I read Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe when I was twelve. It took me two days, ten hours each time, to read and digest every word. Every morsel of danger experienced by the Narrator on that desolate island with no food, I felt, blossomed through the vivid language used by its creator as the words hugged tightly to the page. In fact, Defoe captured the writer’s desperation so vividly, that the Narrator’s desperation to seek civilization became so real. Even at a young age, there were points where I could relate to the Narrator’s experiences, which were encapsulated within endless streams of narrative, whereby he bid his time working out how to make bread with some loser named after a day in the week.
Recently, I re-read Robinson Crusoe, some fifteen years after I first read it. Immediately, my mind grew wings and flew back to my time at grammar school. The fun, the excitement and the joy that I experienced, were hidden behind a curtain of fascination, pre-adolescent and adolescent mystery and naivety. Yes, looking back on it, we were not top dogs. But, we certainly felt like it. Even though my parents cast me, their only child nestling deep within the confines of the nest, off to grammar school; I remember that no matter how scary it was, or the feelings of unpredictability I felt, it was ironically the most fun I had ever had in my life. This story tells you of that wonder and danger I experienced whilst my parents sent me away to learn how to be an educated member of society, including how my morals, views and life experiences were developed thanks to the friends I made, with only a brief mention of thanks to the teachers.
Although I learnt a fair amount, it’s fair to say that observing the reactions between beryllium and water was nothing compared to the entertainment that awaited me as a boarding school child, which slowly became the norms of everyday life.
I believed then, and still believe, that I was sent to boarding school, unfairly, by my parents who branded me a, ‘destructive, infantile delinquent.’ On their invisible agenda of my life, they set out that I needed to learn and abide by the rules set out by prominent, pessimistic teachers, who like philosophers, are more than willing to produce volume-long lectures about how one should live their life. In actuality, my parents saw about as much fun and frolic as a designated driver waiting for their drunken friends to make themselves comfortable in the back seat of the car after a raucous party, sipping away on a bottle of spontaneously mixed cocktails and screaming out the lyrics to Celine Dion’s tragic love song. However, unlike drunken friends, who seem to see spontaneity in their life as much as they see spontaneity in what they showered their liver in, it became apparent one evening that my parents had already assigned me to a life in a metaphorical prison after a brief time at secondary school. They were always talking about how much better the grammar school system was at preparing children to become young adults. However, it took merely one minor incident, nevertheless an incident, to seal and stamp my fate for the next five years.
“But… but… it wasn’t my fault Mother!” I exclaimed. It quickly became clear that Mother wasn’t listening to me. She was applying lipstick with military precision. In addition, she was looking with a deep focus into her reflection produced within the glass of the cooker. My words were obviously no use. “The Smith’s were going to shoot Beth’s rabbit. I wanted to save her!”
“If Bethany is so clueless to lose her rabbit, she does not deserve one.” My Mother craned her neck to the left as she stated her opinion on the subject. Mother went to Eton as a young lady. So, in retrospect, it would not have been out of place for her one and only child to waltz off to some gothic-style, stone institution which promised success and the spoon feeding of catchy Latin slogans. Mother turned the tap off with a hurricane, force five, turn. “Besides, it is not just Bethany’s rabbit which has helped us to influence your Father and I’s decision.”
Enter Father, Mother’s defence lawyer, who never seemed to clock off his duties. Even at Christmas or on holidays, he would stick by my Mother’s argument, and would do, even if the entire world would turn up and tried and counter her move. “No. It is certainly not!” He declared, whilst simultaneously straightening his tie. Oh, and guess what? Just to add butter to the bread, he was an Oxford University student. I subjected my life to pretty much being over. “Your History teacher has said that you proclaimed that your friend, Richard, should be exempt from attending after school intervention for his antics.” My Father always thought that he had the most colourful words and phrases to express what he was thinking. Actually, only my Mother was, and still is, the only one impressed with his rubbish. Oh, and so are the small regular audiences, who turn up to dine with the family at posh five-star restaurants once a week. To me and my friends, however, Father’s words were merely as damp as a waterlogged cricket pitch.
Precisely, at that moment, the kettle had finished boiling, and whistled, mirrored my parents bubbling and overflowing anger. Father continued with his story as he sat down and started to hammer the side of his hard-boiled egg, whilst mother placed down the rack of triangular-shaped toast.
“Richard wasn’t in the wrong Dad, and neither was Bethany!” I proclaimed.
“An adult is rarely wrong. You know Grammy’s rule. It has stood the test of time when I was a child and I have not turned out badly at all.” I begged to differ but kept suitably quiet with the hope that he would finish his lecture quickly. “If Bethany and Richard’s parents want to see their unruly children fail in life then that is their choice. But we will not raise a failure of a child.”
At the time, Father might as well have said, ‘Anna, see your life dancing in front of you. The curtain has closed. The show is over’.
How I ended up supporting my ‘client’, Richard, will become clear as you continue to read my story, as I recall it whilst talking about my time at boarding school. Next, I should probably tell you what happened which made my parents decide it would be right to send me, a suitcase and a one-way train ticket, for a long, education-based ‘vacation’.
‘Boarding House Blunders’ is a short story which will be continued in more parts by the writer, Jack.