Beyond the Pale: The Hall Beams (After the Event) Part 1, 26th May 2016

I’ve always believed we make our own luck in life.  In class, I tell the girls a story about Lady Luck someone once told me.  Whether it’s true, I don’t know, but, as an analogy, it does the job.  Apparently, Dame Fortune used to be pictured with a bald head at the back and only a quipped forelock at the front.  If you don’t grab her when she comes towards you, you’ve lost your chance.  Seneca said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and the scientist Louis Pasteur put it like this: “Chance favours the prepared mind”.  

If you poke a camera lens through a wire fence, you get a limited view.
If you poke a lens through a fence, your view is very limited.

So what to do when ‘banned’ from a building?  Well, it very much depends on you, I’d say.  The Saturday I learned it, I was stunned.  All day Sunday, I fumed: “It was beyond the pale!”  On Monday, when we were officially ‘told’, there was a clue to what had happened.  By Tuesday, I was sure.  On Wednesday, my usual Tankerville camera day, I mulled over things and mused.  And by Thursday the 26th?  Figuring Fortune favoured the brave, I was back up that road again.  The blog must go on – even if my shots would end up being like the first ones I’ve posted here.  However, the most magical thing about creativity, is that it frequently emerges in the face of constraints.

Wates' Paul Carmichael spies me from the Plant Room doorway.
Wates’ Paul Carmichael has spoted me from the Boiler Room.

The news had filtered through by then, of course.  The guys were amused and bemused in equal measure.  I must have looked pitiful with my nose pressed up against the wire mesh fence, because it wasn’t long before another knight in shining armour came to my aid.  Christine didn’t have to break her promise not to go into the building.  An ‘undercover agent’ with camera would go in instead.

The end of the working day: an ideal time for an under-cover mission.
End of the working day: ideal time for an under-cover mission.

They told me the Hall ceiling had finally been painted white – a much-discussed topic since April, when I had finally gleaned the full story .  No-one on site wanted it to happen and everyone I talked to was glad it wouldn’t be them doing it.  Like most of the building work, the job would be sub-contracted.  So why was it happening?  The answer surfaced while ‘joshing’ with the architect just after Easter.  She suddenly stopped: “You do know it wasn’t us, don’t you?”  Then, “But it was our fault.”  Ah, yes.  EWA’s CGI make-over.

EWA's 'swanky' CGI make-over of the Church High Hall.
EWA’s eye-catching CGI make-over of the Church High Hall.

From Wates I learned the Hall beams had been a bit of a ‘hot potato’ for many months.  It was never the intention to paint the old wood, however, its darkness was always perceived as an issue.  The first plan was to board off the beams and lower the ceiling.  If that had happened, the beams would still be in their original state (good), but no-one would be able to see them (bad).  The next idea was to fix plasterboard to the rafters between the beams and paint that white.  In the end, I think that was felt to be too time-consuming – and time really was of the essence by then.  Thus light was to be created by white.  It was the following day, sitting at my computer, that I finally plucked up the courage to look at the photos on my camera.  I guess the end result wasn’t quite as bad as I’d feared and Hilary promises me that the paint will come off.  Nonetheless, Procol Harum’s lyrics weren’t far from the truth: ‘And so it was that later/As the miller told his tale/That her face, at first just ghostly,/Turned a whiter shade of pale.

The Hall ceiling looking towards the back south wall.
The new look Hall ceiling looking towards the back south wall.

The bright, white Hall ceiling looking north towards the stage.
The bright, white Hall ceiling looking north towards the stage.

When we first talked, Giuseppe was also dead set against painting the beams.  The next time we met, however, – after the event – I was surprised to hear he had changed his mind.  He thought the white actually enhanced the detail.  At that point, I couldn’t see for myself, of course.  But from the evidence of his photos, which I’ll share with you in my next post, at least I knew they had tried to ‘get it right’.

Newcastle High School for Girls
The Hall in modern guise: NHSG Sixth Form Common Room.


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