Looking back to my schooldays

published: Fri, 13-Aug-2004   |   updated: Thu, 27-Oct-2005

For some reason I'm feeling a little introspective and retrospective today. Dunno why, perhaps because I've been sleeping fitfully (Donna is in trial on a pretty obnoxious case where the sub-word noxious is especially apt, so she's working late and getting up early), perhaps because I've blown four days banging my head against bugs in a component library I'm using (yes, I did assume that it was my code at fault at first, but debugging led me to the conclusion that this time it wasn't me), perhaps because I finished a run of The Taming of the Shrew last Saturday (I played Baptista, the shrew's dad), perhaps because I'm reading Songbook by Nick Hornby where he mixes autobiography with a discussion of various pop songs, and he's roughly my age), perhaps because I was perusing the search phrases used to access pages on my site, and the name of my old school came up, Ernest Bailey Grammar School, Matlock.

I was at school at Ernest Bailey during the ages of 15 to 18, from the Fifth Form to the Upper Sixth, 1972 to 1975. I took my O-levels there and my A-levels, my first real girlfriend was in my class (hello, Susanne, where are you now?), I first played rugby there (and only there; I played loose-head prop if you must know and when I was in the First XV, we won the Derbyshire Cup), I first acted in a play there (I played Mr Van Daan in The Diary of Anne Frank, the patriarch of the other family incarcerated in the attic with the Franks; the review commented on the "boorish Van Daan", for a while I wondered whether the epithet applied to me or the character), and I first wrote a computer program there (in FORTRAN on paper tape, and it calculated primes; from such inauspicious beginnings, etc).

The school no longer exists. A year or so after I left, the Sixth form was moved to another, larger site and finally after a few more years the rest of the school was moved and it was renamed at the same time (I think it's called Highfields School now). The old school buildings seemed to be clinging to the side of the hill with temporary schoolrooms dotted all over the place, bordering the playgrounds (I seem to remember we called them Terrapins, because that was the word on the nameplate affixed to every outside wall). On one of our visits to England a couple of years ago, I took Donna to see where we used to live near Matlock and where I went to school. The school buildings are now used by the Derbyshire County Record Office.

So, I tried to google the school name to see if I could find any of my old school mates. There was my CV high up on the resulting list (and the cause of the search phrase appearing in my web site logs). Other than an abbreviated history of the school, nothing worth perusing. I tried googling those names of school friends I could recall, but some of them had common forenames or surnames and so the resulting list was too long, but filtering it by using Matlock, say, didn't produce any recognizable hits.

Suddenly I wished I'd kept in touch with at least a few people: it would be fun to talk over those times. The Upper Sixth was especially fun. The boys had their common room, a big draughty room over the Chemistry lab, and the girls had theirs in a couple of small cozy attic rooms at the top of the old Hydro building. Theirs were decorated with pop star posters (I remember one labelled "Slade's Noddy Holder"), and they had a record player with the first Paul Simon LP, and the Paul McCartney's first non-Beatles single, Another Day. And, of course, these rooms had the girls. Ah, memories, memories.

I took a year off working after taking my A-levels before going to university (and moving to London); whereas everyone I knew started further education immediately and moved elsewhere. Then half-way through my university years, my parents moved away as well. It was about that time that Susanne and I, after a fairly stormy relationship, sometimes on, but mostly off after that first passionate year, finally split up for good (holy cow, was that 25 years ago?). And with her went my last contact with everybody I used to know in Matlock.

And then I started googling for "find your old friends in England" links, found a commercial site (Friends Reunited), and found a name I recognized — in fact, he was in The Diary of Anne Frank as well: I can't remember the part he played, but I know him from the group photo. I've e-mailed him; let's see what happens. And then I saw that Susanne was in there as well: what the heck, let's see if she replies too.

Suddenly, I feel rejuventated again and I'm ready to beat this bugger of a component into shape within my project...