‘Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine,
Runs a joy with silken twine.
~ William Blake ~
September 6th 2016, the long-awaited day when School would return to Tankerville Terrace, turned out to be a Tuesday. The second day of the week seemed highly appropriate to me for the opening of a Newcastle High School for Girls on Tankerville the second time around. In the end, a day which for so long had become synonymous with feelings of hope and excitement turned out to be a day of conflicting and mixed emotions. Probably no surprise. Historically, philosophers have assumed that mixed emotions are derived from primary emotions. However, as with colours, in reality our emotions do not fall into clear-cut categories with sharp boundaries. In psychological terms, it’s the strongest emotion that gets action priority. So joy was the primary emotion that day. For me and for our girls.
As many of you will know, traditionally girls have always entered the Tankerville building by the side entrance, but this no longer applies. Because of this, the side entrance hadn’t received the ‘deep clean’ most of the public areas seemed to have undergone overnight and even today there were still remnants of Church High colours there.
At least the new netting round the all-weather pitch was dark green.
Over the course of this blog, I have tried to avoid the format ‘this happened and then that happened’ as much as I could, but, now we have come to the end of the line as far as the site renovation goes, please forgive the more matter-of-fact approach within this post. In preparation for its interim role as the NHSG Locker Room until the lockers could be installed externally at the back of the Old Building, the clear-out and clean-up in the Tankerville Sports Hall had been completed the previous day. The far end now looked very different.
Construction of the outside locker shelters did not begin until the October and it was November before the girls could final use them. The company who were awarded the tender were Action Storage.
But to return to the start of term, the interior of the New Building did look amazing as preparations for the school day got underway.
Although this is gradually being whittled away now, under Hilary French every day began with a Briefing in the Staffroom at 8.25 am and the first day of Newcastle High School Mk2 was no exception.
As with all first days of the new school year, it was off to the Form Rooms after that followed fairly promptly by Full School Assembly.
By chance, this was one of my lighter teaching days, but, back in the Head of Year Office, it wasn’t possible to get comfy there yet. Right from the start we had painters from Purdey’s around a lot of the time, touching up corridor walls which had been scuffed when the removal men brought in the furniture. Surely white must be one of the least practical colours for a school, I said? Every tradesman agreed and, despite the signage, even I got white paint on my clothes.
To be honest, since the side car park was used as a builder’s yard right up until November, my Chemistry-Prep-Room-Sink desk, despite being the window seat, wasn’t the ‘best seat in the house’ for a long while. Noisy and weird things kept appearing at the window.
We were miles away from the Staffroom – literally at the opposite end of the school – but we had use of a little kitchen in the Old Building where the sliding door between the large and small dining rooms used to be. That suited me fine and there was a staff toilet nearby too – running the full length of the old Waiting Area and Meeting Room. On my way there that morning, I spied a familiar figure through the glass on my left. Giuseppe was snagging already.
I went out into the Quadrangle to speak to Giuseppe, despite this being extremely risky at that time owing to the fact that one of the doors leading onto it had no outside handle and one a broken code pad. I’d already fallen foul of this situation and been trapped in the Quad, only getting back in because two girls in the LRC saw me. I reported the fact to John Crosby, NHSG’s equivalent of Mr Keen. He was aware of the problem, but it wasn’t sorted for a while. Much to my amusement, the very same thing happen to him a little later on! You did have to have a sense of humour at times back then. However, this didn’t help me that day. I’d noticed earlier that the Centenary Plaque was missing from the Science Block wall and I wanted to ask Giuseppe about it. When I told him, he said it was still there until he looked up and saw that it wasn’t. He keyed a number into his phone straight away and from what was said I could tell he was talking to Nick. I could also tell that the answer wasn’t good.
I know I’ve told you about the loss of the Centenary Plaque before, something I still feel frustrated about having managed to protect so many Church High artefacts for so long. And for it to have survived for so long too. I hadn’t taken my eye off the ball, I’d simply trusted it would be safe having confirmed with Nick that it was connected to the building. What was moving that day, though, was Giuseppe’s evident frustration and anger too. He sincerely apologised to me and I thanked him for his help. What was so hard to stomach was that it had just been chucked in a skip. I knew it would have been because it was cross-shaped. I had guessed its fate straight away. On my return to the office, my spirits had sunk low into my boots but I still noticed activity outside the window and engine noise too. They were finally removing the skip from the car park. A skip?!!!!
I went to the side door to watch it go past. I might not have been able to save the plaque, but I could at least record its departure for the blog. Explaining to the brickie at the bottom of the steps why I was photographing a skip lorry led to me telling him the full story. And it’s not as if I could have got them to empty it either, I said. “Perhaps not,” replied the brickie, who I learned was called Charlie, “but that skip will be going to a depot and it WILL be emptied there.” This is where it becomes farcical, I know, but I was on a mission now.
So off across the road I went towards Westward in search of Nick. The moment he saw me he apologised. “I should have realised, Christine, I’m really sorry.” I asked about the skip, but it turned out the plaque had been taken down about 3 weeks ago, around the time of the ‘Big Push’. Hardly surprising then that Nick’s mind had been elsewhere. I reiterated that once something was at the bottom of a skip, I could hardly expect workmen to use time to try to find it. But again I was touched by the response. “If it had just been a case of that, Christine, they would be doing it now, I promise you!” Yes, it was certainly a day of very mixed feelings. Mind you, it has been this way for most of the time. Big sadnesses, little triumphs, yet plenty of laughs too and I have met so many wonderful people.
As I said earlier on, it was a light teaching day for me. Very luckily. Back on Tankerville Terrace again, I had time to stop and take stock.
I first walked into Oliver & Leeson’s old building in April 1985, which is probably part of the reason I took the loss of the plaque so badly.
Just yesterday whilst creating a hyperlink for this post I stumbled upon a news article which had obviously passed me by in March. The Evening Chronicle report on Shepherd Offshore’s planning permission request to the local council to demolish the Central High building on Eskdale Terrace to make way for 60 retirement flats. A lot of things had changed and an awful lot of things lost, but ‘The Old Girl’ was still standing (indeed future-proofed now to a great extent), I was still ‘with the ship’ and it helped a lot to know the history. And we all know history always ends up repeating itself. The ivy cross may no longer be there and the main entrance look like this.
The Centenary Plaque may now be gone forever and the Main Building now be called The Dame Catherine Cookson Building.
But that seems quite fitting considering the history once again. The Tankerville building would have been very familiar to Catherine Cookson, who moved into the last house on the Westward side of Haldane Terrace with her husband Tom when they returned North. And the Church Schools’ Company foundation stone is still in place.
No, the Bible tells us there is nothing new under the sun and, later on, when the finishing touches were added to Reception, a girl transported 126 years forward in time would still know she was home.
Amazingly, there is still green and blue in every classroom, in both the Old and New Buildings (the latter still without a name even to this day). I couldn’t believe it when I saw the colour of the bins.
The Church High community is still very much alive and thriving, although we meet up in the digital world nowadays like a kind of academic Brigadoon which is there all the time, not just once a year.
And as for Mother Nature, her growth is green, as we all know, and it’s impossible to keep the Old Girl down. Rather like our ‘Old Girl.’
‘Unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
‘The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.’
~ Ecclesiastes 1:7 & 9 ~