Monday, 14 November 2011

A Sad Day

As I said in my first post, I've decided to transfer a couple of posts from my previous blog to this shiny new blog just so there is something interesting to look at between now and the time I next post up new drawings or writings.

This post was from about a month ago, when I discovered that my old school was closing down. People really liked this post, so I'm putting it here.


T’is a sad Day.
I am breaking briefly away from my habit of posting stupid doodles of cartoon animals to inform you all of some rather upsetting news.
My old school, that I attended for 9 years, is closing because of a lack of funds after 80 years.
It was a small school of about 200 students; all girls except for some boys up to the age of 7, situated in a small village surrounded by fields.

A former workhouse, Amberfield was a real, classic English school, with strict rules on uniform - tartan skirts had to be the right length just above the knees, no jumpers were to be worn under blazers, even in the icy depths of mid-winter. Hairbands had to comply with the colours of the uniform (red, blue, green or black), and absolutely, positively NO. MAKE-UP.

Manners were an enormous part of daily life. Few students dared question the authority of the teachers, fewer still lived to tell the tale. The ultimate punishment was a trip to the Headmistress’s office, where students would stand and face judgement under the accusing gaze of the toy wombat on the sofa by the window.

I was part of the choir (which was pretty bloody good) that often participated in local musical events. The Christmas Carol Service was always the highlight of the year, walking up the aisle singing and carrying candles that dripped hot wax all over our hands, hoping to God the hairspray-smothered hair of the girl in front wouldn’t ignite in the close proximity of so many open flames.

Once a year we sat in dire boredom as some guest speaker rambled on as part of the riveting spectacle that was Founders’ Day, an occasion that took place in the Great Hall where we would gather every morning to sing hymns and say the Lord’s Prayer, being careful to pronounce the “let us pray” as clearly as we could for fear of being rebuked by the drama teacher for saying, “lettuce spray”.

Amberfield sported a rather impressive science building, and had what must have been one of the country’s best biology rooms, painted in the style of a fluorescent green rainforest, with bugs, snakes and birds adorning every inch of the walls (though, it was eventually repainted a Fail-tastic shade of pale green - so that we might focus harder on our studies than on the colourful surroundings. Or something.)

Sports Day was another highlight of the calender... If you were sporty, that is. If you weren’t sporty, however, it was a hellish maze of embarrassment and boredom, barely managing to even finish the 200 yard race and accidentally lobbing shot-puts into the watching crowd. I was always particularly good at the high-jump, though my confidence in my abilities was tainted one Sports Day when I landed spine-first onto the bar which failed to fall down with me as it was supposed to, thus leaving me with a nice bar-shaped bruise along the small of my back.

Hockey and netball were the school’s two main sports, and, after years of running around, lobbing the ball with all my might to get it as far away from my personal space as possible before all the good, aggressive players came charging at me like bulls, expecting me to defend myself, I never even came close to learning the rules or what each player was meant to do.

The school had a close relationship with the local residents of the village, giving out gifts collected by students to the elderly every Christmas. And any student who travelled by bus to and from the school would remember the old gentleman who sat outside his house on the other side of the road and waited for our buses to pass so that he could wave happily - and of course, we never failed to return the favour, shouting “It’s Old Man! Wave to Old Man!”.

(A photo of me crawling through the undergrowth of the 'Forbidden Path' that ran round the side of the school. No more good little girl. I'm rebelling, beeches. Photo taken by my lovely friend Julia Bagert.)

I met some of my absolute bestest-friends-for-everest at Amberfield school, and, six years after leaving, I still like to recall all the strange and silly things we got up to. I remember vividly the smell of the biology, physics and chemistry rooms, and the smell of the art room. I remember standing in the downstairs section of the textiles room, painting the same piece of cloth over and over again as slowly and meticulously as I could to stave off the stage where I have to go upstairs and sit at the sewing-machine by the textiles teacher’s desk, feeling her hawkish eyes boring into the back of my skull, watching my every move, waiting for me to accidentally thread the machine with tacking thread, or forget to put the presser-foot down so that she could explode in a disproportionate rage at my insolence.

The day we all left and parted ways was a sad day indeed, not to mention terrifying. We were breaking away from the sweet little bubble of innocence that was Amberfield school and searching for our places in the world, worrying about university applications, swearing and blinding at the UCAS website, getting jobs. Amberfield equipped us well for all of this. I thank it most graciously for its efforts in giving me such a well-rounded education.

I leave you, Amberfield, with one complaint. I’ve always been an artist. I always knew I would draw pictures for a living. I told you. I told you I would never need algebra. I told you that I would go out of my way to avoid any career involving algebra at all costs. But, still, you insisted on shoving it in my face. To little effect. Your endeavours failed miserably. I’ve forgotten it all. Ha!

(This lovely photo was taken by Julia. And unfortunately that gorgeous german shepherd is hers, not mine. I'm the one in the middle, pondering how I can get the dog into my car without Julia knowing.)

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