We had swimming on Wednesday, and I forgot my swimming things one day, as did three other boys. So when everyone went off in the coach to go to the swimming pool, we just sat in the classroom, reading and hoping no one would find us. But he did. He swept in in his black robes, all red in the face - beetroot-red he was - and looking for blood.
"What are you all doing here?"
"We've forgotten our swimming things . . ." we said. I mean, that was punishment enough, I quite liked swimming, and we'd just forgotten them . . . human error.
But, nevertheless, he said: "Go to my room." He was now very red in the face: he definitely needed to beat some boys - it was a very urgent matter it seemed to me.
We had to wait in the corridor outside his office. The office was all leather furniture and musty smells, and you heard the clinking of bottles in the filing cabinet.
You had to lean over his armchair, and our jackets had a little flap at the back, and he lifted the flap up so it didn't soften the blow at all. I was the fourth one, or the last one. Everyone said he beat me much harder than anyone else.
And so this vicious attack with the cricket bat was carried out, and I felt terribly shocked by the pain, that this nice man who I had liked very much was doing this terrible thing to me.
I wanted to retaliate in some way but I couldn't. I thought the only thing I can do is not laugh at his jokes, you know, we'll no longer be friends.
I never spoke to him again.
I used to stare out of the window during his classes, and he would try ever so hard to get back to the way things were, but I never would. He even apologised to me after a week or two. He said: "I can see that I have upset you. I'm sorry; can't we start again?" But I wouldn't speak to him, and I never did speak to him.
I never mentioned this to my parents. I didn't tell them anything that went on at school. I had a scholarship - they would never have been able to send me there, they couldn't afford it - and I was constantly being told how lucky I was and it seemed churlish to say that I hated it . . .
A few years ago someone from our class died, and I went to a funeral service which was held at the school, and he was there. And he said "hello" to me - and I still couldn't speak to him.
Normally I'm very good at forgiving, I think it's so silly to carry around resentment for years and years, but that whole business seemed so awful - I was missing swimming anyway - and I felt betrayed by this man who I thought had been my friend. It was revenge, it was pure revenge.
I think it was a sexual thing with him. I don't think I understood that at the time, but that might have been why I was so shocked by it. This banter we had between us was probably sexual from his point of view. I think he liked little boys, and I think he wanted to beat me, and there were precious few opportunities because I didn't do much wrong.
I was quite an effeminate 12-year-old and he was probably aware of that, and wanted to knock it out of me in some way . . . or perhaps encourage it.
I can still feel the pain you know. It was very painful.
Normally if it was anyone else, I would forgive the person, it's terribly important that you should forgive people, but I find I can't forgive him, even now. I'm not proud of that, I think it's an inadequacy on my part. It's made me very wary of men in black robes wielding cricket bats . . .
From the Living page of `The Independent', Monday 3 September 1990Reuse content