Friday, May 13, 2011

Climbing through the past

Familiar stair
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
Well, that was fun. Two hours spent in a building that seemed (predictably) to have shrunk and (less predictably) to have become an unfamiliar maze reduced me to giggling exhaustion - though the giggles didn't come on till after this photo was taken, as I hadn't met someone I used to know by then. The stair I'm on here actually looks much as it always did - worn, glossy stone treads, tiled walls - though in the 50s the paintwork was cream and there were no pupils' paintings on the walls. But elsewhere, dreadful things have happened in the name of safety, and whole staircases have been dismantled and moved to places that don't fit at all with the architecture. It was, as I said in my last post, always a challenging place to find your way round the central stairwell, but now it's impossible.

Upwards was the clue. If we kept climbing, we arrived first at the top landing under the glass cupola, a space now sadly diminished by a new partition wall and the addition of fluorescent lights round the Parthenon frieze (replica). Beyond that, I knew, was The Attic, where I used to go for sewing classes between 3 - 4pm Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I saw a dingy stair heading up into the gloom and followed it - only to find that we seemed to be in a building site, linked to the rest of the school by a corrugated iron corridor with a wonky floor. We crept carefully along this, and emerged on the Attic landing: it was the fire escape. And of course we'd all have died hideously in the 50s if a fire had happened lower down in the school, as there was only the one exit, down the central stairwell. We never gave it a moment's thought - and neither, presumably, did our parents.

Because of the nature of Hillhead until the mid-70s, the returning FPs of my generation tended to share a pretty recognisable set of characteristics, including self-confidence and articulate self-expression. I was totally amused to meet up over a mass school photo with someone whom I remembered, with increasing clarity, from the 2nd violins of the school orchestra. She'd been in the year below me, along with Alison, and her hair had been very dark. I now realise I also knew her brother - even after we left school. Her pal I knew less well, but remembered her big sister - and their father had been a colleague of my own. She knew several people in my life, including one ABF who comments on this blog. It was all very incestuous and great fun.

I am grateful to the mother of a current pupil, who let me out into the shed apparently closed off because of an unsafe roof - her daughter assured me the pupils still go into it. And I was amused by the closed-in area under the school which used to be the boys' shed, open all down one side and used when it was just too wet for footie in the playground. I don't know how they got on playing footie round the pillars - I imagine it led to increased ball skills.

I was hugely impressed by the amount of work obviously done by the present teachers, and by the quality of the work on display. And I realised early on what a nightmare the building has become, with the cramped conditions imposed by the alterations and the leaking windows and unstable stonework in the attic. I had a vision of some of the classrooms as they had been - large, square, well-lit by tall windows, 40 pupils sitting in rows at desks with flap-down seats attached and the teacher at the front at the high desk - and realised I was in another world.

Take it for all in all, I think I prefer where we are now..

Note: I've had to repost this, as it vanished during Blogger's recent sickness. Hence the wrong date - it belongs, like myself, to yesterday.

1 comment:

  1. My, what a tour! I grew weary climbing all those stairs...even vicariously!
    I have never given a thought to visiting my schools. The high school I attended still stands as it was, although renovated, I imagine. My junior high school was "redone" and is no longer a jr. high school. The elementary school I attended grades 3-6 is now condos. The school I attended previously, kindergarten-grade 2, is still as it was.

    I really enjoyed reading about your visit. My schooldays seem so distant and removed...but then again,when we moved, I learned about cliques and I suddenly grew to dislike school immensely.