Tuesday, January 09, 2024

will no-one rid me of this turbulent school

I was inspired by my mention of going to school in West Bridgford in the early 1980s to try and find the two schools I went to. We were only in the area for about eighteen months, and our collective recollection (and I'm leaning heavily on Emma's memory for some of this) is that our school attendance comprised the last two terms of the 1980/1981 school year and the entirety of the 1981/1982 one, which basically means that we moved up around Christmas 1980 and back in the summer of 1982. 

An odd side-note, similar to this (also school-related) one in how it illustrates the slipperiness of memory: I vividly recall being sat in front of one of those old tall TVs on a cart that schools used to have, at my primary school in Newbury, watching (bizarrely in hindsight) a cricket match, which I have mentally filed as being one of the early skirmishes of the 1981 Ashes series but which in fact must have been one of the matches against the West Indies from the previous year. I have equally vivid memories of watching some of the later Tests of the 1981 season in our house in Normanton-on-the-Wolds, which I'm provisionally prepared to accept are genuine, as they at least fit in with the known timeline of reality. The other possibility with the wheelie-TV school cricket anecdote is that it was the 1981 Ashes and I've mentally mis-located it geographically. I don't think so, though.

In fact, bollocks to it, I'm going to do a full list of all the schools I ever attended. Here we go:

  • Let's start right at the beginning with Victoria Park Nursery in Newbury - not a school in the strict sense but I would imagine some light learning stuff was probably done in addition to the finger-painting and napping. I mainly include it so that I can also include this tremendous photograph of me (second from right, possibly asleep), my friend Pippa (fifth child from left, in front of the bishop's right knee) and the Bishop of Reading, who I think at the time was a bloke called Eric Wild, although I can't be completely sure as the job changed hands during 1972, which was probably around the time the photo was taken. 

  • So then there was St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Primary School, also in Newbury. I'd have gone here during the 1974/1975 school year, just about all of it I think as we flew to Korea around July 1975.
  • While we were in Seoul (July 1975 to December 1976) I attended Seoul Foreign School, which I mainly recall being intimidatingly huge (to a five-year-old, anyway) and run mainly by Americans - presumably a legacy of the large military presence dating back to the Korean War and beyond, although that can't be the full story as it was apparently founded as long ago as 1912. It's on Google StreetView, as most things worldwide are, but I can't say I'm struck by an overwhelming sense of oh yeah, that place on looking at it.
  • Back to Newbury and St. Joseph's between the start of 1977 and about September 1978.
  • Then off to Java and Bandung International School (now apparently called Bandung Independent School and occupying a different physical location), which by contrast with Seoul Foreign School was an endearingly half-arsed educational facility whose teaching staff was largely drawn from the pool of expatriate wives (including my own mother for a while). 
  • Back yet again to St. Josephs, up to what I reckon (see above) to have been Christmas 1980 ...
  • ... when we moved to the Nottingham area and I started at St. Edmund Campion primary school, or St. Edmund Campion Catholic Voluntary Academy, as it is apparently now named in a not-at-all-sinister way. This would have comprised the last two terms of my last year at primary school, or Year 6 under the current naming/numbering scheme.
  • Next up is The Becket School, also in West Bridgford, where I attended for the whole of the first year (again, what would now be Year 7). More on this in a minute.
  • Finally, in 1982 we moved back to Newbury and I started at St. Bartholomew's, where I saw out the rest of my school career in relative tranquility after what I calculate to be eight new starts in about the same number of years.
Upon trying to find the two West Bridgford schools on the map I was quickly able to locate St. Edmund Campion, but as hard as I could squint at the location of the Becket on StreetView I couldn't make it tally with my memory. It turns out that that's because it relocated to an entirely new location in around 2010. That's all terrific, and the new buildings are very impressive (if featuring some terrifyingly Goddy exterior decor), but where was the old location? The school's own website is frustratingly vague on the subject and it was only finding this property feature in the Nottingham Post that led me to it. Locate Brewill Grove on the map, drop the StreetView man on the main road looking towards it, and wind the date back as far as it will go - that turns out to be 2008 in this case, but it's far enough - and there it is, just as I remember it. If you apply the same date to the StreetView view at the new site you can see the new school under construction. You can then wind the date gradually forward to see the progression from working school to closed and slightly overgrown school (and a bit of a target for urban explorers, it seems) to half-demolished school to new houses to not-quite-as-new houses with bigger hedges.

The other thing to note about the new-look Becket is that the names of the school houses have changed. In my day there were four: Augustine, Fisher, Gregory, More - I was in More which I'm pretty sure was green. I don't know how new pupils were allocated to houses - I'm pretty sure there was some sort of hat involved, or that may be another misplaced memory. Anyway, the new school has expanded this to six and, in keeping with the new school's exterior decor choices, has really upped the Goddiness factor in a big way by including several people (Edmund Campion among them, but also Nicholas Garlick and Robert Ludlam, clearly taking time out from writing The Bourne Identity) primarily famous for being martyred in spectacularly gruesome ways. 

I mean, I suspect what's actually happening here is that the Goddiness levels in both schools (which I would rate as High on an arbitrary scale that I've just invented) have remained roughly constant since I was there, but that it just didn't occur to me at the time to notice or question it in the same way it does now. St. Joseph's was fairly Goddy as well, St. Bart's less so, and the schools I went to abroad still less. 

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