Monday 9 April 2007

spineless swines, cemented minds...

Whilst I was cleaning out those boxes at my mum and dad's house, I came across a pile of old photographs from my school days. Every term we had a photographer come round to the House to take pictures of the various sporting teams and so on, and every summer he took a picture of the whole House. From time to time, and in spite of the fact that I wasn't especially sporty, some of those pictures would feature me. Sadly it looks like some of them have survived. None of these are in the least bit flattering, and so obviously I'm going to post them up here for public consumption.....

A word about my school: in case you hadn't spotted already, I attended one of the more famous Public Schools in England. I'm not in the least bit proud of this and I don't really like telling people. Why? Because people have the most terrible preconceptions about Public Schools and about Public Schoolboys. Like many preconception, some of these have absolutely no foundation. I had some great times at school, and most of my best friends today are people that I met at that school - some of them are almost normal. Having said that, there were many other people at that school who I would be delighted never to see again. Their tragedy is not so much that they were horrible, stereotypical English Public Schoolboys then, but that twenty years later, many of them have hardly changed at all.

Anyway. Here are the photos - the quality's a bit poor, especially when you blow them up, but they're good enough to get the general idea and I'm guessing no one wants to make any posters out of them....

The 1991 "First House" Rugby Team. This was the senior side picked to represent the House in the inter-House rugby tournament (the school was divided into something like 14 boys houses, each containing something like 50 or 60 kids from 13 to 18). What with the game having been invented at the school, rugby union was the signature sport. The captain of the school First XV was almost always the Head of School, and the other players in the team always seemed to end up being the Heads of Houses. Ability at rugby was always deemed more important than academic excellence. My House was always dreadful at rugby and we never won this tournament. 1991 was no different.

The silly hat on the guy in the middle means that he had been "capped" (i.e. awarded his colours) by the School first XV. Players in the full national side have very similar caps. Actually, the England rugby team have to ask the headmaster every year for permission to borrow the school colours -- black socks, white shorts and white shirts. If you look really closely you'll see that some of the other players - including me - are wearing black socks and not grey socks. Thats means that the players had been "awarded their socks" (colours) by the School 2nd, 3rd or 4th XVs.

I played for the Thirds that year.

This is the House photo from 1991, taken in the back garden after lunch one day. Statue John is standing far left in the first standing row. I was 17 years old at this point and in the "Lower Twenty" and was already a "sixth" (prefect). Girls only joined the the school in the sixth form, and although there were 4 girls houses at the school, they were all assigned to a boys house for their meals. Here they were outnumbered something like 10 to 1 by boys who had spent their whole lives in single sex schools and had no idea what a girl was, nevermind how you were supposed to talk to them or relate to them. They really were like another species to us, and they had to put up with all kinds of childish abuse, ranging from marks out of ten from the table of thirteen year olds all the way through to bullying from the 'more mature' sixth formers. I'm amazed that any of them survived it, frankly. Some girls thrived.

No daughter of mine will ever attend a school like this. No child of mine will ever attend a single-sex school.

This is the winning team from the 1988 House Under-14 8-a-side hockey tournament. I was the goalie and we won the final on a penalty shoot-out. As I recall, it was the first time that I had ever played in goal. At the risk of this becoming like a game of "Where's Wally", Statue John is in this one too.

Summer 1992. This is a picture of our two "Levée" (heads of House - here in their blazers and stripey ties) and the "Sixth" (prefects). I think this is probably taken either during or just after our A-Levels. We were the people who were supposed to help the headmaster to run the house and carried out the tasks like supervising prep, making sure that everyone went to bed on time and got up on time. In return, we got some privileges and pretty much boundless authority over everyone else in the house. I seem to recall that we spent most of the time either smoking out our study windows or trying to nip off to the pub.

Don't we look like wankers? (at least the others weren't wearing their boaters in this picture..... I refused to have one, but many others liked to swan around town in them).

Here's a game for you: tell me who you think looks the most loathsome and I'll tell you if you're right. Pick me if you want, but do try not to pick Statue John....

I have very mixed feelings about the other photos here, but this one is from a bit earlier and from a different school --- this is the first XV at my prep school and the photo was taken in 1986.

A more innocent time.


  1. Most loathsome? The one holding the egg?

  2. everything in black & white in 1992. how retro. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

  3. How very odd to see you all wearing jackets and uniforms. It's definitely a different experience in "public" school over here.

  4. I can't believe they were taken in '91. My school pics are somewhat different... I had long hair, black jeans and mainly wore Iron Maiden t-shirts.

    Bizarrely, my dad lived in Rugby through the late 80s and into the early 90s. I used to wander round town -what a dump it was- on Saturday and see all these 'wankers' in blazers and sometimes boaters going to school or just swanning about... One of them might have been you!

  5. I have an irrational dislike of the public school kids who swan around these parts - they very much give the impression of thinking they are better than everyone else and for all their expensive education have no bloody manners at all.

    Is that just me being bitter because I went to the local comp?

  6. Most Loathsome = The guy with the 1000 yard stare and a stripey tie sitting in the front row (he has the same stare in your first picture.)

    I went to a single-sex Grammar School and I did enjoy it, and I don't think I wouldn't want a child of mine to go to a single-sex school. Yes, I didn't really know how to talk to a girl until I was 16, but at least there were less distractions.... Of course my school was very different from a public school with quite a loose entrance criteria.

    Aren't photos brilliant! I do wish I had some more from my youth, and will try and find some to blog about and generally embarrass myself.

  7. ST, there are some things that are universal, regardless of culture and country. Wankers are Wankers. There are people in every culture with the "I'm better than everyone else" act that they take straight into middle age and beyond.

    Luv the pictures though, you've just inspired a post for me.

  8. Stripey tie and double breasted blazer looks like a brute. Curly hair and ha;f-mast tie next to him looks like a "character". I can imagine both of them being the sort of people who made my life a misery when I was at a single-sex boarding school myself.

    I have no idea which one is you, which makes this a rather scary exercise.

  9. I think I'd better step in here before I upset people I'm still friends with!

    I've no idea quite why he's pulling that face in these pictures, but stripy tie is my friend Des and he's actually one of the nicest people you would ever care to meet. He's just become a dad, actually....

    floppy hair and half-mast tie? That would be Justin - the friend I had known for 20-odd years who dumped me by email a few years back. He always was an awkward sod, and I have no idea what he's doing with his hair there either.

    I'm the tall lump with the crap glasses at the back. As in fact I am in most of these pictures.

    I'm quite glad the quality isn't better, actually.


  10. I'm not sure how I feel about the gender ratio thing...I've always gone to schools were it was generally 50/50, but I usually find that I get along much better with men. I wonder how I would have dealt with a school like yours.

  11. *watery, sheepish smile*

    Hi Des! Congratulations on becoming a dad! I'm sure you're very nice! Please don't hit me!

  12. Ha ha. Am sure ST only stuck up for me here because he knows I lurk around in the background here sometimes. I've no excuses for the 'thousand yard stare' in the photo of 'the summer of 92', and i remember regretting it the moment it got developed and came out (after all, this w@nker is still on a wall somewhere back in Rugby)... I'll put it down to one of those 'what was i thinking moments..'

    I'll defend the rugby photo as we were supposed to (try) and look hard in them....If ST posts any other photos from any of the other years, I think you'll get a much fairer picture of who i was back then....a nerdy gawky China man with bad hair.... (cf. 91 House photo stood nxt to ST)

    The funny thing is the real psycho was the floppy haried gent sitting to my right in the 'Summer of 92' photo...oh barney you mad b@stard..

    And if it helps I didnt have a boater either.

    Still, say what you will....some of the best times were had back then, and many of my best mates (including ST of course) were made then too..