The Site Author
Site Author & Webmaster, Rick Joshua
Whenever I had been naughty as a child, my mother had always threatened me with being sent to boarding school. During these childhood spats, I never would have known that some of the most memorable years of my life would be spent at such an institution. We had just returned from Cyprus, where my father had served three years' posting at RAF Akrotiri; my entire school career had been spent in educational establishments mainly populated by the children of service personnel, and the return to the UK in 1984 and three months at Henlow Middle School was to prove to be a massive culture shock. It was this, as well as distinct chance of my education being disrupted again by yet another posting, that made my parents consider the boarding option more seriously. The idle threats of my earlier childhood were now but a mere memory. The final decision, however, was to be up to me.
Quantock School had been one of many schools listed in journals for service personnel; it had been recommended to my parents by Marty and Debbie Wood, who had been stationed with us in Cyprus, whose son Brendan (who like me had also gone to St. John's Secondary in Episkopi) was actually a pupil there. My first visit to Quantock School took place in the Summer of 1984; I recall it being a bright summer's day, and a pleasant drive down to the place that was to be my home for the next three schooling years. The first person we met was the deputy headmaster, Mr Gerry Warriner, who led us round while providing a detailed commentary in what I was soon to recognise as his own inimitable style. We were then introduced to the head, Mr David Peaster, an imposing man with hair that resembled a judge's wig. I also got to meet a few of those who would have been in my year. I had made my mind up instantly; it was to not going to be 'civvie' school for me. The next time I was to enter those fabled gates in September 1984, it was as a Quantock pupil.
The Third Year
Entering the third year, I was placed in the Stable Block, a new building located close to the sports field and a very short walk from the new teaching block. The 'guardian' was one Peter A. Burgess - also known as "Bungle" and famed for his infamously brutal "Bungle Punch" - an otherwise amiable man with a taste for rich foods, yoghurt and fine Baroque music. I was placed in the second dorm, along with Brendan (whom I had known previously), Lawrence Muir, and Paul Davies ('Wolfie' after his distinctive eyebrows). In the first of what were to be many inter-dorm moves, Wolfie was replaced by Carl Watkins.
My first lessons were to introduce me to the slack methods that were applied as far as Quantock School class streaming went; without taking note of my previous academic record, I was initially placed in the 'C' form. Sitting alongside such geniuses as Jace Guillory, Andrew Webb, Peter Osbaldeston and Mark 'Mong' Young, I soon began to wonder what planet I was actually on, especially as the teacher, Mrs Leonard, was completely incompetent. After almost directing the lesson myself through my answering of every single question that was presented, I emerged numbed at the experience. It was the closest I had ever been to being immersed in vegetable soup.
Fortunately, this geography lesson (or what purported to be such) was my first and last 'C' form experience; for this I have to thank Wolfgang Dunn (one of those I had met on my first visit to the school), who after having heard that I was fairly decent at maths, asked me to come along to the 'A' form maths lesson. Administrative formalities were non-existent; I simply walked into the classroom and that was essentially that. After my brush with Mrs Leonard's remedial class, Mr Coldwell's maths lesson restored my faith in the Quantock teaching staff.
As the months went by and new friendships were forged, there were the inevitable room moves; in the spring term, I had moved up the corridor to Dorm No. 7, which I was to share with Simon Henderson, Mathew Hill ('Monty') and Jace Guillory, an intellectually-challenged Mick Jagger lookalike with a penchant for driving grubby remote-controlled cars up and down the corridor. One of the few 'civvies' at the school, he was in some way related to one of the presenters of the rubbish kids TV programme 'Freetime' - and, as I later found out, is the brother of actress turned model Sienna Guillory. Somehow I cannot see the resemblance. Guillory and Monty soon moved out, to be replaced by Darren Weeks and Michael Burrows. With them they brought the craze for 'Dungeons and Dragons', a roleplay game devised by the wonderfully named Gary Gygax. The first months were enjoyable, as I found myself being roped into the D&D craze - but when Weeks (the 'Dungeon Master') finally achieved his aim of killing off my ninth-level (or was it thirty-fifth level?) Cleric, things took something of a downward turn. Both the irritating antics of Henderson and Weeks' almost compulsive playing of Queen albums led me to move around the corner into the two-man dorm, which I shared with Robert Fluellen, a chap who liked James Herbert books and computers too much to even have the time to get on anybody else's nerves.
When not in lessons or at 'prep', I spent most if not all of my time at the pool table; although the table was meant for all of the residents, only two people really dominated it: myself and Rob Tyler, who joined the school in the second term. Tyler was another one of the growing number of 'civvies' - a farmer's son from the Bristol region, who had to endure mine and everyone else's somewhat mindless references to manure, Silas the Scarecrow and various renditions of those great Worzels classics, Oi've god' a bran' new comboine 'arrrvester and Oi am a zoiderrr drinkerrr. We had some marathon pool competitions, some of which lasted months on end - this same spirit of competition was to last right until our leaving the school in 1987.
The Fourth Year
The fourth year was to see me move to the old building, and a two-man dorm with Brendan Wood on Warriner's corridor next to the television room. I do not know how I managed it, but I almost managed to spend the whole year putting up with my dorm-mate, who proved to be something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. While one day he would be placid and co-operative, the next he would be a right pain in the proverbial. The straw that finally broke the camel's back came during the 1986 World Cup and the first-round game between France and Canada - the match had taken place in the small hours, and we had each taken turns to check the score by sneaking to the television room next door. This ridiculous relay went on for so long that one of us was bound to get caught; unfortunately, the one who did was me. In the process of moving towards the door, I was confronted by the head and his ever faithful hound Starsky, with a flashlight being shone into my eyes. The words are still etched in my memory chip - "Ricky... I thought you were a good boy... now go!"
My spirit of loyalty being what it was, I shouldered all the blame, receiving a ban from watching all World Cup games in the process. Despite my not dragging him into the mess, Brendan inexplicably decided to turn the screw and use his power as a 'trainee prefect' to enforce the Head's punishment. Less than a week later however the Head relented and lifted the ban - not knowing, Brendan charged into the TV room where Scotland were playing Germany and tried to drag me out - at which he found himself being dragged out by Dougie Dowling. This event was to signal my one and only move for that year, when I moved over to the Sports Hall block with Chris 'Oily' Oliver, who would have been completely harmless were it not for a gammy finger and a proliferation of some of the most vicious acne I had ever had the displeasure to see. I was to later hear that Mark 'Mong' Young, who had taken my place on Warriner's corridor, had been subjected to much the same childish victimisation that I had been.
The remaining months were to pass without incident, save for the time when the rather infamous 'workaholic' Olu Jinadu decided to play peek-a-boo from under the bed, with little to be seen other than a set of bright white teeth. He started throwing everyone's shoes about, and my response was to try and land a size-six leather on his head. Unfortunately, I missed - and succeeded in sending the shoe through the window, where it landed next to Mr Phil who had been walking below, accompanied by the distinctive tinkle of broken glass. The result: two weeks trolley duty for all concerned. Much of that summer was taken up by the World Cup - the competition best remembered by England's dodgy quarter-final exit to Argentina and the infamous 'handball Maradona' incident - a game which myself, Mike Burrows and Darren Weeks watched on a crappy black and white television in that secret little room above the kitchen.
The Fifth Year
My final year at Quantock School was to be without doubt the best of the three I spent at there. Back in the old building and the upper section of Warriner's corridor (52 Dorm) I had at last found in Murray Crane a dorm-mate whom I could put up with (and vice-versa), and the corridor was for the most part populated with people with whom one could get along without incident - even the end dorm, whose residents included perennial trouble-makers Matthew Urmston, Olu Jinadu, Mark Williams and Jace Guillory. I guess they must have been spending their time searching for that solitary brain cell that was somewhere in the room.
I had since the third year been captain of the chess, backgammon, snooker and quiz teams, leading Fleming house more often than not to success and valuable points in the long-running battle against our Coleridge rivals; the fifth year was to see me cement my position as one of Fleming's leading lights as House Secretary and custodian of the statistics. As had been the case for much of my time in the old building, many evenings were spent at the snooker table; the marathon competitions with Rob Tyler went beyond anything seen at even the Crucible, he armed with his Cliff Thorburn special edition cue and I with my Steve Davis 'autograph'. Rob and I had been engaged in a best of 55 match (modelled on the World Championships of the 1970s) and never quite reached the end - so here's a message to Rob or anyone out there who knows him if you are reading this - the challenge is still on (well a best-of-three at least)...
Of course, there were the others who often rose to the challenge - Brendan Wood (who used to always get annoyed at my Dennis Taylor-style finger wagging and air punching when I beat him), Mark "Spuddy" Williams (completely unrelated to the twice World Champion of the same name), Wolfgang Dunn, Gary Vincent and Toby "Doug" Mountjoy, a gangly chap with a sloth-like movement around the table that reminded one of his Welsh snooker-playing namesake and a bridging style so distinctive that it could only be his own. And then of course there was Mr Peaster himself, who usually used to lay down the gauntlet on Saturday evenings.
The rather intense science exam 'competitions' that I found myself embroiled in with Michael Burrows were to play a major role in his and my academic success; I can still visualise those moments immediately after the posting of the exam results - and the resulting rush to see which of us had finished top of the pile with a ninety percent plus mark. This friendly competition was to create a friendship that has lasted well after our leaving Quantock. In addition to the time I spent at the snooker table, I now also spent a lot of time engaging in marathon Trivial Pursuit matches with Mikey, usually head to head but occasionally in the company of some of the teachers, particularly 'Psycho' Peters and Mr Jeffrey, the Kiwi computer studies teacher.
During this time I and some others also set up a business venture, which though highly successful was forced to close within hours. In a burst of corporate enthusiasm the sort of which was well known among those 'in the know' at Quantock, myself, my dorm-mate Murray Crane, Mike Burrows and "Spuddy" Williams ventured down to Stowey one Saturday afternoon, and proceeded to clear the local Spar of its supply of hot dog sausages and bread finger rolls. This stockpile was supplemented with ketchup and mustard that had been craftily obtained from the kitchen. After a brief but successful local advertising campaign Jubs from left, right and centre were flocking to 'No. 52' to get hold of a genuine Quantock hot dog - something even Wally's kitchen couldn't provide. The head clearly noticed the lack of customers at his tuck shop, and there were few surprises when Mr Phil came round to shut us down, ostensibly for 'hygiene' reasons - which was a load of baloney (pardon the pun) in any case as even he knew that processed hot dog sausages could be eaten straight out of the can! Still, we were able to keep our profits, and very profitable it had been.
And so Quantock School economics mirrored the real world: while the long-established trades - such as that of illicit pornographic literature - went on unchecked, our small hot dog business was forced to shut down. Maybe the head regretted this decision in subsequent years, for in his introduction to the next edition of the prospectus - a rather less Victorian piece of work, it must be said - he placed clear emphasis on "encouraging individualism and enterprise".
One saving grace was that the hot dog exercise got further and proved more profitable than Simon Henderson's makeshift cider still, which chose to explode at a rather inopportune moment - a few hours before one of Phil's Saturday morning inspections. No amount of deodorant could remove the distinctively stale smell - I cannot remember what punishment Henderson actually received, but I am certain it would have involved some time wheeling dirty trolleys to and from the kitchen...
Summertime soon came, and with it the inevitable final year examinations. Our year were the 'last of the O-levellers', and the months of May and June brought with it a kind of tension we have never previously experienced. The exams soon came and went however, and before I knew it I was facing my last few days at Quantock School. And as I passed through those fabled gates in my parents' car for the final time, heading towards what I then thought was freedom, I was incredibly happy. It was only after getting home and finally realising that this was going to be different from any normal holiday that the reality really struck home: I was not going to see many of those people again. It felt like a piece of me had been torn away. There had been much written in the prospectus that I find difficult not to laugh at when reading it today; there is one line, however, that will always ring true:
Quantock children are proud of their school and it becomes a very important part of their life. In later years many return to see 'how we are' and for them it is like returning home.
In spite of what the school has now become, I would like to believe that one day we could again say this with a clear conviction.
After leaving Quantock, I changed the emphasis of my studies from Chemistry and Maths to History and Politics (apologies here to both Doc Peters and Mr Coldwell!) and got three A-levels before going onto Brunel University in Uxbridge (not to be confused with Brunel College, where Phil went!) where I got a 2:1. In 1995 I moved into the insurance industry with GE Capital where I stayed for four years becoming a nine to five middle manager, whereafter I took the plunge and moved into the wonderful world of the Internet and IT contracting, where I have been ever since.
I was until early 2001 living in the sticks of North-East Hampshire, but am now domiciled in the London surburbs with my girlfriend Caroline, where I am running my own web design consultancy and fishing for clients. Or at least I'm trying to do that.