Some schools produce great sportsmen, others great scholars, my alma mater serves up the UK's top flower arranger

Tom Winnifrith Wednesday 7 September 2016


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The latest gripping issue of The old Warwickian Magazine has arrived on my doorstep and amid the usual grainy old photos of the Warwick School boarding house back in the 1950s or photos of folks my age and older with ever expanding waistlines attending reunions all over the place, two features stand out.

There is a poignant one on the OWs who fell at the Somme. The myth about the first war is of a conflict where lions were led by donkeys and where the working classes were slaughtered en masse to pursue the imperial ambitions of the upper classes. In reality the soldiers that in percentage terms was wiped out in the greatest numbers were the 2nd Lieutenants, the young boys straight out of public school who lead the men over the top from the front. Play up and play the game...the memorial in the Warwick School Chapel to that war is horrific.

The other big feature is on the most famous OW of my generation a man called Simon Lycett who has become the UK's top celebrity flower arranger. Other schools may boast their sporting heroes, the great political figures or business behemoths. From our years we have Mr Lycett as, I think, our sole heavy hitting celeb.

Rather oddly Mr Lycett sees to have a real devotion for the old place. He was, even as a boy, camp as a row of tents and Warwick was a school where aggressively heterosexual rugger players ruled the roost and where flower arranging really was not quite the done thing. Lycett, who these days sports a quite ludicrous moustache, tells the magazine that "school life was not always easy and he developed a pretty tough carpace which he recognises today as being a fairly essential asset in life." I mention the moustache because I can't fault him for much else and someone should tell him how daft it looks.

I suppose that "not always easy" is one way of putting it. I can imagine that Mr Lycett's school life must, at times, have been bloody awful and miserable. Forty years ago Warwick was a place that revelled in a culture of sporting machismo where being a complete philistine and a bully with limited intellect was seen as something to aspire to not as a badge of shame. Being a bookish intellectual was viewed as sort of weird, I am sure you can imagine how uber-camp chaps who dreamed of being flower-arrangers were perceived.

But Lycett seems to have weathered it well and not to bear any resentments at all. All the more credit is due to him for that. And Warwick also deserves some credit for it too has clearly changed for the better.

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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