Off she went with a sack of hardbacks. She hardly recognised the place.
The old 60s folly, a gun metal sunken battleship, had quite gone – demolished by tractors, wrecking balls, venture capitalists and barking right wing tabloids. You know the narrative – lefty, liberal, failing Comprehensive is “turned round” into a rigorous, whizzo, succeeding academy. It happened to my old school, Holland Park – “so very different to the gleaming model of efficiency it is today”, observed Sarah Vine, aka Mrs Gove, in a recent column. Thus is a whole culture traduced.
Whatever, my daughter remembers her old school with much affection. She also remembers the savage underfunding of Westminster council, the Machiavellian activities of Dame Shirley Porter and the consequent absence of playing fields, the belly-up rats in the swimming pool, the scant library, the crumbling classrooms, the scuzzy toilets and yes, I’m afraid, the very dangerous drugs and some very naughty children.
All seemingly gone. Money does wonders. Now there are tidy playgrounds, shining corridors, neat uniforms, a fulsome library, a swimming pool bereft of plague rodents and excellent behaviour – and terrific young teachers, like Ms Orifi of English, whose 9th year were a delight.
“Would I have done better in that school?” Anna wonders. A painful and complex question.
Her teachers have almost all gone. They were “disappeared” in the purges of the noughties. Anna guessed as much and was furious at their fates. What? Even the marvellous, patient Mr Bagan? And the lovely Mr Barnard, who may have saved her? Attention must be paid. Only the legend, Ms Simpson of Drama, remains.
“Better?” Who knows? With modern teachers, who are measured so much by merely meeting targets? “I’d be expelled today!”
We smile. Indeed.
Her teachers had time to stick with her, to listen and nourish the writing. They did teach her to value all gods’ children. Their inner city voices are all over the novel. “Better?” Whatever, the girl done good. She thanked the school for a lovely day and left copies of her book (Boxer Handsome) in the library. What a thrill!