PMGenesis: Chapter 3


Peter Milward's Autobiography: Genesis of an Octogenarian (2008)

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Who is Peter Milward?
0. About PM Genesis of an Octogenarian
1. Attempt at an Autobiography
2. 
Pre-conscious World
3. 
Local Patriotism
4. 
Wimbledon in Wartime 
5. 
Pastoral Peace
6. 
Pastoral Philosophy
7. Life at Oxford
8. 
Between England and Japan 
9. A New Language and Culture
10. Rural Japan
11. 
Pastoral Theology
12. Teaching Shakespeare in Japan
13. A Missionary in Japan
 
14. 
Student Revolt  
15. 
A Floating University  
16. Literary Pilgrimages  
17. 
A Scholar's Paradise  
18. 
To and Fro in Japan  
19. 
Words, Words, Words  
20. 
Annus Mirabilis  
21. Renaissance  
22. 
Lost Years  
23. 
Two Papal Pilgrimages  
24. 
Two Peninsular Pilgrimages

25. 
More American Adventures
26. In the Footsteps of Hopkins and Newman  
27. 
Two International Conferences  
28. 
Junshin  
29. 
Catholic Shakespeare  
30. 
Last Words  
31. 
Bibliographical Afterword  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Donhead

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Sacred Heart, Wimbledon

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier

BriFra

Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan

About

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 A Lifetime with Hopkins  by Peter Milward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

     Jacobean Shakespeare
by Peter Milward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 A Lifetime with Hopkins by Peter Milward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS

Blog Brittonia

All About Francis Xavier

BriFra

Who are the Jesuits?

Joining the Jesuits in Japan

About

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 Arise My Love by William Johnston, S.J.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

All About Francis Xavier (Articles on Japanese Catholic History and Jesuits) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Local Patriotism

 

Growing up as I was during the years leading up to World War II, under the gathering clouds of menace from Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy, I felt the increasing pressure of patriotism within my own country.  What a fine thing it was, I thought – or was indoctrinated to think – to die for my country!  “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori!”  That Latin tag from Horace was familiar to every schoolboy of my generation, and many of us – all too many of us – were required to put them into practice, by fighting and then dying, though not so many as in World War I, when there took place a massacre of English Old Boys on the Western Front.

 

Then what was my country?  By what name did I call her?  Not Ireland, but England.  That was my fatherland, the land of my father’s forebears, going all the way back to remote Saxon times.  Then what about the official names, Britain, or Great Britain (GB), or the United Kingdom (UK)?  Britain was the Latin Britannia, a province of the old Roman Empire, the land of the people known as the Britons – till the Roman legions moved out in the early fifth century AD, leaving the English tribes to move in from various parts of Germany.  Subsequently, the name of Britain came to be used again in the sixteenth century by the Welsh Tudors, and then in the seventeenth century by the Scottish Stuarts, to disguise the fact that they were foreigners.  Then with the formal union of England and Scotland in the early eighteenth century and with the addition of Ireland in the early nineteenth century, the political term “the United Kingdom” came into official use.  All that is, however, merely formal, official, political.  To me it means nothing.  The land of my fathers is, and always has been, at least for the past fifteen centuries, England.  So when I write letters home, I never use the official “UK” beloved by the Post Office, but always and only “England”.

 

To begin with, of course, I was hardly aware even of England.  My home wasn’t in England but in Wimbledon or, as I pronounced it, “Ulladon”.  And I was proud to be living there.  My pride had nothing to do with the tennis, of whose centre court I knew and cared nothing, but Wimbledon was such a quiet, leafy suburb of London.  It wasn’t really in London, save as the postal district of SW20.  It was in the county of Surrey to the South-West of London, though more recently it has been gobbled up by that voracious monster.  Everywhere round us there were green spaces named Park or Common or Garden or Heath – Wimbledon Park, near the tennis courts, Raynes Park, with our local railway station, Motspur Park and Worcester Park, the names of other stations on our railway line, Putney Heath, where a crazy little poet named Swinburne had his home, Barnes Common, near our former home, Kew Gardens, within the loop of the river Thames, and above all Wimbledon Common.  The Common, as we called it, was barely ten minutes’ walk from home in 11 Devas Road.  It provided us with a convenient playground with acres and acres of common land.  It was an ideal place for children and dogs.  It was also the limit of our little world, except when we went further by car to Richmond Park, or by trolley-bus to Hampton Court, or for our summer holidays to the Sussex Downs and the sea.

 

Within that little world our existence as a family revolved round three C’s, the Convent, the College, and the Church.  First, the Convent existed for our first two years of school or kindergarten, when we were aged five and six, under the care of the Ursuline nuns, the sprightly Mother Xavier and the venerable Mother Bonaventure.  It was only five minutes’ walk from home along leafy roads, which became all the leafier in autumn when the wild West wind blew the leaves over the pavements.  On my first day at school I remember a little boy named Anthony had been accompanied by his mother to school, but when the time came for her to leave, he couldn’t bear the parting and cried bitterly.  We other boys were so surprised!  What a cry-baby, we thought!  And what a poor, spoilt mother’s darling!  In our vocabulary there was no worse word than “mother’s darling”.  I think he was the only boy accompanied to school by his mother.  In later years, of course, an even worse word was to be called a “tell-tale” or “tell-tale tit”, that is, one who complained to his teachers about other boys who might be teasing him.  What exactly the good nuns taught us, I have largely forgotten.  But I remember Mother Bonaventure bringing a globe into the classroom, standing it on her desk and showing us the different countries with their continents, including (naturally) England.  Once she asked us how many of us wanted to become priests.  Immediately all the boys raised their hands, except for one who expressed his preference for driving a trolley-bus – or what he called a “twolley-bus dwiver”.  So far as I know, only two of those boys – myself and the friend who played Mass with me – actually became priests.

 

That was about the time when I began to take an interest in geography.  Maybe it was the globe that did it.  It wasn’t only at school that geography was my favourite subject.  My interest had little to do with school, apart from that globe.  But at home I collected any number of atlases.  Maybe I was fond of seeing the colour red all over maps of the world, for the lands of the British Empire, over which the sun was never supposed to set.  In fact, however, I wasn’t so interested in the red colour, not even for the Empire.  My preference was for green, then yellow, then various shades of brown, culminating in purple and even white.  In other words, my preference was for physical, not political maps.  The boundaries of countries change from time to time, especially as a result of wars, but the lie of the land doesn’t change, even with earthquakes or floods.  So the colours I have mentioned were green for the grassy plains, brown for the dusty hills, purple for the misty mountains, and white for the snows of really high peaks like Kilimanjaro and Everest.  In other words, my allegiance has always been natural, not political, and in the course of time I have come to learn and admit the comment of Dr Johnson, “Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel.”  So I have come to be non-committal about patriotism, especially when it is taken to mean, “My country right or wrong.”  I have come to realize that “patriotism” is all too often the war-cry of politicians.  I have also come to sympathize with Shakespeare’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek when he states, “I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician.”  The Puritan and the politician, the one is as bad as the other.

 

With my atlases I would even go on imaginary journeys in the back-garden at home, with my younger brother Tiny.  We would pile the greengrocer’s boxes on top of each other and make a kind of land rover with them.  Then we would creep inside and take turns sitting at the controls of the car.  I would have my atlas open at East Africa and, as we were driving through the bush or scrub or desert, I would announce the names of the native villages we were approaching or leaving.  It was all so exciting.  At least, it was to me, and I hope it was also to Tiny.  Or we might take the same boxes – for us they were all-purpose boxes, once they had fulfilled their original purpose of containing vegetables for the house – and arrange them into what we considered the shape of a ship, with the surrounding grass as the blue sea.  Then we would play Pirates, instead of Mass, and arm ourselves with pistols and guns and cutlasses and all kinds of grisly weapons.  Of course, we would display the pirates’ flag with skull and cross-bones, called the Jolly Roger.  At one side of the ship we would extend a plank for the summary punishment of our victims.  In fact, we only had one poor victim, my sister Jane.  Her we would force to walk the plank into what we supposed was a shark-infested sea.  But she always managed to come to life again.  I am not sure how much she enjoyed her part in our imaginary drama!  Anyhow, such were our childish imaginations in the good old days before television.

 

Originally, the back-garden had been divided by my father into two parts, the garden proper and the paddock, where the grass was longer and required less supervision.  My elder brother Richard claimed the paddock as his territory, leaving the garden under the control of Dada.  Then all that was left for me, as next in line of succession, was the narrow alley-way between the house and the neighbour’s fence, where a lot of rubbish was piled up and weeds grew apace, with nasty little creatures lurking in the undergrowth.  It wasn’t long, however, before the division between the garden and the paddock was removed, as we became interested in boys’ games like football (or soccer) in winter and cricket in summer.  From the time we moved from the Convent to the College, first for my brother, then for myself after a two-year interval, the back garden was turned into a sports ground, chiefly for cricket.  So my poor father was unceremoniously turned out of his domain, for all his amateur interest in gardening.  In every English family the children come first and their parents last.  Instead, my father, with remarkably good grace, drew on his carpentry skills and built us a cricket pavilion at the bottom of the garden.  He would even join us in cricket from time to time, but most of the time my brother and I were playing test-matches between England and Australia, though the team I represented would invariably lose.  Fast bowling, however, on which I prided myself, was strictly ruled out by my mother, for fear of the very real danger to the kitchen window.  Also in batting we had to be careful not to hit the ball too high into the air, for then it might go over the fence into our neighbour’s garden – and then it would be six and out (six runs but the end of the innings).  Not only in our back-garden but wherever we went on a picnic in those days we would bring bat and ball and stumps and make an improvised cricket pitch, so long as there was a sufficiency of level ground.  While my father was busying himself with a litmus stove for the preparation of lunch, and my mother was looking after my little sister by the table-cloth spread out over the grass, Richard and I would be playing our interminable game.  Only Tiny wasn’t so interested.  What he did on those occasions, I’ve quite forgotten.  Anyhow, I was only interested in the cricket with Richard, even though he invariably won and I was reduced to tears.

 

Now to return to the next C, from the Convent to the College, the transition took place when I reached the age of seven.  Or to be precise, the school year began in September after the long summer holidays, and I turned seven in October.  Richard had already gone straight from the Convent (the Ursuline Convent School) to the College (Wimbledon College, or the Jesuit “college” of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon), but when it became my turn to follow him, I couldn’t yet enter the College, which now boasted of a brand new preparatory school named Donhead Lodge.  Richard came back from across the road to join the third form called Elements, while I began at the bottom, in the first form called Lower Preparatory, or “Lower Prep” for short.  There I was taught by a severe looking mistress named Miss Manning, though we found she had a heart of gold.  As I have said, everything was brand new, as the Lodge had been a private home before it was bequeathed to Wimbledon College by its pious owner.  So I was one of the first boys there in the first form.  On our entering we had to take off our shoes and put on slippers in the Japanese manner.  This by itself was, I now realize, a good training for us.  Moreover, the new headmaster, Fr Edmund Miller, had dedicated the new school to Our Lady, and so our blazers (for summer wear), our ties and the edges of our socks were all sky blue, Our Lady’s colour.  Again, I forget almost everything I learnt at Donhead during those three years, except that we began the study of French in the first form, and Miss Manning wisely taught us many French songs, which stick more readily in the memory than mere verse or prose.  My chief memory is of a confrontation with the school bully who was in Richard’s class.  Once I dared to call him a bully, or maybe I said, “Don’t be a bully!” and he answered, “You’re a rail backwards” – meaning a liar.

 

By far the most important of the three C’s was the Church, which stood just down the hill (Edge Hill) from the College and Donhead.  Its proper name was, like that of the College, the Church of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon.  It was a splendid Gothic edifice, built on the very edge of the hill looking Southwards over a wide landscape towards Croydon (with its aerodrome) and the Crystal Palace.  Geographically, it was situated on one of the three roads running from North to South between Worple Road and the Ridgeway, namely Edge Hill itself, the Downs (with the Convent) and Arterberry Road, into which we walked from our home in Devas Road.  This was our little world, between the Milward home and the Church, divided by a distance of a ten minutes’ walk, with the Convent and the College in between.  Home was for weekdays and Church for Sundays, morning and evening, and then from the age of five upwards it was Convent or College during the day hours.  As for the greater world, I was only interested in its doings as they variously appeared in the daily newspaper, and then only for the maps showing where those doings were taking place.  I would cut them out and paste them into my album, but I wasn’t so interested in the purpose of the maps.  I was more interested in geography than in history, least of all contemporary history (if it could be called history).  Then in the Church I was put in contact with a mysterious, heavenly world above the changing events of time.  There amid the sweet sounds of music, both organ and choir, and with the occasional singing of hymns by the congregation, I could join in the liturgy of the angels, especially when I followed my brother onto the altar as a Mass server.

 

All the same, with all the three C’s to draw us away from home on Sundays and weekdays, it was always home to which we returned.  There was the centre of our lives, with the C’s all on the circumference.  And the centre of home was Mama.  Fortunately, in those happy days before the rise of feminism, home was regarded as the rightful place of the woman, especially once she was happily married with a husband and growing children to look after.  Then there was little idea of women competing with men in the workplace or the marketplace, and my mother had more than enough on her hands to look after us all at home.  As for Dada, he was away most of the week, as a traveling salesman for a school agency named J&J Paton.  He would leave home every Monday morning in term-time, and return every Friday evening.  So on Monday morning we would crowd to the front door to wave him off, and on Friday evening at the sound of his latchkey in the door we would hasten to welcome him home.  Then every evening during the week from wherever he happened to be staying he would give us a telephone call.  First, Mama would reply, and then each of us would come to the receiver to say “Hello!”  It was charming for us and comforting for him.  Thus we had him for the week-ends and Mama for the rest of the week.  Of course, for the whole week Mama was our great provider of meals, not only breakfast and afternoon tea, but even lunch, since home was sufficiently close to both the Convent and the College to give us time to take our lunch at home during the lunch period.  Needless to say, the lunches Mama provided for us were far more appetizing than what we might get, or might be inflicted on us, at school.

 

Above all, in the summer holidays when Dada had a fortnight off, we would rent a cottage or a bungalow in Sussex, whether on the South Downs or the seaside.  And there for those two weeks we would experience the delights of family life without the irksome restrictions of school or office.  Of course, we played cricket among our other forms of pastime.  I also vividly remember the walks we went on the Downs and the occasions when we came (with a shudder) upon snakes.  Wherever we went, I made sure of bringing a stick with me, which I called a snake-stick.  Fortunately, more for myself than for the snake, I never had an opportunity of using it.  Only once, while we were playing on a hay-stack, we were suddenly called over by Dada who was coming back from a walk with Mama.  There at Mama’s feet lay the dead body of an adder, which he had just killed with his walking stick, in the nick of time as it was attacking her.  Then he had put his experience in Ceylon and Malaya to good use.  When we came on the scene, Mama was still shivering from the shock, and I shivered too in sympathy with her.  Such snakes might inhabit our Garden of Eden, but they were after all a minor inconvenience of life.  In those days England was still, as Shakespeare puts it, “this other Eden, demi-Paradise”.  How fortunate we were to have the sea all round our little island, to protect us from “the envy of less happier lands”!  But all the time, without our being aware of it, dark clouds were gathering on the political horizon.

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