Today has been reported the curious case of a German gentleman, Mr Arnold Holle, who thinks that our elite private schools, such as Westminster School, where one of his sons attends, are nowhere near as good as they’re . . . cracked up to be — and writes so in a German newspaper — and yet he pays expensive fees to send his own children to them! Why so? one wonders. Oh, that’s easy, He says it’s because he wants his children to be “thoroughly British”.
To me, that’s doesn’t make sense on the face of it. Unless he’s a renegade German — someone who so much admires the British that he doesn’t mind allowing his German readers to infer this loud and clear. But in writing to a German newspaper is he not more or less implying that Germans schools are probably quite as good, if not better, than the cream of the British lot?
One clue to this mild case of schizophrenia is given by the fact that he’s a banker from Dusseldorf. The newspaper account doesn’t say, but he probably works for a German bank. In any case, he’s obviously making a good career in London. And, of course, London is one of the best possible places in world to have a financial job in — second only to New York, though with Shanghai coming up fast.
Perhaps he sends his children to British public schools not only for their academic attainments — much superior to most British state schools, of course, if not to German ones — but mainly for exactly the same reason as almost every other well-off parent sends their children to expensive private schools. It is for that exquisite upper class polish, untouchable social confidence and the acquired network of friends that will absolutely guarantee that a good job waits the school-leaver somewhere in London even if he or she products is not the sharpest tools in the box.
But even as I write the above a second hypothesis occurs to me. His wife, apparently is American. All falls better into place now! He’s obviously got promotion to his bank’s branch in New York. He’s not a renegade German at all — he’s a thoroughly German German. And, as London schools’ terms are now coming to an end for the summer holidays, he doesn’t mind upsetting a few head-teachers with his disparaging comments because his children will be attending expensive private schools in America come September. And, because Americans — we are told — drool over people speaking with an upper-class English accent, his children, even though perhaps only half-thoroughly British so far, are going to benefit enormously speaking impeccably, as I’m sure they do.
There we are then. I wish Mr Holle and his family all good wishes if they’re going to New York — and even if they stay here I suppose. After all, in the early Middle Ages we were invaded so many times by Saxon tribes from his part of the world that I suppose a fair bit of German DNA runs in my blood, as much as any other English person. Genetically he’s almost my cousin. I’m not at all anywhere near as upset as one opinion writer in my ghastly-excellent Daily Telegraph today.
He was very defensive about British private schools, particularly Westminster School which he, Harry de Quetteville, actually attended as a boy. But then, thinking about his name, there may be a fair bit of competitive DNA talking there. Perhaps he’s still feeling a bit sore over the thorough trouncing that Angela Merkel gave Francois Hollande a couple of days ago when at the European leaders’ all-night meeting over Greece’s sad condition (more or less implying that France might be the next neck on the guillotine unless he got his own nation’s accounts in order!).