Boarding school

Juan Pujol first communion
My first communion.

I was indeed fairly unmanageable; so, when I was seven years old, my mother decided to send me away to a well-known boarding-school run by the Marist Fathers at Mataró, about twenty miles from Barcelona. My brother was also sent at the same time so that he could look after me and stop me from feeling home sick.

The school was called Valldèmia and I remember it well. It had spacious classrooms, large gardens and playing-fields, and an education with a decidedly French feel to it which was not surprising as most of the Fathers teaching there were of that nationality.

I spent four interminable years there as a boarder: they seemed particularly endless because we only went home for Christmas, Easter and the summer holidays. The rest of the year, we were only allowed out on Sundays if a relative came to visit us.

And this is precisely what my father did, week after week for four long years; he did not miss a single Sunday during the whole of my time at Mataró. He would arrive by train early on Sunday morning, fetch us from school and take us for long walks along the beach, ending up in one of the town’s many restaurants for lunch. Then in the afternoon we would invariably call in at a patisserie, where he would buy cakes and sweets for us to take back to school. During our time together, he would tell us stories, give advice and encourage us in our studies. Even now I can remember the exhortations, admonishments and gentle reproaches with which he regaled us during our long walks by the sea.