Short Story. About Class. My personal experience
Let me begin with rather a sad tale. In many ways I was very lucky in the secondary school I attended. I was given a rather hard time in the primary, this was the 1948 and British solders were being blown up in Palestine, and our neighbour guessed by our name that we were a Jewish family . But it was their children that I had to fight in the playground .
So when they decided to send me to a boarding school( they ran a busy guest house) I had a sense of relief. But I was also though I didn’t realise at the time bypassing the natural social selection that we refer to as class , where depending on your family , education ,occupation and way of speaking will often determine your position in this complicated and in many ways false structure ..
Moncton Wyld school sat in a valley that could just be seen from the main road .Every one was addressed by their first names , school meetings were held regularly and everyone to the smallest eleven year old to a youth who was studying to get to Oxford. There were some anomaly’s; the staff sat behind a large table , the younger ones sat on the floor and the elder on window seats.
So it had the appearances of equality but there were a few cracks in the furniture, ( A S Neil of Sommerhill , remarked in the book ‘ Neil, Neil, orange peel that there’s something fishy here.)
But as this is a short story we must limit our examination. In later reunions the general consensus was brilliant and happy , we were allowed amazing freedom , and on weekends we only had to register where we were going , and off we would go on our bikes , as long as we came back for supper.
So living in this classless society and then spending a year in Switzerland chef training followed by two years in a new idea of Catering College, I was ill prepared for the rigid experience of National Service . I joined the Catering Corps and on one of my walks around the camp saw an officer trainee who I recognised from meeting at a hotel in Bournemouth. As we had become sort of close I called out “ I’ll pop over to your barracks later”.
So when I arrived at the door and asked to see him , there was an uncomfortable silence , and he called out “ I’m afraid I’m busy “ I notice he was bulling his boots . I felt shattered as he was the first person that I knew and had a nice relationship with, in this rather lonely place for someone who didn’t fit in .
I still notice as someone now in their eighties ,how middle class people often seem to want to place or judge you . This rarely happens with more working class people . Perhaps this is more pronounced in the South East .
Apparently going to university helps you to find all this out and the mix and general freedom allows one to find ones place .
My father in law who was very bright and got to go to Cambridge from a working class family in the thirties , had a nervous breakdown .
My mum also from a working class family was certainly clever enough to be accepted.
After the war with the Attlee government in power they developed Comprehensive schools , so that those who didn’t attend the rather middle class Grammar schools had a chance to get to university.
Many people will argue that it’s all changed from those post war days , which in many way swept away many pre war old class attitudes . I’m not so sure , as long as we live in a capitalistic competitive society there will always be a struggle to get to the top , and if you went to ‘the right school’ or had wealthy parents who could grease the pole you’re always have inequality. PLG Tony