This is the extraordinary first-hand account of Tory leader David Cameron's Eton Schooldays. In this cracking yarn, which also happens to be entirely fictional, veteran journalist Bill Coles reveals how Cameron's first year at Eton College helped turn him into one of the wiliest political operators of his age. These spoof memoirs include revelatory details of Cameron's early life as a porn-dealer and paparazzo. The novel may perhaps contain valuable insights into the mind of the man who is on the threshold of becoming the first Old Etonian Prime Minister in more than four decades.
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Dave Cameron's Schooldays
By Bill Coles, Alan McGowan
Legend Press LtdCopyright © 2010 Bill Coles
All rights reserved.
Spread evenly over my backside are four white stripes, each of them about six inches long. Sometimes when I come out of the shower, I catch a glimpse of those stripes in the mirror. The scars are slightly discoloured now, like old war wounds.
Those stripes are a memento of my education at Eton. I earned them within my first few days at the school, and the caning was so severe that I needed a full fortnight of treatment before the wounds had even begun to heal. But what a treatment! What a nurse! She alone was worth every second of the agony.
When I see those stripes today, they evoke so many memories for me. I only have to close my eyes and I can almost taste the leather belt being stuffed into my mouth; can feel my arms being pinned down to the table; the sound of running footsteps before I hear this very odd noise – like a wet fish being slapped onto a slab. Then, a tingling in my bottom that quickly grows to the most burning throb. Each stroke is counted off and, at the end of it all, the dismal offer of a handshake to show that I have taken my beating like a gentleman.
That was the manner in which I came by those stripes, and there has not been one single girlfriend who has not gasped in amazement when she's seen them. How they loved to hear the story of that caning; none of them could ever quite believe that sort of barbarity was still occurring at Eton in 1979. But it was, indeed it was, and my scars are the living proof of it.
The caning though was only the start of it. For what then followed in my first year at Eton was some of the most systematic bullying that a 14 year old boy has ever been subjected to. At least Tom Brown, during his legendary schooldays, only had Flashman to contend with. For myself, it sometimes felt like almost every senior boy in the house was intent on grinding me into the dust.
But I would not change it; would not change a single moment from my first year at school. For although the caning and all that came after it were beyond horrific, they were to set into motion the most extraordinary chain of events. And who knows where that chain will lead me – with luck and a following wind, I may even be in 10 Downing Street before my 45th birthday.
So this story is an explanation of how I became a Conservative. For the truth is that when I arrived at Eton as a callow 14-year-old, I could not have cared one jot for the Tories.
Most people tend to think that, because I'm from a family of blue-bloods, I've always been a Conservative. But this was not the case. And, as for politics itself, I cannot recall a single subject in my curriculum that was quite so monumentally tedious as 'political science'. As far as I was concerned the whole of Westminster could have drowned in its own ordure: I detested the lot of them.
What a sea-change I was to undergo. By the end of my first year, I had become the most diehard Conservative that you've ever met; Christ, I must have been insufferable. There's nothing on God's earth that's quite so repellent as a young Conservative who's seen the light.
And the catalyst was that first caning when I was to experience the most savage pain that had ever been inflicted on me. So: a brutal caning helps turn an Etonian into a Tory – who ever would have thought it?CHAPTER 2
Mind you, at least my first caning was only witnessed by a handful of people – unlike the poor old 'School Dunces'.
This was the formal name for ... now how can I put this politely, since I know that at least one junior Royal has borne the title? The School Dunces, as they were formally known, were basically the thickest boys in Eton. The title was awarded each year to the ten boys who had achieved the worst O-Level results during the previous summer's exams.
I'd heard all about it – and was greatly looking forward to the show. It was like they were putting on a special circus just to make us all feel welcome. All the new boys filed into Upper School, gawking about us at the busts of the old boys on the wall. Quite a few Prime Ministers up there too, you know – 18 as I remember it, but fingers crossed that figure may imminently need some slight amendment.
All the new boys – the F-tits as we were known because we were all Effing useless – were dressed up in jacket and tie. Behind us were well over a hundred Beaks, including the unmistakable bald dome of my Tutor, Tam Maguire. They were drumming their feet in unison as the Senior Master downed a yard of Theakston's Old Peculier. The Headman, togged up in gown and mortarboard, came on to give some dreary speech. But he knew – and we knew – that he was only the warm-up act. We couldn't wait!
Finally, he drifted to an end and bawled those four memorable words that have been declaimed at the Thrashing of the Dunces for nigh on 400 years: "Pour encourager les autres!" ['To encourage the others!' Voltaire pinched the line for Candide.]
The ten Dunces, dressed up in Eton tails, were escorted the length of Upper School by four gnarled Watchmen. What an extraordinary snapshot of Eton life: some proud, some cocky, some even with carefree smiles on their faces. But the one that I particularly noted was the tail-end Charlie, who was white and shivering with terror; even then I thought that he was putting on a pretty poor show. It was only a bloody beating, after all.
I wormed my way through to the front to get a good view of the flogging. The Eton beating block, black with age, was brought onto the stage. The electric frisson rippled through the assembled new boys as we let out a collective gasp! "Coo-eee!"
One by one the Dunces were led onto the podium. They would be offered the choice of the Wad or the Bullet – of which more later – and would adopt the position, bending over the block. I was fascinated.
I had seen many beatings before at my prep school, but nothing to touch the wonderful stoicism of those 16-year-old Etonians.
All save the last. He had been getting more and more nervous as the nine other Dunces were thrashed in front of him. When it came to his turn, he was wriggling like a ferret. The Watch had no option but to hold him – actually hold him! – down on the block. The ignominy of it. He was screaming so much that they just shoved the Wad straight into his mouth.
The Caner selected a fresh cane from the rack and gave it a few practice swishes in the air. "Oooo!" we all cried. This was going to be fun.
"Tails up!" called the Keeper of the Watch, and the terrified Dunce's tails were flicked over his head. The Caner counted off his paces along the rostrum, like a bowler measuring his run-up. After a nod from the Keeper of the Watch, he turned, took six smart steps and delivered the most thundering crack to the Dunce's bottom. I was there, right up close to him. It looked like his bulging eyes were going to pop out of his head. "One!" cried the Keeper of the Watch.
Six blows he had in all and by the end you could practically see the steam coming off his trousers.
"I can see blood!" squeaked one boy.
"He's blubbing!" squealed another.
The Dunce shook the Caner's hand but – shamefully – did not even thank the man for his pains.
What an introduction to Eton. Talk about living history! There it all was, being acted out right in front of our very eyes. As we wandered back to our houses, even the narkiest new boys were beginning to appreciate the awesome spectacle they had just experienced.
My Tutor Tam Maguire was all eagerness to discuss the thrashing when he visited my room in Farrer House that evening.
Now, as Maguire has some small bearing on my story, I suppose I should give him the benefit of a little descriptive detail. He shaved his head every morning and was as bald as an egg. He liked to tell us that his pasty white pate "shone with the light of the wisdom of the ages", though for myself I always thought he looked like a skinhead at a funeral, having somehow managed to strap himself into a dark suit, wingcollar and white bowtie.
Because Maguire had no hair, his head never changed from one year to the next. If he'd had a bit of botox, he'd have looked exactly the same even 30 years later; especially if he were dead. Bulbous shining eyes that seemed to bulge out of their sockets when he became excited; snaggly teeth that were always in need of repair; and, now that I think of it, a rather queeny manner – not that there's anything wrong with that.
"Did you like the ... the Thrashing of the Dunces, David?" he said, as he patted the space next to him on my fold-down bed. "I love a good Thrashing! I have not missed a single one in 20 years! Not one! I think there could be no better start to the school year. But 'twas a very poor show indeed from the last Dunce and he should be not a little ashamed of himself. Ashamed!"
He patted the bed again, a little tetchily this time. "David, come join me!" Pat-a-pat-pat, went his wrinkly old hand. And – isn't it funny how these delicious details come back to you? – it was said that he had more hairs on the backs of his two hands than on the entire rest of his body.
"Now we – we are going to get to know each other very, very well indeed over the next five years. I might even get to know you better than your own sister; think on that, David!" Then he said something that I have never heard uttered from another human's lips – not before and not since either. It was, I suppose, one of his catchphrases. "Hooo-hooo-hooo, David," he cried, eyes starting to bulge a little with excitement. "Hooo-hooo-hooo!"
"Yes Sir." I sat down next to him on the bed, and for a while he just sat there, this big grin on his face as he nodded and nodded his head – looking for the life of him like a starved mongrel that's been presented with the most enormous bone.
"Now before I flit, I fly, I wish to raise two small matters which have, for some unaccountable reason, not been covered in the school rules." He clapped his hairy old hand on my knee. "The first is on the matter of choking the chicken."
Maguire furrowed his brow a little, pulling at his lower lip. "Ah, well – perhaps you know it by another name, David. It is also called Onanism. Dancing with Mrs Palm and her five daughters – have you heard of that? Beating your bologna? Dancing the two-fisted tango?"
I looked at the man in utter incomprehension.
"Umm," he said, eye-lashes fluttering. "It has other names too – now let me see. Draining the vats? Firming the worm? A hand shandy? Jerking the turkey? Ahhh ... Perhaps you know it as making the piggy squeal? Or even pulling the pork stick?" "Oh yes, Sir!" I piped. "You mean wanking?"
"Ahh, er, yes," he said, perhaps a little taken aback by my obvious eagerness. "Well, what I would like to make clear, David, is that, ahh, wanking, as you call it, is nothing less than an abomination! An abomination! It is a sin against nature! It saps your life force. And, worse than that, it is such a waste of your delicate little botty!" (A slip of the tongue, I'm sure of it.)
"Yes Sir!" I said, eager to pledge my delicate little botty to the cause.
Maguire nodded his pleasure, delighted to have found such a willing disciple. "I have done my best, David, to root out this abomination from the House. Root it out! Root, Root, Root, that's what I do! And while I am still its Tutor, there shall be no masturbation in Farrer Houser! It was rife – rife! – before I took over the running of Farrer, but now I believe that we are a masturbatory-free zone. My fight against it is ceaseless and I will not – I will not! – tolerate the new boys bringing any of their filthy prep school habits into Farrer!"
Here he sniffed the air deep into his lungs. His eyelids flickered shut and his tongue tipped out over his thin lower lip, like an old snake scenting the air. "I always know when it's about!" he shrieked. "I can smell it! I can smell it out with my own nose!"
I goggled at him for a bit. He'd somehow latched his hand onto my knee and was pummelling my leg like a piece of dough.
"But what I shall have instead in this house, David, is honour. Honour!" Maguire suddenly left off my leg to start prowling round my room. He went over to my burry and sniffed; sniffed at my ottoman; and then started sniffing at all the posters I'd tacked up on the wall. Satisfied that my room still remained a wank-free zone, he stood before me, hands behind his back, legs astride.
"Now on the matter of honour, David." His Adam's Apple started to wobble, and I suddenly realised he was choking up. "Some people deride honour as a dead thing. A thing of the past! I, however, know that it is very much of the present! And I believe, David, that there are two kinds of honour. There is the honour of your own person. And, over and above that, there is the honour of the school. I like to call it your Eton honour."
Maguire did a little skip on the spot before prancing six steps over to the window. "In this house, I operate what I like to call the Maguire Code of Honour. I take things on trust. If a boy pledges his Honour, or indeed his Eton Honour, then I will believe him. 'Tis a small matter for some, but for myself I believe that, above all else, Honour is the paramount virtue of an Eton schoolboy!"
"Yes Sir!" I piped with gusto; if Maguire wanted to take things on trust that sounded pretty all right by me.
"Some boys, however, they are without honour. Even boys in my own house!" He opened the door and wistfully shook his head. "There is one boy, BJ – I fear he has no honour; in fact, I very much doubt he ever had it."CHAPTER 3
BJ. Nowadays, of course, he's known as something rather different. But when I first met him, he was simply BJ, and that – despite all his various other titles – is how he will always be to me.
It's so funny to see this man, this great golden bear, today and to compare him to the wild firebrand that he was 30 years ago. How different we were. For me, there has been this gradual metamorphosis over the past 30 years as I have emerged into a political player. But BJ: he always had it, had it right from his very first year at Eton.
Sometimes I see him looking at me across the room and I know that he would do anything to swap places. For here I am on the verge of having the job that was his destiny and BJ knows that he has been slightly sidelined. Without doubt, he has power and he has influence and he has crammed more into his 45-odd years than most people could fill in five lifetimes. And yet in all my dealings with him, I am aware of this slight air of melancholy and envy. Although it has never been stated, we both of us know that I am about to win the job for which he had always seemed preternaturally destined.
Maybe one day, after I'm long gone from the political scene, he'll have one final hurrah – like Churchill when his career as a politician seemed dead and buried. I'm not sure how good he'd be. BJ does have an astonishing talent for putting his foot in it.
Anyway, it is to BJ that I owe so much of my life. It was BJ who was to set me on the path of modern Conservatism. And it was thanks to BJ that I came within a whisker – an absolute whisker – of being killed. Mind you, he nearly got me expelled from Eton, so compared to that, death was relatively small beer.
We laugh about it now, when we are in our cups and there is nobody about to overhear our tall tales. For the moment, it is my turn in the sun. But then, when I was 14-years-old, BJ wasn't just basking in the sun's rays; he was the sun itself, around whom the whole of Eton's firmament revolved.
Of course none of us know how things will turn out: which events in our lives turned out to be pivotal, and which were nothing more than bumps along the track. But if there'd been no BJ, my first year at Eton would have been much more mundane. I would not have lost at least two of my nine lives and, but for BJ, I would not now be on track to be the first Old Etonian Prime Minister in over 40 years.
What an extraordinary introduction I was to have to this man-mountain, this sizzling fire-cracker of a human being, this enormous, unquenchable, unstoppable force of nature.
The first I heard of it was not just a shout, but a roar. It was the day after Maguire's lecture on the dangers of wanking. I was sitting lonely in my room thinking that I'd much rather be at home – home at Peasemore with my parents and with Caroline, the local girl whom I was sweet on. ]C
Excerpted from Dave Cameron's Schooldays by Bill Coles, Alan McGowan. Copyright © 2010 Bill Coles. Excerpted by permission of Legend Press Ltd.
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