You are watching a Carry On film with your dad: Carry On up the Khyber. Every time Sid James suggests a spot of tiffin, your dad giggles like a fourteen year old boy. His belly wobbles and his glasses need straightening. You realize you are laughing at him (with him) rather than the film.
Mum comes in. ‘Have you packed your suitcase for school?’
‘Great. I suppose I have to bloody well do it. Fine.’ She walks out.
You and your dad exchange a look and he rolls his eyes. You carry on watching the Carry On.
It’s the bit in the film where they’re having dinner while they are being bombed. Because they’re British, they completely ignore the fact that they’re under attack and the building is being destroyed around them, maintaining a stiff upper lip. Joan Sims tosses debris from off her head and announces, ‘Oh Dear! I seem to be a little bit plastered!’
Dad drives you to school that evening, as your mother seems to be a little bit plastered. You time the journey by the top 40 countdown on Radio One, so that by the time you’re entering the long driveway to the main building, they’re playing number one. Wham! Duran Duran. Bananarama.
Dad drops you off near the front entrance and you carry your case into the dark building as his taillights disappear into the distance. You live in two worlds. Home is warm abundance, watching the telly or lurking at the bottom of the garden at dusk to watch the foxes. School is austerity and exposure. It is constant noise: chatter, laughter, music from the common room record player, doors crashing shut, shrieks. These sounds echo through long tall corridors and dormitories.
You find your friends, who are like sisters to you, lounging on their beds, and their banter is vibrant. It effervesces within the bleak walls and brittle Victorian windows. You drop your case and fall onto your bed with its sagging mattress and uneven springs, prop yourself up on your elbows and join their conversation. Soon someone says something that makes you throw your head back and laugh.
You find that you are more comfortable on this creaking bed, in these echoes, than you were on the sofa.