Friday, 13 December 2013

My Absolute, Absolute, Final School Memoir: "Meet me at the Fives Court".


                                       

I was privileged to attend one of the oldest schools in the world (officially founded in 970 AD, but actually much older). It was an institution where one's 'Honour' was taken extremely seriously.

If a senior boy felt that he had been insulted, he had the option to either flog you, or invite you to 'The Fives Court'. The latter was employed very rarely.

Being invited to The Fives Court involved unwritten rules. Centuries of quivering boys had had to endure its unfair system of settling scores against much bigger, older, and stronger, boys.

It was accepted that the senior boy would ALWAYS win the combat; the junior having been taught his lesson was then obliged to shake hands and thank his conqueror (as was the case with flogging).

Cro had upset some senior 'twit' of a boy, and his 'friends' had goaded him into inviting me to The Fives Court. A time was set, the word was spread, and it looked likely to attract a good audience.

I can't remember the name of the 'twit', nor can I remember how I'd insulted him, but I can remember very clearly meeting him at the fives court complete with his second, who held a white towel over his arm in traditional style. It was all very theatrical, and frankly rather ridiculous. As expected, a good baying crowd had turned up to watch the fun.

The second waved a handkerchief, and shouted something like 'FIGHT '. Then the 'twit' started to dance around me on the tips of his toes, with his fists out in front (Ali style). He was shorter than me, well built, but not at all athletic. I stood and watched as he cavorted around the small enclosed courtyard waiting for his moment.

Well, I'm sure you know what's coming next. I lost my patience and threw an opening right jab to his nose, anticipating that this would encourage whatever bravado he possessed. In fact he fell to the floor, clutched at his bleeding nose, and shrieked with pain. The cheers from the hundred or so boys, both in and out of the fives court, soon drowned all else, and I was carried out shoulder high by the highly amused crowd. The Mummy's boy 'twit' was taken off to see Matron.

Unfortunately this wasn't the end of the matter, and I was later called to explain my 'ungentlemanly' behaviour by another senior boy (who'd been vaguely involved in the affair).

I was told, in no uncertain terms, that I had broken with 1000 years of tradition, and that as such I would have to accept punishment.

I bent over, and received 6 of the most feeble whacks in the history of flogging.

It seemed as if everyone, and tradition, had been satisfied (except, I imagine, the 'twit' himself).

p.s. Just in case anyone doesn't know what 'Fives' is, it is an ancient game, rather like Squash, which is played with a gloved hand, rather than a racquet; and takes place in a somewhat smaller high-walled square-ish court.

p.p.s. In 1970 (the school's millenniary year), HM The Queen came to say kind words, and in memory of her visit the school decided to take-in GIRLS. So, 'meeting in the fives court' is now probably confined to history (unless, of course, it would be for alternative reasons). I had, of course, left by this time.



12 comments:

  1. Well, I think you very 'honorably' beat him! Good on you.

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  2. Good story! I wonder what the " twit" went on to do in life. Do you know? Please dredge up more tales from your school days they are so interesting…especially to those of us who only went to a girls' grammar ! ( in Leicester)

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    1. I'm afraid I don't remember his name, so I have no idea what he's now doing. Arbitrator maybe?

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  3. Good for you...you'd likely still be waiting for him to throw the first punch.

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  4. No no no. You cannot start throwing us these teasers and then suddenly turn the tap off! I am still waiting to hear about the foreign Office larceny you once mentioned.

    I was once thrashed, and none too gently either, by the Head of Lower School because some older boys had given a friend of mine a very quick hiding before running off and he was convinced I knew who they were. Just as Harrison, my pal, refused to name them, so did I. A week later I was given another caning for catching up with them one by one and returning the favour on behalf of my pal. I have to admit, I rather gave the game away when I lost patience with a boy called Holland who kept avoiding me so I marched into his class and dropped him there and then in front of about twenty astonished witnesses.

    Good on you, Cro, for spilling the Twit's port but do not let us down by going schtum now!

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    1. Any further Cro tales have been confined to barracks.

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    2. How does being Orderly Officer for the next month sound to you if you don't reconsider?

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  5. No please keep the tales coming. I find it very amusing especially as I went to quite a rough state school.

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  6. It is history to be cherished Cro, keep these coming.

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  7. We called the game you describe "Handball" on this side of the Pond. When we played it, we didn't have gloves, but they would have been welcomed.

    I also like hearing the school days tales. When you're ready to tell more, i'll gladly read about them.

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    Replies
    1. 'Handball' in the UK is a modern game where a ball is 'thrown' at a goal, and played by several players on two opposing sides. 'Fives' is an ancient game with just two players, both on the same side of a court.

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  8. Google informs me that you were on the East side of the country, I was at a King's School on the west side, with obligatory fives courts that no one ever used. Lovely story as things had moved on a bit by my day in the 1970s.

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