Do you believe in co-incidences?
I've never been invited back to an old boy's dinner at the schools I attended in my youth, but in the last couple of days I've heard from both of them, inviting me to reunions on 11th November and 12th November.
Do you believe in going back?
Having had those invites, should I stump up the money they want for the evening (it's not free, of course) and
reorganise my schedule so that I can attend?
An admission. I can remember the layout of Dulwich College Preparatory School
, which I attended from the age of 7 to 11 - that's from 1961 to 1965; if the buildings were the same today, I could still take you around. But I remember little of the teachers, and nothing of my fellow pupils. What I was taught? I don't know, but I guess I was well grounded as I seem to have done OK, and I'm sure it wasn't from a standing start at the age of 11, when I moved on to my next school.
I have more memories of Sevenoaks School
, and I guess that's right and proper - I was there for six years from 1965 to 1971, and those were years from which it is
much more natural for me to hold memories; I could certainly walk you around - no problem - though looking at the school's web site video in the last couple of minutes, there are some big new elements there amongst the old.
Some of the teacher's name that came on the Sevenoaks invitation list are familiar to me - although I was only taught by one of them; I owe so much to Brian Raynor who had only joined in my last couple of years, but piloted me through two Maths "A" levels which have formed the springboard of my career. And I remember Jonty Driver who (my goodness! a quick google just finds [this]
) took a poor student who was firing on only half a cylinder in the English language and somehow introduced enough impetus to help me scrape an "O" level. Alas - not all are with us any longer; a further search found a page with a "from" and - most regretted - a "to" date for Gerd Sommerhoff
who ran the innovative technical centre, and where I spent many happy hours on some early automation projects. Another truly, truly remarkable man (please - click on the link and read his story) and 97 isn't too bad an innings, is it?
So will I be returning next month? I have though hard about it; far harder for Sevenoaks than for DCPS, and the emotions are both ways. But I shall not. I want to remember the teachers as they were, not as they have become in old age - though I would love to meet them individually. And I don't want to meet some of my fellow students; some, for sure, I got on very well with but my abiding memory is spending breaks and lunch times keeping out of the way of the bullies, some of who (I note from the school's list kindly attached to the invite) they're very much in touch with, so may be along on the night. Of course, I have no fear that I would be subjected to some of the things that happened "way back" - it was a different age; the cane was still in use at DCPS when I was there, and "boys will be boys" seemed to be the accepted way, with a system that toughened up the ones who weren't at all sporty through other means. But while I learn from the past, I look at the current and to the future and have no desire - for a few years yet, anyway, to sit in some hall with a bunch of other late middle aged men, dulling the senses with alcohol, and looking back through what are - I hope - spectacles that are tinted more rosily for them than they are for me.
I ... was planning a nice clean end to this article. But then I researched Jonty a bit more. And I came to article he wrote for The Telegraph, published 27th May 2003. Quote:
|Bullying is the worst thing that can happen in a school. It does more long-term harm to an individual than anything else, as I know from bitter experience.|
Unlikely though it may seem now for a man my size (6ft 4in, 16 stone) who was a headmaster for 23 years, I was badly bullied at prep school. I was very tall, very thin; useless at games in a culture that valued prowess in that above all else; I sang in the cathedral choir and played the violin; I lisped ("ff" for "th"); I was often ill; and I cried easily.
Can anyone who has not been bullied understand what it is like ...
- please read. You'll see why I'm not going back; Jonty's are the words of the Master - I remain the student. (written 2010-10-21)
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