But of course the differences between home and school were morethan physical. That bump on the hard mattress, on the first nightof term, used to give me a feeling of abrupt awakening, a feelingof: 'This is reality, this is what you are up against.' Your homemight be far from perfect, but at least it was a place ruled bylove rather than by fear, where you did not have to be perpetuallyon your guard against the people surrounding you. At eight yearsold you were suddenly taken out of this warm nest and flung into aworld of force and fraud and secrecy, like a gold-fish into a tankfull of pike. Against no matter what degree of bullying you had noredress. You could only have defended yourself by sneaking, which,except in a few rigidly defined circumstances, was the unforgivablesin. To write home and ask your parent to take you away would havebeen even less thinkable, since to do so would have been to admityourself unhappy and unpopular, which a boy will never do. Boys areErewhonians: they think that misfortune is disgraceful and must beconcealed to all cost. It might perhaps have been consideredpermissible to complain to your parents about bad food, or anunjustified caning, or some other ill-treatment inflicted bymasters and not by boys. The fact that Sambo never beat the richerboys suggests that such complaints were made occasionally. But inmy own peculiar circumstances I could never have asked my parentsto intervene on my behalf. Even before I understood about thereduced fees, I grasped that they were in some way under anobligation to Sambo, and therefore could not protect me againsthim. I have mentioned already that throughout my time at StCyprian's I never had a cricket bat of my own. I had been told thiswas because 'your parents couldn't afford it'. One day in theholidays, by some casual remark, it came out that they had providedten shillings to buy me one: yet no cricket bat appeared. I did notprotest to my parents, let alone raise the subject with Sambo. Howcould I? I was dependent on him, and the ten shillings was merely afragment of what I owed him. I realize now, of course, that it isimmensely unlikely that Sambo had simply stuck to the money. Nodoubt the matter had slipped his memory. But the point is that Iassumed that he had stuck to it, and that he had a right to do soif he chose.
Whoever writes about his childhood must beware of exaggerationand self-pity. I do not claim that I was a martyr or that StCyprian's was a sort of Dotheboys Hall. But I should be falsifyingmy own memories if I did not record that they are largely memoriesof disgust. The over crowded, underfed underwashed life that we ledwas disgusting, as I recall it. If I shut my eyes and say 'school',it is of course the physical surroundings that first come back tome: the flat playing field with its cricket pavilion and the littleshed by the rifle range, the draughty dormitories, the dustysplintery passages, the square of asphalt in front of thegymnasium, the raw-looking pinewood chaplet at the back. And atalmost every point some filthy detail obtrudes itself. For example,there were the pewter bowls out of which we had our porridge. Theyhad overhanging rims, and under the rimes there were accumulationsof sour porridge, which could be flaked off in ling strips. Theporridge itself, too, contained more lumps, hairs and unexplainedblack things than one would have thought possible, unless someonewere putting them there on purpose. It was never safe to start onthat porridge without investigating it first. And there was theslimy water of the plunge bath--it was twelve or fifteen feet long,the whole school was supposed to go into it every morning, and Idoubt whether the water was changed at all frequently--and thealways-damp towels with their cheesy smell: and, on occasionalvisits in the winter, the murky sea-water of the local Baths, whichcame straight in from the beach and on which I once saw floating ahuman turd. And the sweaty smell of the changing-room with itsgreasy basins, and, giving on this, the row of filthy, dilapidatedlavatories, which had no fastenings of any kind on the doors, sothat whenever you were sitting there someone was sure to comecrashing in. It is not easy for me to think of my schooldayswithout seeming to breathe in a whiff of something cold andevil-smelling--a sort of compound of sweaty stockings, dirtytowels, faecal smells blowing along corridors, forks with old foodbetween the prongs, neck-of-mutton stew, and the banging doors ofthe lavatories and the echoing chamber-pots in the dormitories.
A picture is simply a snapshot of one instant, but astack of pictures can, like a movie, describe the progression of my life. And, as I said before, I mainly look at thesepictures not because I want to see what my friends or my teachers looked likethen, but for the memories of what has happened and changed in my lifesince. When I consider the array ofpictures as a whole, it becomes even clearer how much I’ve learned and changed,and on closer inspection, how much of this was because, directly or indirectly,of my generally excellent school experience.
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My High School Memories Essay - 597 Words
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