Saturday, 26 September 2009

The trouble with homonyms

So all-consuming was the routine of boarding school that I rarely gave a thought to what life was like for my schoolfellows when we returned to our various home for the holidays.

A boy named Piers was the exception, simply because his descriptions of his life at home included an element that was, to me, utterly entrancing.

He told me that he spent all of his spare time 'at the wreck'.

The wreck? How totally fantastic. I pictured him and his chums playing pirates more or less for real: shinning up the fraying rigging, crawling over the quarterdeck and descending into the murky depths of the hold in search of doubloons, pieces of eight and all forms of piratical paraphernalia.

How I envied Piers.

Years later, while visiting friends, I asked where their children were.

'Oh they're playing down at the wreck - let's walk down there an collect them.'

My heart skipped a beat and I accompanied them with a certain amount of eager anticipation, combined with a hint of concern at the parents' matter-of-fact attitude to the extraordinary privilege bestowed on their children.

We reached our destination soon enough.

No galleon, no rotting timbers, no flutterimg skull-and-cross-bones. Instead, a grassy field, some goal posts, a metal climbing frame, some swings.

In fact, a perfectly serviceable municipal recreation ground. The Rec.

The scales fell: possibly the most poignant disillusionment of my life thus far.

The picture is the work of the talented artist L M Lowry.

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