Hot House

The terrible south

Claudia Savage-Gore crosses town to go the extra mile for Hector

This article is taken from the August/September 2021 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issue for just £10.


Since we’re having major difficulties pinning down Hector’s “onward educational journey” I took one for the team and schlepped all the way to Fulham for The Independent Schools annual summer show (essentially a trade event for a bunch of private schools).

I had to take the tube because the nanny was collecting Lyra from kung fu, and Will had selfishly taken the Tesla to work. Christ, I’d forgotten what South London’s like. The rot sets in at Earl’s Court, and gets worse with every stop on the District Line.

Christ, I’d forgotten what South London’s like. The rot sets in at Earl’s Court, and gets worse with every stop on the District Line

Literally, before I’d even left West Brompton I’d passed three men in gilets and deck shoes (vom) striding through the tumbleweed to their Boden wives. Also a minor character from Made In Chelsea, which was frankly the high point of my evening. Sorry if I sound bitter. Will and I are not in a good place.

Anyway, back to the schools thing. Basically, ever since Hecky failed the seven plus into Westminster we’ve gradually discounted all the obvious London choices — Habs, UCS, Highgate — and even the so-called “nurturing” schools like Northbridge House. So the plan was for me to swoop in and out, like a school-research ninja, grabbing prospectuses and along the way discovering some little known but incredible tiny boarding school perfect for unlocking Hector’s true potential.

Admittedly, not much evidence has been seen of this potential. But it’s there ok? And yes, ok, I can joke about this shit but it’s actually fucking hard when someone tells you your baby’s a failure and, and aaaaagh, ok, deep breath.

Sorry, I just get really triggered by talking about that seven plus. My therapist has actually used the word trauma, and I was like, you know what? Yeah it was traumatic. It fucking was.

So, schools show. It was at a cricket club so I had to get past loads of small blonde boys in cable knit with massive shin pads, who I immediately hated for looking like the kind of kids that do get into Westminster.

There were some desultory silver balloons and a shiny-faced girl who was basically a child herself gave me a map. Stopped at The Outstanding Schools Guide stand and asked in a hushed voice if they had any recommendations for boys struggling academically. A nice woman asked sympathetic questions about the nature of “his challenges” but didn’t suggest any school I hadn’t heard of — and only ones I’d thought were beneath us.

In the fair proper, I had a grim sense of déjà vu of The Milk Round and Oxford Careers Fairs. I was apparently the only British parent, and also the only lone mother. Great.

Behind the stands were a disproportionate number of blonde women in wrap dresses — the universal look for teachers and matrons at home counties preps

Most of the other attendees were expensive-looking foreign couples, with some other random person in tow, presumably their “onward educational journey consultant”.

Behind the stands were a disproportionate number of blonde women in wrap dresses — the universal look for teachers and matrons at home counties preps. Even the ones in Singapore. There was a giant banner for one school that said “Boys will be … friends!” and I immediately felt triggered again at the memory of Hector not being invited to Roscoe’s party.

Did my best to ingratiate various headmasters, aware that my single mother appearance might put them off, while also raging that this could be the case. I don’t know. I basically left with a tonne of prospectuses, rictus cheeks and some free pens — none the wiser about Hector’s journey and all the wiser about South London.

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