There was one day, unforgettable, when I did go back to Hoxton… I was thirteen or fourteen and had been at Christ’s Hospital for two or three years. Suddenly, after the years of Hoxton’s emptiness, I once more had a lot of former schoolmates who were living there. One Saturday in the West End I bumped into one of them, and we arranged that I should come to Hoxton the following Saturday afternoon, when most of them did not have to work, and meet some of the others. He would fix it up, he said. I arrived at the meeting place full of excitement, and there they were, a wonderful collection of the old faces. We all started talking at once. As I was greeting them, there were new ones still arriving behind me, chattering as they came in, so I was conscious of people and voices behind me as well as in front. So when those in front burst into a laughing, jovial chorus of “Blimey, ‘ark at ‘im!” and “Don’ ‘e talk posh!” and “Cor, listen to ‘im, talkin’ all lad-di-da!” I looked round to see who the new arrival was they they were greeting with this friendly derision, my ears pricking up for the voice they were describing. There was nobody there, the new arrivals having melted in. I turned back and saw that they were laughing at me… The chorus went on, and people were nudging one another, winking, laughing incredulously as if they could scarcely believe their ears. Then one of them said: “It’s no good you talking like that to us, you know. We know where you come from.”

Bryan Magee, “Growing Up In a War”.

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