Chapter no 13


LATE AT NIGHTAFTER lights-out, some of us would sneak out, go roaming up and down the corridors. A strict violation of the rules, but I was lonely and homesick, probably anxious and depressed, and I couldn’t abide being locked into

my dormitory.

There was one particular teacher who, whenever he caught me, would give me a tremendous clout, always with a copy of the New English Bible. The hardback version. It is indeed, I always thought, a very hard back. Getting hit with it made me feel bad about myself, bad about the teacher, and bad about the Bible. Nevertheless, the next night I’d go right back to flouting the rules.

If I wasn’t roaming the corridors, I was roaming the school grounds, usually with my best mate, Henners. Like me, Henners was officially a Henry, but I always called him Henners, and he called me Haz.

Skinny, with no muscles, and hair that stood up in permanent surrender, Henners was all heart. Whenever he smiled, people melted. (He was the only boy who mentioned Mummy to me after she disappeared.) But that winning smile, that tender nature, made you forget that Henners could be quite naughty.

A huge “pick your own” farm lay beyond the school grounds, on the other side of a low fence, and one day Henners and I hopped over, landing face-first in carrot furrows. Row after row. Nearby were some fat, juicy strawberries. We went along, stuffing our mouths, popping up now and then like meerkats to make sure the coast

was clear. Whenever I bite into a strawberry I’m there again, in those furrows, with lovely Henners.

Days later we went back. This time, after we’d eaten our fill and hopped over the fence, we heard our names.

We were heading along a cart track in the direction of the tennis courts and slowly we turned. Coming straight for us was one of the teachers.

You there! Stop!

Hello, sir.

What are you two doing? Nothing, sir.

You’ve been to the farm. No!

Open your hands.

We did. Busted. Crimson palms. He reacted as if it were blood.

I can’t remember what punishment we received. Another clout with the New English Bible? Detention? (Often called det.) A trip to Mr. Gerald’s office? Whatever it was, I know I didn’t mind. There was no torture Ludgrove could dish out that surpassed what was going on inside me.

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