I was intrigued to receive Nick Hodson’s letter about the proposed History of West Downs, and his request that we write to you [i.e. to Mark Hichens], because I remember so well how much I enjoyed the days when you took your brother Andrew and me out from Winchester. Andrew and I opened the batting one year for West Downs, and again, 5 years later, for Winchester.
West Downs. Going there, as a new boy, on the train to Blair Atholl. Snow on my birthday (4 May) at the beginning of my first term in 1945. Compulsory rest, and trying to count the seconds until the end of term. Being sick in the attic San, when VE day was announced. My first sports day, and the excitement of finding I could run and jump as fast and as high as my contemporaries. Losing my cricket ball in the burn – misery – and the fear of the “ghost trains” at Blair Castle.
And then at Winchester, scouting on Sundays, the Shakespeare plays and my role as Malvolio (I dreamt for ages about going on stage and forgetting my lines), Mr Tindall and his slippering. Mr Ledgard and my inability to understand geometry. Sports days, the football and cricket matches – particularly being undefeated my last summer, the fear of failing the Winchester exam, etc.
West Downs was one of the best prep schools of its time, and Kenneth Tindall one of the best headmasters. I enjoyed my time there enormously, although there were many occasions when I was fairly miserable at the time – perhaps inevitable, and perhaps a necessary part of my overall extremely happy recollections.