10. Locking

I had been consulting a solicitor, first in Ipswich, and then, at a friend's insistence, in London, about divorce. I was granted legal aid, so London prices were no bar. There had to be a separation, if only for the children's sake. A consultant psychiatrist whom I asked, and who knew us as a family, said that they would be better off with one of the parents.

The answer arrived at was to impose ourselves on my parents, as I have written. We moved down as often in the summer to spend holidays with them, and didn't come back. Charlie was old enough to start school in September, and so they were all settled in Somerset before negotiations with social services and so on, to do with the divorce and custody, began. It seemed the best way.

My parents had already had an upper floor built into the roof space of the bungalow, so there were two extra rooms, one of which was Dad's study, and a second bathroom up there. I slept in the dining room. My parents kept their own bedroom, and there was a bright and spacious front bedroom downstairs. The whole stay must have been a great strain on the grandparents, but the effect on the family was wonderful. Granny became the mother figure they so needed, and we all felt the air of freedom from fear.

Rowena had already visited St Brandon's School in Clevedon with a view to going there. It was generally felt that boarding would be one way of saving her from the destructive home atmosphere. At the end of our time there she had several times corrected erroneous statements that her mother had made - it was necessary, and I think I would have had to do it otherwise, but to the deputy head who was showing us round it sounded like bad behaviour, and Rowena was not accepted for a place then. When we had moved to Locking my father, who was a school governor of St Brandon's, had a quiet word with the head and explained the situation, and the head sent a letter saying that now she understood she thought that giving Rowena a place was exactly what St Brandon's was there for. The entrance exam to St Brandon's was the first exam that Rowena had ever sat. The Primary School gave her no practice, and probably the result was bad, but she got in.

Rowena went and in many ways prospered there, becoming deputy head girl. The then head explained that he was not making her head girl because it might hinder her university entrance studies, but as she was more able than the head girl she found herself doing the work anyway. The head spoke to Dad of her 'formidable intellect.' He said that in discussions with her he often forgot that she was a pupil, and spoke with her simply as adult to adult.

Trevor, Barbara and Charlie attended Locking County Primary School. Trevor spent one whole term apparently doing no work except an extended project on birds. I complained to the head, who said he would reach the same standards in school work in the long run. Boarding seemed to me to be right for all the children, to give my parents respite, and in the long run to make it possible for me, as a teacher, to be at home when they were, and we turned to Christ's Hospital.

This is a charitable school set up by Edward VI, and gives a high standard of education in wonderful grounds, at fees which are, or were, adjusted to the means of the parents. There are two main ways to get in, by scholarship and by presentation by a donation governor. I collected my pennies together and sent Trevor as a dayboy to a prep school in Burnham on Sea. It was on its last legs, and had to close soon afterwards, but he got the traditional grounding that the Primary School was not providing then. I had taught him elementary Latin myself, to strengthen his chances in the entrance exam, and the school added Greek. When it came to the Christ's Hospital exam there was no problem.

I tried to coach him for the interview in London. We learned that the Founder Edward the Sixth reigned for six years right in the middle of the Sixteenth Century, and his portrait was up on the back of the loo door, so that Trevor could point him out if asked. I read with him a book that I thought would sound impressve, John Masefield's fantasy The Box of Delights. When it came to the interview Trevor couldn't remember much about that, but told the head that he loved Biggles, and I think the head was more impressed by that than by my efforts. When it came to Trevor's actually going to the school, I remember seeing him standing in those great grounds looking so small in his new fine Housey Coat, and hoping and praying that he would be all right. He certainly was. He became head of his junior house and ruled it in a strict but fair way, backing up the most authoritarian of the housemasters, who happened to be brother to one of the St Brandon's teachers. Trevor came to lead the school orchestra and head up the drums in the prestigeous marching band. He also excelled in Classics and got into King's College, Cambridge.

My work, I felt when I left parish life, had to be teaching, so that I could have the same holidays as the children and be there for them as much as possible.

I went for an interview for a post, as English teacher, at a Bridgwater school. It was an unfamiliar world to me. Other candidates just out of training college were talking about 'register' being a very important thing to teach. I think I knew what they were talking about - the difference between the kind of language you would use on, say, formal or informal occasions. But I could not get excited about it. I don't know what the interviewers made of me, because when they asked me if I would accept the post if offered it, I said no. They did tell me that Bridgwater youngsters thought they were very sophisticated, but were not.

After another, very old-fashioned and informal interview with its head I was appointed assistant Classics master at Edgarley Hall just outside Glastonbury, very near the Tor. It was the prep school for the famously sporting and expensive Millfield School in Street. In those days it was quite a small place, and very open and informal. Now it is much bigger, barred and gated, and no doubt with far better facilities. In my day the teaching was done in wooden huts, and the classes were no larger than a dozen boys and girls.

It meant an hour's journey each way from Locking to Glastonbury. Fortunately most of the jorney was through lovely countryside, and was a pleasure. Part of the way was by the Mendips by Axbridge and skirting Cheddar, and then to Wedmore, where we later helped celebrate King Alfred's treaty with the Danes, and over the Somerset Levels. The Tor at Glastonbury was visible from the Axbridge bypass, and I wrote a sonnet about it.
Half ringed by Cheddar's hills - like spreading thighs
Gorge-cleft, age-old, yet young with bushy green -
Silvered by eastern sun, a smooth lake lies,
And mediaeval Axbridge stands between.

Beyond, a green sea reaches towards the sun
Ruffled by hedge-ridge, tree-ridge, wooded mound;
When I pass through it, this, that seems all one,
Is rich with apple-blossom and bird-sound.

Afar, green turns as blue as smoke from fire.
Horizoned on the bright east sky, at rest
As in Elysium, the nipple-spire
Stands stiff on Glastonbury's swelling breast.

My heart bounds up with gladness at the view.
My mind - I know not how - stays fixed on you.

While in Locking I joined an amateur operatic society based in Worle, and took part in The Merry Widow. A grew to love Lehar's music. I played Baron Zeta, who doesn't have any musical highlights, but is quite an important part. He is the Pontevedrian Ambassador. We gave three or four performance, with orchestra except for one. I thoroughly enjoyed it all. In the early days at Edgarley there seemed to be more time for out-of-school activity, before shades of the prison-house closed over the growing lad...

My other project around this time was working towards the organists' qualification, ARCO. I took the exam twice and failed the practical, though I passed the written work with ease and enjoyment. The written tests were: to harmonise a chorale in the style of Bach; Robert gave me an edition of all Bach's chorales, which I studied hard, until I could imitate the style pretty well. Then to write a keyboard piece in two parts, like a Bach Two-Part Invention. That, with lots of practice, was fine; I didn't get high marks on it, because, I think, I filled several bars with a rather facile kind of counterpoint. Then to write a piece in the style of Palestrina. That was the hardest for me. Then to orchestrate a piece of organ music. Time-consuming, but not hard. There were essays to write as well.

As I wrote, I failed the practical twice. Then I got David Ponsford to give me one lesson on Wells Cathedral organ, and next time I passed. Good for David Ponsford. He taught me his system of articulation. I also had different pieces third time. I had tried a piece of Peter Hurford's, but it was really too athletic for me, and changing to something else was a good practical move. My Bach piece was Heut' trimphieret from the Little Organ Book, but I forget what the others were. I have since put the Bach on YouTube.