Monday, May 25, 2009


So this is what I missed on Saturday, having fled the scene before the orgy of light classical entertainment commenced. Baksheesh had backstabbed and I didn't fancy it on my own. (Note how Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins can't help but propose marriage to a Pauline...any Pauline!)

The occasion, dubbed the Q Festival (Q for Quincentenary) was a kind of premium open day event designed to mark the 500th anniversay of the founding of S.P.S. (Yes, the school is actually older than 'Antigua' Guatemala....)

Many of the buildings in which I myself toiled, constructed rather hastily in the late 60s when the school shifted itself across Hammersmith Bridge to Barnes, are now awaiting demolition. The maqueta for the planned new school was on display in the Montgommery Room...surrounded by flyers asking for donations. So maybe this would have been my last chance to take this little nostalgic trip back to my formative years. Frankly the place looks rather tired and tatty. Roll on the bulldozers.

Speaking of Montgommery, a brief perusal of the boards highlighting memoral old boys from each of the five centuries revealed to me that there were in fact two OPs at the heart of the glorious cock-up known as Operation Market Garden in 1944 - for Major General Roy Urquart (a part played by Sean Connery in A Bridge Too Far) had also attended the school. He was to spend most of the battle for Arnhem Bridge holed up in a Dutch town house as the 1st Airborne Division was wiped out around him.

Eisenhower apparently thought Monty's problem was that he was a bit chippy because he didn't go to either Eton or Harrow. The Yank-in-chief obviously hadn't met many Paulines before. The military tradition has been strong there over the centuries, with John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough and occupant of Blenheim Palace, being the stand-out example.

On Saturday I couldn't help chuckle when I spotted small hordes of men, not that much older than myself, dressed as if they had spent the middle part of the last century shooting down Messerschmitts, what.

My favourite OP will always be Samuel Pepys, with John Milton a close second. Surprisingly there was space on the twentieth century display for G.K. Chesterton (Catholic) but none for Sir Isaiah Berlin (not so Catholic). Rampant atheist Dr Jonathan Miller wasn't on there either, but they did name the theatre after him!

When I left I had to swim against the flow of boaters, panamas, picnic baskets and all kinds of perpetual public schoolboy totems, as the whole sub-Glyndbourne summer shindig got under way.

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