My boarding school was awful, and it still is


Related Topics

I went back to my old school on Saturday. My boy's school was playing rugby there and I'm an enthusiastic observer of him being trampled upon and kicked by other children – I think my old school called it character-building. I turned down the familiar road and the memories came flooding back.

There was the boarding house where my parents dropped me off at the age of eight. I remember thinking that the couple that lived there had a lot of kids. Then my parents said goodbye, I don't remember them explaining that I was going to live there for five years. It was all quite confusing. To break the ice I flipped open my tiny little grey suitcase and started laying out my shrapnel collection on the bed. This was the playground currency of Beirut and I thought it would be a conversation piece with my fellow inmates. It didn't go as planned. A boy ran and got the housemaster. He, in turn, summoned the metalwork teacher who had some undisclosed military background that had clearly ended in some institution. He confiscated my entire, precious collection and talked darkly about "unexploded ordnance" and "controlled detonations". I never saw my collection again but was slippered by the housemaster who, just a couple of hours ago, had been sipping tea and chatting with my now departed parents.

I drove on and parked by the playing fields. I hadn't been back since 1981 and I think my ego half-expected the place to have stopped once I left. It was very much the same, except everything looked a lot smaller. I felt like some awkward giant visiting Smallville. There was the woodwork class where the red-haired sociopath that taught us had made me run around for 20 minutes looking for "elbow grease". He had a curious obsession with recording us. He had one of those long-distance microphones and used to always have it on … God only knows what he did with the recordings.

I wandered over to the pitch. My son's team was still getting changed but the opposition was already there, being given a pep talk by their coach. "What do I not want to see today? Handbags, mincing, I want commitment, proper tackles." I couldn't believe it. It was like flashing back to that long, hot summer of 1976 when we would use words such as "spastic, flid, mong" and admonish friends with remarks such as "don't be so Jewish". Girls were known as "hags" and if you were seen speaking to one you had "hag pong". Oh, the casual prejudices of the upper classes. Nobody ever even hinted that these terms might be wrong, insulting, ignorant. Instead we were shown such films as Where Eagles Dare and Bridge over the River Kwai and taught to relive the fading glories of Empire while teasing the poor German kid whose parents had sent him to a place that had become his own personal Colditz.

My boy's team was slaughtered, 54-12 I think, although I lost count after he was kicked hard in the nose and had to go off to the side weeping. At the match tea, I met an old teacher who recognised me. "Why aren't your brood here?" he asked. I didn't answer.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ukip MEP Janice Atkinson (left) with party leader Nigel Farage  

Hey, Nigel Farage and Kerry Smith – my family are East Enders too and never use that word

Victoria Richards
A screenshot from the trailer for Hatred  

I love violent video games, but you'll never catch me playing Hatred

Alex White
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas