As you already know, the day after Handover I had decided to ‘try my luck at Tankerville’ around 11.00 am on the morning of Saturday, August 27th. So we begin here where my last post left off ‘ ….. those bright red Braines removal vans really did not have very far to travel’.
Moving Out. Moving In. Moving Out. Moving In. Moving On. These five short sentences, made up of only 42 letters, don’t even take up a full line of text here, but they sum up the world around me since July 2014. I wish I could say just my ‘working world’, but, sadly, that wouldn’t be true. I also wish I could say that all of the friends who set out on this bumpy, unexpected journey with me lasted for the full five sentences too. But they didn’t. Although the rice-pudding did eventually all turn pink (forgive the in-joke), events conspired along the way to issue hands of fate to various folk which prevented them from making the ‘full-circle.’ And, to be honest, I’m not sure even I fully managed it. Best to add on ‘trying’ in brackets, I think.
‘Please don’t get me started
Looking backwards to move on …..’
‘…. Strong yet open-hearted,
Accept leaving when leaving’s come’.
At the time, of course, in the August sunshine after such a long wait, all I could think of was getting back inside the building again. Don’t forget, even I hadn’t been allowed inside for a long while and this moment of returning Home had been a long time in coming. So, on this final leg of the cycle, orange crates were ‘good’ and Quicksilver were ‘heroes.’ Although this hadn’t been the case first time around. However, true to my word, I remained one 100% uninterested in fixtures and fittings and the word/image content of this post will reflect this fact. I was more interested in what still looked the same. Every spot of greenish hue was noted. (The doors were just a bonus).
Well …… the old green doors were open and everyone seemed to be all smiles, so I just made my way inside and continued my photo-story. As I wandered around the building, it soon became clear just how well-timed my arrival was (Thank You, God). Enough of the furniture was there to give a sense of place, but without the clutter of crates and boxes to distract the eye. Because of this, the video slideshow at the very end of this post really is one for posterity. It seems nobody else thought of doing it. Where were all the people? Finally, as I wandered along the top corridor, I bumped into a man. I thought it best to explain who I was. “I know who you are,” he said. I wonder how many times he’d seen this mad woman and her camera.
I have always been very much against literary ‘feature-spotting’ simply for the sake of it (as my English examination students will all testify), but since we have finally come full-circle again, let’s play one last game of ‘Church High Eye Spy’ – just for the hell of it. Since we all now know that the 1985 School Centenary Plaque was taken down and binned very late in the game, Item 1 is just a blank space.
So let’s just move swiftly on ….. Item 2 is also in the back Quadrangle but you will have to look at the shot below very, very closely indeed. Yep, despite the multi-million refit of the building, the little weather station which last drew data in the late 1990s is still spinning away.
From way up high, to way down low. You probably didn’t notice them as you entered and left the Hall, but there were ‘Smith’s Spring’ brass plates at the base of each swing door. The original fittings are all still there and have even been polished now. For those who are interested in such things, these Smith’s Patent Door Springs would have been one of the state-of-the-art features of the 1889 original Newcastle High School building. Fascinating. Archibold Smith seemingly had numerous inventions patented to his name in the Victorian era including Patent Water-tight Fastenings for Casement Windows. Like the floor springs, all made in London.
Item 4 (in the plural) is also still in the Hall. To me, there doesn’t seem to have been a clear rationale about the original features retained and those that were removed. If we can just gloss over for a moment the fact that huge swathes of original woodwork were painted bright white – bar the Honours Boards now safe in storage – and the big Victorian iron coiled radiators trashed, features such as the air vent in the ceiling and the little display brackets still remain.
No, a renovation that fails to value the quality of old wood, I’m afraid doesn’t value beautiful old Victorian parquet flooring either. True, wood blocks require sanding and polishing as regular upkeep, but not THAT regularly. And they just exude quality and tradition. That’s the expert view too. Jasper Weldon on timber floors: “Much like a piece of antique furniture, once wooden floors reach a certain age they all have an inherent beauty and value that merits investing the time and effort it takes to revive them. A floor that has passed the age of 100 years is certainly worth saving, whatever the wood.” And they were everywhere. If it is too painful, I’d advise you skip the next photo.
But life is all roundabouts and swings, remember. It may help a bit to know the original stage IS still there under the new raised platform.
Just outside the Hall in old Room 2, the Victorian fire-surround has also been left in place. But why cover it up again? The tiles are teal.
But we at least know they are still there and, most importantly, have been preserved for the future. As have the huge, old roof timbers which used to support the bell-tower and are now tightly enclosed within a shiny white laminate coating to create a kind of study bar.
The caretaker’s fireplace is still there too, though now painted grey.
And the top floor eaves admin corridor is also still there too, you know, as long as you stand to the left, cover one eye and squint.
Someone, somewhere in the future is in for a big surprise though. That glorious little piece of original eaves space which remains intact behind a white plasterboard wall with a discreet little door is soon to be hidden from view behind a non-descript white bookcase. I say it one last time. How good would a glass wall have looked here?
I mean, it’s not as if it hasn’t been done elsewhere in the building.
And that is the point where my uninterrupted re-acquaintance with the Old Girl came to an end. A very abrupt end actually the moment I opened the door at the south end of the eaves space. I hadn’t really been aware of it, but I now realised there was a backdrop of noise. Bangs. Grunts. Men. Yes, those fixtures and fittings were arriving.
Having put up with me photographing their dilemma (one of them was the smiley guy, I think), the men all suddenly disappeared and I ducked under the offending table to make my way down the stairs. The original south stairs have been retained, but with the addition of some raised white rubber strips to the edge of each step (GDST are very big on health & safety) which now makes them odd to walk down. And they are now painted grey and white too. As I continued down, the degree to which the ‘new world’ was about to descend on the building became clear. A veritable traffic jam of tables below.
This was definitely my cue to go. I had already bumped into Hilary on the stairs and had given her my best sheepish smile. The men had gone to report to ‘the top’ – and probably for a screwdriver too. In the blink of an eye, I was through the green doors and into the light.
But the world had changed outside in the time I had been exploring. The guys from Braines with their red lorry were just the vanguard. Lining up by the side door was the next phalanx of silence invaders.
As this little army got to work with their trollies, Tankerville Terrace was now lined with big white lorries. NHSG would very soon be in residence and the Old Girl would be empty no more. A sort of mental handover now took place. It was time for me to be on my way.
‘Walking down this road
When my pulse beats slow,
Hope to have you close at hand.
When this cycle ends,
Will it start again?
Will we recognize old friends?
‘I’m on my way,
Soon be moving on my way,
Leave a little light on,
Leave a little light on’.