A troubled career as a schoolboy may for some be cause for shame, but for me it opened up an unimagined world. Following my expulsion from school due to my involvement in what later became known as the Mayonnaise Affair (about which I have written elsewhere), it was decided I would complete my studies with a private tutor. Mr. Regelous was an ex-Jesuit priest from South Africa who specialised in the academic rehabilitation of wayward boys from the Catholic public schools.
Mr. Regelous was a large, blonde-haired chap with a broken nose and the physique of a rugby player, which, considering he played at school and at university, made perfect sense. After coming down from Oxford (Campion Hall) he had spent a few years on assignment in Rhodesia. His duties gave him enough time for other pursuits, including an interest in native wildlife. Mr. Regelous became somewhat of an expert on reptiles, I later discovered, and his detailed observations of the Cape Cobra (Naja nivea) in Southern Africa were published in the scientific journals of the British Herpetological Society. The rigors of ministry and missionary work, however, eventually alienated him from priestly life. He returned to England and took up tutoring.
Based at Marlow, Mr. Regelous had under his guidance several boys in the area. He followed a traditional curriculum with a focus on the Classics. I thrived in his care. Studying under him ignited a lifelong affinity for the works of Thucidydes and Xenophon, amongst others, writers that still bring me delight in the quieter moments. English poetry was another area where Mr. Regelous excelled, and he introduced me to minor poets with whom I was unfamiliar. I was encouraged to commit my favourite works to memory. Even today I can still recite on demand large chunks of Byron, Brooke, and Donne ('Seal then this bill of my divorce to all/On whom those fainter beams of love did fall...').
Mr. Regelous was always well-dressed. His normal attire consisted of an immaculate tweed jacket, checked shirt, knit tie, and flannels or cords. In winter he would don a quilted jacket, lined Barbour jacket, or a camelhair overcoat. His predilection for brown brogues was notable. On visiting his cottage, where he lived with his wife, a lovely woman of Italian extraction, I was surprised to find he had in his collection twenty or thirty pairs of brogues, of different qualities and in various states of repair. He explained to me the history of the brogue, the proper way to care for new brogues, and how to pair them with other items of clothing. When I think of Mr. Regelous now, I picture him sitting at the table, glass of claret in hand, going over in considerable detail the virtues of the semi-brogue in relation to the full brogue.
Those early lessons were not lost on me. Today I am known for my brogues; they are my signature footwear. With Mr. Regelous, discussing fine clothes, and English shoes in particular, was an education in itself, and one for which I am extremely grateful.