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1 April, 2009

by The Wandering Wastrel

So there I was a very young man,

A weasely little sprog* of ten summers with a head full of Elves, witches and goblins.
I was off to boarding school- as a punishment for being a useless little silver tongued bastard.

My mother was sending me off to learn manners, discipline and the gritty value of hard work.

If she had known it would only teach me stealth, deception, the intricacies of black mail, and pure pure hatred she may have spent the 20 grand on a new car instead.

The raw ore of my subterfuge and guile was mined, refined and poured into a glistening ingot in the first year of my indenture.

In the second year that ingot was pounded and forged into a razor sharp, indestructible weapon that in later years I would wield and use to cut a bloody swath through the lives of the innocent.

Allow me to ditch the black smithing metaphor and just say that the small coals of unreasonableness that lay in the forge of my heart were bellowed into a white hot flame of pure and focused annihilation.

It took a little while for my happy fuzzy child like exterior to be seared away exposing a blackened core and I will now detail the principal incidents that were instrument in exposing said core and beginning the mining operation on above mentioned ore.

I was in the dormitory on the very top floor. It was called Crows Nest and it housed 14 of us 10 year olds and one Prefect. A Prefect was a 12 year old who was in charge of us and could order us about and recommend a detention if we misbehaved.

You had a tiny cubicle which housed your clothes, bunk bed and very small amount of possessions. You were allowed one poster or calender. Your were teamed up with another kid who they made sure had a completely incompatible personality to yours.
For my first year I was very lucky and was allowed to shiver, cold and crying alone in the darkness with homesickness and hideous dread without anyone on the bunk above to hear my piteous whimpering .

After a while something inside me died and I couldn’t cry any more as I had gone totally numb and I would fall asleep to the sounds of other little abandoned ten year olds crying silently and alone in the darkness. This was soothing and made me feel good. Like I was a brave warrior like in the fantasy books I fanatically read.

Our lives were a regimented system, only slightly harsher than a prison camp. The lights were blasted on at 6: 30 am accompanied by the shout “UP AND SHOWERS BOYS”.Then you had to frozenly creep down four flights of stairs to the showers which were in a large concrete basement.
It was always damp and smelt like piss and naked shamefaced embarrassment.

The Tutors or the Matron supervised the showers and you stood chilled and shivering in line until ushered into the grey tiled concrete bunker with 15 shower heads attached to the ceiling. There you and 14 other boys would stand in piss weak dribbles of water which was only slightly warmer than the frozen dungeon this ordeal took place in.
You got one minute and then you were off to “dry” yourself with your damp and pissy smelling towel. Unless it was Wednesday in which case the towels were washed and dry. But still cold.
After about six months of this I started getting harsh redness and itchiness on the sides of my feet and legs – in my teen years my medical knowledge increased and I correctly diagnosed this as chilblains. By then I was not suffering from such ailments as I had stopped living like a poor orphan from the streets of Victorian London and the knowledge was of no use to me.

The Tutors were young men in their 20s who were given free room and board in exchange for a few shifts of giving us brats detentions, tormenting the fuck out of us and generally making sure we diddnt kill each other or destroy school property. More on them and the vows I made to kick the poo out of them when I was older and tough, later.

The Matrons came and went, they were “nurses” who were in charge of our health and ranged from kindly powder smelling old fat women to young motorbike riding long legged and redheaded vixen nurses who smelt sweaty and the older kids talked about in a gross way. More on the Matrons and the amount of times I had to get naked in front of have my balls felt by them ( for health reasons ) later.

After showers we would flee back to our rooms to dress in the scratchy wool shorts and shirt that was our perpetual clothing. Thus clothed we would shiver and shake down to the dining room. Even on the hottest of summer days the hallways and cloisters has a chill to them that was never refreshing.

Once in the dining hall ( which we called The Barn) we would get our breakfast. Usually a dollop of grey porridge that looked like it belonged in the mess hall of a spaceship, feeding resistance fighters who are seeking to throw of the shackles of the machine overmind and reclaim their planet. It tasted pretty rough, but if you mixed enough sugar with it you could gag it down with the weak tea that seemed to be everywhere.

Then it was off to school. Just a short walk along another freezing cloister. What can I say – this was most probably the best school in New Zealand. 10 kids to a class, all the best teaching equipment, we learned poetry, grammar , we studied a lot of history, made small chests of drawers in wood shop and did pottery, each night after dinner we did an hour of home work back in the class rooms. In all we got about nine hours of schooling a day and were made to play sports after school which combined with the harsh gym classes turned us each into intelligent little machines that could run, jump and kick a ball.

While the rest of New Zealand Ten year olds were crammed into classrooms of 50 and reduced to screaming imbecileitude through the making of potato cut out prints and eating paste, we were learning by rote (memorized by repetition) poetry such as the anthem of the American Revolution – Paul Revere’s Ride ; instilling within me a deep hatred for the British, and a deep and probably unhealthy identification with the early American patriots.
You know the rest. In the books you have read, How the British Regulars fired and fled, How the farmers gave them ball for ball, From behind each fence and farmyard wall, Chasing the Redcoats down the lane, Then crossing the fields to emerge again. Under the trees at the turn of the road, And only pausing to fire and load.

What deep hatred for the Redcoats that was growing within me was magnified and frenzied by another poem we had to learn by rote a few weeks later- this was called The Highwayman. I always felt that I was a bit of a Highwayman and I identified greatly with the Highwayman in the poem. When the bastard Redcoats capture his woman ( the Landlords daughter ) and she kills herself I start looking for my silver pistols and when they shoot me down on the highway, down like a dog on the highway and I lie in my blood on the highway with a bunch of lace at my throat, I start firing and don’t stop until I have turned the head of every Redcoat into a canoe. Reading the poem would reduce me to tears and little clenched fists of fury and I would be to munted* to continue and so would just stand at the front of the class with my head down unable to utter another stanza.
I would be allowed to go out side to “calmly gather yourself”. I was not asked to read that particular poem in front of the class again. But I still know it all off by heart. And here’s a bit.

A red-coat troop came marching- Marching-marching-
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement*, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window; And hell at one dark window.
Back, Wez spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind me and my rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were my spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was my velvet coat,
When they shot me down on the highway, Down like a dog on the highway, And I lay in my blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at my throat.

Lacking any silver butted pistols, smoothbore flintlock musket of a large caliber or Red coats too shoot I had to be content with making a tiny blow gun and needles from the poisonous spines of a cactus that grew next to the gym, and secretly shooting home made darts into the other kids. But that is another story.

Any way it is not the purpose of this tale to talk about the emotional content of the history lessons I received or my bitter hatred of all thing under King Georges failing British Empire, nor the mundane meanderings of eating showing or sleeping.
The purpose is to amuse the reader with the crazy things I got up to at boarding school when I was young and now I will begin.

*Casement. – A window sash that opens outward by means of hinges.

*Sprog – UK slang for a child.

* Munted – Ruined or broken
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Read More Boarding School – The Saga Begins.