Count-Down Complete: The Last Day (Ever) In Eskdale, 7th July 2016

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.

No entry: R.M. Myers’ arc welders are at work.
Though, clearly, they weren’t when Giuseppe did his rounds!

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.

The run of purple doors & skirting boards I met every morning.

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.

As you can see, the Staffroom was thankfully painted blue.
If you sat on this side of the room you could at least hear …
…. but if you sat beyond the arch, you didn’t stand a chance!
The SLT always entered at the last minute and all stood in a line at the front. On the last day, the SLT members, from left to right, were: Deputy Head, Amanda Hardie; Director of Finance & Operations, John Crosby: Senior Deputy Head, Michael Tippett; and NHSG Headmistress, Hilary French.
For most of the time, this was pretty much my view of things.

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.

Michael Tippett in his office on the Main Corridor opposite the Staffroom. Despite the smile, he was sad to be leaving it.
Hilary changed her dress for the Celebration of Achievement.
I know, for some, Hilary’s Office always remained tinged with uncomfortable memories of merger-time interviews, but I thought it a nice room – perhaps because it was painted blue.

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.

Meeting Laura Barrett in the modern Conference Room (above) & an ex-Central teacher in the Old Library (below).

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.

Zoe’s seahorse hung against a window in Hilary’s office at Eskdale – as it now does against a much bigger window at Tankerville.

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.’

For me, Eskdale had long echoed with the ghosts of ‘Absent Friends’: by July 2016, Church High’s long-serving IT Team and Senior Science Technician were no longer ‘aboard ship’.

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.

The launch of NHSG: 4th September 2014. Note a slimmer version of me standing underneath the teal signage, waving.

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’.

Celebration of Achievement 2017: Newcastle High School.

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.

Goodbye: Lynn Batchelor (above) pictured in her revamped Old Building Home Economics Room and Sue Harris (below) in her New Building Maths Room with members of my Year 9.

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.

For two years, this was the dream vision we worked towards.

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.


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