23 September 2008

Dada school

I first discovered dada when I was 12 or 13. I was in my first year of boarding school and not enjoying it very much. I went to Nelson fucking College. An indication of their pathetic aspirations comes from the school colours: light blue and dark blue, just like Oxford and Cambridge. (It impresses the Blenheim farmers.) I came from a nice liberal middle class family, and that kind of hideously authoritarian environment was a bit of a shock.

Cos I came from a city, I was put into a dorm with all the other city kids. The others had pretty much all been sent to the school cos their parents couldn't handle them. We were the punk rock dorm. Peter and the Test Tube Babies were a particular favourite. At the end of the year, it turned out most of the dorm was involved in a cannabis ring. I didn't know anything about it of course.

We used to go to war with the other dorms. If you drop a light bulb vertically, it'll bounce. We'd start by drop-kicking a bulb into the opposing side, then charge swinging pillow cases with knots tied in the end. Some of the more unscrupulous of us would put coins in the knot.

Boarding school is a funny place. They have stupid rules for stupid rules' sake. You can't walk on the grass, just so it can be a privilege for seventh formers to do so. They'd pick suitable seventh formers to be prefects. Suitable in this context means being not too bright, with a conventional mindset, an uncritical attitude, and an emphasis on physical strength ... you get the idea.

One time, the prefect in charge of our dorm heard us talking after lights out. He barged in and demanded we tell him who it was. When nobody owned up, or would rat anyone else out, he got really angry. We all had to get out of bed and go out on to the front field in our pyjamas. This was in the middle of winter. Then we had to stand there with arms outstretched making small circles with our hands. Try it sometime. It fucking hurts after a while. And that was just the start of it. I'm pleased to say that no-one did rat anyone out no matter what was thrown at us.

I have a line: The only things boarding school taught me were a healthy disrespect for authority and the ability to lie glibly. I've lost the latter due to lack of use, but there's not much chance of that for the former!

I didn't have many books to read, so I would read the Encyclopedia Britannica they had. I'd find an interesting article and then follow the cross-references (analogue hyperlinks!). I can't remember what the original article was, but one led me to both anarchism and dada. Needless to say, at that time and in those circumstances, both appealed to me a lot, but especially dada.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

...that holding-your-arms- outstretched-making-small-circles- with-your-hands thing, isn't facist authoritarian torture.

It's Pilates.

(signed)
Someone Who Lives Perilously Close to Ponsonby

David Cauchi said...

Ha ha, who says they're mutually exclusive?

And I shouldn't've said hands, rather whole fucking arms.

stephen said...

At the end of the year, it turned out most of the dorm was involved in a cannabis ring. I didn't know anything about it of course.

Please refrain from further glib falsehoods, or I shall be compelled to again violently expel air and mucous through my nasal orifice, and in doing so spill my wine.

stephen said...

Also: I recently rewatched Lindsay Anderson's if.. and found it quite disappointing. It didn't resonate nearly as strongly in my heavily-medicated adult self as in my violent angry late-teen self.

David Cauchi said...

No no, it's true!

I was a wide-eyed nice middle-class kid at that stage.

I didn't even start smoking cigarettes till I was 19 (though that was cos smoking seemed to me to be the conventional way to rebel, so I refused to join in).

At the bottom of my third form report, they wrote 'could be a doctor or engineer' (ha!). I'll admit this didn't last long. By the sixth form, the person who'd written that told me I was going to die before I was 21 cos I'd dyed my hair. The causal relationship there escaped me.

I haven't seen If for a while, but I could very much relate. I cheered.

stephen said...

By the sixth form, the person who'd written that told me I was going to die before I was 21 cos I'd dyed my hair. The causal relationship there escaped me.

Toxic build-up in your blood and organs from nasty chemical hair-dye?

visitors since 29 March 2004.