… except very little is.
How depressing is the uniformity of today’s clothes, shoes, habits, appearance (though I cherish the man who remarked on looking a row of upcoming actresses “Good Lord, they have the same breasts !” Same clinic, no doubt).
You know as well or better than I do, that if you are stuck in a situation that repeats itself, you either get on with it, or change it. Waiting for it to change (which essentially means waiting for somebody else to alter things) is a longer term strategy but still hitched to change.
I was not brought up to try to look like a model or a film star. I tried inevitably –
youth fuelling inspiration, aspiration, perspiration – but was saved by my mother’s asperity and the inherent message of my belated success: they didn’t want me to be anybody else but me.
This is no longer a fashionable message now, we’re into derivation. This designer is like that one, those songs came from this musical line of descent. Nobody has yet likened Benedict Cumberbatch to Alec Guiness – though taller, more graceful, more hetero – but they will. They will.
I mourn the days of individuality. I am not alone.
So the latest political sensation (you have heard of Jeremy Corbyn?) endorses
“we are all the same.”
But we are not.
We may rightly want the same chances, the same standing under law, a more equitable tax arrangement but we are not the same. We are of the same kind (human) but we are not the same. We won’t get the same chances and if we do, we will handle them differently.
So – sorry, Corbers – I was delighted to read that the number of pupils at grammar school is the highest for 35 years. There are onl 163 grammar school in the country.
They have done all sorts of creative manoeuvring to keep themselves afloat but they are liked and popular and I bet any money that is based on curriculum, class size and reputation more than snobbery, pretension and entrée.
Laws passed under Tony Blair (otherwise known as Dorian Grey) make it illegal to open a new selective school. I know very little about the law but it does make you wonder how all those other minority schools – which are selective in the extreme – got round that. Don’t say multiracialism to me. Sir Roy Strong recently remarked (I paraphrase) that multiracialism muddied the water of the lines of artistic, aesthetic and cultural heritage in the name of everybody being the same. Which is where we came in.
I went to a grammar school. Did you know they were established to promote the study of Latin? I did Latin at school. It’s not terrible, it is a key to some aspects of English (that universally known language, our greatest export) and enables you to sing some wonderful hymns and carols.
Of course you discard chunks of your education, whatever it was, as you go along, like a space ship, outstripping the burnt out bits.
But when years later the Times Education Supplement asked me to do an interview on my favourite teacher, I said I couldn’t and explained that I had fabulous teachers, and I would like to remember them all. The interviewer said that was a first, and that’s what we did. My grammar school helped to form my life, along with parents so good I could shopped for them.
I am not blind to the abuses of the triple system (grammar, technical, secondary
modern – I scaled those results as a temporary job at 19).
And while technical never came into it – I hadn’t the hands or the maths – if you had sent me to a secondary modern I would have been bored and for sure Satan finds work for idle hands. I was too busy filling my pen and doing my homework to be mischievous.