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.
End of term exams.Below par?. Then six real ripe ones from John Woollan and the results to be confirmed and inspected that evening after prayers in the dorm.
From such stuff are hero's made I'll have you know Sir - of course it is, as long as you're not one of them lined up, stomach churning and knees knocking in that painful line up as the yelps and wails of the boy before you demonstrating quite audibly as to what you yourself will be demonstrating equally as audibly when he comes and you go in...." So,low marks, again eh Smithers? Well here's a few more to make up the deficientcy. Six to be more precise, assume the position "
Bridgitt was one of the schools nurses and had a small apartment annexed to the San - she was Irish, quite young and every boys favourite - if you had problems, like a poorly frog with a sudden limp for example or even a frog without a sudden limp and one that didn't respong to large helpings of Dixie Deans bread putting when dropped into your jacket pocket on the grounds that no one else would have iether - Bridgitte was the one you poured it all out to.Snapped catapaults through to a pending visit to the headmasters study for all the wrong reasons, Bridgitte eased your mind, soothed your anxieties and made everything seem right with the World, but only if you wore two pairs of extra underpants and swallowed an aspirin, before, during, and most certainly after "Ye can have this bottle cheap - two bob and cheap at half the price bejasus !
Twas the end of term school play - every house performed one and the headmaster, John Woollan had to approve it.
So,act one, scene two I as headmaster gives my dorm mate xxx, six of the best with a length of dowel that kept snapping in two when coming into contact with a well padded backside.
Having survived boiled haddock, Pecker Brownhill, Dixie Deans life threatening semolina puddings, a couple of very memorable six of the bests and explaining to Jock Noble, Scouts Leader and the owner of the best ironed trousers in the whole school, or on the entire Planet come to that, that I had lost my toggle for the fiftieth time in one term, the time had come to leave the cosseted sanctuary of boarding school and the occasional loving caress of John Woollans cane across my backside - I was summoned to his study not to discuss whether or not it should be three, four, but most definitely six this time, but about my future - either the gasworks or journalism but with the former being the most likely and the best place to lay your money.
This was a trolley to die for - and I almost did upturned across my mothers knee minus trews and pants feeling the full brunt of her slipper, or it could have been one of mine but wHichever and whoevers it was it left my behind looking like a rockets afterburn! - and probably played a great part in me ending up in a selection of gestapo camps commonly know as boys homes, but more of the slippering, and why, later.
It was only just recently when scrolling down through the Kingham Hill School splash page on google that I learnt that Collin 'Jock' Noble drowned at sea.
Now my memories of Jock Noble was when he was the Scout Master and we scouts would sit various tests at his quarters attatched to the San where we would be given some kind of certificate if we passed and one step nearer to doing Baden-Powell out of a job and, in my case, Hitler out of his.
Now there's an unlikely combination it ever there was - unless of course you were at Sheffield House where nothing suprised anyone and even less Interpol and more often than not, Aunt Sally and Uncle Bert who were both from Sheffield but another Sheffield altogether something of which explains everything about as much as it explains nothing
If you couldn't swim at KH,you slogged back and forth to the cess pit - the swimming 'baths' - until you could.
However, once you'd managed it you didn't have to go to the baths ever again,and something that I've upheld to this very day - I have survived mighty oceans and raging rivers the world over by adhering to one simple rule - if the water comes above your ankles, get out while you're two legs ahead!
Every boy on The Hill clamed to have seen the Chas House headless ghost before midnight after which it retired to where ever it is that ghosts retire to for the night, but a ghost that didn't even exist let alone one that showed itself, or at least what was left of it, to any passing non member of the dead or passing anything for that matter- such a ghost,had it existed at all, and of such calibre to boot, would have had better targets to spook other than the odd spare boy trying to prize open the tradesmen's entrance back door of Chas House with a swiss pen knife recently aquired for the job by a swift trade involving a champion conker, a meat skewer for boring holes in conkers in general and holes in nothing in particular but holes anyway, and possibly a frog, thrown in for good measure and in desperation to close a proffitable deal before midnight.
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