This is Giles during his last term at school (summer 1967); he is wearing his prefect’s tie. You can see over his shoulder part of the net of the Farfield house tennis court. Behind the hedge is the old music rooms building, at this period housing the classics department and soon to be demolished to make way for the central feeding block. (Other schools might have a refectory but we went for the more brutal version.)
Before coming to Gresham’s senior school Giles had been a pupil at the Eversley prep school in Southwold. This school on the edge of the common did not survive by many months the retirement of its long-serving headmaster, Mr Bottomley. Giles’s home was in Suffolk at Fressingfield. His mother worked in the offices of Lotus Cars which had moved to Hethel near Wymondham a few years earlier. Fressingfield to Hethel meant that she had a a considerable drive to work in the morning. Giles’s father who had been captured in Sarawak during the war by the Japanese had already died before I knew him.
He went into journalism on leaving school and after a few years on East Anglian local papers (I believe he worked for a time in Diss) he specialised in writing about the shipping industry. This involved moving to London where he got married. Writing these commercial articles took him all over the world which he found exciting at first, but in due course became increasingly irksome. He narrowly avoided being caught up in the terrorist attack in Mumbai, which targeted the adjacent hotel to the one was staying at. Now a widower Giles has retired from London and has returned to his childhood surroundings in Suffolk, although he still does some freelance writing.
As I cannot tell you much of his adult life I must restrict myself to the times when I do remember him -his school days. He had suffered from polio as a child and he was left walking with a limp. This is a condition I can very much sympathise with now my stroke has made me similarly disabled; but as youngsters we were extremely unfeeling. His nickname was Baccy – short for Bacteria; in fact polio is spread by a virus, so we were ignorant as well as unkind. We were by no means gentle in our choice of nicknames; Fatty Wragge, Sludge Holland and Squit Stebbings are just some which come to mind. Baccy was the cruelest. Nevertheless he has maintained a lifelong friendship with several of his teenage tormentors, so he must have forgiven us. As far as we were concerned the name calling was all done in good fun, although whether the objects of our mirth saw it the same way I doubt. Now it would be regarded as very politically incorrect. As far as nicknames go I was lucky being Jamie, from my supposed resemblance to James Bond; I think they were being ironic. Bung (Benny Young) was harmless enough, and some like Gordy Haylett and Charlie Marshall never progressed beyond their Christian names. Tubs Taylor was few years older than we were; he was a prefect who terrorised us with the prospect of going for runs at seven o’clock in the morning, followed by a cold shower. This very healthy lifestyle was a dreaded form of punishment.
The photograph reminds me of an episode involving Giles and the tennis court. There was a flag pole between the playing area and Farfield house. I do not remember it ever flew a flag, but it had a halyard just in case. It was hinged at the base and anchored by a pin. Giles thought it quite a prank to remove the pin and then get someone lean against the flagpole. How I was stupid enough to fall for this I do not know, but the person who was the butt of this practical joke was me. Down crashed the flag pole on my leg. Although I was bruised by this encounter no bones were broken.
I do not think I have seen Giles for 40 years, although I have spoken to him on the phone. Most recently I emailed him a draft of this blog; I should add that he denies all knowledge of the flag pole!
THE BLOG FOR MEMORIES OF EAST ANGLIA