memories ....

From Bill Williams:

Hmm. Memories and reflections.

I came from an all boys school to Telopea at the beginning of 1967. I'd heard rumours of the louche environment. I knew of many chaps who had been educated at the illustrious feeder schools for Telopea such as Yarralumla Primary and Forrest Primary. I also had wind of strange personages called girls who frequented the corridors of this place of erudition.

On my first day I wore the uniform. Those strange grey flannel trousers, a blue shirt, nylon I recall, a blue tie with red and gold stripes, a blue blazer with the school crest, and black shoes. I had the smalls as well but, unlike those worn by others, they were never removed within the school precincts.

I collected my text books from somewhere near the feared den of McPherson, went through some form of orientation and was then set loose to find my way to my first class. I had to navigate my way up those stairs which fed from the bottom of the quadrangle into that strange place where useless subjects like maths and science were taught. It was recess. Was that what it was called? I want to call it play lunch but that would be a reflection on my regressed state of mind.

I was the only one ascending. I was balancing a pile of books in my arms. It seemed like the whole school was coming down the stairs. They spotted me, those feeder school boys. They must have seen the fear in my eyes. I got close to the top and then the bump came. Simple really. A welcome to Telopea jolt. The books went everywhere along with my ego.

Over the next two years I landed safely into the care of people who have since shaped my life. Some of them remain very close.

Never a day goes by when I don't get an email from Stan Bakker. He knows I need some laughter to keep me going, so he sends me everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. He did the very same on my first day at Telopea when I felt mortified by my staircase experience. He took me out into the quadrangle and embarrassed me by making me feel special. He pushed me down into the tarmac and farted on my head.

Pete Thompson was very jealous of me because I was the only one in the whole class who was not the subject of interest from, you know, girls. He was, by his own account, inundated with propositions.  We shared houses after school. I became his chauffeur. He now manages my wallet.

I fell in love with Bridget Whitelaw soon after my arrival. She fell into toleration of me. I would fawn at her feet like one of Aphrodite's minions. To be in her presence was to float on a cloud. Years passed. I was in her presence just a month or two before she died. Alas, because of her condition she had no memory of those heady Telopea days. Her piercing intelligence lives on in her children, some of whom I see in the summer when they come to the family beach house. She remains my muse.

The inimitable Peter Murphy and I sit on the edge of a Marine Park on the South Coast and lament our failure to seduce the sirens of the school. The fact that we both live alone after forty plus years is testament to the wisdom and  judgement shown by those very sirens at such an early age when our clumsy advances were brushed aside.

The deepest and abiding gift of that time however was the sense of elation at being let loose in a sea of creativity. There were myriad currents and every one of them was filled with genius.

The intellectual current was dominated by women and my attempts at surfing it resulted in my deserved role of subservience to the doyennes of cultured analysis. Names like Scollay, Falk and Storey leap at me from the recesses of my memory.

I could never compete in the sporting environment where excellence was a byword. The best rowers, hockey players, footballers, tennis players gathered in that place and the males among them would strut their stuff at lunch time on the oval, kicking a football from end to end. MacDonald ruled. McAppion, Duffy, Vanderglas, Engledow and Bain thought that they should have. Yeats and I sensibly sat under the trees, me smoking Viscount cigarettes, he planning his conquest of the beautiful Jennifer Hendy. Escape was readily available in the Pollard motor car. Was there a Rudowski car as well, or was that the Pollard car?

There were artists and musicians. Ian Kerr rivaled Victor Borge with his errant pianism during assemblies. Slater, Ploy and Rabbit Wright introduced me to Otis Redding and BB King which could be ordered through Bourchier's dad's music store. Barnes taught me the art of gate crashing Grammar girls' parties. Deane ensured that I didn't lose my way, and kept me sweet with the intelligentsia.

What greater education can a school offer to an errant ne'er do well? As I soar on the eddies of nostalgia I wonder what happened to those other ninety or so people with whom I lived through those two special years.

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