One's own year


Remembering my time at school I note how it recedes in to the past to become like every other past. Yet such pastness is not precisely how it appears in memory. It retains that quality of brutal contingency, that ugly presentness or up-to-dateness. There was no relegation to the happy world of nostalgia.

That, remembered right, cannot be properly assimilated. There were all the elders, now dead, whose world it was. And now it is your world, supposedly. But do you ever really get over the contempt with which you were treated?

Thinking of all the past generations, it does not seem one joined them. One remains forever in a distasteful present. One got educated, and is grateful for that, but memory is hardly enjoyable. The pleasures they offered you all come across as disagreeable coercion. No charm. Just the unpleasantness of school.

Such were the thoughts inspired by an old photo published on Friends Reunited. Here is evidence of formative sexual experiences, though not mine. Images of repression somehow remain to colour the rest of life. A socialisation was missed out. I see only now that my schoolfellows were trying genuinely to help rather than simply mock me. There was a ludicrous distasteful quality. Yet such experience and lack of experience forms a determining pattern. The two year deferment may have made all the difference.

There was a choice, a turning point. If the choice was wrong, much later angst was to follow, much unsatisfactory material. Had something been learnt, then there would have been a straightforward route to the satisfaction of desire. Therefore there would have been much less envy and frustration. One imagines it would have been better if the river had been able to flow straight down to the sea.

I knew they were trying to help, and I still recognise there was also the mockery. So what have I discovered? That it was seen how frustrated I was, and as well as intrigue there was a generous impulse. Or could I say that? It was a mischievous and salacious motive. Gratitude was not really in order. I was aware of humiliation and mockery. Then there was justifiable aesthetic revulsion, of which there was much. Then and now.

One grows up with women as mothers and teachers, then has wives. But certain archetypes remain, sometimes diabolic. And alternatively there is a vision of paradise, of complete ecstatic freedom, release of the instincts, a thrilling freedom from taboos that have supposedly been built up for the protection of civilisation. There are a number of themes here. One of them is disease. This is part of the tragedy of the human condition.

The love that women live by.

I shall tell the silly story, that behind the photograph. But not just yet. There were boys in the year below who told me that because I was not fully human no girl would ever find me attractive.

Remember paradoxes. Young female students making themselves attractive. For practically the whole time I was at university, apart from S I was never conscious of any woman being attracted to me sexually. That is why I was to be abnormally affected by silly flirts who really had no interest in me whatever.


Other aspects. The Social Coercive Party. What was expected, the boring life, the good bourgeois. What your elders really expected of you. There was some respect for creative achievement, for the genius of literature, but as the last of the old die, the coerciveness of much of the twentieth century becomes apparent. As does the stupidity of the categories in which one thought.

There was a boy who was expelled for being caught by the police with a knuckleduster. He knew the Krays. Not that I knew him. I met him but did not speak. I was very shy. Serious crime. Weak not wicked. Smokestack lightning. The real meaning of a life. Need for rejecting all one was told. Forces that make up the will. Rock ‘n’ roll. Schoolwork versus rock 'n' roll. Observing, too shy to speak. Receptive, accepting.

Hierarchy. The gregarious slaves versus the solitary species.
Other kinds of illusion. Other schools taught revolutionary illusions of inclusion.

Creative effort hard work. Value for later life. Ultimate achievement.
What is so easy to forget, what was known at the time. Futures foreseen clearly enough. Freedom so hard to achieve that one has to be evasive. And thereby to return to an ancient source of inspiration.

The modern availability of information, so much of it. It is a miracle like air travel. Yet in the future the ability to sort it will be lost. Opportunity for a sublime meditation.

Wyndham Lewis wrote of the pseudo aristocracy of the private school. Fantasy. Its own humble place in the hierarchy. Significance of hierarchy. What Etonians may feel.

There was no small attorney’s son or small farmer’s daughter who had been to a school where their parents had to pay, or had studied painting or music, who did not imagine themselves barons and baronesses.

Thoughts on the housemaster. The country, his values, his vocation. The conflict affirmed. He was fully conscious of the fear and hatred he inspired; and yet the old misogynist may actually have liked me, at least did not disapprove like others have or did, and I can see what his philosophy was. Aggression was approved. Like approval of evil. All the effort involved in overcoming. A genuine sympathy and understanding.

What he thought of this boy, in his old age as he approached retirement. He actually rather liked him. Toughness he respected. He has integrated well and is a definite asset. By toughness one might have mistakenly assumed he was mostly talking about the capacity to endure beatings. After you have passed sixteen he explains to you about them. They are nothing really, just a form of discipline. Yet they become associated with terror and with sexual desire.

He had a place in the scheme of things, in his country, in his profession.

Into the rose-garden.

He had a rose garden.

I would not say he was a pervert, if it is right to call any of them such. That would be to libel him. I understand what he meant about toughness and I think it is something I learned, though not from him.

When my great grandfather wanted to teach his sons to swim he took all four of them to the local swimming pool and threw them in the deep end.

Strength of character means resisting what the world throws at you. You need to be tested, you need to be alone. We now see the alternative, the feminised rot. An alternative of which the old misogynist was aware.

Layers of understanding. He had a vocation. He was a tyrant feared and hated. Yet he had had his virtues. There are many worse. He was in loco parents presiding over a society. He took charge of what he was given. How his own selfishness compares with that of others. He is not selfish, but he has his own will, his own vision. He was preparing you for your own lives, and for society, or the country if you think of it like that. Hopefully you will make a contribution. All the things you go through. Experiences, crises. Ways of growing up. Relating to your fellows. Standing up for yourself.

There is wisdom that is not written. He understood something about boys. And that will be something more than you ever understood about yourself. Knowing you have to fight your way through all the others.

Write about your secret history. A strength you exercise unconsciously. A basic instinct for survival. How coarse and embarrassing you are. How insecure. How that will change, how you have tasks to overcome.

Two boys in the dormitory, one in bed, the other standing beside him. Out of my bed talking to one of them, one not in the photograph though he should have been, about what he did with them. All about putting his finger in their cunts. Something they wanted, he said, whereas we all knew what we wanted all the time but didn’t in this case get.

It was made to sound something frustrating, rather horrible.

Fragments of literature. A mood. A bad, frustrated discontented mood. Such moods return. Though now I may be free of such a mood there is something abut it that recurs periodically. A discontent with my life, a characterisation in this negative manner. Such and such a feeling can return. And it is a function of literature to recapture and express it. To recover something I do not immediately feel.

Look forward a year or so and everything had changed. Then I was arrogant, satisfied.

And yet those times, those thoughts, return, stay with you all your life. The bad state is something worth remembering. In it there is power. But that is not what I wanted to say.

Compare with some years earlier. Compare with Kinsgley Amis, and his Miss Bunn.

We had learned how to make phone calls without paying for them, tapping them out. A crowd of boys stood in a phone box, rang a girl from the local school. One pretended to be me and arranged a blind date with her.

My question was should I go along? Obviously of course if I went I would tell her of the low trick that had been played on me. How could I do anything else? But there was a lure.

Thursday 16th December 1965
Various things have happened, nothing of momentous importance. People tried to arrange a girlfriend for me, nothing came of it. I considered it might be my peculiar environmental situation which accounts largely for my lack of social life…… That day I nearly spoke to that prospective girlfriend ‘she fucks!’ they told me) I felt I may have been at a crucial moment and that I was living in a day which might very well assume great importance in my life. How there was nothing to associating with girls, how foolish I had been and how irrelevant and neurotic much of this diary is. I felt I was not really so abnormal as I had felt. What day is the day that we know that we hope for or fear for? I was wrong. Nothing happened. I did try to try but nothing happened. The day was not significantly different from any other day. some people understood what would happen, I did not.

That expression ‘she fucks’. What it signified at that time at that moment in history.

Those boys, you know how they felt and thought. Older generations seem different, but they were boys too, so in a sense you know how they would have felt too.

A group of them telephoned her, one pretending to be me trying to arrange what they call a blind date. It created a big stir in the girl’s school, lots of excited speculation. The girls in the photo were girls from the combined choir from the local girls school. They were very young, and do not look desirable. The boys only joined the choir to meet the girls.

They were my generation, more or less though they seemed younger. Too many sought not to detect and associate with male genius but wanted to be praised for achievements of their own. This meant attacking the idea of male genius. Try and imagine one. I never met her, never knew her. Or once later I did meet one. Detached from their instincts, we say.

That excited speculation. Them at that time obsessed with boys, with gossip.

And today I discover that one of those who made the phone call, probably the one who spoke, is a professor in America. A bad teacher, as his students rate him, but someone who made original discoveries. I see him online making a speech. Talking about his past he makes jokes but they are all untrue. I thought I would have liked to meet him, to talk about t past times. But would he have had the vitality I remembered? It was that of a 17 year old, a few months older than my self and with more access to girls.

Then there is another one I looked up. He was with me when I was 16, in Soho and in Paris when I visited those prostitutes. I look up, retired now like me I presume, but 29 years ago he was sent to prison for 2 years for an office of dishonesty.

And one other I might write about, one who was not my year, who was four years younger and who got expelled. He became famous though.

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