February 17th was not a typical Wednesday visit to Tankerville on a number of counts. Firstly it was half-term week but, as at Christmas, I was determined not to break the regular routine I had established. Secondly, I was also very curious to make an extra visit on my way there. The tone of this week had already been set the week before when the first ‘Journal’ advert for the sale of four ex-Central High buildings on the Eskdale site was discovered in the NHSG staff-room at break-time – to greatly differing reactions, as you might imagine.
The Brandling buildings (the modern Dance Studio, Sports Hall and Music & Drama Block) will be kept on as part of Newcastle High School for Girls after the move back to Tankerville. However, the four ex-Central High buildings on or near Eskdale Terrace are now all surplus to requirements (the Main Building, Art Studio in the old synagogue, Modern Languages School in Hiley House and English School on the corner of Eslington Road opposite Jesmond Metro Station). We were informed in the ‘Week Ahead’ that the buildings would be open for viewings on Tuesday and Wednesday, so a team of wild horses wouldn’t have stopped me hopping on the Metro to Jesmond that day, despite the fact it was mizzly and drizzly – again!
It was odd seeing all the doors open and all of the lights on during a holiday, even though this school rarely seems to stop; equally strange, but, also most interesting, was engaging in conversation with a team of four very helpful estate-agents from Sanderson Weatherall in Reception. They were stationed there to take interested parties on tours of the various buildings, but were also very happy to provide a copy of the sales brochure for the archives.
The Eskdale site finally being put on the market was an important landmark; the return to Tankerville now felt an awful lot nearer. I set off up the road again with a real spring in my step now – despite the spitting rain. Turning the corner into Tankerville, I saw straight-away that the work on the old building roof was progressing well. The rain didn’t seem to be causing the roofers any problems at all.
Luckily, my raised spirits served to inure me against the huge disappointment caused by ‘untypical Wednesday’ event number three today: Peter Wilson, the Wates Gateman, was no-where to be seen! I was therefore forced to resort to my ‘early-days’ technique of pushing the camera lens through the metal mesh of the gates. This thankfully worked well enough for me to be able to record that the concrete-board strips were now in place all around the new-build.
I almost left it at that, feeling I had already accomplished quite a lot, but decided to wander on up to take a look at the second site access. There was still no escape from the wire-mesh, but I was so glad I did.
Not only was it possible from this gate to see the huge progress made in a week on the new road surface in front of the building – which a small steam-roller was now in the process of flattening out – the north side of the structure was clearly abuzz with activity too.
A bright red maniscopic fork lift truck was being manoeuvred about to deliver a series of large packages of a square-shaped, white building material up onto the roof. This was a fascinating process to observe. The reach and accuracy of such a small machine was amazing.
A camera zoom lens is also a wonderful little thing. In close up it was possible to see that the concrete-board strips on the north side of the new-build had now been covered over with a similar-looking square-shaped material. And this was all still through the gate!
With the help of Google, Wikipedia and the magnifying function on my computer when I finally got home, I learned that Tyvek (the brand-name of the thick grey covering now being applied to the new-build) is ‘housewrap’. This is a protective, weather-resistant barrier designed to prevent rain from getting into the wall assembly whilst at the same time allowing water-vapour to pass to the exterior – basically a kind of insulation, I guess. It will sit behind the ‘siding’ of the building, which in our case will be the copper cladding. After today, I was left in no doubt that the only way is up from now on!
This post is being written on Easter Sunday when the Pope’s Easter message of hope ended with a scripture passage which has always helped me a lot at times of upheaval. Once again, it is from the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah (43.19): ‘See, I am making all things new!’