Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An encounter with an alien life form (for both of us)

I went to Windsor yesterday, and will return to the subject of our visit to the castle but I am still reeling from a conversation I had whilst purchasing a newspaper in Eton.

I hadn't realised before just exactly how close Eton is to Windsor. Generations of royal pupils have had absolutely no excuse for not popping in to see their family - in fact they could probably wave to them on a daily basis from the top rooms of Eton to the top of the castle battlements. I digress. The point here is that mum and I walked over the bridge at Windsor to look at Eton College.

Eton is indeed another world; one of extraordinary privilege. This is reflected in every shop window by the items on sale (like socks for Lower Boating????), and by the fact that they clearly see nothing odd in the name of their primary school. Most obviously of course it is refelcted in the school with which Eton shares its name.

Messalina observed to me recently when we went on a guided walk round London Inns of Court that there must be a whole section of society that thinks that all of England looks the same. They go to Eton for school, progress to Oxford or Cambridge where the colleges look just like school, and then they go on to the Inns of Court which looks just like Oxbridge and there they stay until they die, blissfully unaware of any century after the 17th.

So mum and I take in this world in which we are complete outsiders. It is like being at a zoo seeing these exotic creatures in their strange school uniform,

whilst they presuambly look back and say "I say Miles old chap - is that a common person over there in that ghastly velcro tracksuit?" (For that is the kind of thing I wear.)

There is a Blackwall's bookshop directly opposite the main college building and I decided I wanted a newspaper. I picked one up from the rack outside and went in to pay. The paper was folded up and the very posh young chap behind the counter asked me what I had got. I told him it was the Guardian but I added in what I thought was a jovial and friendly manner "I did think that being in this environment I should have bought the Morning Star." "Oh" replies bloke, "What is the Morning Star?" At first I thought he was joking, but I looked at him and very quickly sussed he was completely in earnest. "Erh, it's a daily newspaper." I offered. "Is it?" he asked. "It's a Communist newspaper" I added for his further information. "Good heavens! I never knew there was such a thing," says posh (and ignorant) bloke. "Oh dear!" says I, and left with the words "Come the Revolution mate....."

I think we both found the other equally weird.


John said...

He was clearly pulling your leg. At least half the Communist Party went to Eton.

Now if it had been Class War . . .

Anonymous said...

You wont have seen these exotic creatures in their uniform because school does not return until Thursday 17th April!

cookie monster said...

How the other half lives eh?

J.J said...

John - why didn't I think to ask for Class War? Curses!

Hi Anon from the Royal Holloway and Bedford College at Egham - does that mean the two nice young gentlemen who showed us round were imposters? Never mind - they were awfully sweet anyway.

Cookie - they live very well and in blissful ignorance - future leaders of our country everyone of them.

The Fatalist said...

Future leaders? Are you really saying that Cameron will get in?
I bloody well hope that bumbling Boris never went there..VOTE FOR KEN! (Even if you're not too keen on him, it's called 'damage limitation'!)

cookie monster said...

Surely you can't expect a future PM to attend a 'comprehensive'?

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

"Come the revolution"

Oh yes!

timesnewroman said...

Superb. Just Superb.

Dandelion said...

I've just got to bring a bit of decorum to this debate. Not everyone who goes to Eton ends up a leader of the country. We can only have one PM at a time, and each one generally spends at least 4 years in the role. So, y'all can do the math there. It's probably true in fact, that more old Etonians don't get to be prime minister than do.

What might be true is that there is an inordinate proportion of old Etonians amongst the great and good in the corridors of power. Some people think this is terrible and elitist. But do they forget that we want those with power to be educated to the highest standard possible? If we do, then we have to accept a bit of a skew.

J.J said...

Fatalist - I am terrified that the former Etonian Cameron will indeed get in, and then god help us. AS for Boris - the fact that the BNP are urging their supporters to vote for him as their second choice speaks volumes.

Cookie - why ever not?

Lisa - I don't know what came over me!

TNR - it was surreal.

Dandelion, yes absolutely, we want those in the top jobs who lead and influence our country to have had a good education,, but I odn't believe a good education should only be obtainable in so called 'top' private schools. I also believe it is elitist that having Eton on your CV all but guarantees a top job whether one happens to be bright or not. And as I mentioned, they are so detached from the experiences of the mass of the population as they breeze through Oxbridge into their influencial job in the City/Law/ Politics (delete as appropriate). I hear Cameron saying he understands the experiences of those struggling to get by on a bidget - but the truth is, with such a privileged background as he has had, he can not possibly have the faintest idea.

I just came up with the following when I googled Etonians in the Tory party:

Out of 130 office holders sitting on the Tory frontbench are 15 Old Etonians - from a school that, more than any other, symbolises extreme privilege as well as academic excellence. Of these most went on to Oxbridge and many now drink in the same male-only private members clubs in central London.

And the Eton influence is not restricted to the junior positions. Three of the 24 members of the shadow cabinet - including Cameron - went to the £23,000-a-year school, as did the higher education spokesman, Boris Johnson.

Such a gathering of the country's elite at the top of the Tory party may raise the odd eyebrow in modern Britain. Eton has already produced 19 prime ministers, including Walpole, Gladstone and Eden. But by the time Douglas Hurd ran in the leadership race in 1990, being an Old Etonian was a hindrance. Questioned about his privileged past, he said: "I thought I was running for leadership of the Tory party, not some demented Marxist sect

Seems to me we have gone backwards since 1990.

Sorry for the lengthy ramble...you will all be relieved to know I have to go to work now, or it would undoubtedly be longer still!

Karen said...

Ah that school made me giggle. Imagine having to say you went to Eton Porny... the shame

J.J said...

Karen - it is not a good name for a school is it?