Friday, September 10, 2010
The Letter Z: Thoughts on the Wrong End of the Alphabet
As a boy at Public School I soon became aware that those whose surnames began with the later letters of the alphabet were inferior to those whose names began with 'A' 'B' 'C' and so on.
I had almost forgotten this important lesson until I was forced to wait a couple of hours or so on board the R.M.S. St Helena in Cape Town, whilst the A's B's and C's were allowed to disembark!
On reading Winston Churchill's My Early Life I was surprised to find that he had had the same problem. His full surname was unfortunately Spencer Churchill, and so as a new boy at Harrow he had the indignity of being the last to parade before the school steps when the register was called. To compound this humiliation, visitors apparently used to comment aloud on the fact that the son of the famous or maybe infamous politician was the last to be called!
In my particular case it meant an extra term waiting on more senior boys at table. I was at the time very upset at the arbitrariness and injustice of it all. Now I am inclined to think that the ability to carry two heavily laden plates in each hand is one of the most useful things I learned. The acquisition of this skill was undoubtedly aided by very real threats of a beating if you spilt any food down the necks of the older boys!
Anyway because of this I have chosen to select a word beginning with Z ("zed" as we say, or "zee" as the Americans will have it) as the title of this blog.