Ram accused him of being a baby. Forest mi sometimes gave me grief for being Irish. I remember him thumping my bicep after the IRA had killed someone. ”You kill my countrymen and I hit you.” In this case ”’you”’ meant the Irish as a whole. He did not hurt me much and I laughed it off. Forest mi was the scion of a shipping dynasty and was possessed of some very right wing views. Despite this he detested the Catholic Church because of its teaching against contraception and he wanted Hong Kong to go to the Chinese. He was also a strident critic of the Tory Government which he said he turned the UK into ”a crap services based economy.” Although he became fluent in Russian he despised Russia as a country that was terribly misgoverned. He was a wag. He cracked many anti-gay jokes. He also turned nursery rhymes into smut. ”Old mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her doggy a bone/ Then Rover took over/ And gave her an old doggy bone.”
Clay was a boy two years above who though not tall was very clever. He was well adjusted and not outspoken. He was an Oppidan Scholar which meant he had come within an ace of winning a King’s Scholarship. He was doing Japanese which was the only language even more intellectually exclusive than Russian. He was one of the most genuine and agreeable boys in the house.
Goebells was unlucky in having the same surname as a leading Nazi. He was also about the height of Goebells too. He was an ardent Christian and spoke with a strikingly upper class accent. At tea one time the others chided him for supposing boning a girl in Spain in the summer holidays. Goebells played along with this. It was all a windup for Janice – the brain dead maid. There was no one more unlikely than Goebells to have done this. He was unprepossessing and as I said he was a passionate believer in Christianity.
Cunningham was also in D Block when we arrived. He was well below average height but he was a talented sportsman. He later became House Captain of Games. His slightly dark complexion and his natural quiff made him instantly recognisable. He was forever chipper and he was very approachable. I never saw him angry. He was one of the most genial boys in the house.
Moyola was three years above me. Moyola was the great grandson of a renowned Irish politician which is why I give him this name. I noticed his unusual name and asked him if the famous man was his ancestor. Moyola said yes but found the whole topic profoundly boring. Moyola acted as though he had been dropped on the head at an early age. He spoke in a high pitch voice yet was very muscular. He was a rower of outstanding ability. He was also fond of the most sexually perverse jokes. By Eton standards that was really saying something. He was a bit of a nutter and seemed devoid of the usual range of emotions.
Moyola had a penchant for the trumpet and the pink oboe. He was always cracking filthy jokes about homosexualism. He also did a fine line in light bondage. I remember one evening in my second half Moyola paid an unannounced visit to my bedroom. He was supposedly in debate. Debate was a typically irrational Eton term in that it did not describe what the word actually means. Debate was a group of boys who were mostly in C Block and they were supposedly junior house prefects. In fact it meant bugger all. Moyola came into my room at bedtime wearing his banana boat schoolboy’s cap. This was a yellow and blue stripe cap given to those who were terrific rowers. Moyola was carrying a knobbly bamboo cane. He told me to get into bed. I had been seated at my desk. Then he said no – get out and kneel by your bed. I thought it amusing and obliged. This was some sort of lark. Then he commanded, ”drop your trousers.” I was perplexed and refused. He then pulled down my pyajama bottoms. I accused him of being a queer. He gave me a few thrashes with his cane. He did not hit hard but his springy cane bit me. I certainly felt it. I jumped into bed. He shrugged and was off. That was that. It was a few seconds of mild pain and humiliation. I thought no more of it. Moyola did something a tiny bit naughty. My bum was not crimson. Presumably there was a frisson of sexual pleasure for him. These days people would hugely overreact and tell me that Moyola had abused me or psychologically damaged me. It was very trivial. I do not resent this boy one bit. At least he imprinted on me my predeliction for S and M. Now that was educational!
Judge. I call him Judge since he was the son of one. Judge was three years ahead of me and had very pale skin, a beak like nose and narrow eyes. He sported a curtains hair style – then at the height of fashion. He spoke in a bass voice and was in the choir. No choir boy he – he was good at karate. Judge was also the house joker. He liked acting and was well known as a wit. In Prayers we would have a performance every night. This could be a reading, a song, juggling, a piece of music or a skit. Judge liked to amuse us with his hilarious acts. Once they did a send up of Gladiators. His character was named Lion-o. His act was bravura and everyone almost fell over laughing.
Caesarion was also three years above me. Caesarion was fairly short and slender but he was terrific at sports. He spoke with heightened received pronunciation and it was not difficult to see why. He was a lord already. His father had one of the heighest titles in Yorkshire. Caesarion was a descendant of a Viceroy of India no less. There was not braggadocio about his chequered family history. Perhaps this is why he was so self-assured. He was convivial and very decent. He was also effortlessly academic. It made me see why those with hereditary titles were appointed to offices in the past. They had a self confidence and a lack of personal ambition that was very rare among commoners like me. This was before Alain de Boton’s book ‘Status Anxiety’ was published but the idea was forming in my mind. People often flagellate themselves with these questions of status.
Cameron was also in C Block when I arrived. Cameron was not related to the Prime Minister. He was one of those Scots who had an unbelievably pukka accent. He also had the speech impediment to go with it – not that it dented his confidence one iota. He would try saying, ”My name is Charlie Cameron.” It would come out as ”My nwaym is Chaa-wu Kim wym.” No one ever slagged him off. He had a deformed chin and jet black hair. Hilariously he was a linguist. Imagine hearing French in that accent! Cameron was a close friend of Judge’s.. They had the same wicked sense of humour but Judge was the livelier of the duo. He got himself into Oxford. He also got himself booted out for failing his exams.
Taylor was another member of C Block. He had brown hair and was lissom. He was only averagely posh. He was also North British. Taylor was an all rounder – reasonably smart, fairly good at sports etc… But was not a plodder. He was clubbable. He eventually made it to Pop when someone else was sacked from it for taking E on a weekend out.
THE HOUSE ACROSS THE ROAD
Across the road was a house called White’s. Some of the boys in White’s were very notable characters. One of them was known as Nigger Lips. How unwise of me to give his nickname. I did not invent it. Nigger Lips was white but his lips really did look like that. He was the grandson of a celebrated poet. He was no writer himself and not a scholarly type. He carved a niche for himself as a bad boy. He liked to wear Gulf War era combat trousers in his spare time. He was good fun. Part of the joke with him be dubbed Nigger Lips is that his best mate was Aryan Boy. Aryan Boy looked just as you would imagine. He was tall and very muscular. He had glow in the dark blonde hair, pale skin and blue eyes. Aryan Boy was a tremendous rugby player and generally seen as a hard lad. In fact when I got to know him slightly I discovered there was a more sensitive side to him that he preferred to keep hidden. He was interested in theatre but did not want people to know that. It might undermine he image.
There was a boy in the house across the street named Tooth. Tooth was in my block and I felt very sorry for him since he was a social outcast. He was bereft of common sense. He had a very strange manner and he seemed to have an incredibly ability to make the wrong decision every single time. He had not been to a prep school. Instead he had been to a tutorial college. This partly explained he complete dearth of social skills. He had a vacant facial expression and his mouth was often agape. He had a mass of mid brown curly hair. He was hopelessly disorganised and often late for things. He was half French and half American. Despite having grown up bilingual he did not manage to do well in French. He had lived in London his whole life so Tooth spoke with British accent. In my stupidity I took pity on him. I would speak to him. My compassion was a grave error. There was unpopularity by association. By spending time with this pariah some of his status rubbed off on me. The moral of the story is – be selfish. Decency is usually savagely punished. In his second term he told his dame to ”Fuck Off!”. He was put on the bill which is to say he was sent to see the Lower Master and given a heavy punishment. I continued to teeth feel sorry for Tooth but we drifted apart. In later years he was to make every mistake in the book. He claimed to be involved in London gangs and to graffitise buildings. ”This tag got me into one of the best north London crews.” He really was one of life’s victims. He also began smoking a frightening quantity of cannabis. Eventually he was expelled for possession of drugs. He ended up at a school in northern England that is a holding centre for the academically subnormal and unjustifiably arrogant. In a cruel twist of irony I was later to teach there. Fate certainly has a sense of humour!
The original house in Eton is called College. It is where the King’s Scholars live. On one of my first days I ventured over there. I had to sign out of the house after a certain time and give my destination and reason. This simply involved writing something on a sheet – not speaking to anyone.
I was awestruck by the academic ability of the King’s Scholars. There were 14 of them in our year. Only a few conformed to the geek stereotype. It really is true that some boys have all the luck. Some of them were exceptionally scholastically gifted and sporty and good looking and rich and companionable etc… It is a myth to say that someone is either an athlete or a brainbox. Some are both and most are neither.
College was handsome on the outside. It looked a bit like Hampton Court Palace with is 16th century red brick. Inside its corridors were very plain. Their bedrooms were rather small.
The King’s Scholars were known as KSs. Bertie hero worshipped Durum who was a KS in our year. Bertie told me about KS’s. I pretended not to know what KS stood for since I calculated it would be uncool to be too well informed. People occasionally called them Collegers. They wore gowns over their tailsuits. No one gave them grief for being brainy. Intelligence was respected but hard work was deprecated. One had to be brilliant without even trying. On the other than boys who were slow were insulted for their poor exam results.
Goggy was an Etonian word that has since disappeared. The bizarre thing was that in Eton’s micro language it meant two polar opposites. One was a boringly contemptible geek – the sort of adinoidal acne blemished boy who would spend Saturday night wanking over a Physics textbook. The other meaning was someone who was dim, dozy and forgetful. In either case you did not want this moniker.
I was fascinated by the history of the school. I walked around its oldest precincts. I carefully read all the plaques and inscriptions. In the Cloisters there were many memorials to those who had been killed in various wars. Most boys did not even notice. They did not care about the history of the place. They took it for granted that they would attend Eton or a similar school. I valued it partly because I had a very well developed sense of history but also because going to Eton was not a foregone conclusion in my case. I was determined to get the max out of it.
I also devoured books on the school. I read the autobiographies of some who had been to Eton. Wilfred Thesiger was one such man. I was able to identify with him as an outsider with academic difficulties.
I had long known that smoking was a measure of coolness. I had little desire to be cool. I meant that. Only a little desire so to be. Smoking was very unwise and immature. I did not want to die of cancer. I had long since decided that I would not do something to stupid. People smoked because they were ductile. I would not be giving in to such moronic peer pressure. Almost everyone else succumbed. Only one other boy in my house in the block also held out for common sense. He was also uncool.
I do not remember anyone smoking in the first half. (In a delightfully Etonian illogical manner there were three halves to a year. A half meant a term. In fact it had once made sense when the academic year was divided into two terms each of which was called a half. Enough of this parenthetical digression!)
By the second half boys in my block certainly we having a chuff – as say. They would go out onto the nearby field for a fag. The smoking age was 16 then. Aged 13 one could get boys who were a little older to purchase the ciggies.
We had a talk from Sagar on smoking. He was out tutor in addition to being the housemaster. The B Blockers guffawed that this. The whole purpose of having a tutor was so that if one had a problem with the housemaster one had someone to go to. From the B boys viewpoint Sagar could do no right. I was somewhat influenced by this. Anyhow, we had a weekly tutorial session with Sagar. This was a general chin wag for the nine of us. Sometimes there was a little admin and often there were PSHE type things to do. (PSHE – Personal Social and Health Education). Smoking was one of the topics.
Sagar was an ardent anti-smoker. He must have been born about 1950. He was highly unusual in that he never smoked. He was trim and lived a very healthy lifestyle – jogging for miles each day. He had also been high up in the Combined Cadet Force. Most soldiers smoked but he always viewed it as idiotic and wasteful. He asked us had any of us ever had a puff. Only two had. These were Nobby and Udo. Nobby was very susceptible to peer pressure. Udo was a bit daring and he had tried his mother’s cigar.
In winter the street lights went on at 6 pm. This was called lighting up time. It was a wheeze amongst the boys that this was also lighting up time in the other sense. By that time it was dark enough to go out for a smoke.
I remember in the second half playing an informal game of football with some boys from Rose’s.. Sussex, who was in that house, noisily bragged about going for a chuff.
Of the nine of us only two of us never smoked. These were myself and the shortest one. I recall Clive and Rawlings at the end of our first year urging me to do and cajoling me to. I was irritated and testily refused. Only in D Block did Udo say in front of the others ”Portley is probably very wise not to smoke.” I was staggered. People actually respected me for not smoking.
Our mid morning break was time for Elevenses – as in a snack at about 11 am. It was also time for chambers. This meant that the masters gathered in school hall for a chance to discuss things and brief announcements. We could wait on the steps and try to speak to them. We called our mid morning break ”chambers”. It was from 11;20-11;40. Whenever I see the time is 11;20 I always think it is time for chambers.
There was a boy known as Druggo in Cook’s House. Druggo was in our block. Druggo was tall, slender and had a turne up nose. He was dim but fairly sporty. He gave the impression of not caring at all about his education because he had so much money to inherit that he need never work. Cote, who was also in that house, joked that Druggo was so cool that he had a beginning of chambers fag, a middle of chambers fag and our end of chambers fag. Druggo had this handle because he was so incredibly fashionable that it was rumoured that he tried narcotics. He left after D Block. I do not know what became of him. He was so mightily impressive that when his girlfriend had come to the Fourth of June he was openly contemptuous towards her. I think he even called her ”my bitch” because he had picked it up from gangsta rap. Now that it respectable!
As for smoking – in the end most boys did as I do. They gave up smoking. So I was right and they were not. I was the one who was really mature and had the strength of character to say no to a stupid and deadly habit.
In those days we referred to the women who worked as cleaner in the house as maids. I see nothing at all wrong with this work. These days some people take umbrage at this unobjectionable word.
These maids were all menopausal. I never saw a young one in another house either. I suppose the school would not want any goings on. These working class women were mostly amiable. We got along well with them and we were almost respectful towards them.
There was one such maid whom I shall call Marge. Marge must have been 50. She looked like a poor man’s Barbara Cartland. She was gloriously obese and wore makeup like a circus clown. Even as a young woman she must have been a munter. The idea of having sex with Marge would be enough to make even the straightest boy offer his arse to the nearest AIDS infected pederast for a bareback buggering. Yet we told Norbert we all fancied Marge rotten.
Norbert did not have much between the ears. Because he was slagged off so much he was also very susceptible to peer pressure. When he said he did not find Marge to be sexy we ribbed him even more. He must be gay for not wanting her to get her knickers off.
The good thing about Marge is that she was discreet. She cleaned our rooms and came across packets of Marlboro reds, bottles of vodka and plenty of girlie mags. She never once reported this. If she had then we would have detested her.
In the afternoon there was messing. This meant tea time. We would go to a kitchen on our floor to make a snack liked beans on toast and scrambled eggs. The maid would be there to help and wash up. We would often hang around and natter with these old women.
There was another maid named Janet in the house. She was have been in her late 40s. She had very pale blonde hair and was almost fuckable. She had grown up children and a naive manner. We would chat to her very freely. We would slag her off to her face. She was so stupid that she did not realise. SOmeone even had the nerve to ask her when she lost her virginity. This was too much even for Janice. She just gave us an empty headed stare as she tried to decided what to say. Udo interjected in a mocking voice, ”I don’t know the lights were off.” We all fell about laughing.
Judge would later admit the fantasised about the Dame as she was the only woman around. That was quite an achievement for a woman who must have been menopausal.
My house dined out. That is glamourising it. We did not have a kitchen so we went to a refectory called Bekynton for our meals. The women who worked there were not all old but seemed to have been selected solely for their ugliness. It certainly was not for their culinary skills. In my third year they did employ one good looking young woman there. Now that was asking for trouble! Yes, she did have a liaison with a boy in my house. No, it was not me but the Captain of Boats. That is another story.
We did not dine smartly. People often had food fights. There were many tables. Blocks were unofficially segregated.
The Eton Society was never referred to by its real name. We always called it Pop and its members were Poppers. These boys were Eton’s peacocks. They had sponge bag trousers in a houndstooth cheque. They had brightly coloured waistcoats runup for themselves. Their tailcoats had a braid on them. On Sundays they had to wear black waistcoats but these had silver buttons. What a delight!
The outgoing Poppers elected the incoming ones. They tended to be jocks. This meant that most boys respected them. They were Eton’s traffic police. They were there at big events almost like bouncers to control our conduct. They were even allowed to fine us! It was an ego trip for them to boss us around.
I have to admit that I did admire them and envy them. I knew I would never be popular enough to get into Pop. This is the first time I am ever admitting that I hatched a secret plan to join Pop. Over 4 years I would save 1 000 pounds. That was a huge sum of money for a teenager back then. I would bribe my way in. How mature is that? In the end I gave up. I had other things to spend it on. There would be too much privation. Being in Pop would not be so special. Moreover, no sum of money would buy my way into that august body.
Pop had their own room where they could socialise. Lesser mortals were not allowed in there.
I later found out what was in the hallowed pop room. It was full of overflowing ashtrays, empty beer cans and porn videos. Remember these boys were effectively our police. They were as corrupt as hell.
I gave some thought to republicanism. I had known the republican version of events since before I could read. It went something like this. England had attacked Ireland. Ireland had been enslaved. We were Catholics and the English were Protestants. The Protestants in the north were of English blood and they had no right to be there. They barbarously treated our Catholic compatriots in the north. Ireland breaking away from England was splendid. Now we were free. Any connection with England was bad. The IRA were freedom fighters and everything they did was amply justified.
The IRA launched rockets at Heathrow while I was at school. I did not get a hard time about it.
I rejected republicanism like my father but I was a conventional nationalist. My mother held the most nauseatingly republican views. She was also a total hypocrite. She condemned the wicked English establishment which she desperately wanted me to join. If Ireland was at war against England then how come we were allowed to go to England? If Ireland was not at war against England then the IRA were terrorists.
However, part of me felt that perhaps I was wrong to denounce the IRA. Were they not the most patriotic Irishmen of all? They were willing to suffer for their platitudes. I read up on their martyrology. I could not but be impressed by the defiant and high minded letters some of them wrote before execution. There was another side to this that I did not look at. The Crown Forces had men of gallantry and principle. They never got a chance to write such letters before being killed. The fact that people are physically brave is immaterial. Every cause, good or evil, has been served by men who were prepared to die for their beliefs.
The political atmosphere of the school was the most unthinking sort of Toryism. Quite a few boys were the sons of Conservative MPs. Overtime it became fashionable to slag off the Conservative Government and express support for other parties even – perish the thought – Labour. Every smart alec began to say he was a Liberal Democrat. That was a very avant garde thing to do.
I was politically centrist at the beginning. I could see that Labour had some decency to them. I felt some sympathy for the poor. I felt more should be done to assist them. I was glad that apartheid was all but over. I spoke about Mandela being ushered into office – it was laudable. Norbert showed rare political insight, ”The whites have treated the blacks like dirt. Are you telling me the blacks are not going to want their revenge?” I said, ”Mandela is a good man and he won’t allow that.” Inwardly I was stumped. Norbert had a point.
My parents were passionate royalists. Even at the mention of aristocracy I would see them mentally genuflect. My father spoke of his admiration for the British Royal Family, ”Everyone from dustman to a duke from Land’s End to John O’Groats says ‘God Save the Queen’ and that is the best justification for it”. They were sentimental about the monarchy as am I.
My father said, ”I think we are all impressed by titles.” When someone says, ”I think we all…” they are distancing themselves from a belief they hold but find difficult to defend.
They psychologically bent the knee to aristocrats and royalty but sometimes expressed radical views.
On the list of pupils I saw boys with the appellation ”Hon.” before their name. This meant ”the honourable.” They were honourable because they were the sons of a peer of the realm. Sometimes this was rendered as ”Mr” – Mister? I suppose ordinary boys do not get Mister till the age of 21. There were a few Lords and suchlike.
These noblemen seemed to be a bit more confident perhaps. They did not have to wrestle with the problem that others do. Am I posh enough? Other than that there was nothing to unite them. They had an ordinary spread of academic ability and ability of every other kind. They had different attitudes. If anything they were timid and dismissive about their titles themselves. They tended not to like having their titles referred to. It might be done in a mocking way.
One of the sons of a peer in my Block was named Hon Saunders. Hon Saunders was a small lad with a mass of black hair and a talent for football. He was not too bright and nor was he hard working. His accent was at the lower end of the posh register. It showed vestige of Cockney. How genuine this I do not know. He certainly did not face the same existential crisis as the rest of us. Am I upper class? He knew he was upper class. His father was a peer of the realm for God’s sake. They lived in London and had a pile in Yorkshire. He once painted a picture of it. He took tea with the Queen Mother but did not boast about it. He would only talk about it when pressed to do so. His nobility gave him the social self-assurance that many others lacked. He once told me how he reviled class prejudice. ”Saying ”ah frightful lebbage” is just as bad as calling a black man a nigger.”
This was before ‘Status Anxiety’ by de Boton was published. At Eton there was this constant self-assessment as to one’s social standing. I suppose it exists everywhere. It can be the other way around where people like to be assertively working class and detest the upper class and the middle class. Most people strive for some status or other whether it is monetary, sporting, intellectual or in fashion. I do not think Eton was peculiarly pernicious in this respect.
Most boys at Eton had what is often called a public school accent – so no surprise there. There was some variety within this. There were some boys whose accents were stratospherically posh. I have never met children these days who speak with such uber pukka accents. (That is another thing – the use of upper class argot such as ”pukka”. I did not use that word to illustrate the point). There were those whose public school accent was the middle of the range and those whose accents were at the bottom of the range in that they had some regional inflection. I do no say ‘bottom’ as to imply that they were not as good just they were not as distinctively public school. However, the ubiquity of the public school accent despite one’s local origin gave lie to the notion that it is a Home Counties accent. Yes, most of the people with this accent live in the Home Counties. That means those counties immediately surrounding London. However, this accent is socially and not geographically based
I can think of a few boys who maintained their local accents. These would be mild versions of that. One boy in my year had a Scots accent. One chap had a slight Yorkshire accent and two had Mancunian accents. There was someone from Northern Ireland who had an Ulster accent. There were even a couple of boys who had a bit of a Cockney accent. In my house there was Doug – he was known as this for playing a character named Doug in a skit. Except we pronounced Doug as ”Doog” because that was how he said it. Doug came from Lincolnshire and kept his accent.
These were rare exceptions. 98% of boys spoke with received pronunciation. I arrived there with a public school accent. I phoned my mate Thomas in Scotland after a couple of months at the school. Thomas also had a public school accent. As soon as I spoke on the blower to Thomas he said, ”Your accent has changed.” I honestly did not think it had. But he was into acting and so perhaps had an ear for these things. If it did change it was unconscious.
I later reported this to my pater – Thomas reckoned my accent had become a little plummier. I was anxious. I felt it was a bad thing and reflected falsity on my part. My father put the supposed accent shift down to a bad telephone line. He really has no objectivity and will strive for any excuse no matter how ridiculous too avoid arriving at unwelcome conclusions.
Over time my accent certainly did become a jot more pukka. My vowels became longer. Yet sometimes I hit a bum note when doing so. Honesty compels me to record that this change was to some extent studied. I am a verbomane and thus pay exceedingly close attention to the precise words used. Jolly. This word does not mean ”happy” for public school people. It is used to mean ”very”. It is a social marker. Only those who are decidedly posh use it. It was widely said among those a generation above myself. In my second year I wondered, could I use the word jolly in this way? I guiltily decided that I could. I slipped ‘jolly’ into my speech but felt a little like I was betraying myself. There were other indicators of poshness that were just too much such as ”frightful”.
THE OTHER 93%
How do the other half live? That means those who do not go to public school. Except in this case it was 93% of the population who do not attend public school.
Many boys had the most acrid disdain for those who did not go to public school. As this was my milieu it was difficult not to internalise these attitudes. I had been more or less surrounded with such views at my prep school. I arrived at Eton with some class prejudice. It was reinforced. I too became haughty. The word ”pleb” was shamelessly used against anyone who had not been to public school. They were assumed to be inferior, stupid and to have bad taste. Pleb was often abbreviated to ”leb” There were several other barbs used to describe the working class or even the middle class. Among these were ”prole” and ”commoners”.
The most revolting garment ever invented was the shell suit. This was seen as the uniform of the underclass. At my prep school there had been countless jokes about how disgusting and obloquial shell suits were. It made me cringe to see my cousin wear one. I was wiser than to tell my schoolmates what she wore. I was not wise enough to reflect that this showed that the whole notion of one class being better than another was what was really obscene – not the shellsuit.
Suits were also a dead giveaway. We sometimes wore suits in the evening to the theatre or going away for matches at other schools. Our suits were all sober coloured and conservatives. Boys often had pin striped suits and some were bespoke. Not a few were from Jermyn Street or Savile Row. The suits worn by those who had not attended public school were a dead giveaway. We would see men on television or on the street and their suits seemed nauseating. They would be loud and bright. These people simply had no refinement.
Clive had been to a state school till only two years before. This was a fact we did not seem to take on board. He angrily chided us for calling anyone at a state school a pleb. He was more experienced than us and knew what state school people were really like.
I was into individuality. I would do what I wanted. I realised the majority were not always wrong. In some ways I was conventional and never had long hair. Sometimes I agreed with conventions. I was not a compulsive dissenter. But as I was such an individual I should have judged others this way. It ought to go without saying that someone’s worth is not determined by how much money they have or what type of school they attended. There are Etonians whom I revile and there are state school people who are delightful. Which school someone attended has nothing to do with whether this person is worthwhile or not. It took me until after I left school to drop that idiotic and pernicious snobbish outlook.
THE ”-AGE” SUFFIX.
We would talk about plebs as ”lebbage” or someone’s girlfriend as ”birdage”. There was even ”billage” for being on the bill.It was part of Eton micro-slang. Not many people used the older generation’s expression hoi peloi rather than lebbage. Note it is ”hoi peloi” and not ”the hoi peloi”. The definite article is already contained in the Ancient Greek term.
There were three and a half black boys in the school when I arrived. There were a few dozen British Indians. None of them were Indians directly from India. There were dozens of Orientals – mostly Hong Kong Chinese. There was not one child from mainland China or Korea.
People cracked racialist jokes. I do not think anyone genuinely disliked people from ethnic minority groups. Racism was something people could switch on against someone they disliked if he happened to be from a minor ethnic group. They could just as easily switch it off again for someone they liked who was a member of that same ethnicity.
Gaj was in C Block when I arrived. He was a 6 foot Sikh and powerfully built. He wore a black turban to fit in with the school colours. He was the only boy permitted to wear a beard. Luckily for him he had plenty of facial hair so it did not look measley. He was bursting with self-confidence and his voice was often heard clanging around the football pitches. He was a noted goal keeper. Towards the end of the year they were electing the new Pop. Rumour had it that Gaj fancied himself as Pop material. Gaj was not elected into Pop. A boy in my house chuckled over chambers, ”Ha ha – Gaj didn’t get into Pop coz he’s a nigger.”
THE LOWER MAN
Eton has a Head Master like any other school. Notice that Head Master is spelt as two separate words at Eton unlike everywhere else. He was known to the boys as the Head Man. There was also a Lower Master – he was a Deputy Headmaster with special responsibility for the boys in their first two years. That is to say F Block and E Block. The Lower Master was always known as the Lower Man. The Lower Man in my day was Ellis as I shall call him. Ellis had been to a public school in south-west England. In a bizarre twist of fate I was interviewed for a job in his old school years later. I saw a photo of him there when he was headboy. He was greeting the Queen Mother. It was 40 years before he nearly expelled me! Ellis did National Service in the King’s African Rifles. Rumour had it that he had been the commanding officer of a certain Idi Amin. The Ugandan in our block was said to abominate Ellis for this reason as though Ellis was somehow responsible for the atrocities carried out by AFrica’s most deranged tyrant.
Ellis was a short man and yet he had an unmistakable air of authority about him. He was physically unprepossessing with folded over eye lids, a baggy face and lips that were a little too thick. He looks much older than his real age which would have been 55 when I first came across him. He was very upright and somehow when he walked by we all found ourselves instinctively bracing up. We all just knew that he was in charge and no one ever caused trouble when he was around. It was mysterious how he managed to held up in check like that.
There is a stereotype of Etonians as suave, sharp dressers who believe in themselves and can handle any social situation. They are well-bred and inherit immense fortunes. They are highly intelligent but never drily academic. They are athletic and they are go getters who storm the City. There certainly are boys who conform to this stereotype. Some are just like that and some of them forced themselves into that mould. There are plenty of boys who are not like the stereotype. There were boys who were weedy, who were milquetoasts, who were messy some were geeky and others did not come from rich families at all. Eton was certainly no guarantee of success. Plenty boys amounted to nothing in later life.
There are no etiquette lessons at Eton. People seem to imagine it is like a finishing school which teaches boys which knives to use for which course at a five course banquet. Boys know this sort of thing from home.
The boys were in many ways ordinary teenage boys. Most were not intellectually curious. Many were keen on sport. There was a lot of philistinism and not a little bigotry.
On my first tour of the school with Sagar a year before I came up I asked, ”Do you have a library here?” It was an obtuse question but also a courteous request to see it.
School Library was in a grey granite domed building right in the centre of the school. I was later to discover it was a memorial to the Old Etonians killed in the South African War – as in the Second Boer War. The Eton Rifle served as a distinct unit in that conflict and in no other.
I shall never forget the sight of a dozen boys with their noses buried in various books in the upper reading room. Each mind was teeming. There was one boy with mounds of dark blond curls who somehow struck me as formidably brainy. There seemed to be such a thing as clever hair. This is hair with the texture of computer wires. Men who are egregiously intelligent are either bald or else have tonnes of hair. That’s the way it seems to me.
In F Block I started going to the library quite a bit. I would often doss on the tatty green carpet upstairs and pore over books. I collected historical arcana like a true obsessive. I read reams about Ireland and other countries.
I should say a word about Sagar’s wife. I shall call her Sally though in fact she had an adrogynous name. She actually looked rather like him which seems to prove the Selfish Gene theory.That is to say people often go for someone who resembles them because this is a subconscious way of trying to preserve their genes.
Sally was a teacher at a nearby Primary School. She very much behaved like a Primary school teacher. She was a decent person and always well turned out. We did not have a great deal to do with her since she had three children to raise. She never did any harm. She and M’Dame were at daggers drawn. Hilariously, they made no attempt to conceal it. The Dame in particular was the soul of indiscretion and bad mouthed Sally – to our delight. Looking back on it the Dame was startlingly irresponsible.