GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart (XXI)

Charmed And Charming

Regular readers will know what I mean when I say that my early life was not characterised by discord. The rules of the game were pretty simple: keep in Mumsy’s good books by dressing immaculately when we had guests and not disrupting her garden parties; keep in the Senator’s good books by studying one’s law text books and not speaking unless spoken to when dignitaries were at the house; keep out of the way of the head gardener when he was using sharp gardening implements; keep out of the junior gardener’s way when he was showing one of the maids around the potting shed; and doing whatever Nanny Eltham told me to do. Her word was law.

The system worked.

Then I commenced my time at Frencham and there were, as the younger people (many of them parents) now say, “boundaries”. It was clear what you were allowed to do and what you weren’t allowed to do. Which teachers were a soft touch and which were to be feared. Professor Rostov, the art teacher, fell into the first category, while Colonel Weston, English master and corporal punishment enthusiast, was most definitely in the latter category. He was known as the Black Death because he wore dark suits all year around, and because you were never really sure if he might go too far one day with a cane or strap or a cricket stump or the mathematics master’s foot-long blackboard ruler.

Colonel Weston liked me though. Everybody liked me. I did well in all my subjects, and I shot well on the rifle range, and won several medals in the inter-school swimming obstacle races. Other boys tried to copy the way I dressed. The way I did my hair became the official Frencham hair style – even those poor chaps with curly hair were forced to sweep back their unco-operative wiry, springy locks into what became known as an “Urqy”. I won several uniform neatness awards, which won’t come as a surprise, I’m sure.

In business I was always liked by my opponents, and I liked them too. It was about respect. It was also about long business lunches at Manfred’s, which we claimed as expenses. But there was one fellow. A gentleman I first encountered at the university where he made it his mission to outdo me in the regimental Mess and in the exam room and on the rugby field. He would win sometimes, but I never let that bother me – he obviously had to work so hard to compete that I viewed it as a complement. He never seemed to enjoy himself. He was never seen with a girl on his arm, while I stepped out with a series of earnest and buxom young Catholic women from St. Matilda’s College. I pitied him actually. His name was Malcolm Sinclair.

Some years later, Malcolm arrived at the finance company where I was working. He was to be my new boss. My possessions were packed up into some cardboard boxes and left outside in the corridor while I was at lunch. By the time I got back from Manfred’s it wasn’t my office any more. I had had a view of the Sydney Opera House, and a drinks cabinet, and now I had nothing. After all this time he still harboured a grudge. I left the building immediately and never returned.

A few years ago I sued him. My barrister was better than his, so I won that one anyway.

Published in: on June 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

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