The new school was supposed to be my actual education. After the kindly, patrician prep school ambience of Southbourne Prep, Bournemouth School (not called ‘For Boys’, though it was) was a bit of what would now be called a culture shock, but was then just a kick in the head.
Bright lads from the north-west – Kinson, Moordown, Wallisdown, even parts of Poole – had passed their eleven-plus too, and so had to go to the grammar school. They were mostly decent, but rougher elements inevitably made it in. Their behaviour wasn’t their fault, but they’d been trained to make sure they came out on top, which meant someone had to be lower down: which translated to “find a victim and bully him.” I walked into the role and they walked into me.
Just a couple of incidents will serve to illustrate this. If intimate personal data embarrasses you, look away now.
Not long after I arrived at the school, I was induced to join the CCF – the Combined Cadet Force. I accepted this as just another of those things that had to happen, although there were aspects of it that I really enjoyed: the rifle shooting in the basement of the school (with live 303 ammo, would you believe); the drill (I was good at marching, and fairly quickly got promoted to point position); and the Field Days.
This particular one was to Portsmouth (I was in the Navy section) including a visit to HMS Victory. There’d been a ‘comfort stop’ on the way, but I’d been unable to pee then, so by the time we were lined up on the main deck or somewhere, I was bursting. I may be the only twelve-year-old to have wet the deck of Nelson’s flagship, at any rate during the 1950s. Unfortunately it was noticed. For months afterwards, my nickname was ‘springaleak’.
The second memory is of the Copse, a patch of waste land next to the school where we were allowed to play at lunchtime. I might come back to the Copse later (here, I mean, not there – it’s probably flats by now) but the incident in question is that I fell over and landed in some dog do which stuck to my blazer. Luckily the Bournemouth School blazer was already brown, but the smell lingered. You can guess the rest, though how I failed to tell my parents (or for that matter how they failed to notice and get it cleaned) comes down, again, to my timidity.