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The school Sister

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My creative talent is rewarded
Brian Aldiss Writer
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At the end of the school year, the four Houses in West Buckland put on their House concerts. Now, I was in Fortescue House.

What should I say about Fortescue? We thought it was the best… the best House, and while I was there, we always sat at the first tables, where the leading House sat. And Boyer encouraged me to write things for the House concert. And in the end, I went the whole hog: I wrote everything. I did poems, I did songs, I did playlets, and I had a marvellous time. And Boyer was sort of encouraging on the sidelines, and we put on… and I acted in the House… in the House concert.

There was a chap in Fortescue whose name was Vyan. How did my poem about that go?

'Vyan, you may wonder why,

Vyan is over six feet high.

For when measured he is found,

To stop two yards above the ground.'

And so on and so on... That sort of thing.

And yes, it was such a success that afterwards I went into the school Sister's room, and she kissed me. She kissed me! Oh, goodness, and… and from then on, she and I became rather closer, so much so... Yes, she had a kind of private part of the school behind where the laundry was stacked, and she had a little… a little bedroom.  And I did get into bedroom with her… into bed with her. Quite, quite extraordinary. Oh, she was beautiful... God, I've forgotten her name… forgotten her name! But, sometimes in the holidays, she would come into Barnstaple and take a room in the Fortescue Hotel, and I'd go and see her there and we'd make love there. I've no idea of what happened to her. I believe... no, I don't know. I was away.

You see, being called overseas, into what, in those days, was invariably called the Far East, it was so far, you couldn't get back. The only planes flying were Dakotas. Dakotas were invaluable! So, you couldn't get back, and so I spent three years in the Far East after hostilities… after they were over.

Most of the places, of course, were British-owned, although that's not entirely so. I spent a year in Sumatra. Oh, how lovely Sumatra was.

Brian Aldiss (1925-2017) was an English writer and anthologies editor, best known for his science fiction novels and short stories. He was educated at Framlingham College, Suffolk, and West Buckland School, Devon, and served in the Royal Signals between 1943-1947. After leaving the army, Aldiss worked as a bookseller in Oxford, an experience which provided the setting for his first book, 'The Brightfount Diaries' (1955). His first science fiction novel, 'Non-Stop', was published in 1958 while he was working as literary editor of the 'Oxford Mail'. His many prize-winning science fiction titles include 'Hothouse' (1962), which won the Hugo Award, 'The Saliva Tree' (1966), which was awarded the Nebula, and 'Helliconia Spring' (1982), which won both the British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W Campbell Memorial Award. Several of his books have been adapted for the cinema. His story, 'Supertoys Last All Summer Long', was adapted and released as the film 'AI' in 2001. His book 'Jocasta' (2005), is a reworking of Sophocles' classic Theban plays, 'Oedipus Rex' and 'Antigone'.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Far East

Duration: 4 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014

Date story went live: 17 August 2015