first memories- part 2

August 8, 2006

This is a first draft. The life, unfortunately, is final.
You should read ‘first memories part one’ first.

About the time living in London became no longer a question of dicing with death I was dispatched to a radical boarding school in Scotland the name of which was both unspellable and unpronounceable. The school had been considered a safe haven as it was not on any bombing route, but it was not without its dangers as local patriots occasionally took it upon themselves to beat up the staff and pupils of a fervently pacifist establishment. I was convinced that the Scots were much more dangerous than the Germans and I had a regular nightmare where I used to see the indistinct but consistent features of a face with dark, sunken eye sockets and hear strains of ‘My Bonnie Lies over the ocean’. I mistakenly thought that the second word in the title was ‘body’. Occasionally the nightmare was enlivened by the arrival of burly Scotsmen wearing kilts and hurling doodlebugs at me. As well as being a hotbed of militant pacifism, my school was also noteworthy in that there were no fixed lessons, no exams, no punishment, no religion, no prefects, no compulsory activities and some ventured to say not much learning either. The evening I arrived was one of the most exciting of my life in that I heard bagpipes for the first time and promptly wet my pants. Much later, I was doing research in the British Museum library and came across a treatise by the 17th century French theologian Mersenne in which he described in detail the diuretic effects of that instrument. Apart from my urinary problems I was a very mature 4 year old and quickly embraced pupil power, playing a leading part in the school assembly which decided to abolish bedtime. I also secured agreement that anyone stealing my pet moles would own up and return them. Fortunately my career as a political agitator did not progress much further, though I had one of the essential ingredients of political success: the ability to lie and believe my own lies. On one occasion I tried vainly to persuade the staff of the school that on VE day I had ridden through the streets of London on a buffalo. The more people scoffed at the idea, the more I believed it was true. I could smell the steaming breath of the beast as it carried me aloft through the crowds of cheering Londoners. Not a romantic lot, the Scots, is all I can say, no pageantry in their soul, in spite of all their talk of Bonnie Prince Charlie and spiders and things. The school in fact boasted a small farm (no buffaloes, though) and I learned to milk the cows. Softly stroking the teats of a cow till the milk seeped out then sipping the warm creamy froth was probably the most erotic experience I have ever had. Other experiences affected the senses differently. On one occasion I was knocked unconscious by a rock thrown by the son of Scotland’s leading poet. Since when I have harboured a strong aversion to Scottish poetry, not lessened when I discovered that some of the gentleman in question’s poems were written in Lallans, a language variously described as ‘synthetic or plastic Scots only used by people who didn’t actually speak lowland scots, Braid Scots, or simply Oor ain leid, Wir ain leid, or Wir ain tung, His poems had impenetrable titles like ‘Haud forrit’ with lines of the ‘an git a smirtle oot o it noos an thans’ variety and I began to wonder whether his son’s violent behaviour had not been too much for him. In fact for a pacifist school there seemed to be an awful lot of violence about and in most of it I was involved in one way or another. In one shameful episode I cut off the long golden tresses of the headmaster’s 5 year old daughter. Even more shamefully I persuaded her to drink a bottle of orange juice which turned out to be rat poison. She survived, but needed a plastic tube implanted in her chest to enable any food to reach her stomach. After this episode I suspected that the headmaster viewed me with less than kindly warmth. I learned that in later life the young lady in question went to live in Africa where she married a traffic warden, or was it a game warden, I can’t remember which. Maybe it was a Masai warrior. Or that could have been another of the little girls I used to torment at the time, it’s hard to remember the details of them all. Anyway, when I wasn’t poisoning people I was at a bit of a loose end as the school’s main emphasis was on the creative arts – painting, theatre, woodwork and crafts, none of which interested me in the slightest. There were also some strenuous outdoor activities from which I hid- usually I was to be found roaming around the small farm, looking for hens’ eggs and the latest clutch of kittens. I was very close to one cat in particular who used to bring me mice, voles, shrews and birds it had caught and lay them on my pillow at night. But after a few months of irritating the teachers to the point where some of them were seriously thinking of making an exception to their pacifist principles, I was made to understand that it was time for me to move on. It was only many years after leaving the school that I found out that they operated a policy of tolerance for pupils smoking, consuming alcohol, swearing and indulging in sexual liaisons, If only someone had told me at the time.

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