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England becomes our post-war home


Schooldays, school plays and the Blitz
Frederic Raphael Writer
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I was in North Devon and I worked and I played on the beach and we didn't play many games and because we were living in a valley, the hotel was in a valley like that so there weren't any... we couldn't play cricket, we used to play rounders which was very ill-regarded by masters of a certain kind. Anyway, I... I one of the masters read Rupert of Hentzau by Anthony Hope before he read The Prisoner of Zenda actually for some reason, I don't know why, and I was much struck by it. So I did an adaptation of it which we were going to perform. And Mr Workman was very tolerant because I was able to order costumes from Berman's and when they arrived there were swords among the costumes and at that point Mr Workman rather prudently took fright about this production, and it was rather abruptly cancelled and the costumes were sent back. I don't know who paid for them, but I don't think I did. I used to... Mrs Workman was a more formidable lady than her husband was a formidable man, and she had a very, very sharp way of calling me Raphael. My father was always greatly vexed by the fact that only in England was the name Raphael never pronounced correctly. Nearly always, Raphaels, particularly if they were Jews, were called Rayfel as in Rayfel Tuck for which my grandfather worked. I always thought that he was the Raphael in Raphael Tuck, but he wasn't – that was actually the first name of the first Tuck. My grandfather just worked for them for many years and he had a chauffeur, by the way, which the company gave him and a driver... a chauffeur and a car and the chauffer was called Theobald. They weren't rich but they were good middle class people. 

Anyway, I was at Copthorne in the country for all of the war. I did come to London for the Blitz from time to time, and I remember running up Putney Hill during one of the bombing raids in 1944. And I walked... ran up the hill – I was about 12 I think – and I ran up the hill with my hand on the top of my school cap. And my mother, when we got to the shelter, said how sweet it was that I had thought to put my hand on the top of my head thinking it would protect me against the bombs and I said, no, I thought it would protect me against being accused of losing my cap.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

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: Rupert of Hentzau, Copthorne Preparatory School, Anthony Hope

Duration: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014