Being a spare boy from birth (from where I came from there was a surplus of spare boys per square foot of London but I seemed to be sparer than most which not being liked by anyone and my uncles and aunts in particular, probably had a lot to do with it if not everything) I hit Plymouth house in around late 47 loaded with attitude and a fine selection of blossoming zits and several luminous boils, intending to change the current rules and Pecker Brownhills strap in particular for something more appropriate to a spare boy of note - like an extra iced bun at teatime for example but an ambition that only ended in a confrontation with Miss Brownhill's nose, her strap in particular, and a sore backside or two before bedtime!
Previous to my arrival, I was the star inmate of many a boys home and as obnoxious as was required which meant obnoxious enough to undergo several memorable slipperings of note which turned me into some kind of hero but also got me packed off, cardboard box and conkers, frogs snakes and slugs, onto the nearest form of transport, anything that could move me from A to B without too many people noticing that it was and heading for another county, any county, another home, any home.
By now, KH was the last known bastion between me and the outside world and the French Foreign Legion in particular as this seemed to be the only place that would tollerate me and my astounding but unexplainable haircut but, and more importantly, give me a gun and allow me, in fact insist, that I should shoot somebody with it as soon as possible providing of course that they weren't French but as many Germans as I liked, or didn't like, which was all of them coz they shot my Dad and Uncle Bert but not in the same place - one in the head, one in the foot but both in Libyia.
Well as far as uniforms went, it wasn't and what it was instead was something akin to a horse blanket with two tubes of unknown circumference sewn onto two opposite edges and, as often as not, sewn together on the same edge where the wearer had to hop to and fro from house to school,from school to dining hall, from dining hall back to house and were the only relief from his woven imprisonment would come at bedtime when four boys and a rope would hoist him out of them and the same team,same rope, would then lower him back into them first thing in the morning for which they were paid in extra buns at suppertime for doing so and with the best will in the world you couldn't pin them down to any definite item of attire or, come to that, a definite item of anything.
These are what me made in woodwork. These were also all we ever made in woodwork and the bent nails, black thumbs, missing limbs and sticky plasters were all complimentary to both.
Every now and then, though some would say not often enough, whilst the more academically refined would say what's a strumpet and what's the point?,the school would be overrun by various strumpets from various schools just to see what a fabled KH boy looked like in long trousers and Brylcream, and in my case, a lion cloth and axel grease.
Now and then during the summer months Jock Noble and Stu Brindley,scout masters supreme and with the best pressed trousers in Oxfordshire and socks that stayed up when it rained and even when it didn't, had a brain storm, hitched a team of protesting boy scouts to a handcart, loaded it up with the entire contents of the scout loft, cracked a whip (blowing whistles did nothing for a KH scout and even less if you wasn't one) yelled something utterly ridiculous like MUSH!, and headed for the great outdoors in the general direction of some unchartered swamp and ultimately burnt porridge, galvanised bacon,fried eggs that would stop an 88mmshell, mosquito's, malaria, and finaly death.
Read on the web.
'Borstal on the Hill' looks to the future with faith, hope and clarity
News | Published in TES Newspaper on 23 July, 2010 | By: Irena Barker
Last Updated: 23-Jul-10 Section: News
The Education Secretary believes boarding school is a good option for children from troubled homes, so can a historic 19th-century charitable foundation find a role in the modern world? Its new clergyman head puts doubt to one side
It has been a long time coming for Kingham Hill School: in October, star pupil Sam Xhu will be the first student to go on to Oxford in around 15 years.
The young mathematician will be among only a tiny handful of pupils to go to Oxbridge since the school's most notable alumnus, former schools minister Lord Adonis, who attended the school while being brought up in a local authority children's home in the late 1970s.
Once branded the "Borstal on the Hill", Kingham has not in the past been well known for its academic prowess, so Sam's achievement is more than a glimmer of hope for a fee-paying school hoping to double its numbers in the next 10 years
Mr Phelps,the Sheff House Housmaster, wasn't what you might have regarded as a rampant serial beater-or even your everyday axe murderer come to that- but he was most certainly a hard one when he was called upon to demonstrate this across the backside of the odd spare boy or two every now and then-I took a goodly two once and an even goodlier three soon after wearing nothing but pyjamas after which I spent the rest of the week and most of the next walking into doors and through walls-and in order to effect this imbalance of direction he kept three canes in his study which were always on view every friday when we went in to buy postage stamps so that you could write home and beg to be pulled out of the school in the possible, or in my case, the most likely, event that any one of those three canes ever assaulted my backside where the response was always the same "Well behave yourself and anyway, a good dose of the stick will do you a world of good (though I couldn't see what the world had to do with anything and a sore backside in particular even though my mother seemed to think it had)as I was always telling your father,the postman,the tally man,the rent man and anyone come to that who looked like they might agree and possibly lay it on for a reasonable sum, or a rent rebate. Lots of Love. Mum"
This wasn't exactly the sort of streamlined machine that you see hurtling around the French Alps and tipping its rider into deep ravines-something that the French seem to do a lot of but with strings of onions around their necks presumably for balance,ballast or both-or City Brokers dodging buses down the Euston Road with its battered basket, flapping mudguards, rattling chain guard,bald tyres,worn brakes and siezed up bell but word had it that the owner of the Kingham Bike Hire Company,a stooped but ambitious bike rental magnate as worn out as most of his bikes who rented them out for a penny an hour (excepting to KH boys who he hated with a vengance!)was looking to expand his buisiness and was advertising for second hand bikes at a fair price and Mrs Phelp's bike looked the perfect candidate and the possible flagship of his fleet-but only from a distance.
Once a year the headmaster welcomed a fresh faced contingent of student teachers keen to learn our ways whilst the boys welcomed them in turn keen to relieve them of their fags, or the contents of their wallet in the event that they didn't have any-my teach even came loaded with a pot of jam and a bag of sherbert in exchange for the lowdown on boarding school life, what was the Strumpet club and and how do you become a member.
Or 80 laps around Swansea pitch, where the once a year Sports Day unfolded in a hairless blur of 360 individual legs all trying to negotiate a sea of mud at the same time,at speed on a race track ambitiously referred to as a four lane running circuit and no doubt named so by the Warden himself who wasn't exactly your 4 minute miler or 4 minute anything and at the head, a very inactive head I might add,of a week of utmost catrostophe as the entire school embarassed itself by trying to dodge great mounds of flying mud churned up by an army of legs all trying to win the sports shield and then bury it under a mound of boots,shoes and slippers in their House boot room where it stayed for another year where no one was particulary interested in it anyway excepting the housemaster who was to blame for winning it-and all the involuntary excertion required to win it-by selecting the most lethargic teams imaginable and who shouted the most and ran the least.
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