Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Drawing Schools of Eton

Many, many years ago (and yes I am a little ashamed of this) a friend and I bet each other a pint that we would be the first to shag an Old Etonian. She won the bet: it took me much longer to get with the man who would later become my Significant Ex. He was not one, as he said himself, to get wanton with his tonsils.

I persuaded another friend to invite him to a cheese fondue party she was having. It turned into more of a scrambled egg party, as the recipe called for 1-2 eggs and she read it as 12. I had never tasted cheese fondue before so I was none the wiser, and anyway, it wasn't the food I was interested in. At one point in the evening he said something I found quite patronising and I said 'I did *go* to school, you know'.

'Really?' he said. 'I never saw you there.' And he was one of the charming ones, some of the others meant it.

I visited Eton with him once, with a school friend of his and his girlfriend. A lot of things made more sense afterwards. Cambridge was a crazy place to go to university, but the people who didn't seem to notice this were the ones who went to school in an even crazier place. It's a parallel universe, it really is. There's a lot to envy, but there's a lot not to. The charming ones know this, of course.

I went back there on Sunday to look at the photos of Ian Macdonald, who spent a year there as photographer in residence. They were amazing. He's a northerner, and from what I can make out specialises in taking hard black and white photos of heavy industry, urban landscapes and working men. To see this aesthetic applied to Eton was pretty remarkable. It's the malest thing I've seen in a long time. Which isn't to say that I don't recommend it.


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