Woolverstone Hall in the Sixties - Louis Parperis (Orwell 63 to 70) - published in 1996
ED: BEWARE: Unexpurgated material... some readers may not agree with all opinions and recollections contained herein. The decision to publish Louis' essay on this page was made on the basis of nostalgia and the need (felt by many) to preserve a record of what Woolverstone Hall was like and meant to the people who passed through its hallowed portals. Being unedited and unexpurgated, this essay in no way represents the editorial policy of Janus or the official position of WHOBA. If you have a different perspective on events mentioned in Louis' essay, whether of fact or opinion, PLEASE DO feel free to send in your version, which will be posted on these pages for all to examine and enjoy!
I started writing a few reminiscences of my life and times at Woolverstone to help you fill in a few of the gaps in the various editions of "Janus" received in 1996. It has spiralled out of control into a much longer piece than I had intended.
I started writing a few reminiscences of my life and times at Woolverstone to help you fill in a few of the gaps in the various editions of "Janus" received in 1996. It has spiralled out of control into a much longer piece than I had intended.
I had never heard of Woolverstone Hall until the day my mother and I appeared at the First Street Magistrate's Court behind Harrods to answer a summons arising from my outstanding achievements as a truant. The prosecuting solicitor told the court that this bright child had recently recorded the third highest score in London for the 11 Plus of 1963, but needed greater educational stimulation than the primary school so sporadically attended in Soho could provide. A place would be given to me at Woolverstone Hall subject to an interview with the headmaster. I was none the wiser even after meeting the big, bald-headed smiling man with the posh voice at County Hall nor after looking through the school prospectus showing a pretty ugly crew of big boys in the classroom, on the sports field and walking about the grounds (one was Simon 'Scruff' Crawford, I later discovered), but the social worker appointed by the court to keep my mother and me on the straight and narrow said it was the chance of a lifetime. She sorted out the uniform for me with J&J Edwards and its arrival caused great excitement, until I was sent to visit my mother's family in Wapping wearing my cap, blazer and shorts. I thought I looked the business, but this view was not shared by the gang of kids who jumped me, stole my cap and gave me a thumping. So it was with mixed feelings that one day in the middle of September, 1963, I turned up at Chicheley Street to catch the bus to this "brave new world that has such people in it".
Such people started with the 4th former whom I sat next to on that first journey, Jeremy MacDonough. I can still remember telling him that my father was the Duke of Muswell Hill, partly to make him feel more enthusiastic at the idea of sitting next to me and partly to ensure that my social superiority be established as quickly as possible. Not that my origins warranted any special treatment. I was the eldest of the four children my mother had had by my father, although I was the third child she had had out of wedlock, which was not quite the same fashion statement in 1951 as it has become today. Both my parents had been working for some time tending bar and waiting in night-clubs in Soho and, as a result, our flat was frequently full of people sleeping off the night before whom the world and his wife regarded as celebrities. I knew their names, like Brendan Behan or Frankie Norman, but I just thought they were smelly old drunks. My ignorance of celebrity (or more properly my lack of respect for it) combined with an irrepressible spirit and an innate curiosity (I'm too shy and retiring to say that I was an irritating and nosy little bastard) led me to announce one day during my first term to Mark Wing-Davey, who was discussing the virtues of the 17th century metaphysical poet and dean of St Paul's, John Donne, with Graham Hoad that, "He's a friend of my mum." I was referring to a ballet dancer whose similar surname, Dunn, was pronounced the same way. The noble fifth formers took the piss out of me unmercifully although 'Dingle' was much more pleasant about it than 'Slimy Toad'. Hoad went on to become a management consultant with McKinsey, possibly in order to live up to his much hated nick-name, whilst Wing-Davey followed his thespian instincts and forbears into the theatre though not without first advertising the magnificence of his masculinity on a signpost on the foreshore halfway to Pin Mill. I lived that incident down, but learnt a valuable lesson in life fairly early on about not shouting the odds from the rooftops, whilst Wing-Davey probably learned how beneficial advertising could be.
The coach delivered us all with our various possessions outside Berners and I realised quickly that MacDonough was not likely to be a friend for life, so swiftly did he disappear from the scene leaving me and another new boy to search for Orwell House together. That small boy was Jonathan Ricardo Morri - variously known as 'Mo', 'Florrie Teapot' or 'Flo', 'Mad Dog' and 'Zubney Lozenge III Junior'- who has remained a close friend for 34 years. It was not a propitious start, however, as neither of us had the faintest idea of where we going though we did manage to locate the changing rooms in Orwell unassisted. Once directed to our dorm, we were in business. I was on a top bunk opposite a scrawny second former, Robert Peeling, while my friend sat on his top bunk until invited to unpack, whereupon he took a handkerchief from his pocket and put it in a drawer. For some time he led us to believe that his luggage was in transit whereas the reality was that he had no luggage. I'm not sure if his mother was even more skint than my parents or not, but our social worker had at least organised a grant for me to be fully kitted out by the LCC. The only item of luggage that the young Master Morri had with him was a 'cello, as he was an aspiring musical talent who had already attained the dizzy heights of Grade 5. Regrettably his musical progression ceased when meeting me and had when he left Woolverstone seven years later he had still only attained the Grade 5 standard, although he had achieved a number of other remarkable feats on route such as the school tea-drinking record (in the first form he drank 30 odd cups of tea once - hence 'FlorrieTeapot'), the ability to tackle a whole three-quarter line and a taste for petrol (of which, more later). He was also, along with Paul 'Banger' Mattey and Tony Isaacs the first person in our year to get drunk on cider, or more importantly, caught when drunk on cider. John went on to play rugby for English Universities and gain a PhD in tribology (he knows when something is rusty) from Brunel and now lives outside Bristol with Wendy, his charming wife, who has now forgiven me for my best man's speech in 1977.
I was a troublesome child who held a house record for being caned by Doc Thornbery and during my first few years so many other members of staff had a go that the outline of my backside must have been as familiar a sight to them as my face. Patrick Hutton beat me on at least ten Tuesdays in succession in my first term for being late for his Period 6 English lesson in Room A; Neil 'Noddy' Clayton waited until my 3rd form for his go (in the company of my fellow Orwellians Tony Isaacs and Peter Fishwick); Brian Middlebrook (known as either Archie or Stringy) once beat me for being disrespectful to Bob Cromarty, I made sure not to give him another chance after that; Crom beat everyone all the time - we used to keep going round in a circle until we had exhausted him. I was slippered on two occasions because of footwear: 'Stretch' Poole slippered me in my first term for laughing too much when Johnny Price (Corners 63-70) was despatched to find a slipper somewhere in Berners for his own punishment and returned with some truly pathetic, very soft and feminine specimen with a large bobble - it had either been discarded by Mrs Shakeshaft or retrieved from Jim Allgrove's locker; and 'Taffy' Evans slippered me for wearing 'designer' plimsolls in the summer term of my second year. We had two PE sessions every week and I had turned up wearing a black plimsoll on one foot and a white one on the other for reasons of character maintenance rather than sartorial elegance. I was told by 'Taffy' never to wear that pair again, so at the next session I wore the other pair of contrasting plimsolls in my limited selection. 'Taffy' was not interested in my eloquently argued case that I was wearing an entirely different pair to those earlier proscribed by him and took the unusual step of giving the rest of 2A a demonstration of his technique. It was not until the summer term of my fourth year that GHB's turn to join the list arrived when I virtually had to beg him to cane me for whacking Chris 'Bunkle' Redpath (Orwell 64-71) with a cricket bat - I was desperate to escape the wrath of Doc who thought the world of Redpath and held me in equal esteem to a floating turd, so errant a child was I. Doc dished out the most severe beatings and I was convinced he would cane me across the throat for this outrage, so begging Bailey to beat me was a carefully calculated act. Chris Redpath, incidentally, remains a friend to this day and has recently become a schoolmaster himself after an earlier career in sales with ICI. His younger brother, Peter (Orwell 65-72) has just gone off to Australia for a few months to teach Australians how to teach English as a foreign language, which must make sense to someone.
My first beating from Doc was undeserved. I had had a brief pillow fight with Peeling one night after lights out and had beaten him soundly. However, after we had abandoned the fight, Peeling attacked me again, smashing the glass lamp shade to smithereens in the process. Like a pratt, I got out of bed to help him pick up the debris whereupon Doc came in and turned on the light. The trial was remarkably swift, indeed my defence argument was not sought, as was the initial retribution, four strokes on the bum, followed by a 1/3d fine to replace the lamp shade (eight pence in modern currency but with the purchasing clout of much more for the interest of any youthful readers). Nevertheless my stock went up with the rest of the junior dorm because I hadn't sneaked and my tears had gone by the time I got back to the dorm.
I remember being beaten in the summer term when all the Orwell first form went to Harkstead together. We had a packed lunch one Sunday and set off to explore the world and managed somehow to 'acquire' a rowing boat. When caught and questioned by one of Suffolk's fine special constables we looked to have cracked it as he accepted as the first statement of identity, my solemn oath that I was Tony Curtis from Hollywood (though I did not know there was a district in Ipswich with that name), to be followed by Cary Grant etcetera. Unfortunately, 'Banger' gave the game away by giving his real name and school address, thus condemning us all to a visit to Doc. This incident was insufficient to dissuade Dave Gush and Peter 'Gilby' Fishwick from becoming 'colours' sailors in the fullness of time. Indeed the only one of the Orwell intake of 1963 not to win 'colours' at some sport or other was Tony Isaacs.
Tony 'The Rat' Isaacs, who with John Morri was one of my two closest friends in my first five years at school, spent a lot of time and some considerable energy running away in his first few years not because of any dissatisfaction with the school, but because he felt needed at home. He did not always leave the school grounds and one summer term he spent a few days hiding in the ferns behind Hansons and Orwell living off the food we smuggled to him from the dining room. Tony left at the end of his fifth form because his surprisingly disappointing 'O' level results (he only got three passes and a string of Grade 7s) could not persuade Islington's council to continue to meet the school's fees. The Post Office was mounting a recruitment campaign at the time, for trainees with 4 'O' Levels, eliciting the memorable response from his father that, 'You can't even get a fucking job as a postman!' The last time I saw him a Labour government was in power which shows how long ago it was, and he was working in the insurance industry. Tony was involved in more scrapes than most because he had more balls, the archetypal little guy fighting authority. He was once asked by Jim Wild (Orwell 60-67) if he was a lesbian, to which the unknowing Rat replied, 'No, I'm Church of England.' He had a repertoire of skills which would not have been universally approved. Apart from being an accomplished shoplifter, he had the remarkable ability to make his penis move like a windscreen wiper upside down which he demonstrated frequently in the changing rooms after games.
Roy Hanson never beat me, nor do I recall him beating anyone else although he could rant and rage quite effectively. Roy was generally called 'Harry Hands-off' during my years at Woolverstone (63-70). He tried to appear fearsome to small boys as he screamed, 'Get the burrs off,' across the metalwork shop. To me, and to generations both before and after, he was an immensely kindly man who took an active interest in the most disreputable and the most vulnerable individuals in each year. As I established an early reputation in the former category, I was taken under the Hanson wing and, along with the equally disreputable Tony Isaacs (Orwell 63-68), I was to benefit from visits to Roy's home (and real food) as well as trips to Aldeburgh and Orford. My memories of double metalwork are vivid and include many hours of unsupervised lobbing about as Roy went in search of Dave O'Farrell (Berners 63-69?) who had a habit of running away from school in the break before metalwork. We discovered a novel way of preventing O'Farrell from running away in our later years and I vividly remember staking him to the ground with croquet hoops behind Berners one summer evening and leaving him there. I was assisted in this endeavour by Viv Beresford, Pete Sutton, Richard Harrison, Chris Morris and John Morri. I'm pretty sure that credit for the idea must go to Pete Sutton. O'Farrell was eventually released by Mike Shakeshaft or someone else employed to show no favouritism in the use of the school's facilities.
I recall also the importance of the metalwork shop a deliberate and successful attempt to inflict pain upon the odious Dean Van Stratten (Halls 63-68) who had bitten me on the backside during one games day. As I emerged in fury from the ruck, I turned to land a massive uppercut on the fair-haired miscreant only to lay out Andy Marson (Hansons 63-65?) who, apart from standing next to Van Stratten at the time, had a fleeting similarity. It was the only time that I was sent off during a rugby match and Dick Waters, the master in charge of the Under 13s, who dismissed me also banned me from playing for the school for the rest of the year because I was, in his words, a thug. Whilst this description of me may have had broad support in the staff room, I felt deeply wounded by the incident, far beyond the impression made upon my buttock, and fully justified in exacting my revenge. This I did by handing to Van Stratten a bar of newly annealed steel for him to pass to someone else. Van Stratten did not know just how recently the annealing process (withdrawing a piece of red hot steel from a furnace and plunging it into cold water) had taken place and was slightly more than surprised by this effective retributive measure judging by the impression of a stuck pig to which he treated the rest of the class. Roy was unaware of the cause of this commotion; he seemed content in the knowledge that Van Stratten was an idiot. Roy Hanson was always easy to talk with as an equal when returning to Woolverstone, not something all his colleagues were able to achieve. He was a decent man who was greatly respected by all who came within his compass.
In Orwell House, Derek Thornbery required Juniors to write letters home every Sunday after lunch. At half term, this rule was relaxed if your parents had visited. Unfortunately, Larry Howes, the prefect on duty, took the view that a letter should still be sent home. Whilst I wrote a spurious letter to an equally spurious address (although my parents had not visited I wasn't going to be a slave to the system), 'The Rat' sent a letter to the RSPCA asking them to remove his pet gorilla, Larry, who had grown too big for the house. It is a mark of the innocence of that age that the RSPCA duly arrived at the school with a caged lorry and nets to remove Larry. As the letter was signed 'Mrs Stephanie Parperis', I was the person summoned to the headmaster's office from Fred Barker's Maths class in N3 by the grinning Richard Harrison. Whilst I think of GHB (we called him 'The Bume' which I think was an abbreviation of 'Bummer') with great affection, even his most ardent admirer would not have included him in the list of great contemporary thinkers, and he would not accept that anyone other than I could have written the letter, however much I protested my innocence and proclaimed that I would not be so stupid as to sign such a letter in my own name. He was convinced that using Mrs had been part of my cunning plan to throw him from the scent and his audience, two men in RSPCA uniforms, one of whom was clutching a net, were interested only in retribution and not justice. As we knew already that there was nothing that the Bume despised more than a sneak, I shopped my mate. This had the desired effect and the Bume threatened all sorts of vengeance upon the head of Isaacs to me, thus allowing the RSPCA entourage to depart in the certain knowledge that the culprit had been nabbed and would be brought to book. Isaacs was summoned to the study just as the RSPCA's vehicles were driving off. The Bume roared at us both and left it at that because, as I had so rightly estimated, he would never punish someone who had been brought to book as the result of an unsolicited act of sneaking. Word soon got round the school about the incident and the Rat and I were heroes for a day, whilst Larry Howes quickly became the butt of gorilla jokes. Larry aspired to become a leading tenor and tried for a choral scholarship to Cambridge, if my memory serves, although his regimented approach to life would have made him a better proposition for a career as an actuary than a musician.
Jean Alain Roussel, or Rudi as everyone called him, was not only a truly gifted, completely natural musician, but he had an effervescent personality to match a disastrous dress sense (this was recorded contemporaneously by John Dawlings in a record of quotations and scatological insights which he maintained and preserved from about 1966 which would be a best seller if ever brought to the market). I spent many happy hours in his company after he took up the cello when he sat next to John 'Mad Dog' Morri and myself in various attempts to deliver Barry Salmon the nervous breakdown he always seemed on the point of having (I must have been the only trombonist in Suffolk at the time given the ease with which I ended up in the Suffolk Schools Symphony Orchestra on the strength of one lesson from Hugh Hawkins). Rudi was a super heavyweight in stature, although certainly not in any sporting sense, yet he did make one contribution to the game of rugby which anyone who witnessed it will ever forget. Rudi was playing in the C Group Saturday morning spectacular on Berners as the 1st XV was waiting for Ken Bullard's bus. It was a sunny day from memory, which suggests late September or early October, and the pitch was bone hard. Rudi must have been captaining one of the teams as anyone in their right mind would never have allowed him to take the conversions. His team managed to score a try under the posts and Rudi manoeuvred himself (this, given his great size, is the correct description of his movements) into the general vicinity of where he intended to take the kick. He placed the ball and retired a pace or so, before launching himself forward to the accompanying cries of derision which a full touchline afforded. This was the last point of Rudi's active participation in the game as he managed to inflict upon himself one of the greatest foot-stubs in the history of sport. Watching Rudi roll about in agony was enough to make the watching horde dissolve into near hysteria, or into full blown hysteria in Viv Beresford's case (Berners 62-70). Rudi remained prostrate and a stretcher was summoned. The voluminous youth was rolled into place and the four noble stretcher bearers headed for sick bay with their charge. I am fairly certain that one of the stretcher bearers was Graham Alexander who was as small as Rudi was large. The bearing party made less than twenty steps before they dropped the stretcher for the first time causing people to collapse in tears of laughter all around Berners. I cannot remember how many more times poor old Rudi was dropped on the long haul to Sick Bay, but I shall never forget that morning. I was very sad to learn of his passing because he meant none ill and gave immense pleasure to many.
Rudi appeared in a few school plays including "The Royal Hunt of the Sun", in which I played Francisco Pizarro, the lead (Mike Walling had one line from memory); Tony Mitton played Atahualpa and Pete Carlisle played Old Michael. Like many others I set out from Woolverstone to earn my corn as an actor, but despite some success on both sides of the Atlantic, my natural inclination towards eating on a regular basis led me to abandon the professional stage. The Royal Hunt got a lot of attention in part because it was the first performance outside the professional theatre - not surprising given the size and content of the cast which in one sense made it ideal for a boys' school. It was a very complex play and was accorded a radical production to match - played in the semi-round on a stark, stepped block structure which was a partial representation of the Andes (and justified the investment in the portable blocks). The production worked so well because of Neil Clayton's theatrical vision, but its success was not a surprise to any of the participants. Even after all these years, I am not sure how much of what was achieved by Woolverstonians (and this term includes pupils and staff alike) in terms of cultural, academic and sporting success was because everyone seemed to have a peculiar degree of self-confidence or whether this continual wave of success created that peculiar self-confidence. There was a shared characteristic which seemed to be identified easily by others. Women were particularly adept at doing this, and I have frequently been told by people that they know someone else who is like me only to discover that they too went to Woolverstone. I recall one time that this happened when the wife of a friend I had come to know after leaving school said that my general outlook, behaviour and the like reminded her of someone she knew called Chris Edwards. When I met this person for drinks, I discovered it was the same Chris Edwards (Hansons 64-71) who had appeared in the Royal Hunt those many years before.
School Plays - "The strong are lonely "
School Plays - "The strong are lonely
John 'Bottle' Dawlings (Orwell 64-71) acquired his nick-name by courtesy of the BBC, which was running a puppet version of the Goons at about the time he arrived at Woolverstone. His striking physical resemblance to Bluebottle was not allowed to pass by although I do not recall any further similarities between him and the dummy. John went on to become an eminent wicket-keeper and cross-country runner, but as I recall their were few challengers to aspiring cross-country runners from within the school. in his lower sixth year, John captained a 2nd XI of vintage quality which included the world's worst fielder, Jerry 'Ed' Page (Berners 64-71), too tall to bend down effectively; Richard Harrison, known variously as 'Wilf', 'Harry' or 'Tricky Dicky' Harrison (Johnstons 63-70), a silky-smooth opening bowler who would have been a constant presence in the 1st XI had he not had such a penchant for falling out with Pete Sadler; Pete 'Pud' Carlisle (Corners 64-71), the only player sent off in a school cricket match - for shaving at square leg - which probably explains why he is not a member of the cast of 'Outside Edge'; Jerry Thompson (Halls 64-71) who went on to become a social worker (although better suited to being a model for inflatable dirigibles), Mark Owen (Halls 64-71), Nigel Rice (Hansons 65-72), Graham King (Orwell 65-72).
John Dawlings had a younger brother, Robert (Orwell 65-72), who was a very gifted musician. He wrote an oratorio in his 4th year which we performed at a house concert to the assembled doting parents and others (I sang a duet with Bobby Bryant in the course of the oratorio which clearly had a lasting effect on Bobby's career - perhaps 'Cantabile' was founded to erase the memory). Mr and Mrs Dawlings were ever present supporters of our house concerts. Although Mr D could see, so limited was his vision that he was officially registered as blind. This led him to view the concerts through an amazing periscope-like device which greatly amused the performers who sat facing the audience for the duration of the concert, only coming to the front to do their turn. When not trying to look up the skirts of the mothers and sisters before us, we participated in such mindless diversions as pulling hairs from the neck of the boy sitting immediately in front of us. This particular form of entertainment was perfected by Jim Cottrell during house choir rehearsals on Philip Galpin (63-68) who had the largest neck in the known world. Whilst this was an interesting diversion, it did not diminish the enthusiasm for our choral exploits. The only people who were press-ganged into the choir were first formers whom Doc also required to learn a musical instrument. Nevertheless, after the period of compulsory membership nearly everyone who could carry a tune volunteered willingly to perform in these extravaganzas. We did some fairly demanding stuff too including Haydn's Creation and Mass in G, Handel's Messiah and, my favourite, Verdi's Requiem. I have as a consequence developed a catholic and eclectic taste in music for which I shall be forever grateful to Derek Thornbery.
The Dawlings' parents were, with Pat (mother of Chris and Pete) and Ann (sister) Redpath were often to be found on a Saturday afternoon on the touchline at both school and house matches featuring their sons. Ann profited from her spell on the touchline by marrying one of the wingers, Nick Lovell (Corners 65-72), and the happy couple now live in Bath with their offspring. Pat Redpath was a wonderfully hospitable woman who kept open house above the Co-Op on Kentish Town Road for a generation of boys passing into manhood. 'Pat's Caff' kept many an impecunious student stoked with food and it will sadden many to learn that her later years were troubled by poor health. She died a year or so ago, but I always smile fondly as I drive past her former home.
One memorable remark recorded for posterity in the Dawlings magnum opus was uttered at breakfast by the matron, Mrs Evans, to Ceri Howell (Halls 63-70). "Howell," she said loud enough for all to hear, "if you don't start making your bed properly, we are going to fall out!" There were pages of malapropisms uttered, in particular, by the Bume and the physics teacher and Corners Assistant Housemaster, John 'No Neck' Ramsay ("Every time I open my mouth some idiot speaks."). The latter was a leading light in both fencing and athletics, as well as running the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme. His presence was sufficient to influence a large number of growing boys to avoid these activities at all costs. I can remember Brian Patterson (Corners 64-68) getting very drunk on potato wine in one of Ramsay's double physics lessons. He drank an enormous quantity of the stuff which the Wine Club, run by 'Donkey' Cox, stored in bell jars in the physics labs.
Patterson joined the school in the second term and was initially known as 'Snotty', an allusion to his over-active nasal passages, or 'Swede'. I am not sure if the latter was because of his somewhat bucolic appearance or because of the memorable contribution he made to his first French lesson. When asked by Mike Shakeshaft in the room he taught in at the top of Berners to demonstrate his level of competence in the language by declining 'etre', Patterson looked perplexed. 'Shaky' wrote on the blackboard the words je, tu, il, nous, vous and ils and gave him a starter for ten by saying 'je suis'. Patterson looked more perplexed but was egged on to decline the rest of the verb in the same way. By the time he had got to 'vous suis', the whole of 1X were shouting with glee, "What a roar!" which cry we always believed would guarantee an uncontrolled outburst from 'Shaky'. I liked 'Shaky': he could always be goaded into rage by people deliberately helping the exercise books of returned prep he skimmed across the class out of the window with deft flicks of the head or hand. We ring fenced him a few times as well with our desks as he wrote passages in French on the blackboard, which caused him to stand for minutes with his head in his hands. On reflection, however, he never lost control - he just faked it to keep us all happy. Patterson went on to be called 'Squirrel' which was a convoluted reference to the substantial size of his scrotal sack and its contents.
Boys from Corners had a habit of interesting debuts. John Price (63-70) was late for his first Sunday evening service at school, but had been brought up to be a polite boy. Clutching his leather briefcase, he entered the hall whilst every head was bowed in prayer, walked reverentially up to Bume and with a firmness surprising in one so young, declared to the bald pate before him, "Sorry I'm late, Sir." This was good but could not match the performance of John 'Jelly Legs' Lewindon (62-67) at his first tea when, about to butter a slice of bread, he was advised that there was a particular way of doing so at Woolverstone. Following the advice of his mentor with care, he spread the marge onto the table before trying to slide his slice of bread underneath. I am not sure whether this is only an apocraphyl tale, but it deserves to be true and, given it was Lewindon, may well have been. It was rumoured that Lewindon became a missionary in his twenties. I hope the natives enjoyed their meal without making too much mess.
The elder Bates was, I believe, Roger (Orwell 67-73?), who was very wittily referred to as Master. I am not sure if this led to a successful career as a wrist-spinner, but I can remember attending elocution classes with a Mrs Ironside-Wood in Room C where we disguised our lack of interest in her topic and our poor behaviour with an insistence that the uncontrolled verbal melee was, in fact, a mass debate. I seem to remember Chris Morris (Johnstons 63-70) and the late Terry O'Halloran being keen participants in the verbal assault if not the underhand practice. I don't remember the experiment in elocution lessons lasting too long, but I would be interested even now to learn who was responsible for this disastrous episode in social engineering.
Nick 'Lucy' Lockett (Berners 63-68) was the younger brother of the illustrious Head Boy and 1st XV winger, but was not renowned for his intellect. Nick used to eat some of his meals in Orwell House and I can remember the confusion he caused himself from reading one of Miss Clarke's notices about her regime of inspections. He formed the view that boys over a certain, and unspecified, height were being unfairly singled out because tall-boys had to be inspected on Saturday mornings. There were several others in the 1963 intake who had elder brothers at school Patrick Rayner (Martin) and Peter Egan (George) in Berners, Peter Jackson (Anthony) in Corners, Andy Dodgson (Steve) in Johnstons, Chris Collis (Paul) in Hansons and Paul Mattey (Eric) in Orwell. Ceri Howell in Halls had both elder (Rod and Geraint) and younger(Dewi) brothers, while Richard Harrison (Don) in Johnstons, Richard Harber (Colin) in Corners, Edwin Saul (?) in Halls, and Peter Fishwick (Roger) and David Gush (Andy) in Orwell were each to be followed by a younger version.
We had some additions to our year in the sixth form, replacing others, Phil Tate (Johnstons), Marcus Lynch (Hansons), Philip Stoney (Orwell) and ? Gotham (Berners) who came at the same time as his younger brother. Phil Tate stopped a house match against Orwell once by screaming as he freed himself from a tight scrum, "I'm not going back in there with that animal." Regrettably he was referring to me.
I am surprised to learn that Mick O'Leary now lives in Sweden as he used to have protracted arguments with anyone with even the most marginal of left-wing tendencies. Denis Alexander and I once had a lengthy debate on taxation with Mick which started in the changing rooms before an OW match and continued for the rest of the afternoon. Denis was convinced that Mick would only be happy once there was a tax imposed on breathing the air, so his move to the progressive social taxation system 'enjoyed' by the Swedes may have some sense. Mick was a regular performer at scrum-half and it was interesting that he chose to play with the OW rather than the scurvy crew from William Ellis. I remember playing in a morning fixture in the Old Deer Park which I think was against William Ellis Old Boys (Old Thamesians?) with Denis Alexander, Andy Hunton, Conrad Graham, Nigel Walker, Ron Tudor and Jim Cottrell before which we witnessed a dog pissing over the oranges we were to be given at half time. Interestingly when we advised the opposition at half time they thought we were taking the piss and ate our oranges as well as their own. I can't remember the result but I know I enjoyed Andy's party that night all the more for that incident.
I am glad to learn that Ron Tudor is well, but staggered to learn that some people can understand everything he says as this was not the case before he had his accident. Ron was the original party animal with probably a greater desire to enjoy himself than anyone, irrespective of the consequences, but was not always on the same planet as other revellers. This sometimes left him vulnerable to attack, both verbal and physical, although he always retained the affection of his friends. I remember an OW game against Enfield when he had been at the weed for too long, including pre-match and half-time blasts. Ron played up to scratch in the first half - and that was a standard that very few could match - but he lost it completely in the second half , as did the team when he started passing the ball to the opposition! Shortly afterwards Ron got mugged in Dalston. The attack on him was pretty serious: he was jumped from behind by the muggers who hit him over the head with a metal bar and threw him into a basement. The eternal optimism of the Woolverstonian shone through, however, and as soon as he was out of hospital, Ron went back to the scene to look for his rugby kit.
Ron was a top flight scrum half and fencer, as was Iain 'Stubby' Turner who captained the 1st XV, the fencing team and also won colours for athletics. He was as brave as he was short which made his feats as a long jumper all the more remarkable. He could also take photographs as I found to my cost in our 5th year. I had arranged to meet some girls one Wednesday afternoon at the Yacht Club and several of us skipped games full of hope and expectation. Initially only two turned up, as I recall they were the nubile and very attractive Linda and her ugly mate, the infamous fat Caroline. John Morri who has always been the sweetest of people when not near a rugby pitch, took pity on Fat Caroline and spent the afternoon talking to her about football. They were never destined to get much further 'Mad Dog' had made an attempt on the world record for eating spring onions that lunchtime and could be detected from a considerable distance. I went off into the ferns with Linda and had a more thorough workout than I would have got playing cricket. I returned to the Orwell House dining-room late for tea and somewhat tousled. My ear-to-ear grin was reflected by everyone on the fifth form table, including the complement from Corners. I did not realise, however, that this shared joy went beyond the telling of my afternoon's adventures until 'Harry' Harber offered to show me a photograph. At first I could not see what everyone was laughing at as the shapes on the first photograph were a little obscured by foliage. The second photograph was much clearer and the buttocks were strangely familiar. It turned out that Iain had arrived from the athletics track too late for anything other than the joys of voyeurism. He had climbed a tree almost overhanging my strategic position in the deep ferns and had taken a number of photographs which, with the help of Dave Gush, he developed and printed in the darkroom in time to put some crumpet onto the tea-time menu. I paid a jar of coffee to keep the photos out of circulation, but I don't remember getting the negatives back.
Iain left Woolverstone to do VSO before commencing his first degree in Zoology at Leeds. He had been in the Solomon Islands only about a week when I received his first letter telling me about his young housemaid and how attractive she was, but bemoaning the very strict rules of the VSO organisation, particularly regarding intimacy between volunteers and the local people. By the time I got his next letter I had started my first term at university and was not sure where I could lay my hands on the 100 condoms he wanted, but find them I did. With a friend I spent a fair amount of time outside the Post Office in Coventry emptying condoms from their packets into an enormous envelope to minimise the postage costs. However, I had never sent a package overseas before and I was unsure what to do with the cunningly-worded customs declaration ('Products of the London Rubber Company'). As a result, I did not seal the envelope as I intended to seek advice at the PO counter. The PO was pretty full and, as we queued to reach one of the windows, I became increasingly conscious of the fact that the place was full of women and children. My friend and I were the only men present and neither of us looked much like pillars of the community. My Afro haircut was already spreading towards my shoulders and he looked like a Hell's Angel. When my turn came, before I could say a word, the woman behind the counter had grabbed the bottom of the envelope with the most predictable of outcomes. Condoms were strewn everywhere, children were hugged to their mothers' sides and my friend disappeared leaving me a very lonely figure. It is remarkably difficult to pick up so many condoms unaided when suffering so many hostile gazes. I am not someone who gets embarrassed much - I know what I look like - but I was embarrassed then. Iain got his condoms and put them to good use (not like Ron who once blew one up during one of Crom's Latin spectaculars). It took him a long time to look at British women when he returned to Leeds. Maybe that's why he went on to do a doctorate. The last time I saw him was in 1981 or 1982, he was working for the Welcome Foundation and living in Milton Keynes with his wife and children, but they moved him and sadly we lost contact. I'd be delighted to see him again as I'm sure his wife is not familiar with some of the things he did before they met. I owe it to myself to fill in the gaps.
The prospect of undying love always loomed, and Graham Hoad should be included in the short list of those who found their wives locally whilst at school. He married a girl with long blonde hair who came from either Pin Mill or Chelmo. For most of us, however, true love palled into insignificance compared to the real thing. Sex, of course, or the getting of it, was a significant issue at school. Whilst there was a little activity between consenting males, it was generally very low-key and limited. It would be invidious to recall the relationships of this sort which do stick in one's mind, but on reflection I am glad that there was no significant victimisation of any participants which I can recall. What I can remember, however, was the sea change in the level of control exercised by staff which occurred in my last year. 6th Form dances had disappeared a year or so before to be replaced by the now ubiquitous disco held in Rooms A and B and I followed on from 'Gilbo' Sharp as the disc jockey-cum-organiser together with John Morri. At first various masters used to wander into the disco to make sure people were behaving, but this soon stopped and the discos got steamier. Mattresses were put on the floor and put to use: I remember GHB prodding the outline of Richard Harrison's buttocks with his walking stick and saying, "Come off it." but the shapes ignored him. I can also member the alternative use to which cupboards in Rooms A, B and C were put as well as certain pieces of gymnasium equipment. 'Taffy' Evans was livid to discover a huge semen stain on a mat when they were pulled back out in the gym on the Monday morning. The fact that our discos were unchaperoned made them all the more attractive to the girls of New Hall (a Catholic ladies boarding school near Chelmsford which featured heavily in my own youthful fantasies), Ipswich and Felixstowe High who were just as eager to 'get on down' as us. Although I know of some fairly sordid events involving people being caught in bed together both at Woolverstone and the 6th Form House at Felixstowe, I'm not aware that any lasting memories were created. The nearest thing to that came when Molly of Ipswich High School reported to her paramour, Chris Morris, that she thought she was up the duff. 'Norris' demonstrated the backbone and fibre that so typify those called to the bar by becoming the first 6th former to run away from school. He returned with his phenomenal tail between his legs (Molly, on first being introduced to his manhood, declared loudly enough for others engaged in similar activities nearby, "You're not putting that in me!"), a wiser but sadder man. He not only knew that he wasn't about to become a father, but Molly gave him the elbow for showing such resolve in her hour of need.
Chris Morris was, with Terry O'Halloran, the creator of 'Poetic Licence'. I think it first appeared in 1968 after "Number" became a proscribed publication. This was because of the satirical pieces contained in a rush issue which was written following the 1st XV's defeat by Colchester (well, half the first choice team were unavailable through sickness or injury, including Jim Cottrell). It is worthwhile reflecting that freedom of speech was not a commonplace at Woolverstone or in society as a whole at the time. The major contributors to the issue were Chris, Terry and Mo Geller (Berners 64-71). Chris was a very talented poet and had also written a play which was performed at the end of our second year. The play was called "The Prisoner of Conscience" and featured one of my pairs of bi-coloured plimsolls in the lead, although I had more lines.
For such an articulate and sensitive soul, 'Norris' cultivated the air of imperviousness to the boundaries of respectability that boys do just after they have read "The Catcher In The Rye" and begin to think they are Holden Caulfield. I remember heckling so violently with him and Johnny Morri (we were doing a splendid impersonation of West Indian supporters, or so we thought) at a cricket match one Saturday in our fifth form that we had to flee the school to escape Bume, along with Terry O'Halloran, Bill Boyce, Chris Krupski, and Tony Isaacs. When Bume eventually caught up with us, it was nearly midnight and we were watching television in the sixth-form cellar laughably called the 'common room'. We were as unrepentant of our behaviour then as we were when he caught us 'tapping' the telephone (not that Bume knew what 'tapping' was - incidentally, for the benefit of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, this was Chris Krupski's real calling in life, not spreadsheets), when 'Norris' declared his ambition to become a policeman because of the abundant fringe benefits. Bume was infuriated when 'Norris'opined that there were far richer pickings to be garnered from bribes than wages, yet he maintained his good humour when John Morri asked him if he got his suits from the props cupboard. It's a shame the music halls died, 'Norris' and Bume might have been a great double-act. Some parents,though, must have thought Speech Day in 1970 was as good as any music-hall turn when our predetermined strategy to applaud and stamp our feet like madmen or give a standing ovation whenever Bume said certain words. I can only remember two of those words now, 'candidly' and 'archery', but I was moved to tears of laughter when during his peroration the great man, referring to, "unexpected success in the minor sports" said, "and candidly ...[hysterical reaction and standing ovation], the archery ...[even more hysterical reaction with a standing ovation]."
I have been married twice and both events owe something to Woolverstonians. My first marriage followed an engagement drunkenly entered into in the back of Conrad Graham's car shortly after a very depleted number of OWs had turned out to play Mitcham. Conrad was a remarkable fixtures secretary and we could generally rely on at least one car load not making it on the strength of his directions. We lost the game comprehensively, but slaughtered the opposition in a series of post-match boat races. As anchorman I was doubly pissed and not responsible for my ensuing actions as five months of wedded bliss were to prove. It took me a few years to get my own back on Conrad, but by asking a girl running around Battersea Park one summer's evening to make up the numbers in a five-a-side match at the end of our pre-rugby season training session, I lumbered him with some tart called Rosie who won't stop having babies - four at the last count, the most beautiful of whom is my god-daughter. A few years later, I took up with my teenage female lodger, an arrangement which greatly impressed Nigel Walker who didn't believe you could get paid for it as well. What made this the real thing, quite apart from Diane, my wonderful wife, was the service itself, which was lead by Steve James (Orwell 64-71) who is the sort of inspirational vicar who fills churches. The C of E noticed this and packed him off to Vancouver a few years ago, so sadly I have lost touch with him too. Most people who know him as a man of the cloth would not be surprised to find him one day living in a Bishop's Palace with Rachel. Conrad, incidentally, is the god-father to my beautiful daughter.
In 1978, I think, I organised an OW weekend at the school which included rugby and squash matches, a Saturday evening review featuring Bobby Bryant, Andy Wheaton, Kyriacos Tsaperelli, and me (all Orwell), Dick Musson (Johnstons?) and several others. About 120 people came up by buses I had arranged quite apart from those who made it under their own steam. The OWs beat the schoolboys, but almost died from exhaustion in the process. Adrian Thomson played very well against us and was one of several boys who came to the dinner. The cast of the review should have included Neil Pearson, but at every rehearsal (I think we had two or three in Musson's flat in West Kensington) we had to read in for him. He assured us that he would be there on the night and was also included in one of the teams from recollection. In the end, Neil featured in a running gag, much appreciated by the cast, along the lines of "The next sketch features Neil Pearson." The dinner in the Great White Horse was also a great success and the carousing went on well into the night with serious consequences for a county darts team who were also staying at the GWH. We managed to get them so smashed they had to cancel their match against Suffolk the next. I think it was also that night when a worse for wear OW set off a fire alarm and a Green Goddess arrived at some unearthly hour. Steve Coduri and Dave Bailey have both been referred to as the culprit - it would be interesting to know who was to blame. I know that Jim Cottrell never evacuated his room - he was too pissed. Indeed we had earlier used his prostrate form as a battering ram to open the door to his bedroom which Sally, his wife, refused to open. She has always been a caring person.
Steve Coduri (Corners 1963-70) was a great scholar with a radical view of the English Reformation and late Renaissance Europe which was chiefly derived from the only book he read during his 'A' level year, Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With The Wind". Steve was so far adrift of what was going on that, on reflection, he must have been on drugs. I remember passing him one morning as I was in a group of people walking towards the gym to sit an 'A' level and he was on his way somewhere else. Whilst we persuaded him to join us, his persistence with very short answers (Q: "The King's divorce was the occasion not the cause of the Reformation. Discuss." A: "No" didn't do him much good. And yet he started life at Woolverstone with such promise, 'Doc' stopped games one afternoon because of a tackle he made when playing at full-back and wouldn't stop going on about it, literally, for years afterwards. I lost contact with Steve after I moved from London in the early 1980s, but I will always regard him as a champion of English historiography and flared trousers.
There were a number of very powerful and effective age group sides during my years at school and whilst Jim Cottrell's team had the benefit of his presence, I am convinced that the most powerful side ever to represent the school was the 1963 Under 15s. From memory it comprised David Harris, Oswald Alan Fleurent (note the initials) Hotz de Baar, Jim Wild, Terry Cleverly, Alf Bartlett, Geoff Hindle, Nusrat Nazeer, Peter Lover, Peter Jones, Phil 'Ugg' Davies, Peter and Paul Templeton, and Eric Mattey. At one stage they held a school points record scored against the might of Coplestone which other sides sought to erase. When my year was in its Under 14 phase, we had scored 74 points by half-time against Woodbridge when our very embarrassed coach, Brian Middlebrook, told us we were not to score any more points. A short and farcical second-half featured us wheeling scrums to push Woodbridge back towards our line and, on arrival, wheeling again and pushing them back to where we started from. Andy Dodgson scored 7 tries in that game (a try was only worth 3 points then) which was a record for a while.
Jim Cottrell was my senior by a year and I played rugby and cricket with him both at school and as an Old Boy. Jim was too short for me to look up to although his ability merited everyone's admiration. You always believed defeat was impossible if Jim was playing and observers who saw players down the years at Woolverstone put him at the top of their lists. What I found particularly important about Jim was that he only ever wanted to treat sporting activities on their true level which was as a game and I find it disarming that he never pursued a professional career as a sportsman. Jim was immensely strong, pretty quick over a 100 yards but incredibly quick off the mark. His anticipation, spatial awareness and ball sense were as exceptional as his modesty. I remember vividly a referee asking him as we left Church Field after another 1st XV triumph: "What's it like to be a genius?" throwing Jim into an embarrassed silence. This is no idle reminiscence either even though I am as entitled to my sporting heroes as the next man.
It sometimes seems more interesting to me to reflect upon who was the dirtiest player to represent the school. My two nominees would take some beating. Dr Denis Alexander (Orwell 56-63), an eminent research scientist, specialised in late tackles and off-the-ball retribution.
(ED' Only fair to insert a reponse from Dennis Alexander at this point.)
He once organised a very elaborate plan involving himself, Dave Dibbin and me to eliminate the threat of the opposition scrum-half. The particularly effective ploy was based on leaving a huge gap in the line-out for the victim to run through. When he obliged he was massacred from the front by Denis and from either side by Dave and me and was forced to leave the field. Denis was for a long period the fixtures secretary and lived for a time in a flat in Kensington with Pam. When they moved to Wimbledon, several people made the understandable mistake of telephoning his old number, which by then had been taken over by a lady of the night. It is rumoured that a number of people repeated their understandable error for some time and that 'Raz' Skinner negotiated a season ticket discount. Denis, who could niggle for England, played for most of his career in an advisory capacity to the referee and it came as a considerable surprise when he took his own advice and became a referee himself. I should add that he was a very good referee, but I'm sure he was tempted more than once to whack players on the sly. As a schoolboy playing against the Old Boys, I was convinced that their ever-smiling bald headed hooker was the most evil bastard on this earth and despite his genial bonhomie and willingness to ply us with drinks after the match, each year we formed a cunning scheme to separate his head from his shoulders. Once I started to play with Andy Hunton, I came to like him enormously as a person - and who could fail so to do?- but you knew that whenever there was a fight with the opposition, the last of the warring factions to be separated would be the ever-smiling, almost angelic figure of Andy. Andy represented wholehearted animalism in his approach to the game, so Denis wins by a bald head because of the considerable thought and skill he applied to illegality on the pitch.
The single act of violence on the pitch which I best remember, however, I saw only from a distance. We were playing at Brentwood School, a top football-playing school which had only started playing rugby at a senior level a year or so before. As they were not strong enough to play our 1st and 2nd XVs, we fielded an A and B team with a mixture of 1st, 2nd, 3rd XV players and some Under 15s. The games were on adjoining pitches, but one had started ten minutes or so before the other. During the A team half-time, a fight started in the B team game between a few people including a very big Brentwood forward and our winger, Chris Morris. In the manner of most wingers, 'Norris' had a less than prepossessing build and the gangly, uncoordinated manner of so many left handers: had he not been so ugly he might have made a career as a prototype for today's super-models. The melee was in the process of coming under control and, in being pulled away from it, the big forward's arms were being held back by others just as 'Norris' was being released. It was at this point that 'Norris' belted the big forward on the chin, for which piece of opportunism the referee sent him straight off only for 'Donkey' Cox, standing on the touchline, to send him straight back on again. Surprisingly, the referee let him return and though the score has been lost in the mists of time - we won, we were Woolverstone - that ungainly left hook will live on.
Like me, 'Norris' was a member of Food Club, an unofficial group which used to meet in the middle of the night during our 6th form years either in the cellars in Berners (generally in the TV Room) or in the room shared by Viv Beresford, Pete Sutton, and Gotham. John Morri, Richard Harrison, and John Price were regular attenders from my year together with Steve Coduri, Chris Krupski, Iain Turner and Mickey Galiffe (Halls), whose strenuous opposition to his parents' plans for an arranged marriage for him belied the phenomenal size of his ears, and Bruce Lazenby?, Conrad Graham, Phil Syrett (all Berners). Others participated from time to time in the main activity which was breaking into the school kitchens and stealing food for a fry up. We occasionally ventured further afield either in the Bume's car (late night joy-riding has a longer history than some might imagine) or 'Tricky Dicky's' mini-van, to garner the contents of greenhouses and kitchens on the peninsular with interesting consequences. I remember being in the company of two stalwart members one night when an Alsatian menaced us in a greenhouse, but was easily repulsed by a punch on its snout. We returned with our booty, a collection of onions for an omelette, like heroes of old and I can still remember Pete Sutton extolling the fact that cutting them up didn't make him cry, but then daffodil bulbs don't normally have that effect on you until you eat them. The mini-van was actually H's elder brother's vehicle, but it was put to good use while he was serving in the RAF in Germany. The van was kept in hiding off the Cat House Road and was very cheap to run as all it required was 'free petrol'. It wasn't actually free, but a small length of hose and a jerry can was all that was needed for 'Mad Dog' to siphon 'contributions' from the contents of the fuel tanks of members of the Royal Harwich Yacht Club into our travelling fund. 'Mad Dog' was in charge of siphoning operations because he had developed a taste for the lower grade fuel, but I can remember him siphoning the contents of a Rolls Royce (too rich a mix for the humble mini-van) directly onto the grass one evening as his bit for the class struggle.
Ken Bullard was not held in universal esteem by members of the Food Club, or for that matter by most people in my era whilst at school, although there was nothing malicious about it. Ken was much closer to an authority figure than the majority of people who made the school function especially as he always had a master sitting next to him. Memorably this was not the case when Ken was ferrying back members of the 6th form who had been attending a conference at RCS Holborn at which a number of luminaries such as Ron Todd of the TGWU were speaking (we gave Ron an almighty roasting just for a laugh and knocked him out of his stride as he confessed to me in later years when our paths crossed professionally). On the way back to school, there was no master on board the bus, which was full of particularly irresponsible people like me, Terry O'Halloran and Chris Morris. The furore and general piss-taking of Ken got so bad that he stopped the bus, marched down the aisle and, with his permanent fag end fixed in the corner of his mouth, gave a beady stare and announced, "Who wanna walk?" He returned to his seat to what he took initially to be triumphant silence. However, as soon as he started up again a chant of "We wanna walk, we wanna walk!" went up to the accompaniment of unified foot stamping. Some people did not join in - well, if you were in Halls you had to surrender your soul on admission - but the rest of us were nearly sick with laughter, though eventually we let Ken enjoy some quiet on the journey. There was nothing particularly malicious in what we did (and it doesn't sound so evil now), but it was an easy option for us in the circumstances. Ken was actually a pretty good driver (and I should know, the police have endorsed my ability on several occasions) and I remember the great skill he displayed one day driving the tilly back from East Bergholt when we went into an incredible skid on black ice and almost left the road.
There were a few major incidents involving the police during the 60s, the first being the shoplifting ring organised by Corfield, a tall, very fat and unathletic third former in Hansons who left the school, although I'm pretty sure he was not expelled. More serious were the affairs of the tape-recorder and the camera. The first came to light when we were all kept in our dining rooms in total silence whilst the police were questioning various people and eventually a fifth former called Nicky Jones disappeared from the school. He had nicked the tape recorder from someone at school and then sold it (something suggests he used the name Templeton, but I may be confusing this with the camera saga). Better, because it did not involve theft from within and because it had more lasting resonance, was the theft of a very expensive camera from a shop in Ipswich. It was rumoured that the thief had had to go back to the shop to get the instructions for its use and had given his name as P.Templeton (Peter or Paul, I am not sure which of the twins was incriminated). The next we knew was when the school was called unexpectedly to the hall one summer morning in 1965 on a day we had been given off to celebrate Oxbridge entrance successes. GHB was in more than sombre mood as he not only had to advise the school that the culprit was a 6th former in Johnstons, Jonathan Sayeed, but also because a first former in Johnstons, Richard Tilling, had been found dead in his bed. The impact of Tilling's death was such that most people in the junior school did not think too much about the theft. The next time I thought about it was when an article appeared in "Private Eye" about recently elected MPs. The article mentioned the theft, but a paragraph was missing from the piece about the man who had displaced Tony Benn in the hearts of the electorate of Bristol East. I wrote a letter to clarify things and to make it obvious that the reason Sayeed had been asked to leave was not that he had stolen the camera, but that he had acted in a manner ill befitting a Woolverstonian by asking for the missing instructions rather than stealing them as well. Quite surprisingly, I then received not only an amount of mail from various loonies who thought I was some sort of campaigner, but several threatening telephone calls which I assumed were from the great man himself. I am still waiting for this particular pigeon to come home to roost, though I would not give much in the way of odds to my opponent. Douglas Templeton (Johnstons 65-72), the youngest of the brood which included Hugh in the middle (the fat one who several of us called Mary for obvious reasons), is now a journalist living in Bristol and had much sport at various election press conferences with the erstwhile camera enthusiast. Incidentally, whilst Sayeed was returned to the House of Commons as the representative of the good burghers of Mid Bedfordshire in the recent General Election, the electorate of Wimbledon decided to balance out the Woolverstonian contingent by sending Roger Casale (Hansons late 1960s/early 1970s) on a short bus ride to look after their interests. At least I am pretty sure this new New Labour member is the same person who pretended to be a practising Roman Catholic along with the likes of Frank Grigor, Chris Krupski and Chris Edwards.
There seem to have been a number of premature deaths of people from my era. After Tilling died, we were told that Patten (who had left at the end of his second year) had died of, I think, leukaemia. 'Bill' Boyce died as a result of a brain haemorrhage he suffered during a fall whilst experiencing an epileptic fit. He was a wonderfully entertaining person with a caustic wit, but who always showed great courtesy to people especially when 'under the influence'. I miss him still as I know do many others. Richard 'Harry' Harber, who died a short while after Bill, would probably have been quite proud to learn that his post-mortem claimed that his heart was the most badly diseased of any man of his age ever seen by the examining doctor, a tribute to his enjoyment of beer, fags and fried food. I'm not sure what took Terry O'Halloran as I lost contact with him immediately after leaving school, although I remember seeing a very long letter in defence of the IRA in the Guardian from Terry a few years ago, which was well written but lacking in objectivity. Nor am I sure whether Barry Jackson is actually dead, but I saw him in a documentary that Alan Whicker did on Hong Kong's high rollers a few years ago and then, listening to an in-flight interview of Alan Whicker as I was flying to Hong Kong on business I heard him say that Barry had died of Aids. I hope I misunderstood, but I suspect not. I think the Woolverstonian approach to death is probably best summed up by Hugh Hawkins (Orwell 59-66) admonition to the school on the morning the death of the bursar, Mr Wiseman (the father of the much desired Pat). The Bume had just left the hall and before anyone else could do so, Hawkins got to the podium and requested members of the 6th form to collect shovels from the bursars office immediately after assembly.
Mike Watts formed Q Club, had a bit too much vibrato in his singing voice and was a lovely man. He appeared in the famous staff play (a Whitehall farce, "See How They Run", I think) in the course of which 'Stringy' Middlebrook (playing the Brian Rix part to considerable acclaim) was knocked out by a prop (a moose's head replete with antlers) which inadvertently fell on his head. I think Mike played the bookie and Dick Waters played the kidnapped French jockey.
Chocolate Spread - that magical substance that improved tea for so many, although I never liked it much - has two significant memories for me. A number of people were involved in the first incident which was centred on using a tub of Chocolate Spread as a ball in an impromptu game of football one afternoon in Room 37. After making some spectacular statements in brown on both walls and floor - I think the ceiling got away with it - our game was brought to an abrupt halt by an irate Pete Sadler who made John Morri, Viv Beresford, Chris Morris and myself among others in 6.1 involved in the game clean the room thoroughly. If the truth be told, I think we probably made more mess with the floor polisher when cleaning the room than ever we did in smearing it with Chocolate Spread. The second memory is a sad one inasmuch as it resulted in Kev Steele (Corners 62-69) being expelled for purportedly making use of a tub of the stuff in the Corners changing room toilets with an unwilling small boy. Kev was understandably mortified at the suggestion that he had done such a thing and, at the time, had an enormously sympathetic response from 5th and 6th formers. I haven't seen Kev since he left though I understand he is still keen to protest his innocence to anyone who will listen.
Paul Finch (Hansons) stayed on until 6.3 to do his Cambridge entrance and was, I think, Head Boy during the first term of my 5th form as well as playing on the wing in the 2nd XV. Paul was, I think, Chairman of the Debating Society when I won its cup in my 4th form and so I got to know him reasonably well. Certainly well enough to recognise him one morning at the then Thames Polytechnic (now laughably Greenwich University), where I was about to sit exams for membership of the Institute of Personnel Management. Paul was by then a working journalist and the Editor of some architectural-related magazine. We agreed to meet for lunch with regrettable consequences for me because I was so drunk I fell from my chair a couple of times before being escorted from the hall. I have not seen him since although I have heard him exercising his cynical wit a few times on the 'Today' programme at the expense of property developers.
A number of people thought I had influence whilst at university and either visited or wrote to me to intercede on their behalf after I was elected President of the Union. What seemed to have escaped their attention, however, was that as the leader of the Viking Renaissance Party ('Louis Thorperis - a god not a man'), I was more concerned to realise my manifesto commitments of rape, pillage and loot and to develop a system of free transport on the inland waterway system through the use of my (non-existent) fleet of longships than to do anything on their behalf. Mike Walling visited me on the pretext of an interest in studying German, but as he found me playing darts in my then customary semi-drunken state, I fear I benefited his cause very little. Pete Fishwick once appeared on my doorstep on the run from the old bill. As I recall, he had upset HM's finest whilst studying at Southampton University because of some involvement in the provision of chemical-based substances to his fellow students - allegedly. I think he dossed down in my room for the night and continued his flight in the morning. I note with interest that he went on to enjoy some success himself in the Hong Kong police force, presumably in their narcotics unit. Most bizarre of all, or so I thought, Graeme Alexander wrote to me from Bristol University to ask me to sort out his accommodation problems. I was in the habit of meeting a number of old lags at either political demonstrations or student union conferences; we were all varying shades of left wing activist by then (I even organised the first strike in Britain by the university cleaners against Edward Heath's Phase One incomes policy): Andy 'Hashi Lulu' Kypri (Orwell 1961-1966) was a member of the loony left IS (International Socialists) at Surrey or Sussex and was too serious for is own good; Julius Robinson, a Communist Party member, was President of the Union at the then Southbank Polytechnic; whilst Chris Morris was a leading light on the loony left in its real hotbed, North-East London Polytechnic.
Norris's years in the International Marxist Group had an intriguing influence on his early career as a barrister and twice led him to front page status in the tabloid press. The first appearance was for brawling with his clerk-of-chambers in a pub, brought on by the convergence of two substantial influences in his early career, sex and booze. I think he was slightly the worse for wear and keen to make a lasting impression on a femme fatale, as was frequently his wont. The Bar Council was not impressed, but could forgive this youthful excess far easier given the circumstances than it could his decision to advise a judge that he was, 'a fascist bastard.' Norris, however, had always been one to hide the true meaning of his words in floreat language and not come to the point. He is now, I am reliably informed by John Morri, a much reformed person who, having given up the drink, is now as sober as a judge - political preference and parental origin undefined. I lost contact with Norris in the early 1980s which was sad because we had been close friends and sometime rivals for such a long time.
Bernie 'Vermin' Verblow (Orwell 1964-1969) was initially distinguished more because of his lack of height than anything else. Verblow, it has to be said was not the most popular of people, but he was very tenacious and could be extremely aggressive. I suspect that a lot of this aggression stemmed from his diminutive stature: if you spend most of your life with a cricked neck for fear of looking straight ahead at someone's crotch, a tendency towards aggression is probably the least of your worries. As far as I recall, he was disinterested in sport until the Unholy Trinity of Parperis, Morri and Isaacs forced him to join them in kickabout football matches on Orwell side. This started at about the same time that 'Verminlow' (there was nothing affectionate about his nick-names) was developing the vice-like grip which so impressed 'Bogey' Ben (more of which below), when we determined that he had all the attributes to become one of the world's great goalkeepers. He was certainly brave enough, but as I was already over six feet tall and he must then have been under five feet, he did have a certain vulnerability to aerial assaults. Strangely enough though, and with little prompting, he became a football fanatic and eventually became a very strong defensive player in the game played every Sunday morning on Orwell side. Not that this increased his popularity over-much, indeed I can remember organizing a special birthday present for him in his 5th form which even arrived on his birthday: an emigration pack for Australia.
My abiding memory of young Bernie comes from my fourth form when 'Bogey' Ben Turner was on duty as Assistant Housemaster. Ben was extremely skilled at creeping into dormitories unnoticed after lights out, but he got more than he bargained for one night when he crept into the middle of our dormitory after lights out and suddenly turned the lights on hoping to catch a number of raucous individuals up to no good. Verblow was oblivious to all this because he had his head under his bedclothes. Ben, thinking he had the chance to confiscate a torch, whipped back the bedclothes to discover Verblow having a wank. Quick as the unexpected flash he had just been given, Ben stuttered the immortal line, "Haven't you got a sex life of your own, Verblow." Still, at least he recognised him.
Height, or a shortage thereof, was a trademark of another boy in the same year as Verblow, Philip 'Razro' Durosaro, an unmistakeable character, or so I thought. Razro was about five feet tall and ten feet wide and as black as coal : not quite the commonest of sights in rural Suffolk a quarter of a century ago. Also, he possessed of one of the funniest laughs I have heard in my life (which led me to cast him with greater success as a fairy in "Pride, Passion and Petrofaction; or the Fateful Gazogene"', one of George Bernard Shaw's lesser-known, but brilliantly funny, works). Razro was probably the oldest boy in his year and, in the summer of 1970, eighteen-year-olds were able to vote for the first time in a General Election, so he went up to the village school in Woolverstone to discharge his democratic responsibilities. Not everyone, however, could be bothered to vote, but Razro had been smitten so fiercely by election fever he used the names of various apathetic people to vote as frequently as possible during the course of the day, undeterred by the vigilance of the old biddies manning the polling station. This said as much about Suffolk as it did about Razro.
The opportunity for Verblow to start a new life in Australia was the culmination of a number of interesting gifts sent through the post which I can now confess to have been party to. We started modestly enough with shopping catalogues (but Chris 'Nathan' Krupki, who had a penchant for extremism and sent hundreds to people at the same time - though 'Doc' was convinced it was me), through rose bushes and even a gas stove to Mrs 'Gilbo' Sharp, but then it started to get vicious: my eighteenth-birthday celebrations were slightly marred by the unexpected and greatly undesired arrival of my call up papers to the army (I suspected Verblow's hand, hence the ultimate statement of cordiality).