DJ Taylor: Roger's fixation with his alma mater may be found in nearly every department of his not especially eventful life


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The Independent Online

There are several oddities about fat, gone-to-seed, forty-something Roger Strivens. One of them is the fact that he looks at least 10 years older than his actual age. Another is his habit of turning up to work in a distinctively patterned salmon- and-azure tie. A third is his tendency to draw further attention to this adornment by taking off his jacket, the better to reveal the colour scheme in all its outlandish glory. But it is a very rare visitor to the insurance office in which he labours who recognises the garment for what it is – the old boys' tie of Selhurst.

As private schools go, Selhurst, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent (497 pupils, girls admitted to the sixth form, fees on application) is a very modest establishment. It has never, in the course of its 80-year history, sent an embryo statesman, industrialist or sporting hero out into the world. Its headmaster, C H Wrigglesworth M A (Loughborough), is never interviewed on the radio about government education policy or the latest set of GSCE results. And yet in Roger, who spent five years on the premises in the 1980s, it has found its most devoted son.

Evidence of Roger's fixation with his alma mater – it is not overstating the case to call it that – may be found in nearly every department of his not especially eventful life. The annual old boys' dinner is held 150 miles away, but that has never stopped him attending. When the publication of an official history (Selhurst: An Eternal Golden Braid) was advertised on the school website, he was the first subscriber. The school's Facebook page is full of little notes from him, congratulating the Under-13 rugby team on their progress in the county championships.

It is a shame that Roger – unmarried and likely to stay that way – is childless, otherwise a tribe of little Strivenses might have been despatched along the M20 to follow the ancestral trail.

Colleagues who know the provenance of the tie very often wonder what mighty deeds he performed at Selhurst that the place should have inspired such affection in him. A glance at the Selhurst Register (£3.95 on application to the bursar) reveals only that R J Strivens (Podger's) was a junior house prefect and represented the school third XI at cricket. But then loyalty, like the Old Selhurstian tie, is a very curious thing.