MEMORIES FROM THOSE WHO ATTENDED FRIENDS' SCHOOL, SAFFRON WALDEN

Boarding 1

Term starts

Angus Willson: Whenever I pack for a holiday or travelling I think about the anxieties of packing up my belongings at the beginning and end of every term.

Yet the fun we had in this routine is shown by the trunk squad going from Gibson House to the main school in Spring 1967.

The photo shows Chris Guy, who was our bedroom prefect, and Simon Cannon.


Shân Lancaster [Poynder]: Hello, are you the curly-haired Gus with a Hush Puppy dog? When I see trunks I always think of a basset hound coming to fetch the young master home. Seeing that dog meant the term really was over.

Memories: The little cardboard calendars issued on the first day of term and obsessively ticked day by day till the last. I used to count the days and do endless calculations – almost three-eighths there……

That punishment where you had to make and strip and remake and strip a bed umpteen times, then lie in it for the rest of a free afternoon while everyone else was out and about.

I was an unremarkable lump who got the sack when I was 16 for going AWOL to London at night. As far as I can remember my sole contribution to school life was organising outings to the Marie Stopes clinic in Goodge Street and getting a fair proportion of Six One on the pill.


Giles Norton: It’s possible that there are some of you who remember Fred Sessa reading “The Catcher in the Rye” to us, and it is also possible that some of you might have been as impressed by the book as I was, to the point that I have read it, and practically everything else that Salinger wrote, dozens of times. In the beginning of “for Esme with Love and Squalor” the lead character talks about his ‘level-headed’ wife who points out how ridiculous it would be for him to attend a wedding overseas. I find myself in the same boat.

I won’t be there, but the upside of this is that you will all remain about sixteen in the memories that come to my mind. I’ve already swapped emails with a few people from FSSW and it has been an eye-opening experience. I don’t know what kind of image I’m projecting these days, but I’m amazed how consistently FSSW old scholars are interesting people who express themselves with wit and venom. Jean Stubbs et al must have taught us despite our resistance.

Mostly, however, looking back generates two contrasting emotions: shame and rage. I’m really sorry for the mean and nasty things that I did and said… to students and teachers. (I squirm when I remember stealing “Harpo’s” keys and locking her in the chemical cupboard where we could hear her crying, or the “errrr” count we did one class with Nod Wright that reduced the poor old b*gger to silence…) As to the rage, well, I’m sure that some of you have the same feelings about me as I have about the bastards who made my life a misery. If it makes any difference, I’m genuinely sorry.

But (as the Americans are wont to say..) do you all know what has been the real kicker?

This year, my son won scholarships to two private high schools in the US. He made his decision about which one to attend on the basis of the fact that at one he could be a day student and continue living with us at home, while at the other he would have to board.

He chose the boarding school.

When he told me this I went out and got quietly drunk. As I did so, I spent an hour or two trying to think positive thoughts about boarding school. It is probably not too surprising that the ones I was able to conjure up, of course, centred (phew) around adolescent hormones. I just hope he has as much priapic fun as I had with the divine girls I was fortunate enough to be an “item” with – however briefly, and to their eternal credit, as I was one of the poor sods who wore shorts until I was thirteen. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have dreams in which one, or – if I am especially fortunate – more of you feature…

DormitoryLarge fourth form dormitory (1968-9). Left to right: Nick Dakin, Angus Willson, Paul Wallis under ‘hat’, Jonathan Richards, Paul Copeland-Watts part-hidden by David Stuckey, Geoffrey Barnard. Photo by Simon Colbeck.

Jo Jones [Atkins]:Once when I was going to Poland for the holidays to visit my parents, Jean Stubbs gave me two packs of butter to take as she’s heard there were food shortages there!

Girls often used to borrow each other’s clothes when they got changed after school, and for some reason I didn’t like this idea. Once Jenna Huxley was determined to borrow something of mine, I refused and she ran off with it. I was furious and don’t think I ever forgave her.

I too remember the bed making punishment and felt very aggrieved as, naturally, I had not been one of the guilty, but the whole dorm had to suffer.

Being invited to Sue Pedley‘s home at Little Easton and falling in the lake.

There was a day when the sixth form had to run the school and give lessons on a topic of their choice. I remember giving what must have been a most excruciatingly boring talk about Poland.

Having to write letters to our parents on Sunday mornings.
Getting a fruit allowance (what was it called?) to spend at a greengrocer’s in town. (see Shân below)

The things I hated most – games, the art room (especially the smell), the labs, discos (or were they called dances?) and Sundays, which seemed to go on for ever.

Julienne Markland [Little], Jo Jones [Atkins].

Shân Lancaster [Poynder]: The fruit allowance was at a greengrocers’ called Gilletts, I think. There were all sorts of dodges to get anything other than fruit. I somehow used to commute mine into Marvel comics. When I saw Spiderman at the cinema recently I got a most peculiar flashback to bartering with bags of clementines. What about the strictly rationed TV? There was a set placed on a desk in a classroom and we crowded in to see The Monkees. The only other thing I remember on it was a film with Lee Marvin singing Wandering Star.

The gong for meals used to be rung most artistically by the senior boys who made a real drum roll out of it.

Once there was a sit-in….in beds…in that long corridor by the dining room. It was a protest about breakfast, appalling quality of, I think, and organised by a lot of seniors. After that we got The World’s Worst Muesli (99 per cent raw oats, two sultanas per bowl) as a concession. (The 1970 school magazine has a photograph of the beds in the main corridor.)


Tim Watts: I don’t view my time at FSSW with rose-tinted  glasses by any means and remember only too well the misery of freezing cold sessions on the sports field, bullying, terrible food and, yes, the squeaky voiced, red faced headmaster who would surely be packed off to anger management classes nowadays before being allowed anywhere near children.

However, I also have very fond memories of the place and people. I remember the constant struggle of the girls to turn their skirts up shorter and the boys to grow their hair longer (wasn’t there a ‘not touching the collar’ rule?) and watching the dog fights during the Battle of Britain filming. Does anyone else remember the ‘bed checks’ that the staff would do at night. I remember Christian Gayfer walking across the roof to extract me and some boys from the girls dormitory just before such a check and thus saving us from certain expulsion.

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