Wednesday, June 22, 2016

School Daze and not being nice

Facebook occasionally sends you odd bits of information about your 'friends' and today it notified me that Mr Nick Futter (proprietor of Boot Hill Miniatures, whose lovely Mexicans decorate the top of my page) went to the same school, Hampton, that I did.  I haven't met Mr Futter, although it is not beyond the realm of possibility in the future, as I believe Eric the Shed is a mutual friend.  Anyway, I dug out some more of his Mexicans to have a look at and may try to get some paint on them shortly.  This will also give me the excuse to update another of my neglected blogs, Americas Wargaming.

Looking up my school on Google, to find a picture of it for this Post, I discovered that Daniel Pemberton, composer of the soundtrack to Prehistoric Park, which I featured in yesterday's post on music I listen to while painting prehistoric figures, also went to my school!  The school produced a number of quite well known musicians, including Paul Samwell-Smith, who, the year after leaving the school, formed The Yardbirds with another Hampton pupil, Jim McCarty.  Murray (One Night in Bangkok) Head was also a pupil as was Brian May of Queen.  On the classical side, renowned harpsichord player Thurston Dart also went to Hampton and he must have been there at about the same time as my Uncle Wally in the thirties. Swashbuckling actor Tyrone Power's father (also called Tyrone Power and also an actor) also went to Hampton.

This picture of the school was taken in 1949, just over ten years after it was built.  The previous school building was down by the Thames but in 1938, when my uncle was there, they moved to this new building just over a mile away.  No need for removal firms, they made the boys carry all the furniture from one site to the other,  The depressing thing is that this picture was taken much closer to the time when I started there (1971) than any of the modern shots of the buildings I looked at.  This is almost exactly how it was when I went there (another floor for the library had been added over the one story library at bottom right) whereas today there have been a  huge number of large additions.  The air raid shelters in the bottom right of the grounds (bottom centre) were still there when I started although they were later demolished to make way for some tennis courts when I was there.  The school my daughter attended is just out of shot to the right.

This shot gives an idea of the size of the playing fields (shaped like a number one).  If you were too uncoordinated for football and rugby, like I was, you did cross-country, which involved running around the perimeter of the field,which was just about a mile.  A very easy option for the non-sporty ,although this was about three quarters of a mile further than I liked to run (I ended up, to my surprise, a Southern Counties ranked 400m runner). Inevitably, bringing up the rear during cross-country would be myself and my friend Brookbank, walking and talking about wargaming the Western Front with our Airfix figures.  

I have visited the school a couple of times fairly recently, as my daughter had careers evenings there when she was at the school.  Oh how she laughed at the pictures of me in the school photos from 1972 and 1977, still on display in the corridors.  This shot of the school today shows the English department on the left which was built in the last year I was there and the language department (white bit) built as a second floor a few years before that.  I often had French lessons in the dark and depressing Upper Tower Room with my nemesis at the school, Boyo, the French teacher.  He wasn't really called Boyo, of course, but he was Welsh and I couldn't understand his English let alone his French.  I hated French, even more than I hated Maths and Physics and that is saying something.  To this day I cannot understand how on earth anyone can learn a foreign language.  It just seems impossible to me unless you are very, very young.  I am afraid I (unfashionably) genuinely believe that some people process certain subjects better than others because of the way their brains work. Maths, languages, art and music need some innate gift, I think.  I have always been able to draw from a very young age, for example. I have no problem in drawing a proportional representation of a figure from memory but I just can't learn languages. I was top of the year in History and English and second from bottom in French.. Just looking at the pictures of the tower bring back all the horror of French verbs.  I suppose that one of the things that held me back was that in the trendy early seventies we weren't taught English grammar so learning foreign grammar was impossible.  What on earth is a past participle, anyway?


I do wonder if it is the same part of my brain that fails to comprehend languages that means I cannot understand or remember wargames rules. Or maybe it's the bit that controls Maths.  Someone on The Miniatures Page (I think) was asking the other day if being good at maths helped you win at wargames.  Some people claimed it did.  But anyway, my actuary friend Bill would say that there is a big difference between maths and arithmetic.  Maybe it's incipient dementia.  All the tests for dementia are not, as you might thing, memory tests but are non verbal reasoning tests.  Gaming, it seems to me, is non-verbal reasoning and I am not a reasonable person.  This is why I hate boardgames as I can't understand the appeal of games with no figures!

Nothing can make maths fun

I have recently discovered a waste of time website called Quora which winds me up nearly as much as The Miniatures Page.  People post (usually inane) questions and forum members attempt to answer them.  The other week someone asked how they can get their children to enjoy maths and I posted to the effect that you can't and it's a horrible subject anyway.  Now, Quora works on a voting up or down system and I had noticed that most of my answers got one or two upvotes (not that I care) at most, while other people's got dozens, hundreds or even thousands.  My Maths answer got no upvotes so I assumed there were lots of mathematicians looking at the question (as you would expect).  I then posted an answer on another subject that got hundreds of upvotes. What was the difference?  I realised that Quora users like positive, happy answers.  "Hey, that's cool you want your children to learn about maths! Here are some games") etc.  I began to realise that I am not a positive, happy person.  This is also a discussion lurking around in the edges of the Brexit debate. "Hey, let's all just be nice to each other!"

I hate, happy, positive people because I think most of them are fake.  I have always been grumpy, because I  realised, at an early age (probably when I was at school), that most other people are self-centred and horrible (even if they pretend to be nice) and will do you down if given a chance.  This may be a variant of my pessimistic/optimistic personality.  Always assume something will go wrong because in the remote event it doesn't, it will cheer you up (at least, until the next disaster!)

No one looks happy at the American masters - probably because they realise that all their opponents are horrible

Again, on TMP this week, an American was giving his report on having been to his first UK wargames show (one of those northern ones, I think).  This brought forth a discussion on the differences between US and UK shows as regards participation games, with the Americans wanting to go to shows to play games.  I can't think of anything I would hate more than playing a game (where I wouldn't be able to understand the rules) with people I don't know (who are probably horrible, of course).

Speaking of games, I am sick of my favourite TV programmes (like last weekend's The Musketeers) being cancelled for football.  I also can't have my dinner with Eggheads today as Guy is watching the football.  I hate football nearly as much as I hate Maths.  It is just completely soporific most of the time and the whole culture around it is just ghastly.  I read an article once, at a time when football hooliganism in Britain was even worse than it is now, by an American psychologist saying that they had less crowd trouble in US sports because there are more opportunities for cathartic moments (i.e. points scoring) and that if you play a game for ninety minutes and no one scores of course the crowd are going to be wound up.

So, I have decided to keep posting negative things in the happy, world of Quora just to wind people up.  They need regular doses of realism amongst all the supportive, positive, lets be nice to each other hogwash.


  1. " Inevitably, bringing up the rear during cross-country would be myself and my friend Brookbank, walking and talking about wargaming the Western Front with our Airfix figures. "

    Talking wargaming and Airfix figures - pretty much my experience of cross-country running as well :)

    In my final few years of school you could pretty much drop Wednesday afternoon games and do local community service instead. So I still got to talk games with my friends, but this time whilst doing gardening or cleaning windows for an OAP.

    My children seem to have avoided sports altogether at school (aside from my son being flagged up as a competent swimmer, but having no desire to actually do it competitively). Once we emigrated to Oz, they got to do wonderful things like beach-walking - were he inclined he could have talked Airfix figures and wargaming whilst walking by the sea :)

  2. I enjoyed your ramble, and can concur on your overall grumpy sentiment and world view :)

  3. Anybody can be happy all the time. You really have to think about the world to be grumpy!

  4.'s why I hate (most) American's - everything is "awesome", and "have a nice day", and "you're welcome" when really they've already forgotten who you are before they even parrot the statement.... some American's (my blog followers, for example) are however, peerless... :o))

  5. Rather inclined to agree with a lot of that. They hadn't got any better at teaching participles in the '90s, either. I base my knowledge of English mainly on Latin and Greek, so I have been known to make arguments about language that are total gibberish. Definitely best to dodge Games; in our Sixth Form, one could go off site to do stuff. I never took advantage of this, though my brother had the excellent wheeze of getting a note signed to the effect that he was coming home to swim. So he got to watch a load of telly. :D

    My wholehearted sympathies on the cruel ubiquity of the tedious game.

    1. In the sixth form I was allowed to go home and loose a few arrows at the local archery club instead. There I met a nice girl from one of the local girls' schools and we learnt a lot together! None of it relating to sports.

  6. Surely you don't need to be so grumpy when you have all those lovely women in your life you are always telling us about! Sorry to disillusion you but I am one of those genuinely happy people who is not fake - after you recover from cancer the world's opportunities do look a lot rosier. But agree with you I can't understand why folks get excited about maths!

  7. Be happy, you have agreat blog. I really enjoyed reading your post... and not just because of the cheeky pic! ;)

  8. My dad was an old Hampton Grammar as it was called pupil during the war, until he died this year he could still recall his class in alphabetical order! He also was part of the school choir who sang in front of Vaughan Williams. Personally Hampton was a horrible school as they always beat my School (Halliford) Chess team by a country mile!! Our only team member who could win was achap who could work out logarithims in his head!

    1. How very nice to hear from you again! Chess was far beyond my poor brain!