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Among the goys and philistines

5 April 2003

12:00 AM

5 April 2003

12:00 AM

A Spoilt Boy Frederic Raphael

Orion, pp.291, 14.99

For some reason, almost every time I plunge into too hot a bath I find myself thinking of my days as a public schoolboy – presumably a ‘tosh’ must have been one’s principal pleasure at an impressionable age – and more often than not a half-remembered line from Frederic Raphael’s haunting School Play, shown on television many years ago, flickers across my mind. ‘Are you trying to burn my ballocks off?’ (or words to that effect), demands the rather Simon Ravenish senior boy (played by Denholm Elliott) of his junior (Michael Kitchen), who has drawn the bath as part of his fagging duties.

As Raphael explains in a terse footnote at the end of this slightly heavy-going ‘memoir of childhood’, the ‘unnamed school was a metaphor for England itself: the boys never left their Alma Mater, but stayed on, emulous for


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