Saturday, October 26, 2013

Incontinent Nostalgia

No I haven't lost control of that function, yet! Fear not! The title comes from an essay in neurologist Oliver Sacks' collection The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. In the essay, a woman being treated with L-Dopa experiences an overwhelming unstoppable flood of memory of events some 40 years before brought on by some tiny seemingly insignificant trigger.

I'm not quite there yet, but I did have a flood of memories come back yesterday with not the hearing but the thought of a song. And the hearing again brought back even more. The song was "When An Old cricketer Leaves The Crease" by Roy Harper from 1975.  I don't think I can have heard it in at least 30 years. I love the song but oddly enough I have never owned a copy of it. But I remember it like yesterday being played in one of our 6th Form Common Rooms.

Back in Harrogate in my youth neither my own school, St Aidan's Church of England HS nor St John Fisher RC High School down the road had sufficient numbers to run a practical 6th form with a wide range of A-level subject options. And so we united the 2 small groups to make one decent sized body of pupils. I was one of the second year of this experiment, which incidently I learn still continues. So we had classes in both schools our own new concrete and glass late 60's monstrosity and Fisher's Victorian pile about 500 yards down Oatlands Drive. This made for much fun travelling between. Excellent for the smokers who could sneak a ciggy on the walk and much harmless tom-foolery and japes. Massed performances of Singing In The Rain come to mind as on wet days as we jumped in and out of the gutters giving crack throated voice to Arthur Freed's lyric though these were more in the style of Morecombe and Wise than Gene Kelly.

We also had a 6th Form Common Room in each school. Our home base at Aidans all chrome and formica and of its time. But the Common at Fishers was up at the top of the building pretty much the attic. It had nooks, crannies, oddly angled ceilings & skylights. It had a record player, it had beat-up, overstuffed  and disconcertingly stained  easy chairs and sofas of great antiquity. In short it was more like something out of another age, Geoffrey Willans' and  Ronald Searle's St. Custards comes to mind, looking back.

Follow the arrow...somewhere up there anyway.

 We came in one weekend before school started and painted the place ourselves.Painted it a ghastly 70s orange and brown combo as I recall, with the leftovers of someone's parents home beautification project.

Now this was a mixed 6th form yet somehow in my memories I don't recall any of the girls being around this space as they were back at St Aidan's with its cubic, scandinavian, pristine decor. If Bjorn Borg had been a sofa he'd have looked like St Aidans common room furnishings. No. the John Fisher common room was a scruffy, comfortable, blokish warren of hideyholes where we listened to prog-rock (and Roy Harper) and, as our 2 year residency drew to a close in mid 1977,  much heated debate accompanied the 'intrusion' of ever more punk and reggae.   The same went for staff 'intrusion' we didn't see female staff in there at all but I tink there was something comforting and familiar to the male staff who were to be found there fairly regularly. The fact that several of Fishers female staff were nuns might have had something to do with that too. 

The one really rather sad part of all this nostalgia is that I really can't remember so many of the people. Unlike Mrs B. who has to beat the old HS contact off with a stick on Facebook. I do recall a few odd names but my friends don't seem to have very high profiles on line. The only old St Aidan's hand I'm still in touch with at all is Outa_spaceman and we didnt really get to know each other until after we both left school. I shall have to make an effort. The buggers must be out there somewhere mustnt they? All those old cricketers can't have left the crease.               

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