An inspector calls

One of the earliest experiences which engendered my subsequent suspicion and lack of respect for authority in all its forms, happened when I was about seven years old.

I was in the second class at Chelsfield Primary School, when the teacher drew our attention to a very serious-looking man who had entered the classroom. “This gentleman is a School Inspector,” she announced. “Just carry on with what you are doing, and he will walk around amongst you. He may want to ask you a few questions. Just answer clearly, if you are spoken to.”

He proceeded to stalk, self-importantly around the room, stopping here and there to speak to pupils. He stopped beside me. “Hello,” he said, “And what is your name?” “Barry” I replied. “And what is your other name?” “Marchant.” “Oh,” quoth he, “That’s the same as mine, but mine’s Merchant!”

My reaction to this was “And he’s a School Inspector and he thinks that’s the same!”

Some time after writing this anecdote I showed it to my sister, Betty, who is ten years my senior. She read the story and then, mentioning a local dignitary of the time who had been a school inspector, said, “Silly old fool! It wasn’t old Billy Fox was it?”