There is something about boarding school that both attracts and repels people, above all in the UK. Some consider it to be socially divisive, others secretly wish they’d been there and many are horrified that children are sent away from home.
And while the adult world debates the topic, children seem inexplicably drawn to them, surrounded as they are by myth and speculation, the most burning questions being, what really goes on there and are the children happy? They have, not surprisingly then, been a constant source of inspiration for the literary and film world, with Harry Potter being the latest serving.
There are, of course, both positive and negative interpretations and celluloid has at times depicted the latter, from Tom Brown’s Schooldays and Another Country to If and The Dead Poets’ Society. But there are also the whimsical eulogies such as The Emperor’s Club, Harry Potter and conversely The Dead Poets’ Society, which is both oppressive and idyllic in its representation.
The attraction seemingly derives from its otherworldliness, a culture within a culture as London has become a state within a nation. They are worlds set apart and provide the young mind with a serene setting for the most formative years of their lives. Whether the pupil goes on to world domination is one thing, but what all individuals receive is a unique experience that will stay with them forever. Everyone should have remarkable memories from their school days and if they do not, then their school failed them in its duty to inspire them. If we are all ‘happiness machines’, as the BBC documentary maker Adam Curtis suggested, then school should be one of the happiest moments of our lives. And so, just like Chester Bentley, I arrived at Buckland House in the back of my mother’s car, and the treasure that I found there was a lifetime of happy memories.
In broad brushstrokes then, I can only be faithful to my days at Buckland House and to have written otherwise would have been a betrayal of those dear times.
(Image of Blundell’s by Andrew Nadolski)