An English In Kentucky


















Friday March 21st  2014  Tim Candler


     In early 1960 something, the mothers of boarding school children from the more rural places tended not to be particular when it came to their hats and footwear. They were powerful to behold, red faced and well barbered. They'd stand like barrels wearing sensible shoes with their hands on their hips. Then for no apparent reason they'd suddenly say things like "Whoa Neddy!" Which was uncomfortable and embarrassing, but you quickly decided it was an aspect of rural interaction that had an origin so obscure you could well be looking at the Pre-Cambrian era. Nothing much about rural parents was at all pretty, and kind of difficult to comprehend especially around the question of rural parents at their rutting season, which some of us understood to be an event that only took place on one or other of the more isolated  Mediterranean  Islands.  And it was all kind of difficult for the more socially aware of  the rural boarding schoolboys, particularly at the gathering toward the end of a summer term if his mother turned up to hear a bit of propaganda from the Headmaster and maybe eat an entire platter of cucumber sandwiches. Luckily for them, a majority of the rural boarding schoolboys were really too stupid to understand nuance, or more than several words at a time, and this misfortune often came along with some kind of involuntary twitch, which made them altogether very difficult to sit next to at meal times.  Later of course you discover that the wall-eyed and uncoordinated goal keeper you'd long referenced as the "Half Wit Switherington-Smyth," owned half of Shropshire and most of Tunbridge Wells. Which in a sense is incredibly embarrassing and rather depressing.

     But, the mothers who lived in the town areas in the early 1960's, did have a very intimate relationship with their ankles and with their hats, which made them look even more like clothes horses and you'd get the feeling that if you touched one of them or stared at her funny, she'd crumple into a pile of dust. Not as a result of genetic frailties on her part, but rather because if you were something like eleven in early 1960 something, and you happen to be boarding schoolboy, you were also a horny little bugger. And it was kind of unsafe for anything even remotely girl shaped to be around us. Which was why boarding school matrons, whose role was to dispense cough mixture whenever someone in their care looked a bit peaky, were more like Hippopotamus, only with whiskers and a bull whip, than they were like a town mother. Sadly, town mothers seemed prone to Pavlovian  Reaction, because if one of them shed a tear, or even pretended to shed a tear, they'd all feel obliged to shed a tear. Which was also uncomfortable and embarrassing.  And they'd chatter at their children about nothing in particular and they'd sometimes make the mistake of kissing goodbye, which was very, very embarrassing indeed for everybody, and something that was really best not to think about because it was kind of disgusting and unnatural behavior which could follow a boarding school boy around for the rest of his life, and would probably cause him to become a banker and wear a too-too at the weekends.  But at least if you'd had the misfortune to have witnessed such a behavior by a town mother, and if ever you emerged from the English Boarding School System, which some never did, you sure as hell were in a good position to understand some of the Ancient Greek plays.



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