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NAME: Bon Banjo

DATE: 22 June 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Pupil 1993 - 2000

I attended QE between 1993 and 2000. The issue a lot of you simply don't understand is that, like it or lump it, QE prepares you for life. If there is one thing QE taught me, its this: as long as you are perceived to be doing what you are told, outside of that you can do pretty much what the heck you like. This can be applied once you leave QE. The school definitely had issues, but if you came with a 'yes sir, no sir, two bags of whatever you want sir' you were able to get away with a helluva lot more than the stroppy kids who were a full time nuisance. I ended up in investment banking after QE and it is a tough, competitive, unforgiving environment. QE prepares you for that. It all depends on what you want out of life, I guess, but I shall certainly be sending my kids there, but not before they've been briefed in the do's and dont's.


NAME: Vic Coughtrey  Vic CoughtreyThen & Now

DATE: 23 June 2009


Well, I don't think you could say the school prepared me very well for MY life, apart from giving me a good start in Latin, for which I've always acknowledged a debt of gratitude. To tell you the truth, I thank the gods the old place failed miserably to turn me into an investment banker, or anything else 'tough, competitive and unforgiving'.


NAME: Stephen Giles  Stephen Giles

DATE: 25 June 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: inmate 1957-64

I agree with Vic that QE prepared you for little to be experienced in life after school, other than perhaps to beat into you an ounce of decency - no more though! I think the school's petty rules back in the late 1950s and early 1960s inspired a permanent rejection of authority in any shape of form. However, I'm convinced that the masters for the most part did their best. I remember that in the upper sixth with GL Smith as form master, it took him almost a whole term to realise that some of us just didn't bother to turn up to morning assembly!


NAME: Adam Lines  Adam LinesThen & Now

DATE: 25 June 2009


Give me 'stroppy kids who were a full time nuisance' any day. I've always found that given the right environment they turn out to be far more interesting than the two bags full brigade who inevitably end up as being complete bankers...


NAME: Martyn Day  Martyn DayThen & Now

DATE: 25 June 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1956-1963

Q.E may have prepared Bon Banjo for HIS life but it certainly didn't prepare me for mine. As incredible as it may seem I left the school not knowing that there were other universities I could have gone to apart from Oxford and Cambridge. Why? Because I was not seen as being graduate material. The employment options given to me by Headmaster Jenkins were a) The City or b) The Army or c) The Church. I certainly had some great teachers who opened up the world for me - but as an institution Q.E is not an academy for Life, just an academy for one type of life.


NAME: Vic Coughtrey  Vic CoughtreyThen & Now

DATE: 23 June 2009


One thing that has emerged in this and other threads is a distinction between the school as an institution and the efforts and intentions of the staff. Oddly, perhaps, the QE master I remember with particular fondness is 'Winkie' Wingfield. Yes, he was openly cynical, having recently survived experiences on the battlefield that most of us can't even begin to imagine, but his cynicism came across to me as a species of integrity. He, like me, was allergic to the basic dishonesty that was somehow behind QE as an institution. He told it like it was but the school didn't. His barely disguised dislike of Senex, as he called the headmaster, was a bonus. You couldn't by any stretch of the imagination say he was doing his best as a teacher, yet because of my admiration for him (and because of his blatant and inexplicable favouritism towards me) his subject, Latin, was the only one in which I shone.

But the following disgraceful incident also made me think. Sometime in the early '70s, having tanked up in the Black Horse (where, by the way, I spotted 'Tiger' Timson propping up the bar and knocking back Scotches) I marched round to the school and actually barged into 'Alfie' Alford's class. I began to make a drunken speech to the boys. God knows what the jist of it was - I hate to speculate - but by a great stroke of fortune, it was just as the 'period' was coming to an end, so Alfie, who handled the situation impressively, was able to usher the bemused boys out straight away. I then told him what I thought of him. He remained calm and amiable and said "well, it wasn't long after the war, you see. We were all still in a rather military mood in the '50s. We're living in a different age now". This unexpected (and probably clever) response rather sobered me up. I apologised and left.

However the 'different age' itself came to an end eventually and I gather there was then a return, to some extent, to the old ethos at QE.


NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 27 June 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1957-1964

'Zeitgeist, shitegeist!' was my first response to S E Alford's 'excuse' quoted by Vic in his fascinating anecdote; it was perfectly possible to be a nice human being and teach at QE, even c.1960.  But (not for the first time) my response is superficial. There were strong pressures on a young teacher to show an unfriendly face: Jenkins sacked teachers he thought couldn't keep discipline in the classroom.  Controlled nastiness was an approach sometimes advocated.  And what about role models for young teachers among the older staff? [To be fair, there were a few, such as Jack Covington].

However achieved, QE's classroom ambience enabled many children (docile ones?) to learn well. I owe a great debt of gratitude to S E Alford, for giving me a technical grasp of grammar, and hence a confidence (perhaps misplaced) in my use of language. Learning poetry for homework, on pain of punishment for getting stuck reciting it, was not perhaps the best approach, but I have been moved to memorise quite a lot subsequently - in spite of or because of QE? I remember Alford flying into (or simulating) enormous rages over what seemed to me trivial things. Once, at lunchtime, he overheard a boy remarking that the food "wasn't fit for human consumption". Alford's blast silenced the dining hall. But, for a different perspective, look at Mike Carter's (to me, moving) photograph of Messrs Alford, Fry and Dilley in 1958...


NAME: Stephen Giles  Stephen Giles

DATE: 30 June 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1957-1964

I wonder if at any time during the last year at QE, (on the assumption one is going to find employment! ) a payslip is explained - what is a code number? what is PAYE and what on earth is employers' and employees' NIC? Does anyone explain the need to submit a Tax Return, and that there is a deadline for doing so under pain of a £100 penalty? I very much doubt it. No doubt in 1964 there was no need to know such things - after all we went to QE!!! Is it any different now?!


NAME: Paul Buckland

DATE: 01 July 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1962-1969

I had been meaning to start a thread about the food at QEs for several weeks and now Nigel Wood [reply 6] has mentioned it vis à vis 'Mad Alf' as my year always referred to him. Basically the guy who got bawled out was 100 per cent correct. The food was absolutely disgusting. I can remember even 47 years after the event the horror at entering 'The Refectory' that first day at QEs to see the food already sitting out under a layer of congealed grease. After a terms of eating virtually nothing I persuaded my parents to let me take a packed lunch and continued to the last day. Masters were exempt from eating the fare provided for the boys as their food came separately to them as they sat at the end of each form table (first sitting) or house table (second sitting) - or they sat on the elevated daïs under the Huw Purchas painting of Queen Elizabeth. The catering was under the supervision of a Mrs. Bullas (or inevitably - Bull's Arse) who eventually left for Australia. But even after old Ma Bull's Arse disappeared the food did not improve.

I only once saw 'Mad Alf' lose his temper and that was on a school trip to Colle Isarco in Italy. One of the boys, someone I was sharing a room with, got extrmely drunk and 'Mad Alf' threatened the strap and every other condign punishment. However the next day all was forgotten. I rather liked him as he was my history teacher in the first three years and this was a subject I loved and so presumably did quite well at. Hisson was at the school about five years below me, and his wife was the school secretary.  Mrs. Alford is not to be confused with the Bursar, the wool bedecked 40 a day Joan Strongman.....happy days.


NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 01 July 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1957-1964

Stephen [reply 7]: Don't want to sound smugger than usual, but didn't we all just take these nuisances (tax forms etc) in our grumbling strides as and when they came along - while savouring mixed and otherwise flawed metaphors?

10th REPLY

NAME: Adam Lines  Adam LinesThen & Now

DATE: 02 July 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1957-64

The complainant regarding the food [replies 6 & 8] was yours truly. It was a remark intended for my colleagues which was overheard by Alford. I still cringe at his unexpected tirade but more so at the memory of those steamed old potatoes with black bits, the minced slime with congealed skin and the warm milk made rancid from being left crated outside in the midday sun, the whole dished up in an all pervading cabbage and plastic beaker atmosphere that still haunts me to this day!

11th REPLY

NAME: Nigel Wood  Nigel Wood

DATE: 03 July 2009


Adam: a 50-year-old mystery solved! Although I happened to be right there, and heard the remark, I don't think I ever realised who said it. But I was rather taken with the sonority of the phrase 'unfit for human consumption'. Wished I'd thought of it! As for the potatoes, it wasn't so much the black bits, but the grey scum on top, which put me off. And where on earth did they get those heavy oval earthenware bowls with the chipped glaze?

12th REPLY

NAME: Brian Dixon

DATE: 14 July 2009

CONNECTION WITH QE: Inmate 1955-61

I also have many memories of the food from QE days, memories which to some extent have affected my tastes ever since. The slimy gravy was so repulsive that it has put me off gravy of any kind ever since, even though my wife makes gravy that everyone else loves. (I can only eat it if you call it 'sauce' rather than 'gravy' and if it comes in some colour other than brown). Neither can I handle any kind of steamed pudding - I just have too many memories of something we always called 'stodge'. I also remember the scuffling that went on as the meals were passed down from the ends of the table - some boys would try to hold on to one that looked a bit better than average, and would attempt to not pass it on. One or two particularly nasty people would spit in the meal to prevent anyone trying to take away the supposedly better looking offering. There was even one individual (whose name I remember but won't repeat) who would eat the nicer looking meal anyway, even if someone else had spat in it. We really were a disgusting bunch of brats in some ways.

The one presentation for which an alternative was allowed was liver.  If one could not face the prospect of eating the gristly lump on the plate, one could go to the kitchen and receive a chunk of a yellow substance that was supposed to be cheddar cheese.

I remember one meal during which we were attempting to give the offerings fancy French names.  I came up with the unimaginative and not very funny "stodge aux ordures", using a word I only knew to mean rubbish.  Unfortunately the teacher at the end of the table overheard, and hit the roof.  He insisted that I knew perfectly well what else "ordure" meant - the fact that I truly did not, was totally irrelevant (although from the reaction I could easily guess).  I had to leave the rest of my meal and write a hundred lines on the infamous narrow ruled blue paper.

I heard a few years later that one of the kitchen staff - I refuse to call them cooks - was charged criminally with forging the qualifications she used to apply for the job, and with stealing good cuts of meat and substituting inferior ones.  I am unsure if that is true - perhaps someone can confirm or refute the allegation.

13th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 25 July 2012


In regard to school food in the dining hall, I wish to say that I for one did not find it too bad at all. Perhaps others had a gourmet meal at home each evening to compare it with. For me it was usually a plate of Weetabix. I used to find the custard delicious and had several platefulls (Is that OK grammar? Will Oliphant tell us?).There was either a thick type to pour from the jug. Delicious on its own! Or else there was a thin golden sparkling liquid, which went well over the jam cake with the sprinkling of coconut on it. Equally delicious! It all depended which cook was on for the day I suppose.

14th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 01 September 2012


In addition to school dinners one of the subjects that really divides opinion is cross country. For myself I really took to it and have fond memories of Sid Bastick( who was in my House - Harrisons) encouraging me to run up hills in Hadley Woods. I first started running with green flash plimsoles and these survived much running. I ended up captaining Harrisons and we just lost out for the cup to Stapylton in the school race, which I remember started and ended on a steep hill. It's a pity we lost as the cup was a large one to hold up at prizegiving. I wonder if the same cup exists today.

Looking at the official QE website I see there are several teams now but it was a poor relation to cricket and rugby in my day. We had some competitive contests but the main event was running in the Southern Cross Country Schools where I recall we all ran very creditably. After school I enjoyed being part of the Sidney Sussex College and Cambridge University teams, which also did well, as well as running for Barnet Shaftesbury Harriers in the Southern and English Nationals. Does anyone else have memories of this time? Ken Carter was instrumental in arranging the school team and races. i wish I could still run as well as those days today.

15th REPLY

NAME: Vic Coughtrey  Vic CoughtreyThen & Now

DATE: 23 June 2009


Ah, yes - cross-country! Believe it or not, I was actually excused rugby, because my father had written a letter to Jenkins saying that I was too puny (or words to that effect) to play that game. This was an opinion I definitely shared. Instead I had to do cross-country and like you James, I took to it, to the surprise of some other boys, who seemed to think that rugger was a softer option. I didn't begin to understand that idea.

And since both school dinners and Ken Carter are mentioned in James' reply, who else remembers the incredible speed with which Carter rattled out Grace in Latin at the commencement of each meal? Is some form of (necessarily multi-faith) Grace still said before meals at the school today?

16th REPLY

NAME: James (Jas) Cowen  James & Ayleen Cowen James Cowen galleryThen & Now

DATE: 04 September 2012


In regard to grace at dinner, Vic , in my time I do not recall anyone except Mr Ambidge saying grace at table. I seem to recall that he gave thanks before and after the meal and we all stood up when he was speaking. I cannot recall whether this was at a form table or at ourt house table in the absence of our housemaster, Bernie Pinnock. Perhaps grace was sometimes given for all the tables sometimes rather than individual tables. I expect some others will remember. I am reminded of that old song "I remember it well." "It was at eight. We dined at nine" etc. I remember at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge when we dined in nearly every night the Latin scholars used to say grace in Latin and were slow hand clapped if too long and ostentatious. Mention of Ken Carter reminds me of the long detentions he occasionally held for all our class. They were the worst sort as we had to sit and then stand in silence for long periods. I remember that we all had to suffer the penalty of detentions whether the sins of a small minority or even of one. To be fair these were quite rare occasions.

17th REPLY

NAME: Hugh Hoffman

DATE: 26 August 2016

CONNECTION WITH QE: pupil 1955-60

Paul Buckland refers to school dinners as 'congealed grease' [reply 8]. An excellent description! I recall on one occasion one of us held a plate of aforementioned 'congealed grease' upside down and the contents did not budge - a solid mass of grease. The best food offered by the school canteen was the bread and dripping available after school hours if sports practice was arranged in the gym.

18th REPLY

NAME: Nick Dean  Nick Dean Nick Dean gallery

DATE: 28 August 2016


Always interesting to read what new contributors [reply 17] have to say - with the added benefit of being pointed to earlier threads not so far seen. I was fascinated by the webmaster's encounter with Alfie in the early '70s [reply 5]. I may still have been at the school, but, if so, news didn't travel. The military reference caused me to reflect on my surprise, when I first read Jenkins' book over 40 years ago, that Alfie was only 21 when he was appointed in 1947. I was unsure if he had come straight from Oxford or the forces - or how he could have fitted in both, if, in fact, he did! Does anyone know?

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