Strictly Private - Book 2: Top Hat and Tails
Excerpt from chapter one
I had already been well adapted to the idea of boarding schools: from the age of nine in fact, and I had now reached that ripe age of thirteen. But Eton was different to Ludgrove in that it was so much larger. It was more like going to live in a town, rather than a school, but the townspeople were all related to one another - in the sense of belonging to the same community. The Lower boys tended to know all that needed to be known about those at the top of the school: especially about those who were in Pop, and were so readily to be distinguished by the coloured waistcoats and the chequered sponge-bag trousers which they wore. Heroes all of them, at the pinnacle of their life's achievement. That was the ambition of all of us, when we first arrived. We wanted to emulate their achievement, and to emerge just like them.
Apart from the most visible distinction of wearing top hat and tails, another vast difference between Eton and Ludgrove was that I now had my own room, where I could brood over my own problems as I might see fit - in contrast to a mere classroom and dormitory, where all problems were relatively in public focus. There were some things which I didn't greatly appreciate - like having to get up in time for early school, before we'd even had breakfast; and the huge emphasis upon getting into good training for eternal repetitions of the Eton Field-game, (at which I was a strictly moderate performer.) But there was far less supervision to life than I had previously experienced, and I regarded that as a considerable blessing.
It was suggested to me, after my first few weeks at Eton, that I would soon learn to appreciate how it was preferable to be a small fish in a big pond, than a large fish in a small pond. This was asserted gravely by the Captain of M'tutor's, who had come up to my room shortly before lights out, to warn me that I appeared to be having difficulty in adjusting myself to the subservience that was expected of any Lower boy at Eton, and that it would be in my best interests to amend my ways before more drastic methods of persuasion were applied. But it struck me at the time that his logic was at fault, for I never did comprehend the anticipated pride in being a small fish anywhere at all.