Monday, 26 December 2011

BELMONT ON BOXING DAY...


My old primary school in 1984/'85

Christmastime tends to make me sentimental - usually for the Christmases of my past, but also for the past in general.  Above is a photo taken back in the mid-1980s (on a 110mm camera, hence the less-than-sharp image) of the view across the road and down the hill from the house in which I lived from 1965 until '72.

Thirteen years later, things were pretty much the same as they'd always been, apart from the absence of the annexed huts in the grounds of my old primary school. Around four years later (1989), amenity housing for the elderly was built on the field in the foreground, and - currently - a new school is being built on the football pitches in the background.  When it's completed, at some as yet undetermined time, the old school - my old school - will be demolished and houses and/or flats will be built in its place.

I attended this school for nearly five years (between '65 and '70) and, due to its proximity to my house, I also played within its grounds 'after hours' and at weekends.  Even after moving from the neighbourhood, I found myself back in its hallowed halls on many occasions over the years;  at coffee mornings, jumble sales, and Christmas fayres and the like.  It's strange to think that one day, in the not too distant future, this small but reassuring pleasure of reconnecting with this particular aspect of my childhood will be denied me when the school is no longer there.

The view from the upstairs hallway

I often take a walk along to my old school of an evening (weather permitting, and sometimes even when it isn't) and, if no one else is around, sit on a bench in what's left of the playground for a while and lose myself in memories of yesteryear, recalling what it was like to be a boy with eternity in his grasp.  (Or so it seemed at the time.)  Strange as it may sound, I just want to spend some time in its company while I still can, before it's taken from me forever.

It's a bittersweet experience, not unlike sitting at the bedside of a terminally-ill friend or relative who hasn't even been told he's dying, never mind that it will be soon.  (Happened to a friend of mine, believe it or not.)  I sit and look at my old school and just remember - and when I take my unwilling leave, I feel like a cad for pretending that everything is as it was and always will be.

The school doesn't know its fate, you see.  It welcomes me in the same simple, honest, 'glad-to-see-me' way each time, unaware of the secret I'm keeping.  It probably regards the new building under construction as a companion, not a replacement.  (I wonder if old dogs think the same when a new puppy is brought into the house, or do they somehow know that this presages their inevitable end - and resent it?)  Each time I leave, I hope I have enough time to come back again before... well, you know - 'before'...

Photo taken by departing teacher Mrs. Tighe in 1967.  The annexed
huts sat at the edge of the playground directly in front of the school 

But hark at me, imbuing inanimate objects with sentience and feelings.  Just can't help it though.  Each time I learn that a landmark from my childhood has (or is about to) become a victim of 'progress' (and there've been quite a few casualties over the years), I feel diminished in some way;  almost as though my very essence is being eroded along with those monuments to my youth, as - one by one, year by year - yet another of my life's 'signposts' falls by the wayside, never to be seen again.  (Except in faded photographs and dim and distant memories of younger and happier times.)

Perhaps that accounts for the compulsion of collectors like myself to seek out and surround ourselves with tangible reminders of the past. Each treasure from childhood that we succeed in reacquiring is an attempt to compensate in some way for everything else that is lost to us over the years, and somehow helps to close the gap between then and now.  

Soon, the New Year will be upon us, and we'll toast it as the harbinger of new hope and new beginnings, conveniently forgetting that it's a false friend who promises much, but delivers little - with each and every visit leaving us only less time to look forward to than we had before.

******

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15 comments:

Steve Does Comics said...

I know how you feel. They knocked my old secondary school down years ago and replaced it with houses. Every time I go past, it makes me feel like my school days were barely more than a half-faded dream.

Still, at least the old playing fields are still there in between the housing.

Kid said...

Same here. My old Secondary School was demolished a couple of years back - houses are still being built where it used to be. My past is being wiped away.

cerebus660 said...

My first primary school ( a proper, old-fashioned, red-brick village school ) was shut down and then taken over by a fencing company, who filled the old playground with fence panels.

And my secondary school is now a pub. Shame they never had a bar when I was there...

Kid said...

I suppose there's a small measure of consolation in the fact that the buildings weren't demolished. Not much of one 'though, eh?

Anonymous said...

definitely the best blog of its kind I've read. not just a one note site confined to comics, its a nostalgic treasure chest to warm the cockles of any heart.

Kid said...

Thanks. Glad you enjoy it.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Seems like a lot of schools get torn down lately that remain a memory for those that have been there. There's a grade school down the street from my house that had to be torn down earlier this year after it closed the year before (and all because the school district didn't want to keep trying to maintain an 'old building'). It was sad since the building could have lived to see it's 100th birthday in a few years but no, they just couldn't keep it standing for long.

Kid said...

Chris, in my home town there's a policy at the moment of building replacement schools on adjacent land and then demolishing the old ones. The council sells the land to the builders and then leases the schools back from them, apparently saving money in the short-term, if not the long.

In most cases the original schools are absolutely fine and don't need replaced, but it's a way for the council to raise money from the sale of the land. Why not just sell the adjacent land you may ask? It's really all to do with the layout - if they build a new school on part of the adjacent land, when the old schools is demolished it frees up a bigger area on which to build houses and flats, etc.

Someone who knows one of the brickies who worked on the replacement for my old secondary school (high school) said that the guy told him the new buildings would be lucky to last 25 years before needing to be rebuilt.

Scandalous. Okay, rant over.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Someone who knows one of the brickies who worked on the replacement for my old secondary school (high school) said that the guy told him the new buildings would be lucky to last 25 years before needing to be rebuilt.

Wouldn't be surprised. Interesting how that sort of thing works in your country.

Rob Paul said...

Seems the school buildings of yesteryear have all but gone or been replaced in EK.

I spent my first 7 years growing up in the flats at the top of Belmont Drive.

Kid said...

My house was in the top row, right next to the flats. I see the Campbells still live there. It hadn't long been built when I moved in, and it was a far better place then than it is now.

Sir Paul said...

I join with all of you in the nostalgia and sweet sorrow at the passing of our childhood memories. My old school is gone too, they built a new one on top of the football fields where us third formers beat the fourth formers in the school cup, for the first time ever. Even though I now live in a different country and am 40 yrs removed from those days, I can still see the faces of some of the boys from our team. In my mind they will remain innocent ten year olds forever, with, as you said Kid, Eternity in front of them. We were all going to stick together and play with Georgie Best at Man Utd. Oldham Athletic was our town team, but they were third Div. Hehehe.
Kid, you have a great blog. Thanks for stirring up fond memories.
Sir Paul.

Kid said...

Nay, thank you, Sir Paul, for visiting my humble blog. Feel free to drop in again at any time. I sneaked a peek at your own site and look forward to browsing through it again soon.

Axiesdad said...

A beautiful essay. We don't live in the past, but memories shape our present. The one room school I attended until I was 8 years old is long gone, I can't even locate a photo of it so I empathize with your feelings. I've written some similar thoughts in my own blog http://axiesdad.blogspot.com/ but usually the melancholy is buried by the sweet memories.

Kid said...

Glad you enjoyed it AD - as I enjoyed your blog, to which I'll be returning to read some more. Love that photo of the old barn - it just has so much history to it.

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