17 MAY 2003, Page 38

Tea with the Sewells

From Professor John Holmes Sir: I only see The Spectator some weeks after publication, hence a slow response. However, I feel that I cannot let the remarks recently attributed in your columns to Brian Sewell (The Spectator's notes, 29 March) about his/my schooldays go unchallenged. Certainly it was cold, and school uniforms were patched at the elbow and darned at the toe, but Haberdashers' Aske's Hampstead School was not the hotbed of homosexuality that Brian would have us believe. Wanking was more likely a minor back-of-the-fives-court activity than a major air-raid-shelter pastime. The shelters were most in use during the doodlebug period, and many anxious minutes were spent listening for the change in note of the motor that indicated that the infernal machine had passed and was receding.

I remember Brian quite well; his speaking voice then was nowhere near as affected as of late, and he was quite handy with his fists. I even went to tea with him at his parents' flat near Willesden Green station. John L. Holmes Emeritus Professor of Chemistry, University of Ottawa, Canada