Giuseppe’s photos of Tankerville taken in the sunny, late morning of Thursday, 7th July depict yet another tranquil, almost lazy scene. If there was heavy work being done, it certainly wasn’t photographed by Giuseppe that day. As the image above shows, the Boiler House was once again the main focus of activity, although those with very sharp eyes may have noticed signs on the bin-store gates. At this stage of the refurbishment, the guy passing by in the pale-blue shirt would almost certainly have noticed loud, echoing, grating noises emanating from this area – as I had done earlier in the week. As more of Giuseppe’s shots show us, arc welding was in progress.
I didn’t venture up to Tankerville that day, because it was the last day of the academic year and anyone connected with schools and teaching will know how busy they are. Your feet never touch the ground. But for me, this one was particularly welcome. My spirits were positively buoyant knowing that this was the last day I would ever have to grapple with all those stairs and traipse across the pot-holed, cobbled back lane to the English Dept in Eslington Tower. Indeed, I don’t think I even had to go across to Eslington that day. It also goes without saying that by that time I had reached the point where I never wanted to see another door painted purple ever, ever again. To have been forced to work as NHSG for two whole years in a building still painted from top-to-toe (and I mean from top-to-toe) in Central’s colours was an insult which will take a while to forget.
Another ritual with its legacy in Central was daily Briefing at 8.25 am each morning. After 6 months back at Tankerville, these have now been whittled down to only Mondays and Fridays. The first hard-won triumph for those keen to change the ritualistic ways of the building actually occurred very early. Within a couple of weeks of NHSG, girls were finally allowed to knock on the Staffroom door! Anyway, for those folk who are curious to know what Staff Briefing at Eskdale looked like, here is my visual record of the very last one.
Throughout this whole process, as you know, I have made it my job to document events for posterity. At Church High in the summer of 2014, I photographed a lot of people for the last time in the places they had worked and loved. In the summer of 2016, I offered to do the same thing as we got ready to leave Eskdale. It surprised me greatly that of everyone I asked, only two people said “Thank you” to my offer to photograph them in their offices: Michael and Hilary. I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions there. I found it odd.
However, I suppose, like us, they said all their goodbyes when they celebrated the end of Central Newcastle High School in June 2014. I was there – probably the only person from Church High who did go. I was just curious. To see what the other school we were being joined with was really like. In ethos and also the physical layout of the building. After all, this was where I would very soon be working. I learned a lot that day. It was a strange experience to witness as an outsider, but it was very helpful, nonetheless. If you take the time to watch the 15 minute YouTube video created that day, by clicking on the link above, you might notice I appear twice, lurking by the Hall door. The first time you see me is good timing. Just after the Town-crier announced that Central’s first compulsory uniform was green! That morning I also bumped into my good friend Laura Barrett, an ex Central girl, and Mrs Joyce Anderson in the Sixth Form Library. This is where the history lay and, as such, was always my favourite room.
From quite early on in NHSG’s life, Hilary’s office was adorned with a small, metal sculpture of a seahorse, made for her by Zoe Robinson. Hilary hung this in a window so it could be seen against the light. At the time of making it, Zoe would not have believed you if, somehow managing to look into a crystal ball, you’d told her that just over a year later she’d have won a commission to create a six foot high bronze seahorse for NHSG’s grounds when it finally got home. An awful lot of other people wouldn’t have believed you either. This was typical of the way a lot of our talent was undervalued.
Just as Hilary’s office would always remind some of an interview undertaken in exceedingly stressful circumstances, in my mind the Eskdale building itself could not ultimately be separated from the sad and painful memory of those who were not treated well there. The imminent return to Tankerville was also a little tinged by the awareness that the number of staff returning was fewer than the number successful at interview who had set off for ‘down the road.’
Yes, a lot of things had changed since the whole school stood in front of that newly-painted teal front door on the inaugural day of NHSG.
In real-time, yesterday’s end of term, a year further on, now in a building with teal-coloured doors, saw me enjoying a Celebration of Achievement for the first time. We are finally finding our ‘sea-legs’.
There hasn’t been a total sea-change as yet, however. It is with sadness that I report that two more members of the old Church High staff decided it was time to jump ship: Mrs Batchelor & Mrs Harris.
But on July 7th 2016, I knew none of this. I just knew that the dream displayed on the NHSG noticeboard was soon to become a reality.
No more purple doors for me. Back on Tankerville, I hoped to draw strength from a sky that was blue and trees that were, oh so, green.