My Dear Americans,
the weather here finally being all blue-skyely, warmly pleasant I decided to take a walk up by the old school, ...in The Beatles Good Morning Good Morning sense. Nothing had (since the sixties) NOT changed, it's decidedly not the same. [sings-or rather pinches the Beatles singing] I've got nothing to say but that's okay Good Morning, Good Morning, Good... ¹
Oh! Oh! And when I say 'the old school' I mean it!
Sir John Leman High School. It was, of course, my old high-school, though back then it was Sir John Leman Grammar School², but it was also and in its own right a really old school, founded in the mid seventeenth century from money left in his will by a Beccles businessman who, just like Dick Whittington³ (though I don't think he had a cat, or apparently any doubts about his future), became extremely rich and Lord Mayor of London two things that are not infrequently connected.
By a weird coincidence his name was also Sir John Leman—I mean what are the odds of that?! Can't for the life of me imagine how that could happen. Ah! Small world I guess.
One thing, though, that had not changed and was still the same, was the imposing water tower that stood, and still stands, at the periphery of the school grounds.
Now, on a time, when I was in the fifth form, which equates to the 10th Grade in the US and which to avoid any confusion and to simplify everything is now called year eleven in the UK⁴—anyway... anyway, when I was around fifteen, with a small group of friends we would walk around the 880yd track that also stood at, or rather lay flat and just inside, the periphery of the school grounds discussing topics of profound philosophy (as one does at that age), anything to avoid study for, or contemplation of, the upcoming GCE O-level exams. This, by the way, and surely only of interest to Harry Potter fans, would seem to be the origin of Hogwarts O.W.L.s or Owls: Ordinary Wizarding Level exams named from Ordinary Level exams.
Anyway Tony, who was Peter's older brother and was in the Upper Sixth Form, and has actually appeared in these essays before as the only person known to history to have ever said anything nice to a worm—I remember it well "Bad luck old chap" he said, as he scraped one off his boot⁵. He it was who while perusing that noble edificium⁶ the Mighty Water Tower came upon the revelation, the idea, indeed the 'Ιδέα' (which I've written in Greek because we felt the idea was definitely one of a Platonic persuasion, though I'm not sure you can tell that by listening,) THE ιδέα of, the very essence of, belief.
Gazing up at it in wonder we cogitated upon the basic requirements of life, liberty and the pursuit of religion: mainly Sunlight, Air, a few Minerals and Water.
Since the Sun was already in use and had been by religions for millennia, Air, whilst having the positive quality of being invisible, was rather boring and common, and a few Minerals being a bit too close the imminent Chem exam, he suggested and we decided, that Water in its Avatar of the Mighty Water Tower must be the ONE TRUE GOD (or at least ONE of the one true gods, which we suspected was a franchise) and that we should therefore worship it.
This we proceeded to do over the next few days: we even considered sacrificing one of the First form kids to it, but rejected that on the grounds that A: it would be bad form, B: it could possibly put our religion in a bad light and C: (and definitely the most important) we couldn't think of a way of doing it that wouldn't get us into trouble from our parents for coming home with blood soaked school uniforms.
So we adopted the typical English worshipers' stance; of merely claiming that we worshiped the Water Tower without actually doing anything even remotely worshipy about it.
We were also tempted to emulate the Catholic kids who were exempted from going to the intensely boring C of E assembly each morning, but we again couldn't think of a way of doing that without enduring centuries of religious war, oppression, heretic roasts, priest holes and possibly involving the Divine Right Of Kings an attempt to blow up Parliament and even a couple of Pretenders not to mention coming home with blood soaked uniforms.
So on my walk up by the old school as I passed the Mighty Water Tower, casting my mind back through all those intervening decades, smiling, I refrained from doing anything remotely worshipy in its honour.
and, of course,
Cheerio for now
1 From their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was written by John Lennon and credited to Lennon–McCartney.
2 Back then, at the turn of the '60s, around the age of eleven an exam called the Eleven Plus was taken to determine if a pupil would go on to a Grammar School (and likely go on to University after seven or so years) or, if they failed, to a Secondary Modern School which they would leave at 15-ish.
3 Dick Whittington and His Cat is the English folklore surrounding the real-life Richard Whittington (c. 1354–1423), wealthy merchant and later Lord Mayor of London.
4 The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level, also called the O-level or O level, was a subject-based academic qualification. Introduced in 1951, replaced in the United Kingdom in 1988,
5 Oops! I misremember. Back in Worms I've Viewed I ascribed this to Raymond Gillings, and now I can't remember which was right, so I think I'll just let them both stand and hope no-one notices.
6 An edifice erected by art, and fixed upon or over the soil, composed of stone, brick, marble, wood, or other proper substance, connected together, and designed for use in the position in which it is so fixed. Every building is an accessory to the soil, and is, therefore, real estate: it belongs to the owner of the soil. Cruise, tit. 1, S. 46. Vide 1 Chit. Pr. 148, 171; Salk. 459; Hob. 131; 1 Mete. 258; Broom's Max. 172.—That about covers it!
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