Tigers, c 1960
In the maelstrom of our recent house move, many things came adrift, and I am now in the process of attempting to restore order after the storm.
Just a day ago I happened on this piece of flotsam (above), which floated to my attention in a pile of photos on a bookshelf. It was still in its presentation card mount, and it has "Tiger's (sic) When I was in Prep 3" written on the back in red ink, in my scruffy hand. I would have been 8 or 9 years old, and, judging by our clothes, it would have been the summer term of 1960. I had begun that year in Prep 2, but, with two of my friends, had been moved to Prep 3 during the year, for reasons I am still not clear about.
If I remember correctly, Prep 2 had Mr Still as form master, a man who inflicted painful punishment on his charges if they made mistakes, usually applying what he called 'inspiration' which involved pinching some hair behind one of your ears between his thumb and forefinger and twisting it malevolently. Prep 3 was in the hands of Mr Ireland, I think, who would sit miserably at his desk in the mornings and then suddenly rush to the toilet from which he would return a few minutes later pale faced. It was only years later that I recognised the symptoms as almost certainly being those of a massive hangover.
Anyway, "Tiger's" (sic) refers to our house, so the front row here would have been the gods from Prep 4 and the back row the squirts from Prep 1. Quite what our house did, or who was in charge, I now forget, though I assume we competed against lions and warthogs or some other beasts, in football, cricket, athletics, ect ect....
So who were my housemates? It is strange, perhaps, that I have only seen one individual from this group since our various ways parted over the years at school. One or two stayed on to the sixth form, but several departed prima. But it is also strange that I remember every face, and something of their characters, even at this distance of time.
The back row are perhaps the vaguest. From left to right as you look at the picture there's Croke, Tanner, Ede, Folkard and Knowles (and, yes, we knew each other mostly by surnames, though some may have acquired nicknames along the way). Of the five I can only tell you that Folkard, with his dimpled smile, who was a gentle soul, became an accomplished 'cellist. The one in the middle, with a slightly tense grin, was Simon Farmer, whose elder brother, Michael, was for many years one of my elder brother's best friends. They lived on Castle Hill, I think, and we may have visited their home some times.
Tanner, who has something of a blank expression, must have been a boarder, as that tie denotes. I know nothing else about him.
The next row would have been my exact contemporaries, and there were some characters there. Cavill - John his first name - stayed on to at least O Levels, and I believe we may have been friends for some of that time. I may be making this up, but I seem to remember he boarded for some of the time, but later commuted from somewhere like Aylesbury, or Chesham Bois? I recall he made us laugh.
That's me, with the dark hair and nervous lips, next to him, and then there's Julian Alcock, another boarder, who may have lived in France, as you may discern from his facial expression (??? What do you mean? Ed. Just imagine a Gitane drooping from those lips. Maybe a ballon of vin ordinaire in the right fist? Oh, Hell. Am I a racist? You need a therapist, Ed. Next thing you'll have him in a beret with a string of onions round his neck and a bicycle under his arm..... OK OK, but I nevaire leeved in ze UK when zey 'ad 'Allo 'Allo!)
Next to him is Alex Mackintosh, the only one to have his top button done up without a tie. He lived up Cross Oak Road, on the left, not far from the Millers....
Brown, Andrew? was the son of the vicar of St Mary's, Northchurch, where my grandfather had been choirmaster and organist many years before, and where my granny had helped stitch the Mother's Union flag (or was it Women's Institute? I expect it's still there.). The happy look on Brown's visage suggests a well balanced home life, and in truth I think it might have been. Later on, perhaps when his father retired, they lived up a lane behind the Rex, and I remember going to a teenage party there one time.
You know the kind of thing. A beer. A cigarette. You don't feel very well. The person you fancy is with someone else. The music is loud. It's hot. You get into conversation with someone in the kitchen who asks how you don't know you are a figment of their imagination (Steve Harrowell asked that question). You stumble into the garden. It's time to go home.
Now Lockhart (Nick, possibly? or Simon?) was, I think one of a family of builders. And he resurfaced not long ago as one I could have met up with after bumping into two of my old classmates at a memorial service for John Davison, a much loved friend and teacher from our teenages. I had a subsequent email inviting me to maybe meet up with some others from the dim and distant, and I sort of hesitated.
And the moment was lost.
But perhaps Lockhart is still there? Somewhere. With his engaging and innocuous smile.
Next to him is Hopkins. 'Hoppy.' A naughty boy. He lived in the lock keeper's cottage at Dudswell, on the Grand Union Canal, with about twenty (I exaggerate) siblings and would rarely be consistent about attendance or convention or anything. He used to bring mice in to class in his pockets. He could also, I am reminded, swallow his tongue.....
Probably became some kind of entrepreneur..... Look at the face. "What me, Guv?"
And then Marks. Might have been Lawrence? Or John (more likely). A surly, embittered expression. A boarder, and not a happy one. Broken family and resentment. Difficult to know and not one that reached out for friendship. Given to anger and pain. Frequently beaten by staff. I really do hope he found peace.
Hargreaves - smiley, laughing, not a care. The polar opposite of Marks. Played football like a stick puppet, but laughed like a waterfall. I hope he too found happiness....
Then Manders. Paul. Son of a hardware merchant in the High Street who loved dancing. Ever such nice people. He (the father) died on a cruise ship, in his chair, resting after dancing cheek to cheek with his lovely wife. Just like that. And Manders had such a sweet nature. Not a shred of malice.
Followed by Niggles. James Niven. aka Jim nowadays. One of three boys to friends of my mum and dad. Residents of Anglefield Road and sporty types. James was the lead guitarist of our supergroup and still aims to make a hit. The one person in this picture that I have met with in recent years. And hardly changed a bit - still the same skinny cool guy I never really knew.
The front row begins (left to right) with an anomaly. But Molyneaux was exactly that. I think he belonged in the back row, being younger than anyone, but he simply wouldn't have shown, so they brought him forward. He was an absolute clone of his dad, a minister of the cloth, and little David could have preached a fine sermon even in Prep 1.
Then we have the cheery Morecambe. I know nothing of him, though I can recall his unusually deep laugh. Notice he is one of two who wear a watch. A sure sign in those days of wealth and, perhaps, status.
Then Rudd. Andrew (not Amber). A good natured soul who later learned a few folk songs with me in our back room, strumming our guitars and thinking we might one day be cowboys.
Then Ian Phillips. A sporting star and probably good at absolutely everything. He certainly excelled at swimming and cricket and being favourite and all that and was almost certainly the Captain of Tiger's (sic). Nothing would go wrong for Ian. He even went out with Jackie Short (after me, I think).
Penultimately Jim Townsend. Possibly the only one in this picture with more than a smidgen of ethnic minority blood, though I haven't explored anyone else's DNA. He was certainly one of the first of this disorderly group to own and drive a car, despite his propensity for rolling it in the ditch..... But that would have been some six or seven years later. He was a good sportsman too, and, as you can see from his posture, a confident and likeable young guy.
As for Hurst, the blond on the right, look at his arms. Now look at the whole picture. Hands on knees, hands in laps, hands behind. Only Hurst adopts the closed position (with the exception of Marks behind him, who had his own set of angst). But he smiles. The cold, hard smile of Greta Garbo - "I vont to be alone....!"
What has happened to this pride of Tigers? Where are we all now? Somewhere, perhaps, another of this motley crew is asking the same question, wondering where, and why, I am.... (Though I really doubt it.).
Life is so mysterious and exciting. I mean, look at our shoes. Look at our hair. Look at our collective girth. It would be a strange picture of a group of kids today that didn't include a few lads on the chubbier side. And of course we wouldn't all be so white, or unadorned, or perhaps so well? (And there would probably be gurls....)
I do hope that my notes here will be taken in the spirit of wonder and kindness intended. My reading of faces is entirely amateur and unreliable, though I did mingle with these chaps on a daily basis.
I think what is important to me is that we all meet and play with many other beings, but perhaps we rarely think about them (or is that just me?) I can still almost smell these boys, and still their personalities, their idiosyncrasies (barely hinted at above) shine through the sixty or so years of our lives since the snap of that shutter.
But there is something else. If you look really carefully over my right shoulder there is another face straying past the scene. Someone who probably didn't know what was going on. Not a Tiger, obviously, but perhaps a lonely soul, wishing he could be a Tiger, just for one moment. He is the one who perhaps deserves our attention. The one who doesn't fit into the picture at all.
Where are they all now?
Where are we?