Like we never happened

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Onwards! No blubbing. I shuffle in. So far so good. No snarling sirens. I put the collar up and the hat down and proceed round the corner ― and suddenly it's there. A great, glittering monolith, full of light and steel and bronze things and soaring

What can it be? “A glistening cruise-liner of state school!”

Yikes! My old state school. Twice yikes.

I taught there for 30 years and I can’t recognise it. That’s because it’s been quite demolished. It closed last week. This is the new incarnation and it will open very soon. An “aspirational monument”, a “socialist Eton”, it comes in at a mere £80 million. QPR could have got Cristiano Ronaldo for that.

My goodness but it’s modern – which is more than we old teachers were, when we were disappeared in the purges of 2004/05. We got murdered by management. I’ve not been back since. We were all banned and gagged. 

Shall I risk a visit now? Why not? I sneak, like a cold war spy, down a side road to the old gates. Streetlights throw shadows on lattice windows covered in ivy – unchanged. I must have taught a million lessons there with the best 6th form classes on the planet. 

Onwards! No blubbing. I shuffle in. So far so good. No snarling sirens or bloodhounds or heads. I pass shivering trees in 6th form gardens. I put the collar up and the hat down and proceed round the corner – and suddenly it’s there. A great, glittering monolith, full of light and steel and bronze things and soaring atriums.

“We didn’t want it to look like a school,” boasts a deputy head. Well, they got that right. It looks like an intergalactic Wormwood Scrubs. So much glass! It “encourages passive supervision and transparency”, says the head. It might also encourage Big Brother surveillance. And a migraine. I need shades. 

“There are no hidden spaces. No dark spaces.” But isn’t a bit of hidden good? Doesn’t darkness nourish mystery, ambiguity, creativity, nuance, reflection, contemplation, privacy? Shades of Academe? This migraine blaze blasts them all away.

I gaze on sheer cliffs of glass and seek the faces of former pupils. The grim visages of Dave Mania or Ronald Crumlin pressed against windows and waving through the years. No. Nothing. Is that shadow me droning through Mice and Men for the millionth time or laughing at their daft larks? No. Nothing. We’re all gone. A whole culture blasted.

Like we never happened.

Maybe this new stuff is better. Necessary even. But something seems so wrong. This gaudy folly seems a cathedral to corporate culture? State of the art and state of the nation. I scarper back in darkness – like I never happened.


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