I was one of those so-called fortunate few working class kids who passed the 11 plus exam at Junior School and thereby was sent to a grammar school for my teenage years.
This began my drift into university and the middle class.
It is fashionable in some circles to extol the virtues of the grammar school system, but, although the school gave me a good education, the experience was deeply troubling. For many years I was a fish out of water.
In the few months between the Junior School and the Grammar School, Mum and Dad went to a new parents’ evening at the new school. I gave this no thought at all at the time, but it must have been an uncomfortable evening for them.
Dad wore his dark suit and tie, and Mum would have worn a dress with a showy dress brooch. Later, Mum told me they all had to sit in a circle in the Great Hall, with its wood panelling and huge grand organ. Mum fiddled with the clasp on her handbag, and Dad sat with hi his roughened hands on his thighs, wondering if he would have to speak.
Their worst nightmare began. Going all the way round the circle of about a hundred parents, each man had to say his name and what he did for a living. Round the circle it went: accountants, bankers, doctors, lawyers and academics. Dad was not only the only Carpenter and Joiner, but, as he would have seen it, the only one with a proper job.
They were humiliated and embarrassed. It wasn’t just me who was bullied there.
When I heard this story from Mum, I was not sure what to feel. Part of me wanted him to have stood up in the circle and delivered a passionate socialist speech that would have shocked them out of their complacency.
Another part of me dutifully learned the implied lesson. I was not like the others, and I needed to be ashamed of my parents and of where I came from.
Mum and Dad had learned that lesson, too.