I’m a better runaway than David Hargreaves

David Hargreaves recently told in the Spectator his story of how he ran away from boarding school in 1974, and he considers this one of the best moves he’s ever made. I was tempted to buy the magazine because of this article (registration required, it’s free), but then realised I could read it for free on the Internet, so I didn’t bother. (You can’t do that with the leftie equivalent, the New Statesman.) Like Hargreaves, I also ran away from boarding school. This was in 1992, and the school was Kesgrave Hall, a supposedly special school for boys perceived as academically able but who had difficulties in other schools. The problem was that some of these boys were flat-out thugs and others were vulnerable people with social difficulties, and the latter group always wanted to get in with the former. I was sent there after being thrown out of two schools in Croydon in 1989 within the space of a few months, and stayed there until summer 1993 when I moved to Coulsdon College, which was a smart move (despite advice to the contrary) because Kesgrave Hall suddenly closed the following year, and boys who were on their break were picked up by social services and told to collect their things before the liquidators took them.

This incident took place a few months after the headmaster left at Easter 1992 (having seen the writing on the wall, some said), at a time when there was a lot of tension at the school. I’m not going to go into the details of what led up to my running away, but when the Headmaster told me to “take a walk”, I did - straight across Ipswich (by a back route where I reasoned no-one would look for me) to Copdock where I managed to hitch a ride to Newbury Park in east London from some guy in a posh car who said he worked for a company which drove famous people around, where I caught a tube train to the City, giving my address to the ticket officer at London Bridge, before calling my parents. It was late afternoon when I left the school, and it must have been about 11pm when I got home. And unlike Hargreaves who had 10p to his name, I had nothing - it sort of surprises me that I managed to walk all that way without any water in the middle of the summer.

I didn’t manage to get out of the school, though - I was driven back by my Dad two days later. By then exams were over, and only “project week” lay before the long summer holiday. I was warned that I might not be very popular as “all sorts of things were set in motion” when I left, which I never quite found out about. But the atmosphere had improved somewhat and there were no repercussions.

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