If you're going to meet Putin, you take a photo for the banter. But how much banter?
SQUAD. GOING. UP.
Here are the Eton schoolboys who met Putin this week. Eton schoolboys who have met a man who stood up Donald Trump; is so far yet to meet Theresa May and Boris Johnson; definitely looks like he could kill a horse with his bare hands; and is the President of Russia. But still came out for them.
Yeah, what was your school trip when you were 16? I had to submit two parent-signed forms and a £25 cheque to go to the Eureka! Children's Museum in Halifax. Don't even ask what I had to do to get to the Jorvik Viking Centre. We're not going to relive that. But needless to say I didn't go to Russia to meet Vladimir fucking Putin.
This is what Eton does to you, I suppose: it imbues you with that otherworldy, untouchable confidence, the kind that makes a kid who doesn't even have A-Levels yet email Putin and ask if he and his mates can come and hang for an afternoon. All of these boys will have starter salaries of £100,000 at some high-functioning bank, or as the head of some consultancy firm, or will be our next prime ministers, our next MPs, our next mayors. They will own mansions in Surrey before you and your boyfriend have even scraped your deposit together. That's what Eton gives you: a free swing at success, the gilded confidence to go get it.
It also makes you pose like this:
I have to tell you that the motivation behind this photograph is banter. This is because, if you put 11 boys between the ages of 15 and 18 in a room, they are going to take a photograph for the banter. This is just the law. That is nature. It is nature and law. Eton can't beat that out of you.
However, the group appears to be split, here, between Banter and Not Banter. Analyse:
So we have a 5:5 Banter-Not Banter split, with the guy who looks like he is popping a rap squat – but I can tell you for sure was just trying to find a chair without looking behind him to see what he was sitting on and, finding nothing, just kept going down – splitting out at Not Ready. So: 50 percent of this photograph is banter. Let's go deeper.
These three make up what I am calling the "banter trifecta". Their banter is the scaffolding on which the rest of the banter is built. These are natural banter poses. (To make it easier I'm going to introduce a rough key and name the boys, so from the back left we've got "Barney", "Barney" and "Charles".)
Charles, at the front, has skidded into that high banter pose without a second thought; this isn't the first time he's laid down on the floor, one hand behind his head, for a banter photo before. Barney #1 is banter because his socks are banter, and he is leaning backwards and away while pointing at the lens; he knows where the camera is, he's playing with it, having a little fun. Barney #2 looks like he could be doing an especially white dab, but I truly don't think dabbing has made its way to Eton yet, and plus that sort of semi-fun "What? Me?" facial expression he is pulling suggest he knows what he is doing. Barney #2 is pointing to this space, here, where the guy who fucked up sitting down should be but isn't:
So the Banter Trifecta of Barney, Barney and Charles are demonstrating excellent physical banter, only ruined by the guy who fucked up being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am awarding them 9/10 banter.
This is a section of undulating banter. Because look closely at Harvey: his chin is jutted high, his mouth a little prim, essentially the exact pose all his ancestors pulled for 16 hours while they paid a lackey to paint them: but he is doing it ironically. This, for Harvey, is banter. He's in a sitting position, he knows he doesn't have much room to bant, so he's doing facial banter. Harvey has read the vibe of the room and the vibe is screaming banter.
Hugo hasn't, though, which is why he looks like he's posing for his board of directors photograph.
Rufus, I feel, is not actively participating in banter, but he's aware of it happening. He is a conscientious objector to the banter. He knows it's there – listen, we've all done banter, lads, we've all had fun – but he has known since the age of three that one bad photograph will ruin his inevitable ascent to Prime Minister, so he's sticking with the hands-in-pockets lean-on-the-wall Hugh-Grant-plays-a-charming-if-uninspiring-poetry-teacher-in-a-high-budget-90s-rom-com pose that has seen him right so far. The Daily Mirror can't have a field day with that on election day 2044, can they? So, all in all, for these three, a lowly 3.3/10 banter score.
David does not know there is banter going on, but look at that folder: he definitely, definitely organised this whole thing, and that keeps him separate from the rest of the boys – slightly, imperceptibly, but still separate. David's the kind of kid who can organise a meeting with Vladimir Putin, so he doesn't need banter. He's post-banter. David is almost certainly in MI5 already. You don't need banter in MI5. You don't need banter when you've got a laser pointed at Scotland. 0/10.
Francis is already planning his "serious look to camera" pose for when he quits uni a third of the way through his fourth attempt at second year to go and DJ at Bodo's Schloss, and he needs to get the black-and-white headshot, headphones-and-leather jacket look just right to start dropping 15 bangers a night for half a summer before his dad gets him a job at Coutts, so no banter here.
Christian knew the picture was being taken but has clearly been put on the spot here when it actually comes to shutter time – a lot of the poses are slightly panicked banter, which makes me think they were only given one opportunity to get this shot, for example someone technologically inept, i.e. big posh teacher, is actually behind the camera taking the picture, some 50-year-old with moon-shaped spectacles going, "And I press on the screen, do I? How extraordinary" – and so in the end he fucked the landing and flashed a peace sign. The banter intent is there, but the execution is muddled. 5/10 banter for these two.
Which brings us to Poor Gerald.
As per Archimedes' Theory of Patter:
"For every one boy who knows not that the photo is only being taken for the banter, that boy shall therefore become the victim of the banter, in that he (the patter-free man) is so unaware of the bants that he becomes, in that moment, the ultimate peak of the banter, i.e. his unawareness to the banter is both at once anti-patter as well as being all of the bants."
— Archimedes, 202 B.C.
This is Poor Gerald. Everyone else in the photo who is not displaying banter – David, Rufus, Hugo – is doing it while also being aware of the banter: they know banter is happening but they are not, for whatever reason, partaking. Poor Gerald, with his big red hands, does not know at all, thus making him the bantee, or victim of the banter. Poor Gerald just thought they were doing a pre-Putin team shot, and instead he watched in silent horror as his peers half-dabbed, skidded to the carpet, threw up peace signs, arranged their faces into banterous positions.
You know that directly after this photo was taken, Poor Gerald was like, "Oh, was— aw, guys! I wasn't ready! Do it again!", but it was all for naught, as that uncatchable, ethereal energy of a room full of boys about to meet Putin had scattered them to the wind, leaping and bouncing and all on their feet, whooping and hollering with posh nervous glee. Poor Gerald was the victim of the banter, and you know that soiled his meeting with Putin. Poor Gerald will take this pain and ball it up inside him, and we won't see it again until, in 30 years, it's his decision to drop the bomb. And then you'll see. Then you fuckers will see me roar. Anyway: 0/10 banter.
FINAL BANTER TALLY
Okay, I'm not going to actually do mathematics here – what am I, an actual journalist? Come on – but I'm estimating this photograph is 64 percent banter, or 6.4 Bantons. Nobel prize, please.
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