Once is enough;Talkback;Opinion

16th July 1999 at 01:00
Most people are glad to leave school. And for most it's nice to make the occasional return visit, mainly to reassure themselves that they can walk away again.

I went back to my old school in Scunthorpe to an annual dinner once, and that was enough. I met Jimmy, who was doing quite well, thank you. He wasn't in teaching and had a mobile phone at a time when mobile phones were expensive, and a Psion in his pocket. He kept making deals while we ate. What made me especially jealous was that Jimmy had been an idle so-and-so, and the last time I'd seen him was at the back of the bike sheds before our final exams smoking a Gauloise. He kept cadging them off me and asking questions about The Tempest, like "who was Prospero?" Yet look at Jimmy now. And look at me, a struggling teacher. I resolved never to go back to school. It's unhealthy; it's sentimental and it rekindles old disputes and rivalries.

But in the town where I teach, there's a group of stalwart old boys who go back every year to their long-defunct grammar school. It is a major part of their lives, so much so that when their committee decided that for the millennium they'd have their annual dinner at the town's medieval castle rather than the school hall, a furious correspondence broke out in the local paper.

At least these boys-will-be-boys old boys are having their debate in public. The alternative would be a ghastly re-enactment of some playground joke. "We'll meet for a Gauloise by the bike sheds," they tell you. You get there to find they've snuck off to the cricket pavilion. Or, now they're grown up, to the castle.

Richard Daubney teaches in the southeast

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