The things going to a private school for boys taught me about life

Poverty is ‘catching’, apparently

Gather round, students of the human condition. An all-boys private school is where a certain kind of precociousness, childishness, nastiness and self-consciousness are conditioned and grown into a package society sometimes mistakes for “a man”. This is how it happens.

Everyone was known exclusively by their surname 

Otherwise the fact that every second guy was called James or Alex or Chris would have become very confusing, very fast.

Anybody who wore their uniform properly all the time was suspect

Top buttons are not supposed to be done up. Shoes are not supposed to be polished. Ties are not supposed to be anywhere near your waist. Get with the program Jeremy, you neek.

The CCF existed primarily to prepare you for a hideous death in one of Blair’s failed oil wars 

And the fact you were in it for three years is something – surprisingly – you never, ever talk about at university.

It’s not PC to say this, but the word “gay” was the most terrifying adjective

Reading a book? That was gay. Owning a pencil case? That’s pretty gay mate. Putting your hand up in class? Well, what could be more gay? This is what happens when you put a lot of sexually insecure boys who’ve never seen a girl who isn’t their sister in the same place, day in, day out, for like, ten years.

There was an incredibly tame drugs scandal, almost certainly about weed, and someone was expelled 

Unlucky Ethan!

Gossip persisted for weeks afterwards that the teachers were planning to collect all your piss and get it drug-tested. It didn’t happen.

Fit girls from the all-girls school in the same town want nothing to do with you, you ugly, posturing, inept twat 

Unless you play rugby, own a car, or have divorced parents who leave the house in the permanent, felicitous state of being “free”. If you’ve got a combination of those things going on, the fit girls will meet you, hell, they might even get off with you. Otherwise, they are as approachable as barbed wire.

You had to stand up every time a teacher walked into a classroom

Like they were a powerful, respected dignitary from a foreign country the government is desperate to impress – not plain old creepy Mr. Hill, with his wandering eyes and balding pate.

Somebody pisses themselves, once, in third form and it will follow them around until they die

When somebody pisses themselves in an all-boys school, it’s an Event: in the words of Saul Bellow, it has “event glamour”. Somebody pissing themselves is to all-boys schools what wars, recessions and revolutions are to world history. It’s recalled in the same way as a 1789 or a 1917, something to be talked about, debated and laughed at for years to come.

Before the discovery of Lynx Africa, there is only The Smell

The Smell: of open wounds, humid farts, graveyards, turning milk, hirsute tongues, after the light onanism – the smell of dozens of teenage boys who don’t know how to clean themselves.

One or two teachers wear those weird cape things and everyone snickers at them behind their backs

What Mr. Thomas thinks he looks like when he enters assembly

What Mr. Thomas thinks he looks like when he enters assembly

Nobody gives a fuck about hymns

Until you have to sing Jerusalem or the National Anthem. Then, violently, tunelessly, passionately the hymns are bellowed out and you feel like, all things considered, you probably could die for Queen and country.

You learned Latin but no one really understood why

Caecilius est in horto, motherfuckers.

Some young Tories run the debating club

They have Strong Opinions on the EU’s trade laws, use the word “peasant” as an insult and dream, under a moonlit sky, of wanking off Michael Gove. They give everyone else a bad name.

A slightly weird guy loses his virginity really early on and everyone thinks it’s really cool, pats him on the back, says things like “fair play Jamie” and so on

Then one day, when you’ve left school, you look back and you think 13 is a little young isn’t it? 

The house system is exactly like the one in Harry Potter!

Just a bunch of Ravenclaws, fooling around

Just a bunch of Ravenclaws, fooling around

I’M JOKING. It obviously isn’t. For a start nobody gets their post delivered by owls. Nobody owns a wand. And the dickheads are spread across all the houses, rather than concentrated in a Slytherin equivalent.

Your school has at least one majestic building, a great hall or a chapel or an abbey

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And at least one sick fuck had a wank in there.

On mufti day, one unpopular boy wears a full length leather trench coat

Idly, languidly, ruminatively you realise that if you went to an American school, along with the leather trench coat, he’d be sporting an assault rifle with which to gun down all the good-looking boys.

There were at least two families who had sent so many of their boys to the school that they basically ran it

These guys could get away with anything: get a phone out in a GCSE? Sure, no problem. Set off fireworks in the ground floor disabled loos? Whatever. Who cares when their Mum and  their auntie sits on the board of governors.

There was one incredibly fit teacher (usually something like Geography) who catalysed the sexual awakening of 90 per cent of the year

There are wild rumours she got off with a guy in Upper Sixth, but nobody knows for sure because he’s since – conveniently or suspiciously depending on what you believe – moved to New Zealand.

Anyway, you saw her in town the other day and you would actually saw both of your legs off to find her Tinder profile.

Someone is angry they’ve been sent to a private school

This expresses itself in the usual painful, callow ways: they become a vegetarian, they become an atheist, they become a Republican, they set up a Marxist society (grudgingly permitted by Mr. Watts), they refuse to go to chapel, they think sports and the gym are for the “real weirdos” and they cry themselves to sleep every night. When they go to university they’re inexplicably popular.


Bullies graduate through various stages: wedgying the weak boys, peanutting the weak boys, shooting hard bits of paper at the weak boys, stealing the clothes of the weak boys, stealing the stationery of the weak boys, tearing pages out of the books of the weak boys, pissing in the lockers of the weak boys, throwing hazardous substances at the weak boys in chemistry, discovering girls and forgetting the weak boys, being expelled for the small amount of weed they had in their blazer pocket (to impress girls, yeah), to finally, finally joining the Marines where they’re shot by their own troops.

If a teacher wasn’t in the locker room it was carnage; if a teacher left the room it was carnage; if it snowed it was carnage (regardless of how many teachers were there)

Something like this:

There is a FIGHT

One party has been slighted by another, satisfaction is demanded, plans are made. A certain time, a certain place, one on one, definitely not at all homerotic, no shanks. The news spreads virally; every person who gives a damn about male pride, no matter how small time, knows this FIGHT is taking place. And when it does, it is an inevitably tepid confrontation. It’s either a tactical Pacquiao versus Mayweather affair, full of inconclusive shuffling and puffing, lacking the vicious knockout blow that half the year has gathered behind the CCF hut after school to witness – or someone gets hurt and cries, which is, frankly, embarrassing for all involved.

The fact that you address all male teachers as “Sir” and all female teachers as “Miss” sums up the advanced attitude your school had to gender relations

It’s only slightly less sexist than the office in Mad Men.

Incredibly, almost fascinatingly ugly teenage boys discuss the looks of female celebrities, grading people like Jessica Alba “out of ten”

Most of them are still virgins.

One guy had so many nudes on his phone, like, it was all a bit too much

And was he really happy?

Bunking off games every Wednesday had a long and noble tradition

They never bunked off, honest

They never bunked off, honest

I know somebody who pretended to have leukaemia just so he wouldn’t have to play hockey ever again.

The last resort of the desperate teacher: reminding you that your parents were “paying for your education”


Somehow a celebrity, maybe two or three celebrities are connected with the school

The only time you actually want to be a prefect comes when some jammy prick gets to show Colin Firth round on Open Day.

You go to a house party and someone:

A) Pretends they go to a state school.

B) Pretends they go to a slightly better private school.

One boys parents won’t let him go on public transport

There’s speculation that they believe poverty is “catching”.

In appearance, your year might be described as oppressively Caucasian


Your year photos are whiter than A4 paper.

Sitting through yet another boring ass end of year awards ceremony, you fantasise about what would happen if you stood up, took a breath and shouted the word CUNT in your most outdoor voice

But you never have the guts to do it, you massive pussy.

Your school gives opposing teams a full sit down meal after rugby matches


There’s more to life than half-time oranges.

Parents on the sidelines of these matches look like Nigel Farage

And like that noted roast beef demagogue, they probably hate immigrants as well.

Even the biggest dumbest wasteman still gets into a good university

Someone on the admissions board at Warwick is in the pay of his parents.

There’s a level at which your parents have invested thousands and thousands of pounds just so you can get a bollocking from an Oxford grad for wearing the wrong socks

I guess this would be a good time to say thanks Dad.

What you look like in your Third Form photo:


What you look like by the end of Freshers’ Week:


You don’t realise how fucking weird any of this stuff is until you get to your nice Russell Group university

And by that point, it’s far too late to save you.