or If These Walls Could Talk
Yesterday I felt a bit like someone working at a space agency. They’ll spend a fortune on electronic wizardry, send this up to some distant world – and then on the day that it arrives wait with increasing tension for the first pictures.
Yesterday two of my school friends returned to Adwick School. They had promised to take a lot of pictures, and to send them to me. Here at mission control (cleverly disguised as a three year old laptop) I awaited the first pictures from my school. I was not disappointed.
Yet it was a “bitter sweet” confirmation of what I have been writing about. One of my school friends had earlier remarked “if those walls could talk” when hearing about the decision to demolish our school. Thanks to Deborah Grace and Jill Jenkins, I was able to see places that I last saw over thirty one years ago at the age of sixteen. For all that I love the power of language, nothing can prepare you for seeing such images. As precious as I found them, they were equally unsettling.
The image that really sent shivers down my spine was this one. It is of a corridor on the top floor of the main school building. Looking at this is really “bitter sweet”.
The picture firstly disturbs me because this is not the childhood world that (we are feeling that) we have lost and are looking back upon when we visit the school. As I tried to say in my first poem, and article about the demolition of our school, that is lost in time and not in space. Therefore though you could “return”, you can never return, even if you stand in the exact place you left. This picture is therefore a little unsettling.
Then there is a pervading “darkness” to the image that I am not alone in sensing. Once again that is not something that I remember, nor would want to remember my school days for. Phillip Larkin expresses something of what I feel in his poem “Home Is So Sad“. Undoubtedly this is part of the story, but methinks there is something more. I say so precisely because I know that I am not alone in picking this up. The walls just might indeed be “talking”…
The picture above is nothing like, and yet exactly like my walk into school early in the morning. In those days you would come in from Windmill Balk Lane, and you would walk pass this point. Yet that was then. This is different – somehow. I am sorry if that sounds a bit like the “Saphire and Steel” science fiction series of the late seventies and eighties (I watched that as a schoolboy), but there is something quite spooky about the old school.
In an earlier generation, people would use one word beginning with “h” for what I am describing. Now that would be regarded as superstitious. So let it suffice to say that there is a certain oppressiveness to the place that cannot be conducive to education.
You certainly don’t need to look to the supernatural to explain it. The architecture of the school represents a different time as well, and expresses different ideals about society. Thus while my late father commented in 2001, that that place could not have had a coat of paint on it since I was at school, the “corridor” illustrates there is a limit to what you can do even if you had have spent a lot of money on it. It would still be that (by today’s standards) claustrophobic passage, and the classrooms would still fundamentally be those designed for the “top – down” approach to education where everybody passively sat in neat rows. This of course is a strong argument in favour of the rebuild.
On the other hand perhaps an objective explanation for the “dark” feeling cannot be found, and I have no intention here on speculating what else might lay behind it. For me it is enough that this is only the shell of where I spent my childhood. I want to remember my Adwick School as a very different place. Seeing it as it is now makes me feel that perhaps it is best for everybody that our alma mater now rest in peace.
The Place Is Different
Thirty-three years ago EXACTLY, on Sunday 9th December 1979, I was all exited and ready to go into Adwick School for my very first school day. At the end of that day, on Monday 10th December 1979, we queued up in this playground – which then opened up on to a wide field. Now it is completely “boxed in” by the new school buildings. Then I was happy and exited to be at my new place of education; now it is different, and whilst I still could have wished I could have attended yesterday’s tour, I think meeting my old friends would have been the high point. This place pictured is just “different”.
Since it is the anniversary day tomorrow, I’ll end this fairly long post here, and continue on the same theme for my next post. Thank you for the photographs Jill and Deborah.