All the Queen's Men

by N Fourbois

Part 2

New Beginning

Oscar thought he looked smart in his new school uniform: navy blue blazer, magnolia cotton trousers, black shoes, light blue shirt, navy tie with multiple Queen's crowns in silver. The dyed blond hair was a great success. He was pleased to get rid of the excess length and now that he had loose curls which no longer touched his neck he felt more comfortable. The months of washing with a recommended shampoo, followed by conditioner, had had the desired effect with better texture, body and a sheen. Even the hairdresser remarked on the difference.

Oscar and his family were shown to his dormitory, 'Alexander', named after Alexander the Great. Six 'stations', as he had seen on the open day. His was by the window. Two were already occupied. The idea was that they should all go across to the dining room for a welcome tea and to meet the academic staff. The parents then left and back in their houses the boys had the task of unpacking under the supervision of Matron, the Housemaster's wife and the domestic staff. Keeping them busy lessened the risk of homesickness. The old hands were not due back until just before supper time.

Tea over, Oscar walked with Alison and their grandparents to the car park. After hugs, the family climbed into the car and waved goodbye to Oscar as they drove off. Once they were out of sight Oscar punched the air and shouted out 'Yay!', much to the surprise of other parents and offspring there, but this was the first day of his new life and he was determined to enjoy it, put as much into it as he could and take as much out. What could be better for a gay boy than to be surrounded by seven hundred and forty-nine other boys, seventy-four of whom were gay and all of them attractive? Although that last proposition might be stretching things a bit too far.

Robert Bridges had taken possession, as was his privilege and right, of the Head of House's room at the top of Tippett House. Mr Forrester had invited him to come back for his Upper Sixth year a couple of days early to prepare for the new term and particularly the arrival of the new intake. He stared at the sealed C4 padded envelope lying on his bed. It was addressed to him, marked 'Private & Confidential' and had been sent by special delivery. His curiosity got the better of him. He carefully cut it open and took out a large notebook with spiral spine, marked again back and front with 'Private & Confidential'. Nothing else. He read the accompanying letter.

'My dearest Robert, congratulations on being appointed Head of House. I can think of no one better and you must be aware that the responsibilities you have taken on are over and above those of your nine fellow Hs of H, and more sensitive.

'This book contains the notes written by Hs of H in Tippett since it was founded and they are strictly, I repeat strictly , for your eyes only until you pass it on with your additions to your successor as I have done to you.

'Keep the faith, Robert. You have accepted a great responsibility for the well being of this very special house.

'I shall miss you sorely and my right fist is an inadequate substitute.

'Yours affectionately


Overcome by curiosity, Robert set to, reading the note book.

When Oscar returned to the house he found his four dorm mates. Four? Yes. As Matron explained, the house had not been filled because of its 'special nature', but it was not uncommon for boys, particularly new boys, to be transferred later in the Michaelmas term as they settled down. "Hi, guys, I'm Oscar." He immediately recognised the two who had allied themselves with him during the tour on Open Day. Toby he had sent a selfie to. He was slightly shorter than Oscar and had short blond hair. The other, Marcus, had black hair which contrasted sharply with his bright blue eyes. The other two, David and Christopher, were what Oscar would describe as 'ordinary', until he found out that David had the top academic scholarship of the year and that Chris was there on a music bursary. He played the piano to grade 8 standard and would be going on to learn the organ while he was at Queen's. Oscar was relieved that the Teapot was not in their dorm. He remembered that David could only come to Queen's if he won a scholarship. It would be much later in the year that Oscar learnt that they were the five biggest brainboxes in the House's third form and had been put together to act as an intellectual stimulus on each other.

The dining hall was the downside of boarding at Queen's. First each house was allocated its own suppertime Monday to Friday. The cafeteria system allowed the fastest throughput. Similarly at weekends, but at lunchtimes it was by year groups to encourage socialising between the houses. The other drawback was that you had to turn out in all kinds of weather, and darkness in winter, or starve. Tippett was fortunate in one respect. It was close to the main school buildings. The homophobe from the Open Day would have paid dearly in personal convenience for his choice of the house farthest away from Tippett.

Institutionalised 'Prayers' was the first time the whole House met. Apart from prayers it was an administration session concerning what would be happening over the next few days. The House staff were introduced and it was explained that the day to day running of the House was carried out by the senior boys. Afterwards the third formers had to stay behind for further instruction. Even in a purpose built house the common room could become quite crowded with the Housemaster, his family, three house tutors, Matron and seventy-two boys. Oscar felt relieved when the senior boys left. He also felt a hand on his shoulder and turned round to see Dominic Dumbleby. "Glad to see you made it, Oscar. Come up and see me some time. My new room is called Isherwood. They're named in alphabetical order. There might even be a cup of cocoa on the go." In his surprise Oscar let out one of his adolescent grunts, but Dominic was gone.

Mr Forrester welcomed the Third Year boys once more. He explained that during the first week school was a form of dummy run and that on Monday life would become serious. "In school you will most probably be addressed by your surnames. The house is your home and at home you would be expected to be called by your Christian or pet name, and that is the convention here. I believe one of you has acquired a nickname already." Everybody turned round and looked at the Teapot.

The staff left, committing fifteen third formers to the charge of the Head of House.

"Well, good evening, Third Year, and welcome to the Queen's School and more particularly to Tippett House. I shall expect you to google Sir Michael Tippett and find out more about him over the next few days."

"He was a modern composer who happened to be homosexual," interrupted Christopher, the music scholar.

"I am Robert Bridges, the Head of House. One of my duties is to oversee the smooth running of the House at resident level. More important than that, let me re-assure you that this has always been a happy house, perhaps down to the natural disposition that we all share. But more of that later.

"We don't want to burden you with too much information and so over the next few days you will, probably without noticing it, undergo an induction course. We try to differentiate between school and house. Think of us as family…" The Teapot tittered at the mention of 'family'. Unfazed Robert went on. "… and your fellows as brothers. Brothers sometimes quarrel and fall out, but ultimately they still remain brothers. Brothers watch each other's back.

"You will have a mentor from the Fourth Year to look after you. You'll know who he is before Monday. Remember he will still have his own mentor in the fifth year, and so on to the Upper Sixth. We have a close network of care, knowledge and experience.

"When you return to the house from school, you are at liberty to change out of your school uniform. If you see someone in full uniform after school, it usually means he has misbehaved.

"Which brings me on to security. On an open campus like this with seven hundred and fifty boys it is almost impossible to know everybody, harder still to recognise them out of uniform. At half past eight this evening a photographer will take everybody's photo and by breakfast you will receive a pass. It's also a swipe card, which you wear round your neck at all times outside the house. There may be certain exceptions. For example, it would be dangerous to wear it during a game of rugby. It will unlock the doors of the places you are permitted to go. If you see any strangers about the campus, particularly outside school hours, and they are not wearing a visitors' badge, report the fact to a member of staff or a prefect.

"Breakfast brings me on to meal times. Keep to them or you might find yourself starving.

"Finally, for the time being, on Saturdays and Sundays your time is your own, apart from attendance at chapel on Sunday after supper and if you are selected to represent the School in games. If you go off campus, you need to sign out and sign back in, which you can do with your ID swipe card at the lodge by the school gate. Again, that privilege may be withdrawn if you misbehave.

"Next weekend is an exception. You are confined to the school, firstly for games trials and secondly because it is the House Prefects' Shakedown.

"That's enough for now except to wish you all the best for your time at Queen's and we hope you will carry on the tradition of this being a happy school. Are there any questions?" The Teapot asked

"Can we choose our mentors?"

"No. They choose you."

"What's the House Prefects' Shakedown?" asked Marcus.

"The prefects in each house organise a number of activities designed for the 'newbugs' to get to know each other." At that the third formers left the common room and joined the queue for mugshots. Little free time remained before bedtime, which was all part of the plot to prevent homesickness.

At nine o'clock the third form boys had to be in their dormitory on nights before schooldays. Providing they did not disturb anyone else, the dormitories were granted autonomy as far as going to bed and lights out were concerned. Experience proved that this might happen quite late at first, but once the pressures of school were applied, the boys were too tired to stay up late. This was another privilege that could be withdrawn. The boys would not know this, but more than adequate soundproofing had been built into the residential areas, the windows were double-glazed and ventilation and temperature controlled by air conditioning. This was more than could be said about some of the converted houses.

With the passing of the nine o'clock curfew (lock down in Queen's parlance), the boys of Alexander the Great were finishing off stowing their belongings away. Emptied trunks and baggage were safely stored in the basement. A clean pale blue shirt was hanging in each wardrobe with a tie entwined round the hanger. Through the general hubblebubble Marcus spoke up. "Okay, lads, we know each other's names and that's about it. How about if we introduce ourselves, say where we come from, why we're here, a bit about our families and anything else you think is important. I'll start." From that moment Marcus became the natural leader in the dorm, which might have had something to do with his being head boy at his prep school.

As each took his turn, the boys became more confident and bolder in talking about themselves. Oscar was the first to say explicitly that he was at Queen's and in Tippett because he was gay. The fact that his parents were working abroad sounded almost irrelevant. This loosened the other boys' tongues about their sexuality. The biggest surprise came from Toby who spoke last. "My parents took me to see a lot of public schools. I even won a bursary to one of them, but I opted for Queen's. My parents were not over pleased when I turned down a bursary, but they had promised I could choose my school and they did not need the scholarship and perhaps there was another boy who did."

"So why did you choose Queen's?" asked David impatiently. David was the most intelligent of the five, maybe in the whole house, if not the school, but he did not tolerate fools gladly, as we were to discover, and he always wanted to get to the point.

"Hang on," said Toby. "I'm coming to that." With that riposte he established that although he was the smallest boy in the house, he could not be trampled over. Mentally and physically he would always hold his own whilst at that point none of us could foresee that he would become the first choice scrum half to represent the School in his age group over the next five years, and it only came out in due time that he had, after some negotiations between his father and the Headmaster been awarded a sports bursary.

Toby continued with his answer. "I liked the ethos."

"You mean the gay tolerance?" said David.

"I can't pull the wool over your eyes, can I? But the thing that swung it for me on Open Day was when I met Oscar." The other three immediately turned to stare at Oscar. He too had sensed that some ineffable bond had been forged on the day they first met, but only then did he realise that it was mutual, yet not how it would develop and flourish over the coming five years.

The Alexander quintet carried on with getting ready for bed. Oscar took his shirt off and stole a sly glance at himself in the mirror. He was pleased with the way his body had tightened up since that day he made the decision to work on his appearance. He liked the way that his new blond curls bounced as he moved about. He also discovered that looking in the mirror was an effective and clandestine method of boywatching, but he kept that secret to himself. He was torn from his reverie by Chris shouting out in a high pitched, camp voice "Does anyone want to see my cock?"

"Is it compulsory?" enquired David in a bored tone of voice, but when it came to it, he was just as interested as everyone else.

"Okay, girls, you asked for it," but instead of dropping his underwear, he took out his iPad and showed a picture of the cockerel his family kept at home to keep the chickens happy. The other four just threw whatever came to hand at him. "Hey, stop it. Only kidding. Look here." Chris ran his finger over the screen and indeed a picture of a penis appeared, quite a nice penis, uncut with half the glans showing, but it was impossible to judge the size from the photo.

"Okay, lads," said Marcus, "it's got to happen. Let's get it done and over with. Make a circle. Face inwards. On the count of three we all drop them. One, two… three!" To a man they pulled down their trousers and their underpants and displayed their equipment. Everybody revealed something of interest between their legs, but the most interesting observation was that the thickest, longest dick and the largest bollocks belonged to the smallest boy in the dorm. Oscar felt he stood up quite well in what had become an impromptu competition that showed his trimmed pubic hair, but after seconds he stood up very well indeed as his dick stiffened and rose to its full height. Toby apart, they all made noises of mock disgust and vomiting, while, Toby included, thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.

"After that I need a wank," said Toby. "I'm going to bed." He put his pyjamas and dressing gown on, went off to the washrooms for a final pee and to clean his teeth, returned, got into bed and drew the curtain. "Anyone want to join me? If you do, knock first," but there were no takers that night. His was not the only station from which heavy breathing emanated.

The piercing ring of an electric bell in the dormitory woke Oscar and his four fellows on the dot of seven o'clock. Although it lasted only ten seconds, no one was going to sleep through it, certainly not all five. Despite the air conditioning the air was heavy with a foetid smell that had emanated from adolescent boys' bottoms. Marcus was first out of bed and he threw the windows open. Oscar's first thought was Summoned by Bells , even though he knew Betjeman was referring to a soft church bell, not to a shrill school alarm. If it had been a fire alarm, the bell would still have been ringing until it had chased every occupant from the place. Now the boys were being faced with the realities of boarding.

Chapel, Headmaster's assembly, break, dispatch to form rooms for the distribution of timetables, books and stationery. New friends to be made from other houses, and the real test of the system, arriving in the dining hall at the right time and being fed. Oscar and Toby teamed up automatically, helped by the fact that they were in the same form and had almost identical timetables. Chris, David and Marcus were in the same form, but sought their personal salvation individually. Two other third formers were sitting at their table, but so early in term and in a year group of some one hundred and fifty, they were but ships passing in the night, and by dint of the fact that they were not in Tippett House must consequently be raving heterosexuals. After lunch games for all of the Third Form, not their normal games afternoon, but the games department was anxious to find the hearty sportsman and the reticent exerciser under the motto 'Sport for All', but it was just logical that a music scholar like Chris should not lay himself open to a broken finger which might end his musical career before it began. Toby was, along with the other sports bursary holders, a marked man and Oscar was pleased to find himself in the same squad, though he did wonder how long he would be able to hold his place. The changing room and showers would gradually reveal their several attractions over the coming term. Oscar and Toby deemed it wise to maintain silence concerning their membership of Tippett House unless specifically asked.

Games over, they returned to the house. No prep on the first night, consistent with no academic lessons. The next trial was testing the dining arrangements for supper. With the help of senior boys it worked, despite the unpleasantness of the rain that had come on. With Prayers at eight o'clock the first day in Tippett House had been successfully completed. After Prayers Oscar took up the invitation from Dominic Dumbleby to cocoa in his study. It was just general chat about the preceding twenty-four hours, how Oscar was settling in, what he thought of Queen's, how great his hair make-over was and what his dorm mates were like. The word 'gay' was not mentioned once. At five to nine Oscar thanked his host for cocoa, said good night and disappeared back to his dorm.

Arriving there, he discovered that he had just missed a fight between Toby and Marcus with an inconclusive result. Oscar was relieved. In the first instance he didn't like fights and in the second he had no wish to take sides, for like puppies about to separated from their mother, they were the first two who had moved to meet him. He found them both extraordinarily good looking and liked them both. David the Scholar, now usually called and referred to as 'Squalor', explained that this was quite natural as people newly come together would be seeking their place in the pecking order, some physically, some like himself intellectually. Oscar was pleased that when the two returned they had their arms round each other's shoulders, were laughing with Marcus holding a wet blood stained handkerchief to his nose and Toby holding a similar one to a cut above his eyebrow. Whether it had established their position in the pecking order, Oscar did not know, but these two boys had learnt not to mess with one another.

What was new quickly turned into routine and suddenly it was the weekend. Oscar with his fellows turned out in their rugby kit for trials which proved to be fitness training and after a light lunch skills assessment and training. He had played rugby at his previous school, among other sports such as soccer, hockey and in the summer athletics and cricket, but largely under the pedagogic precept of 'here's the kit, get on with it'. At Queen's he felt that he was actually being taught something and that his sports masters cared and wanted the pupils to improve. This motivated him, despite the discovery that a lot of his fellows had obviously had intensive training at their previous schools, particularly those who had come up from prep schools. Rugby training had its distractions. For some unaccountable reason boys looked more attractive in a uniform strip rather than in a motley collection of hand-me-down or bought-at-the-charity-shop kit. He was overwhelmed by the number of boys to be checked out, and in spite of the variety of alternatives he found himself strongly attracted to Toby. Seeing him in action just added to, even excelled, the natural beauty he exuded, whether in casual clothes or school uniform, or even when he had seen him naked on the first night.

At the end of the session Oscar and Toby made their way back to the changing room in their house. Only those selected for a school team used the official changing rooms in the pavilion. Oscar had already worked out that he was missing any opportunities of checking out his fellows from other houses. 'Perhaps I will try and win a team place after all,' he thought.

"Did you notice that there were quite a few missing from the afternoon session, Oscar?"

"I thought the numbers were down."

"They were the unfit ones," said Toby. "They're being put through special fitness courses." They reached Tippett House and went straight to the changing room which had been constructed in an outhouse. They went in and showered. There were already one or two from other years there who had finished their session. Oscar and Toby immediately became objects of interest, especially Toby since he was better endowed than many of the senior boys. He was obviously used to this attention and handled it by acting the tease, allowing occasional brief glimpses of the crown jewels, but disappointing anyone that showed excess interest. What took Oscar's attention though was that when Toby took off his shorts, it revealed that he was wearing a pink jockstrap.

"You don't see many of those," said Oscar. "Where did you buy it?"

"Off the net, but you won't get a pink one. I asked my mother to dye all mine. I thought, I'm gay and proud to be gay, let's go for it, and if the homophobes don't like it, then tough shit. And if they still don't like it, they might need a smack." Oscar wondered why Marcus needed a smack the other evening.

They showered and changed, had an hour until supper, or high tea as it was known on Saturday because it was earlier, and then the Prefects' Shakedown would commence. In the evening it began with indoor activities – computer games, a quiz, arm wrestling, party games designed to remove the last ounce of any personal dignity the boys might have assumed. These activities were aimed at boys such as the Squalor who attempted to maintain an air of superiority.

Sunday was fortunately warm and fine. No lie in. The boys in the three dormitories were woken early and told to put on PE kit and tracksuits. A gentle jog round the bounds of the school grounds and they were in time to be the first at breakfast. After breakfast further physical activities, team-building exercises, fitness, bonding exercises leading up to a cross-country run and skinny-dipping in the stream that ran through the local wood. These were after all young homosexuals that were being 'shaken down'. But none of the newbugs could anticipate the grand finale. They thought it was all over, but the fat lady was yet to sing.

On their return to the house they were congratulated by Robert Bridges on the spirit and effort they had displayed in taking part. "Okay, lads, that's the end of the Shakedown. Use the outdoors changing rooms to shower and change so that you don't take mud into the house." He checked that all fifteen were safely in the shower and then the fire alarm sounded. There was nothing for it. They turned off the showers and, as instructed, filed out of the shower room into the yard in silence and stood in three dormitory groups, stark naked. Of course, the other residents had to obey the fire alarm and form up in the yard at the back of the house. The fourth formers stood in front of the third year, facing them, the Fifth Form behind the Fourth Form, the Lower Sixth behind them and the Upper Sixth at the back. The naked Third Form was on public display to the rest of the House. It was interesting to watch their various reactions. One or two placed their hands over their tackle, others didn't know what to do with their hands with no pockets to put them in. Then the members of Alexander recalled Marcus's wise words: 'Okay, lads. It's got to happen. Let's get it done and over with.' Toby put his hands on his head, Oscar followed suit and the three others, seeing what was happening, did the same and they stood in a rank rather than the previous file, facing the rest of the House. Discipline disintegrated as everyone broke out into a round of applause. Such was the spirit of Tippett House, not forgetting that every member of the House that joined at the beginning of the third year had undergone the same ordeal. Robert took his time reading out the roll call.

By the time this had been completed, the third formers had dried off naturally in the breeze, but were feeling cold. Some of them were shivering and so they were dismissed first. They rushed into the changing room, only to find that their towels had disappeared. All their clothes were there and they had no choice but to put them on. Those who had longer hair wished they hadn't as it was still dripping. The boys put on their sports kit and raced to get into the warmth of the house, accompanied by another round of applause from the assembly. The duty House Tutor had just arrived on the scene to check what was happening.

It had been a physically demanding weekend for the third form, though in contrast its members felt amazingly mentally alert. Back dressed in their casual clothes they dispersed to the four corners of the house. Some went to lie on their beds, others read or played games in the common room, Toby and Oscar went upstairs to see what was on TV. They sat on the settee together, but it was all too much for them. They only woke up when the duty prefect roused them to get ready for supper. From Sunday supper they went to chapel which meant changing into school uniform. For those with late supper there wouldn't be time to change afterwards.

During the meal a number of the newbugs complained that Chapel was boring, but they were thinking back to their old schools. The first thing that struck Oscar and Toby was how were seven hundred and fifty boys, plus staff, academic, admin and domestic, going to fit into that building, although they hadn't realised that it had galleries. Other things struck them too. The Chaplain, although middle aged, knew how to get through to teenagers. Involvement was another thing, as seen by the procession and the choir, and as was tradition for the first Sunday of the school year, the lessons were read by the most senior boy, that is the Head of School, and the most junior, a lad in third form born in late August, and despite the difficulty he was having with his newly broken voice, he persevered and was warmly congratulated by the Headmaster afterwards. Finally two other things impressed them, the lusty singing of the hymns and the fact that the Headmaster stood in the porch and greeted every boy. He asked the names of the new boys he didn't already know, but all the rest he did. Unfortunately it took an inordinate time to clear the chapel.

Oscar and Toby walked back to Tippett with Marcus and the Squalor. As a future organist, Chris had duties in the organ loft. The four had hardly stepped inside Tippett when the Teapot with his snivelling snigger (à la Rik of The Young Ones ) shouted out "Here they are," and the group was guided into the common room. There on the forty-two inch television, which also acted as an interactive notice board, was a full screen picture of Oscar and Toby on the settee with their arms round each other, fast asleep.

Many a young sensitive teenager might easily have burst into tears, especially surrounded by a group of mockers and scorners, but Oscar and Toby were made of sterner stuff. They looked at the screen, they looked at each other, broad grins spread across their faces and they took each other into a hug, accompanied by cheers and the Teapot acting as if he had been responsible for all the hilarity and happiness. The caption said 'Not a week into the new school year Oscar and Toby are our first new item.' After the shouts of 'Speech, speech' had died down, our boys looked at one another. "Is that true, Toby?" asked Oscar.

"It wasn't when the pic was taken, Oscar, but would you like it to be?" The assembled company waited with bated breath for an answer, but the couple just looked at one another, took each other's hand and with broad grins across their faces minced out of the room without uttering a further word.

'Prayers' was next on the order of the day, deemed superfluous by some coming as they did almost immediately after chapel, but 'Prayers' included a period of communication, of private thoughts for one's loved ones, enforced socialising, as well as drinks and snacks. That evening Oscar and Toby's private thoughts were each extended to include another person.

After the formal part the third and fourth formers remained behind in the charge of the Head of House and the prefects. In the excitement of the Shakedown most of them had forgotten that this was the time when they would find out who their mentors were. In fact, mentoring impinged very little on their minds, most never having heard of it before coming to Queen's.

Robert and the prefects talked about the Shakedown. "First of all congratulations on the good morale you showed and the way you approached all your tasks. I think the House is going benefit greatly by having you all as a year group. You may remember the fire drill at the end? What you will not have known is that it doubled as a selection committee meeting and you have now been allocated a mentor from the Fourth Form. You may know that we have eighteen pupils in that year and so you will see three very disappointed faces. However, we do take on board the fact that you can't get on with everybody you meet in life and it gives us some leeway if we've got it wrong. Also it is not unusual to gain new arrivals during the school year.

"One thing I forgot. We have picked up rather a lot of lost property. Your probationary period ends at midnight tonight. In future you will be fined 10p for each article you leave lying around." It was then that the penny dropped. This was all being carried out with due ritualistic seriousness. It was then that the members of the Fourth Form produced from behind their backs a games towel. "Whoever has your towel, he is your mentor." The first name was read out from the sewn on name tape. The mentor took his 'mentoree' out of the common room. So it went on. No coincidence that the campest boy in the Fourths had been allocated the Teapot, the brainiest boy the Squalor, another musician had Chris. Now it was down to three from each year. You did not have to be gay to notice the excess of cuteness and hotness in the remaining boys. Thomas, a suntanned beauty, returned a towel to Marcus, Nik, incidentally a black boy, and deliberately another with a sports bursary, to Toby and finally Dominic gave Oscar his towel back. It was soon to become clear to the third formers that Nik and Dominic were more than good friends. Leaving the room, Dominic said to Oscar "I knew right from the Open Day that I would be your mentor." For Oscar it was a very happy day: Dominic for his mentor and Toby for his best friend. 'Great to be alive and gay,' he thought to himself as he accompanied Dominic upstairs to Isherwood.

Sunday evening in the boarding house consisted of a strange mixture of a relaxed atmosphere and a sense of urgency as boys prepared for the labours of the week ahead: prep left undone to be done, shoes clean enough to pass the scrutiny of the prefects, phone calls home, or skype for the more technologically advanced, both forbidden to the Third Form until after their first exeat.

"So, Oscar, you want to be gay."

"No, Dom." A hint of frustration could be heard in Oscar Daintree's voice. "I am homosexual, and as nothing can be done to alter that, I want to make the best of my sexual orientation and enjoy it."

"Well, you've come to the right place. Are you a top or a bottom?"

"A what?"

"A top or a bottom?" Oscar still looked nonplussed. "Do you stick it in or does someone stick it in you?"

"What is 'it'?"

"OMG, Oscar, you are so naïve. Prick! Dick, tool, penis, John Thomas, willie, nob, todger, plonker, whatever."

"Okay, Dom, I get your drift. You should just make yourself clearer. You are, after all, supposed to be my mentor."

Dominic was just serving up hot chocolate to his new 'mentoree'. He had up to now not seen this side of Oscar and realised that he would have to sharpen up in building his relationship with him and that intellectually he was no slouch. 'For better or for worse' came to Dom's mind. Sitting in Chapel a couple of hours ago, he was gladly anticipating his future relationship with Oscar, but in the intervening time two unforeseen things had happened. Oscar had paired up and shown a different side of his nature. Dominic realised he had taken the wrong approach and sought to restore calm.

They waited for their cocoa to cool. "Oscar, tell me something about yourself. You're gay." Oscar nodded. "How did you find out?" He took time to think.

"I like looking at boys. Back home I sit in the main square and boywatch. Some people go trainspotting. I go boywatching. I was boywatching while we were in Chapel this evening. I get a stiffie when I boywatch. I think of boys when I have a wank. I look at gay porn on the internet. So I think I can safely think of myself as gay."

"Don't your parents mind you looking at porn?"

"They don't know. At least I don't think they do or my mother would have said something by now."

"But they know you're gay?"

"Of course, or I wouldn't be here." 'Fuck me,' thought Dom. 'Oscar two, Dominic nil. How could I have been such a plonker.'

"Have you ever done stuff with a boy?" Oscar shook his head.

"I s'pose the precise truth is yes, I have done stuff with boys… wank circles, shooting competitions, but never to boys, and they've never done stuff to me."

"You'll learn soon enough in Tippett." Oscar's face brightened up. "But don't forget you've got almost five years in this house. It isn't all going to happen by next weekend. And another thing, gays are like straights, some like sex more than others, some like more sex than others, and it's not compulsory, anyway."

"Okay, Dom, I've told you some things about myself. Now tell me about yourself."

"Like you I came to Queen's because I'd heard of its reputation for dealing with sensitive boys. I'd heard that Tippett had a good family atmosphere. I knew I was gay, not so much because I liked boys, but because I didn't like girls. I have a sister, but my dad calls her an honorary boy. Not sure my mother approves. Like yours they work abroad. In the oil industry. I've done everything there is to do without actually being kinky or weird, and I can't guarantee that I won't be kinky when I've left school. My own mentor is a bumchum, but there is no emotional commitment there and I have another special friend. It's an open relationship. I got my sexual experience before I came here. The media would call it sex abuse and exploitation of a minor by an adult. I would call it having a bloody good time. I will never tell anybody his name, not that it matters any longer because he's dead now. Killed in a car crash. Rather than making me all kinked up, it had the opposite effect. It made me open-minded and tolerant, wanting to help any boy who happened to be born gay. I'm not into this LGTB rubbish. Give me a good old fashioned gayboy any day."

Grabbing some papers off his desk, Dominic continued. "I am to guide you, help you, keep an eye on your progress, be a friend, not only in the first term, but until one of us leaves the school. Well, that's the school version. Let's go onto the house version. It says all that and adds that I should nurture, encourage and protect that special sensitivity that brings together all our house members, and guard it from any unwanted exploitation. For 'special sensitivity' read homosexuality."

"I'd got that far. I suppose Tippett House even in these enlightened days could not be that explicit."

"You have to remember, my dear Oscar, that 'even in these enlightened days' sexual acts with or between under sixteens are still illegal, acts with or between sixteen and seventeen year olds are not always legal and eighteen year olds too are at risk of breaking the law under certain circumstances."

"How do you know all this, Dom?"

"It's drummed into us at every first PHSE lesson from the third to the UVI form with easy to understand hand outs. The School, although liberal in outlook, philosophy or ethos, and atmosphere, has to cover its back and briefing senior pupils in this way is deemed adequate as far as legal liability is concerned.

"It's your first week, Oscar, and everybody is on their best behaviour, but in the hothouse atmosphere of an all-boys boarding school you will discover a clandestine underground network, of which the staff, as far as we know, has no comprehension. To misapply the swan analogy, all is serene and beautiful on the surface, but below there is a lot that is neither serene nor visible, though it may yet remain beautiful." Oscar sensed that Dominic was trying to tell him something, but beyond that the message was lost.

"Dom, you said 'as far as we know'. Does that mean that you're involved?" 'OMG,' thought Dominic. 'Oscar three, Dominic still nil.'

"Did I? Sorry, slip of the tongue. As far as is known, I meant to say." Red faced, Dominic rapidly changed the subject.

"Nine o'clock your bedtime, isn't it, Oscar?"

"That's right, Dom."

"We'll meet on Sunday evenings. It's a good time. I might even bring in my own mentor. As the cliché goes, my door is always open… unless, of course, I'm having fun time. Know what I mean?" Oscar did know what he meant. Dom put his arm round Oscar's shoulder and gave it a light squeeze.

Oscar returned to Alexander. Only Chris was there. The other three came back in dribs and drabs from meeting their mentors. David the Squalor was the only one who was discontent. "Within five minutes mine was trying to get his hand up between my legs."

"Might have to give him a smack," said Toby. From then on he was known as Smack and by the time they got into the sixth form, nobody could remember why.

After a strenuous weekend the boys were tired and it was not long before they were all in bed. "I'm sleeping naked tonight," announced Marcus.

"You'd better watch out in case there's another fire drill," said Chris.

"Two in one day?" said Marcus. "Nah."

"Or maybe the real thing," added the Squalor. Marcus was the last to get into bed and he paraded across the room starkers to make the point and to put the lights out. None of the other four admitted to nursing a boner from watching Marcus, his dick waving in the wind as he walked and his balls jiggling.

"Nice butt," said Smack.

The lights out, everybody settled down. Within five minutes sounds of jerking off came from three stations. Marcus had started two of them off. What his fantasies were, only he knew. Oscar was physically exhausted, yet his brain was wide awake and keeping him from sleep. He was still nursing a boner from the sight of Marcus's arse and tackle, much looser than it had been in the afternoon, his tackle, not his arse, thank goodness. Smack was neither sleeping nor wanking.

Oscar's mind was going over events since waving Alison and grandparents goodbye at the beginning of the week. As it scrolled forward, the mental Kindle stopped. He remembered the scene in greatest detail: 'He got into bed and drew the curtain. «Anyone want to join me? If you do, knock first.»'. He had come to a decision. He got out of bed. By now the heavy breathing and groans of self-induced pleasure had ceased and become the comfortable tones of sleep. He tapped lightly on the headboard of Smack's bed and whispered. "Toby, are you awake?"

"I am now."

"Did you mean what you said the other night?"


"'Any one want to join me? If you do, knock first.' I just knocked." Toby said nothing, but pulled back the duvet and patted the mattress in silent invitation. Oscar was still there when the shrill ring of the bell ripped the Alexander quintet from their slumbers. Strangely for fourteen year old adolescents there were no snide remarks, no piss-taking, just a tacit acceptance that Oscar and Smack had been spent the night in bed together.

Routine is by definition… well, routine and so once term really got underway on the Monday there was little to report. Oscar and Toby did not sleep in the same bed every night. It became a weekend treat. One thing was holding them back. As applicable to all of the Alexander quintet, jerking off before going to sleep was… here's that word again… routine, but doing it with someone in one bed in those early days of one's school career was a step they were not as yet ready to take.

The social groups were widening within the house and school, thanks to mixing in lessons and at meals. School clubs were restarting their activities after the summer break. The mornings and evenings were drawing in fast and the boys would have to get used to walking around the school grounds in the dark. For safety reasons they were encouraged to go around in groups after sunset. However, it was in the light that Oscar was walking back to Tippett after school when suddenly from behind a bush a dishevelled and scruffy individual emerged and accosted him. Had he not been wearing school uniform, Oscar might have been more concerned, although a quick look around established that there was no one else within hailing distance. He found this misbegotten creature more noisome than frightening. "Hey, you, newbug! You are new, aren't you? What's your name?" The ferocity of the address finally put Oscar on his guard, but he kept calm.

"Smith. John Smith. And yours?"

"Jackman. Everybody knows me. Have you been wanked off yet, Smith?"

"Not yet. Why? Is it compulsory?"

"Come with me behind this bush and I'll show you." Oscar stalled for time. He was not so much scared of being sexually assaulted. If it had been someone more savoury, he might even have given it some further thought. He was absolutely repulsed by the idea of just being touched by this apology for a human being.

"I think not. I've made other arrangements, thank you." At that Oscar turned tail and scuttled off as fast as he could without actually bursting into a run.

The first person he met as he went through the door of Tippett was Dominic. "Hi, Oscar. You look harassed."

"I've just met this revolting creature. Jackman he called himself. Asked if I'd been wanked off yet and offered to do it."

"Oh, Jackman, the school perve."

"And we're not perves?" countered Oscar.

"Calm down, Oscar. Go and get changed and have a shower, preferably a cold one, and by that time I shall have a brew of tea ready in my room."

Oscar arrived back in Alexander. Chris was the only one there. He had a sheet of music spread out on his desk and was listening to something on his iPhone. "Hi, Oscar!" When he noticed Oscar, he switched the music off. "You're in a bit of a state, old boy." Oscar explained what had happened.

"I'm just off to have a mug of tea with my mentor."

"That's good. I'm just off for an organ lesson. Had my swipe card updated so that I can get into the chapel. See you at supper and we'll talk about it." Oscar stripped all his clothes off, slung a towel over his shoulder and went along to the showers.

"So, Dom, tell me about this Jackman." Oscar sipped at his tea and grimaced.

"What's up, Oscar? The tea too hot?"

"No, you've put sugar in it."

"Sorry, I forgot. There's still some in the pot." Dominic went along to the kitchen at the end of the corridor to empty and refill the mug. Meanwhile Oscar was looking round Dom's study. He noticed the picture over his bed, a black and white pencil drawing of a youth in a tanktop rolled up to reveal his nipples, and a pair of boxer briefs with an explicit outline. Very smart, he thought. His eyes strayed to the writing desk. On it were a tube of K-Y and an opened pack of condoms. 'I see what he means about fun time.' The door opened and Dominic returned with a fresh mug of tea.

"So you have met Michael Jackman? That is one seriously kinked up dude, but harmless… so they tell us. He is someone that ought not to be in the school, but who has become a cause célèbre between the Headmaster and the Chaplain and so he has two powerful guardian angels. In theory he should be in Tippett with us, but the thinking is that they daren't let him loose in a house of homosexuals and so they put him in School House because it's the smallest, the nearest to the school and because it's full of straights, they will prevent his activities."

"Effective," said Oscar.

"Whatever people might say about him, he has never been known to force anyone to have sex with him. If there had been, then he would probably be expelled, sorry, asked to leave, and there are plenty who are quite willing to do stuff with him, and they come from the straight houses."

"I suppose Tippett boys don't really need his services."

"Something like that. I just wish something could be done to clean and tidy him up. Have you finished your tea, Oscar?"

"Yes, thanks."

"It's just that I've got my own mentor coming in five minutes." Oscar deemed it wiser not to comment after what he'd seen on the desk. "I take it from this afternoon's incident and what you've told me since the beginning of term that you're still a virgin."

"Uh huh."

"Wanked anyone else off?"


"Kissed a boy yet?"

"Yeuk! Boys don't do that anyway."

"You think so? Don't you believe it and don't knock it until you try it. By the way, why do they call that boyfriend of yours Smack?"

"Toby? I can't remember now."

"Keep your virginity for as long as you can." He gave him a look. "I'm being serious, Oscar. I mean it."

"See you later, Dom. Thanks for the cuppa. Are we allowed to make tea and coffee?"

"There's a kitchen on your floor with all the equipment. There has to be. 1989 Education Act." As Oscar went out, he had to push past Quentin Ashforth, Dominic's mentor, known as Quent, but only when the polite pronunciation of the name was used.

"God, Dom, I envy you having a lush like that for a 'mentoree'. He's far prettier than mine knows how to be."

"Why don't you piss off, Quent? Get in here and get your trousers off. Remember, he's a virgin and I want to keep him and his equally lush boyfriend that way until our winter activities start.

The first Saturday in October marked the first exeat weekend for the Third Year throughout the school. Many of the other years chose this weekend for their exeat as there were no matches and little to do. At half past four on the Friday Oscar was waiting in the visitors' car park with his weekend bag and within five minutes his grandfather turned up. "Hi, Gramps."

"Hallo, Oscar." They hugged. "You're looking very fit. I do believe you've grown and you've certainly lost weight. Don't they feed you?"

"Oh, yes. It's all the sport they make us do."

"You look tired, too."

"That's probably my fault. We have to be in our dorms by nine on nights before schooldays, but they let us decide when the lights go out."

"Well, you can sleep as much as you like this weekend. We haven't organised anything special, apart from Gran is going to cook one of her special Sunday roasts and you can choose what she roasts."

"That's one of the things I miss. School food is good, but never as good as at home."

"What time have you got to be back on Sunday, Oscar?"

"A quarter to seven in time for chapel."

"Having been fed and watered, I guess."

"Yes. You have to book a meal if you want one… and I didn't."

When Oscar arrived at his grandparents' house, he was greeted with a kiss from grandma, compulsory, and he was relieved when it was over, and with a hug from Alison, tolerable, but she was the only girl he ever allowed to get that close to him. "You're looking well, Oscar," said his gran. "How do you like boarding school?"

"It's great. I've been thinking how lucky I am. If Dad hadn't got that posting to Canada, I'd be going to ordinary day school." Gran and Gramps both thought 'Oh no, you wouldn't. Day school, yes, ordinary, no,' but that was all water under the bridge and neither Oscar nor Alison needed to be troubled by the thought.

"Go and take your school uniform off, dear, and bring down your shirt and trousers and I'll wash them and we'll take your blazer to the cleaners tomorrow," said Gran. "My, Oscar, you are growing into such a good looking young man. You're going to break a lot of young men's hearts."

"And girls'," added Alison wistfully.

"I think I have already," said Oscar, speaking gender non-specifically.

"When you come down, tea will be ready. I hope you're feeling hungry."

He took his bag up to the spare room and changed into the casual clothes he kept at Grandma's. 'They're right,' he thought, looking at his trousers which were at half mast. 'I have grown. Clothes shopping at half term.' When ready, he went downstairs and sat down with the rest of the family to an old fashioned English tea. "Is there anything particular you want to do this weekend, Oscar?" asked Gran.

"Not really, except I made a hair appointment for eleven tomorrow."

"You're not going to change it, are you? I rather like you with blond curls."

"No, Gran, but my roots are beginning to show." At this Alison could no longer keep a straight face and she fell about with a fit of the giggles. "Problem, sis?"

"No, but you obviously have. With your roots," she snorted. "It'll be split ends next." Oscar calmly raised his eyebrows and smiled patronisingly.

"May I have another slice of bread and butter, please, Gran?"

"Have you made any nice friends at Queen's?" asked Grandma.

"Lots. Generally everybody's pretty decent, but you get the odd pillock and everyone knows who they are and treats them accordingly."

"Have you got a particular friend?" asked Alison, already knowing the answer and therefore posing the question mischievously.

"Oh, yes. I was going to tell you. I've got a boyfriend."

"That's nice, dear," said Gran. "Is he good looking?"

"Of course he's good looking. I don't do ugly. That's why I had a make-over with my hair and all that." Alison pricked her ears up.

"What's his name?"

"Toby, but they call him Smack at school."

"Why's that?" asked Gramps.

"I don't know. They say everyone gets a nickname sooner to later."

"What's yours?"

"I come under 'later'. I haven't got one yet."

"So what's does he look like?" asked Alison impatiently.

"Well, he's the smallest boy in the house, if not the school, he's got spiky blond hair, except his is real blond, sparkling blue eyes, he's very tight and he's the scrum half in the A rugby team."

"Tight?" asked Grandma. "Do you mean 'mean'?"

"Oh, no. Nothing like that," interrupted Alison. "It means he's got no body fat and shows all his ribs, muscles and sinews." She then realised that she'd spoken out of turn.

"He's got a natural sixpack," continued Oscar.

"Sixpack?" enquired Gran.

"Well developed stomach muscles," he replied, "resembling six cans of beer in a pack." Oscar could swear his sister was almost drooling.

"We'd love to meet him," said Gran. "Your grandfather was like that," she added. "Once," and looked across at him and smiled.

"You'll have to come and watch a rugby match. You're allowed to come to matches, you know."

"Or perhaps next time you have an exeat, you could invite him home."

"Can I? That's ace, Gran. You see, he lives rather a long way away and so a weekend home is not so convenient for him."

"Have you been getting regular post from your mum and dad?" asked Gramps.

"E-mails these days, Gramps, but when we go back, we're allowed to phone them and use skype."

"What's skype?" asked Gran.

"It's telephone with a live picture. You can see each other and it only costs a subscription and so you can do it for free whereas mobiles are very expensive. It's a bit difficult with the time difference. When we go to bed, they're not home from work and when we get up they're just going to bed, but with skype I can get them at work."

"And how's your schoolwork going?" asked Gramps."

"It's good and I haven't got my Housemaster on my case. So yes, I've got it covered, all hunky dory as you'd say."

Tea finished and everyone set to clearing it away. "Aren't you going out tonight, sis?" Big sigh and a no.

"Tomorrow night."

"With your hunk?"

"If only… No, with Jimmy Butterworth."

At nine Oscar said good night and went up to bed. It was not that he couldn't break the habit; he was so tired. He got changed for bed. When he had just his pyjama bottoms on, there was a knock at the door. He said "Come in." In came Alison.

"My, baby brother, you have grown while you've been away. Who's a hunk now?"

"Obviously not Jimmy Butterfield," he answered drily.

"Hey, you were very open at the tea table. I bet you wouldn't have said half of that if Mum and Dad had been there."

"Probably not, but Gran and Gramps are on our side. You know how Mum nags me. You seem able to get away with things."

"You think."

"Do you remember, when we were small, those tee shirts Gran got for us once? 'What happens at Grandma's, stays at Grandma's.' She meant it, you know."

"Still, I didn't come here to ogle my hunk of a baby brother. Give us the goss."

"I haven't got any gossip. Life just goes on."

"C'mon, Oscar. You've got your first boyfriend and you say there's no gossip. There must be. For a start, have you done it yet?"

"Full sex? No."



"Jerking off?"


"Kissing?" she asked desperately.

"Why does everyone want to know if we've kissed? Boys don't do that."

"That's not what Jimmy tells me. Well, what have you done?"

"We've held hands, cuddled, slept in the same bed…"

"What? Slept together and not done anything?"

"That's right."

"Are you still a virgin?"

"I didn't go round asking whether you're a virgin, Alison."

"Huh! I like the choice of tense – 'I didn't' – subtle. So you are telling me that you have been living for a month in a boys' boarding house where the inmates are all as camp as a row of tents and you are still a virgin? What do they do? Put bromide in your tea?"

"Hey, slow down a bit, sis. Why are you so interested? Is it because you are not getting any and you're trying to project it onto me?" Oscar knew he had hit home from the silence after his last remark. It wasn't that he had intended to wound; he had shot at random and scored a bull.1 "Sorry, sis, but you were pushing it."

"Yeah, sorry, Oscar. I did go a bit too far. It is none of my business."

"Look, I'm feeling rather knackered. We'll talk in the morning and I'll try and explain why Toby and me are still virgins. Good night, sis."

"Give me a hug, baby brother."

Alison left the room, Oscar got into bed and put the light out. Though he was extremely tired, he lay awake thinking of Toby, so intensely until he shot his load. 'Oh, bugger,' he thought. 'I haven't got any tissues.'

The next morning Oscar and Alison were sitting down to breakfast while Grandma was bustling around and Gramps was already out working on his allotment. Suddenly he gave out a great guffaw. He was looking across at the Welsh dresser when he suddenly noticed the fruit bowl. In it were a banana and two pears. "What's the problem, bro?" said Alison looking up from her low fat natural live yoghourt.

"Well, I don't think Gran and Gramps placed them in the bowl to look like a prick and two bollocks and I know I didn't. So you're the prime suspect, sis."

"Moi? As if…"

"Must admit it' reminded me straightaway of Toby."

"Is he that big?"

"Not far from it. He's certainly got the biggest tackle of the Thirds and the rumour is in the school, as well."

"That's all you boys think about."

"And girls don't, I suppose."

"No, we look for personality and kindness in a boy."

"And a big dick."



"Language, Oscar," said Gran who had just come into the room. "You're not at that posh school of yours now." Alison stuck her tongue out at him behind Gran's back.

The weekend continued in a peaceful manner. Oscar had his curls attended to and Alison was beginning to wish he weren't her brother as he was looking so dishy, perhaps as dishy as that hunk Rock at her school whom she had as yet failed to impress.

* Pace Friedrich Dürrenmatt – Der Richter und sein Henker. Ich habe ins Blaue geschossen und ins Schwarze getroffen.

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