As you might remember, I have mentioned in previous posts, I went to boarding school… what some of you may not know, is that I was actually expelled too… (sorry Dad) and a few months ago, I did promise one of my dear friends to tell the story. So, here you are, Garfield Hug! This one’s for you!
I was in the sixth form and weeks away from taking my “A” Level exams. I was bored, lonely and missing home, so over the wall at the bottom of the school grounds I headed, and off to our favourite bar to see what my older group of friends had planned. We all ranged in ages from sixteen to nineteen and one of the boys not only had his full driving licence, but also a very clapped out little old car…think glorified shopping trolley.
One of the older girls and her boyfriend were planning a romantic evening in the ruins of a castle in the countryside, a few miles outside the town. Of course, there were the inevitable rumours of ghosts, grey ladies and ghouls, the haunting screams of tortured souls were supposed to echo through the crumbling stones… I may have added a story of my own here… a mad monk forced to watch his holy brethren chopped to piece by Viking marauders, seeking revenge and wielding an altar cross as weapon for all eternity…
A romantic evening for two duly became an alcohol fuelled party of twelve… all travelling to the ruins in the shopping trolley car. You’ve seen these clown sketches where clowns just keep pouring out of one tiny little car…well that was us. In reverse. I occupied the footwell of the passenger side of the car.
We made it there, safe and sound, a little squashed, but well padded, since we also brought sleeping bags – I seem to recall someone had to carefully hold back the sleeping bags packed around the driver, so his vision wasn’t obscured…
We set up camp in what was, I presume, the Great Hall, lit a fire and set about becoming heavily infused with alcohol. Big time. It was freezing… we hadn’t seen, or heard anything out of the ordinary and inevitably fire and conversation dwindled, people fell asleep.
Not me: I was one of the diehards, and one of my few friends from the school and I thought it would be an absolutely splendid idea to climb to the top of the thirty foot ruined tower… ( Health and Safety would freak. Sometimes I’m surprised myself that I am still, more or less, in one piece..) One of the boys was still awake and thought he would do the gentlemanly thing and accompany us.
Picture the scene… three young people sat at the top of a crumbling heap of bricks that had first been put up in about 1070, or thereabouts, watching the sun come up. We passed a cigarette between the three of us, and shared a can of lager. The sun rose, and painted the countryside in wild mediaeval colour, mist wreathing gently between the trees… and I remembered I was supposed to be taking prep with a junior class that morning.
With the resilience of youth, we packed ourselves back into the car and drove carefully back. I was dropped off at the end of the school driveway and was walking nonchalantly back to House to get changed when out of the bushes, like a hideous troll, my House mistress, Mrs. C appeared.
“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” she bellowed at me, purple faced with rage.
“Oh, just for a walk…” I replied, blushing and stammering…
“ALL BLOODY NIGHT? WE NEARLY CALLED THE POLICE!”
The intervention of my room mate prevented this… but I was duly sent home in disgrace… luckily, it was half term, and my mother spent most of it pleading with Mrs. C to take me back to finish my exams.
I returned, shamed, but unrepentant, actually. It had been a good night out… I was grounded, required to sign a register to prove attendance everywhere I went and before the ink had even dried on my last paper, politely asked to leave.
Sometimes I feel like I ought to wish things had been different… but I don’t. That morning, with two people, vague friends, watching the sun rise over the hills, I believe I saw a things could be… the other side of the coin, the unexpected, the old… the forgotten…