There we no girls for three years, and then there were girls...
I like things that work, even in difficult circumstances. I like doing gigs, even when I'm fucking dying. I'm trying to do a website and I want it to be real cutting edge. I like pushing things like that. We do merchandising on the tour and I want to make the t-shirts so they last. Quality.
So, St Bede's. It was a good place. The head teacher there was a decent guy but he had a strong thing about not putting me in plays. I went back and harangued him recently: 'You didn't let me be in any plays.' 'Oh, I'm sorry.' 'But you didn't let me be in any plays!' 'I didn't know...' 'Why not?!' I have a big love if the South Downs now. They're kind of bonkers. On the north side they don't have any cliffs, they just slope off like a big-steep-forward-roll-possible-all-the-way-down type of hill.
At thirteen, I went to Eastbourne College, but I had to take the first Saturday off because my dad remarried, which I thought was fun. I missed French. 'Sorry I missed French last week, my parents got married.' In my first year I was taught about the slide rule. They said 'The slide rule is important. Without it you can do nothing. The slide rule is the modern weapon of efficiency. With the slide rule you can get from here to the stars. Buy it, use it - your slide rule!' Within one year it was, 'Burn the slide rule. The calculator can add up with none of this fucking sliding the shit around and working out where that bit in the middle goes. Smash it over your head.'
I had a nice plastic slide rule and everything slid up and down and you would put this bit there and move that bit up and - ah! Approximately 1400. Some it couldn't do it, and it would just approximate things. I saw a film where they were all going round in spacecraft and they were doing it all with slide rules. 'How far is Pluto?' 'Approximately 1400, sir.' At my first Eastbourne school a fifth of the pupils were girls. Maybe a quarter. At this school, there were no girls for three years, and then there were girls. So it was just...odd. At sixteen there were girls again but only one girl to every ten boys, so packs of spotty boys would follow these girls around and carry their...everything. Literally put them on a litter and carry them around. So I didn't talk to girls for a whole year. I thought, 'I'm not going to be able to pull. I can't say I'm in the first team. 'Only by the end of the year I had started using my wit. I could say, 'Yes! I am from outer-space!' Or some such shit.
I believe in co-education all the way, although boys benefit more. Boys tend to say to girls, 'You're not working, are you?' and put them off.
At my last boarding school, they had compulsory cadet things. This was all marching about, running about on hilltops hiding from people and going 'Bang' It seemed like a great game of Cowboys and Indians, if not terribly real. I was brought up on these books about the war. I know war is hell, but I sort of wanted to be involved in that struggle. It was something to do with not taking in the reality of it all, but the derring-do. Derring-do? That sounds really crap - but the running jumping climbing standing still part of it, that was the reason I wanted to be in the army, The reality is that apart from the Second World War, most wars are politically messy. The Second World War was straightforward, 'These guys are bastards and they're trying to invade everywhere. Let's stop 'em and let's defend our country.' So I link up on that patriotism.
I went on a special course, where I was kind of disillusioned, because I didn't do very well. I was in this group and we weren't winning things, until we did orienteering, which I was great at from the Scouts. There's a whole logic of map-reading: you take a bearing and then you've got to follow that bearing even if you think you're going wrong. Because even though the compass is pointing in one direction, you tend to think, this isn't the right fucking way, but then you're just lost. So with orienteering we did all right.
We did an ambush exercise. We were all in the back of this army truck going along. There were three trucks, and they stopped. One guy who had done this kind of thing before, said 'It's an ambush! Run for it!' So everyone leapt out of the trucks and started haring out into the undergrowth. And then some sort of colonel type came by and said, 'Look, you're not supposed to run away! We're back in Blighty.' 'No, you're not. You're all caught. And you have to go to the concentration camp.' We got taken to a 'concentration' camp. Concentration camp's a big word for it. It was like a walled, barbed-wire, enclosed area, and we were all supposed to crouch down on our haunches, so it gets really achy on your legs, with your hands behind your head. And then we worked out, 'We're supposed to escape from here, 'so after a while somehow some of us got out. And then these soldiers would chase you, shooting blanks at you, and you had to try and hit them with bits of wood. It was all very basic.
There was this paratrooper guy there and I tried to talk to him. I said, 'So what's it like being in the army?' and he said, 'Fuck off.' So I thought, well...I appreciate you bringing me on and encouraging me. There was this other kid who had been on this cadet course. He got promoted and I didn't. I just thought, this is kind of arbitrary, isn't it? I knew that I'd done just as well as him. Because I thought the idea was if you showed willing and went on this course, you'd get more stripes and all this kind of stuff.