Serve and Obey my Arse!

I got spooked yesterday. Someone had made a booking on Skoosh and found the site using the search term ‘Dorian Harris Haberdashers Skoosh’. I didn’t know him but a little research showed that he went to the same school as me, Haberdashers’ Aske’s (‘Habs’), and he must have somehow stumbled across this blog.

Until recently I’ve held my old school in very low esteem despite the fact that it was the best school in the country when I was there. And I mean the very best. Both Oxford and Cambridge had quotas restricting entrance from Habs because there were simply too many of us getting into their hallowed grounds (55 from my year alone).

And it spawned a fair number of stars. David Baddiel was a few years above me, Matt Lucas a year below. We never met personally, but that bastard Sacha Baron Cohen, two years my junior, beat me in an essay writing competition (and I cheated!).

For all that I despised the place and everything it stood for. The official school motto was ‘Serve and Obey’ and the unofficial one, as one of my contemporaries encapsulated in a book based on the school (‘New Boy‘), was ‘Go to Oxbridge or die’.

From as early as about 8 it was clear that I was more likely to get into borstal than Oxbridge so I languished in the bottom sets for everything and, along with a few fellow imbeciles, I dedicated myself to undermining the system in every way possible from cheating in exams to studiously bagdering teachers until they screamed or had nervous breakdowns. One of them, Mr. Hale, went so far as to tell me he hated me. His actual words were ‘Harris, you’re banal, bombastic and condescending and I hate you’. I thought that was pretty eloquent off the cuff, even for an English teacher.

For the best part of 30 years I resented my parents for being desperately middle class and blind to that obvious fact that I was totally unsuited to the school. I’ve never served and obeyed anyone, not even myself. It seemed that it was more important to my mum and dad to be able to name-drop their son’s school around their perma-tanned social-climbing friends than to look at me and see how painfully frustrated I was.

And then I got to the age when my friends were choosing schools for their kids and I saw what a horribly tricky decision it is. Of course you want better for them than you had yourself. My mum felt humiliated all her life for never progressing beyond O’levels. My dad got into Haberdashers and his parents couldn’t afford to send him there. Where else were they going to put me but the best school in the entire country?

I didn’t get around to this realisation in time to tell mum but dad, if you’re reading this, sorry and thank you. I want you to know that I don’t harbour bad feelings against the establishment any more, nor you for sending me there. Not even against Sacha Baron Cohen for trouncing me at the one thing I thought I excelled at, Mr. Pearman for punching me for ridiculing his limp and I no longer even fantasise about exacting my revenge on Mr. Hale, the patronising, petulant, dickwad.

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