Thursday, September 17, 2009

School Days

(Can you believe that Baucus? Two months of posturing, teasing and delay, and now this? No wonder stock values for the insurance companies shot up. And after all that appeasement, not a single Republican supporter. Still, on to the important things...)

It seems to be the week for school day reminders. Last night as I was driving home from one of my men's group meetings, I found myself listening to a classical music station that was playing some rather cacophonous 20th century music. A glance at the information read-out panel let me know that I was listening to a symphony by Ralph Vaughan-Williams, and I remembered that the composer's son had been one of my school mates at that public (read private) boys' boarding school I attended in the late-forties/early fifties--a tall, serious-looking lad, as I recall, with glasses. I don't remember his first name...

I don't remember the first name, either, of a handful of other scions of musical and artistic families who were attracted, for some reason, by the school. Among my contemporaries in my house alone (we lived in "houses", smaller units with dormitories, home rooms, and corridors of small studies for senior boys) were the sons of the composers Constant Lambert and (am I dreaming this? I know he was gay, but I can see the boy's face. Did he have an early marriage, as might have been useful cover for a gay man in his day?) Benjamin Britten, and the artist John Piper. I do remember Britten visiting the school, long with his lifetime partner, the tenor Peter Pears, and the soprano Margaret Ritchie, for a performance of his "Noye's Fludde"--that's Noah's Flood, for the rest of us--in the college chapel.

Anyway, here's the thing I noted as I was driving home last night: I remembered all their last names and the faces to go along with them, but none of their first names. Because they were never used. It was always last name only. Lambert, Piper, Vaughan-Williams. Clothier. I was always Clothier, never Peter. And I thought how odd and sad it was that I should have spent twelve years in boarding school without every once being called by my familiar name, either by the boys with whom I shared my life or by the teachers. There is a single exception I remember from the earliest days; that was Ben, Benjamin Hopkinson, with whom I recently renewed that ancient friendship.

Can you imagine what that's like? Growing up without ever hearing yourself called by name at school? It was only during the holidays that I became Peter again, for a short while. Then it was back to being Clothier.

Oh, and I remember, too, long after school days, learning that Lambert had traveled with one Mason, who had been the head boy of my house, to the Amazon; and that he, Lambert, had narrowly escaped Mason's fate when they were attacked by Indians and Mason was killed in a shower of forty arrows... And I remembered having borrowed a book from Mason that I had never returned, and still have today. It was "Two Tales of Shem and Shaun" by James Joyce. It has an orange cover. I can still recite some pieces from the book by heart...

2 comments:

mandt said...

Hello There! You're back...Bodhi saysn HI!

PeterAtLarge said...

Yup, back. Thanks for joining me again. And George returns the greeting--though with what looks disgracefully like a yawn, this early morning. After sleeping like a log all night!