In the winter of 1962 I woke up in the middle of the night in my dormitory in Hanson's House and a thought flashed through my brain as clear as daylight - there is no point to anything in life. Of course, for those of us who have passed fifty this is not such a strange thought, but it is a scary business for a 14 year old. I remember it was half past three in the morning. I put on my dressing gown and went and knocked on the door of the house master. Mr. Goetzee opened the door sleepily and said:
'What is it, Mini?'
'There's no point to anything in life,' I said.
'I think you need a stiff drink,' he replied.
A couple of years later my mum got a job as the live-in matron at a residential drama school in Devon, full of wild, lascivious young actresses. My brother Dave, in the year above me, was onto it like a shot.
'Mum,' he said, striking a sombre tone, 'I think I would like to spend more time nearer home'.
He was off, sod the "O" levels! I followed hard on his heels the next year. I soon found out that there was a point to life after all. Soon after, Dave and I visited Woolvo as old boys. I think Mr. Bailey must have spotted something of my new life in my eye.
'Good afternoon, sir,' I said cheerfully.
'See who you want to and get out,' replied the Bummer.
He never liked us much.
Apart from having a helluva good time living in this drama school, I was supposed to be attending Totnes Grammar School, but I tell you, after Woolverstone, a sleepy country grammar school is a pretty lame place. One day I was chatting with my new school mates about what we would do with our lives when we left school. I recall that when I tried to picture it, all I saw was a completely blank piece of white paper - nothing. The old ghost was haunting me again. Is there any point in doing anything at all?
I come from that odd lost hippy generation that Ian McEwan immortalized in 'The Child In Time' when he observed that most of the bright kids of his time were now cleaning hospital floors. I went off to London, worked as a cleaner and a stage hand, joined a psychedelic band and got dangerously ill in Ibiza. This panicked me. I sort of pulled myself together, knocked together some "A" levels and enrolled in Edinburgh University studying Prehistoric Archaeology. After 4 years I emerged with an enviable 2.1 honours degree and an offer of a good research post in Sheffield. My career was made. What did I do? I dumped the lot and joined a little hippy travelling theatre in Cornwall. What was the point of having a career?
Ten years later I was playing the fiddle on the streets in Amsterdam. It was so cold my fingers were numb. The snow was falling. People were hurrying past without putting anything in my hat. I took the few guilders that I had made and went into a bar and bought a beer. As the warmth returned, my fingers started to burn like hellfire. I began to cry. I had hit rock bottom.
And what a great thing that was. How many of you have experienced it? When you hit rock bottom, the rock you land on is you. You realise just what you are worth - nothing and everything. There still wasn't any point in doing anything, but it didn't worry me anymore.
From there I drifted on through various adventures. Gradually, as inevitably happens if you stick at something for thirty years, I learned my trade and became a master of it. 7 years ago my wife Pureza and I started our own professional theatre company in Portugal. www.teatroaolargo.com . It is going like a rocket. We've got four trucks, the company turns over a hundred thousand quid a year, and we own two houses. How on earth did I arrive at being the boss of a successful business after a life spent wandering in the wilderness? Damned if I know.
That's it then ...
Incidentally for those who remember my brother Dave (Hanson's 58-63), he also wound up with his own professional theatre company in Potsdam (it's better than ours).
I would like to add my heartfelt appreciation to those of you who put this site together. Don't let the missus fool you when she says it's just grown men giggling like kids about their schooldays. There's a lot more to it than that. But don't try to explain. You'll never win the argument.
A note to my old class chums. Drop me a line, even if it's just to let me know you're alive. Those I remember offhand are: Fats Angele, Daisy, Graham Hoad, Bill Sanderson, Ian MacEwan, Lucy Lockett, Hans Saltys, Adrian Brown, Mark Wing-Davey, a hooligan called Boddy, Hugh 'Four-eyes' Hawkins, John Martin, Dave Roberts, Gabriel Barter, Tomo. Also the yobs from Corners - Roy Clouter, Keith Pitell and Keith (?) Muir, who I believe married the gorgeous Jane Pearson.
Sorry I have forgotten the names of the rest. Write to me anyway and shame me.