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“Boys School”. What do you recall of the place?
Where time seemed to move at a lowly snails pace,
Just counting the days till you went off on leave,
To freedom; for some just a temporary reprieve
From the gypping and bullying, too scared to rebel
At that Lancejack who daily was giving you hell.
And the jankers and rodeo which you had incurred
For some minor infringement, considered absurd
By your average civilian with plain common sense,
But which plagued you and made your daily existence
A struggle to keep your morale more or less
Above misery, hunger and sheer helplessness.
Those endless room jobs, the repetitive chores
Of dusting the lampshades, or bumping the floors
With that to-and-fro motion which could drive you insane,
Yet you knew in the morning, you’d do it again
And again and again, until shining and gleaming,
While all that you had was backache, muscles screaming.
But that was just while you were back in your room,
Once out on the square then, the unnerving boom
And ear-splitting scream of some banshees from hell
Had you doubling around until you couldn’t tell
Whether coming or going and surely you’d give
Anything for civilian life that you had lived.
And down in the workshops things weren’t any better,
All that filing and sawing of metal to get a
Flat surface to scribe on and then make a hole
Which you filed out again, your ultimate goal
Was to fit yet another piece matching the figure
Of what you’d removed, as your blisters grew bigger.
Those three years passed slowly. No. Time didn’t fly,
Interminable days dragged as they passed us by,
It seemed we were stuck in a time warp, stagnating,
Existing on six bob a week and debating
As to whether we’d spend it on Zebo or polish
Important decisions which gave us no solace.
At last the day came that we’d yearned for so long,
And the times we’d rehearsed this parade were now done,
We slow marched and wheeled to the tune “Auld Lang Syne”,
Making silent self promise that this was the last time
That we’d never march on that square ever again,
Remembering the blisters, the noise and the rain.
Now, fast-forward five decades, and thoughts idly turn
To those days of your youth. Curiosity burns
In your mind, and you wonder just what happened to
All those roommates who shared your life and you knew
Much better than anyone, even their Mothers,
For you shared a life so much closer than brothers.
And then you remember the great times you had,
All that joking and laughter, and feeling quite sad
That you had lost touch with the spirit you shared
And those friends who had meant so much to you and fared
Along with you, your life with its highs and its lows,
Looking out at you still from those faded photos.
You think of how great those old Christmases were
When the senior ranks, officers all gathered there
To serve up the best meal of the year without doubt,
Roast turkey or chicken, spuds and Brussels sprouts
Followed by mince pies and then Christmas pud,
And felt at that moment that life was so good.
And mornings when gathered to go off on leave,
With pockets crammed full of the money retrieved
From our credits, so flush with the cash that we’d earned,
Those fivers we had that now literally burned
The holes in our pockets, just waiting to spend
As we headed for home to our family and friends.
Yet when you arrived and met up with your mates,
They somehow seemed changed, it was just that innate
Feeling that something was missing you felt,
A sense that what you had, had faded to melt
Into past times now gone from recall, now estranged,
When in truth, they’d not altered, it was you who had changed.
Then it dawned on you slowly that life as you knew it
Was gone, and your new life as you traversed through it
Would hold far more interest than you had foreseen,
When you walked through those gates at the age of fifteen.
For as you learned, gaining experience then,
You had changed, unaware, turned from youths into men.
So look at it once again as the time passes,
And probably you’ll feel the need to wear glasses,
While some may have lens with a quite rosy hue,
Others will never feel, as many do,
That our time spent at “Boys School” was not dissipated,
And our formative years there were not ever wasted.