napier and whittingdale
I MANY years ago, shortly after I making a hasty exit from secondary education, I sent my old housemaster a postcard explaining why I would not be returning. It consisted of a quote from one of Henry Fielding's novels: "Public schools are the nurseries of all vice and immorality." In a brief and bad-tempered reply, the housemaster pointed out that Fielding was describing conditions more than two centuries ago. "It is quite different today," he insisted, "as you know perfectly well." Oh yeah? I wonder if he noticed a front-page news story last weekend, revealing that Scotland Yard detectives "are investigating allegations of a paedophile network involving teachers from some of Britain's top public schools". The network is said to include "Charles Napier, a former treasurer of the Paedophile Information Exchange and a former staff member of the British Council in Cairo, who was jailed last year for sex assaults on youngsters in London". Charles Napier was my gym-master at prep school and a very good gym-master too, always willing to lend a hand (quite literally) as the boys practised their back-flips and headstands. From time to time he would invite his favourites into a small workshop next to the gym, where he plied us with Senior Service untipped and bottles of Macke-son before plunging his busy fingers down our shorts. Although 1 rejected his advances, I continued to help myself to beer 'n' cigs from his secret depot when he wasn't around. It never occurred to me to report him to the authorities. Why? Because he was the authorities. Complaining about a teacher was as unthinkable as refusing to participate in crosscountry runs. Anyway, no 11-year-old boy wishes to parade his sexual innocence: Napier warned me and many others that by refusing to cooperate we were merely demonstrating our immaturity. "X lets me do it, you know," he said, naming a classmate of mine. For weeks afterwards, X sneered at me for my squeamishness. I don't know where X is now (running a prep school of his own, probably), but I'm glad to learn that Napier has been taken out of circulation at last. As his half-brother told me a few years ago, "Charles is such a trial to my mother. Every time he gets sacked, she asks him why he can't find some work which doesn't involve children. And then, after being on the dole for a while, he rings her up in great excitement and says 'Marvellous news, mummy, I've got a new job it's in a youth club. . .' " The half-brother, by contrast, has delighted his mother by staying on the straight and narrow. Very narrow indeed, actually: he is a Tory MP.