End of an Era

My old primary school is being demolished this summer. A new, purpose-built, hi-tech, all-singing, all-dancing structure will take its place. It will have all the mod cons – interactive white boards, projectors, dedicated IT suite, an elevator, disabled facilities. You name it, it will have it.

I don’t know that it will last as long as the current, yet-to-be-demolished version. This particular edifice has been standing for around a hundred years. My dad went to it, my brothers and sisters and I went to it, my children have all gone to it. Two of them are currently there today. My youngest still has five years to go there.

It’s quite an ugly building. It was built over three levels and constructed of blonde sandstone. It looks like a giant cuboid standing on one of its smaller sides. It has mesh on most of the windows to prevent break-ins and vandalism. It looks like a prison. And I am sure there have been plenty of children who have gone through its doors and felt that it was exactly that.

But I have some fabulous memories of my time there. I met my favourite teacher of all time there. I had the pleasure of being in the Primary seven class of this young (then) woman who just ‘got’ kids. You knew that she understood every one of us. She was patient and kind and had a fabulous way of putting her lessons across. She made everything worthwhile learning. It was in her class that I fell in love with Greece and its myths and legends. It was in her class that I realised that, even although I was quiet, I was noticed. She inspired me to give of my best. I worked my tail off for her approval. And I loved it. I blossomed.

I later did a teaching practice in the school myself as a student and she was still there. I was still in awe of her. I even posted a little note through her door at the end of teaching practice to tell her what an inspiration and fabulous teacher she had been. I was still too shy to say it face to face.

She retired some years ago and I still think of her. She never married. Teaching had been her life.

Thank you, Miss B.

It was in this school that I first did any acting. Well, if you can call it that. One of the teachers was particularly talented at art and music. He put on some mean performances. He wrote lyrics to classical pieces and had us all singing our hearts out on stage and feeling that the Oscars were just around the corner. He should probably have taught music in the secondary school. So, Mr. W, thanks for the memories.

One other teacher in my third or fourth year there was so old-fashioned. She used to wear an orange checked overall to protect her clothes from chalk dust. She had the girls curtseying and the boys saluting during a particular topic. I think it must have been ‘The Victorians’. We loved it.

‘Good Morning, Miss B.’ Curtsey. Salute. Such fun.

My first year in the school I was in a class that had an open coal fire. And a rocking horse. I so wanted a shot on that horse but pushier children always got there first. Sods! We practised our letters on small chalk boards and worked out number bonds with Cuisenaire rods. God, I sound like 120.

Parts of the school have terracotta coloured ceramic tiles covering the walls. These are to be removed and used to make a mosaic. Primary seven children will do this. So one of my daughters will be doing this as a last act before leaving for secondary.

Tonight there’s to be an open evening and a Mass to celebrate the end of an era.

My sister’s hosting a little after party too so there will most likely be a few sherbets and some tears.

Two days until the end of term and this school closes forever. To be flattened to the ground. But the memories will live on.



Being Young, eh?

My big son comes home from holiday today. He and his girlfriend have been enjoying two weeks in Cancun. Lucky beggars.

It’s been a bit of a holiday for me as well while he’s been away. Yes, I’ve missed him. But.

My washing has halved, yes halved, while he’s been away.  All by himself, he manages to generate more washing than the rest of us combined. He doesn’t believe in using the same towel twice. He goes to the gym everyday. So, lots of sweaty gym clothes and lots of towels. There’s no telling him that he could use the morning shower’s towel for his après-gym shower. Nope. Gross, apparently.

I know. He’s 23 and should be doing his own washing. But, I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. He packs everything into the washing machine then walks away to go and do the exciting things that 23 year olds do. End of. I need the machine so I empty it. I’m not just going to leave it lying there, am I? So I hang it all out in the garden, if weather permits. This is Scotland, so just because it’s summer, doesn’t mean the sun is shining. So I might have to hang it on the pulley. (God bless that old-fashioned invention). Then I need the pulley for my next load so I take his lot down, finish it off in the tumble dryer and fold it ready for his room. (I absolutely don’t do ironing. The most boring exercise on the planet.)

What am I going to say to him? Stay in and do your washing. Wait for it to finish and deal with it. I probably should. But I was once 23 and mundane chores just did not figure in my life. I did them if I was asked but I never noticed them all by myself. Do you know what I mean?

My mum once came home from work and asked why I hadn’t emptied the bins seeing as how I had been in the house all day. I just hadn’t noticed they needed emptied. Simple. But next day, I emptied all bins around the house and was quite chuffed with myself. Mum came home from work that day and asked why I hadn’t brought the washing in from outside. Hadn’t I noticed it was raining? Well, no, I hadn’t. I’d been reading and hadn’t noticed anything other than the fantasy world I was engrossed in. She didn’t notice that I had emptied the bins. And I didn’t like to point it out. Seemed a trifle insignificant when faced with a pile of washing that had been dry and was now wet again.

So, being a young person, eh? I remember it. And I do try to force some issues with my own young people. But I do try to stick to the important ones.

Anyway, boyo’s home today. After two weeks of freedom from family life he might even decide to get a flat. Two of his sisters have already gone that route and are making a grand job of it. (As far as I know!)

More likely though he’ll present me with his suitcase and head to bed. At least the machine is empty today and the sun is shining. A good drying day. Life’s simple pleasures.

Slow Motion

Getting my two youngest out of the house in the morning is an exercise in patience and wonder. There’s a dreamlike quality to their pace. It’s as if everything is in slow motion. Spoons dip into cereal soooo slowly, lift mesmerised to mouths aaaaannnd…in. One mouthful.

They’ve already been up for an hour but it’s taken them forty minutes to appear downstairs. All they have to do is dress, for goodness sake. One school uniform each. How difficult is that. Apparently, really difficult.

Socks that ‘hurt my toes’. How? Why? I’ve checked these things out in the past and I just don’t see how anyone’s toes can be so sensitive that the seam across the toe of the sock ‘feels really jaggy/hard/rough/uneven/just sore.’ These are socks washed and final rinsed with fabric softener. The seam is just there. Socks have them.

‘I can’t find my shoes.’ They wore the blasted shoes last, they took them off in their room or were told to take them to their room. Is there a black hole somewhere in their room that swallows everything they need in the morning to be organised?

‘Where’s your schoolbag?’ ‘Umm.’

I’ve done this enough times to know that everything has to be organised the night before. But, despite my best efforts, they still end up rushing out of the door at five minutes to nine.

Thankfully, school is less than a five minute walk. But still. By the time they have left, I am shattered. I’m annoyed at my own impatience with them but more frustrated that every morning seems to follow the same slow progress.

I’m not here every morning to put them out to school. Sometimes their dad has the dubious pleasure. The same slowed-down movie occurs with him. So it’s not just me.

However, if I were to say, for example, ‘We’re going swimming/to McDonald’s/to the park’, you should see them move. Roadrunner isn’t in it.

So, maybe it’s only with school that they’re like this. And they enjoy school. God knows what they would be like if they hated it.