Sunday 3 July 2011

La bloc

A good dinner with George, a schoolmaster educated at Eton and Oxford, Gabi and their nice son Johnnie (not Ion) who is just starting to talk. They live in a typical flat in a 1970s Ceausescu tower block of which he is very unnecessarily ashamed. So I was not unique in not driving and not owning property despite an Oxbridge degree.

George talked about a friend of his Anthony James who went down from Oxford in 1978. For George this is like the early 1960s are for me. (George thinks all England’s ills began in 1997 and thinks the 1980s were a golden age of myth. How did I get so old?) Anthony James was completely unmaterialistic (this sounds 1960s not early 1980s) never went to restaurants or owned a car or had a well-paid job. He sounded like someone I could deeply respect but then the story darkened. Eric Anderson appointed him a master at Eton without qualifications because of the old boy net apparently but really to keep a space warm for one year for someone else. At another public school (he had no formal teaching qualifications which I approved of) he developed a crush on a schoolmistress and the boys somehow found out. James was fired from  the school for hitting a boy who taunted him about it and banned from teaching for life. Then suffering from encephalitis he committed suicide.

In my teens I wanted to oppose the spirit of the age and this was very priggish and morbid of me but now that age seems much wiser than this one in quite a lot of respects. The country it seems really is going to the dogs. I discovered over dinner to my great surprise that:

Smacking a pupil in Great Britain means being banned from teaching for life.

Lines are considered humiliating and are illegal as, ‘certainly’, standing in the corner would be.

Even with a II:ii degree from Oxford in classics jobs are not easy to come.

Being an Etonian does not make it easy to get girls. (This one I do not believe.)

Strangest of all, George suddenly said (this kind of abrupt and slightly startling remark is typical of him) that he hoped his son would not become a homosexual. And then said this was something he would not dare say in England. Even some of his friends would disapprove and all his friends are conservatives in politics. 

1 comment:

  1. When did Anthony James die? How old was he?