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The Old Warwickian arrives - a sleepless night as I have nightmares about that swimming pool

Tom Winnifrith
Friday 6 January 2017

The glossy magazine sent out to those who attended Warwick School arrived yesterday. For no particular reason I thumbed through page after page of the Old Warwickian reflecting on how the place had changed since my day ( 1976-86). I have written before of how I was physically (not sexually) assaulted by one master, Mr Eve and how I believe the school turned a blind eye to his activities against a number of boys over many years. Warwick has, to its credit, apologised and assured me that times have changed. I believe that they have. But I spent a sleepless night thinking of a photo from the current issue of the old outdoor pool which is where we swam when I attended.

There is a photo of a boy sitting in the pool reading a magazine in 1985. You can't make out the boy or the mag but I almost think it might be me. But it is not 1985 that I think of. As I lie in bed at night, especially in the cold, my right ankle stiffens. I twitch it and it clicks, a click that is sometimes loud enough for my wife to hear it. The pain is very minor but always there.

It was the ankle I turned horribly in what became my last game at London Irish so bad was the injury. But that was because, in part, it was a weak ankle. It was the ankle I turned playing basketball on a summer job while at University. It was a weak ankle then. And that all goes back to a day in 1977 when I was getting out of that pool and three boys rushed to push me back in.

My foot got caught between the iron bar that ran around the inside of the pool and the pool edge. I swallowed vast amounts of pool water as I struggled underwater. I got out of the pool somehow but could not walk properly fora good while. I remember that one of the boys was Petley R. The names of the other two I cannot remember. These days that would have been marked down as bullying and severe action would have been taken. I am sure that nine year old boys in Warwick's brand new heated indoor pool are supervised more closely today. The incident would not have happened in 2016.

In a way I dislike the new world world of safe spaces, health & safety and mollycoddling. I was a child who could roam free in the fields by our house or play unsupervised in a village playground. That was, I'm sure, a better way to bring up a kid than the way we do, in this country at least, today. But the brutality of Warwick School in the late 1970s did have its downsides.

I am sure that others at the school also have their share of painful memories. I see from my past writings that I referred to how "I twisted my ankle" in that pool. That is denial I suppose. The truth is that Petley R and two other boys twisted that ankle as they ( not unusually) bullied me and the master in charge was negligent. There you are: I am almost fifty let's be honest about what happened. 

Oddly the brutality of Warwick in days gone is not something that is ever reflected in the school magazine. As I lay in bed last night thinking about that photo and clicking my ankle more than a few came flooding back.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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