I like blogging. Language fascinates me.
It wasn’t always so. Though my blogs’ theme is based on my old school uniform, my schoolboy English was not something to be proud of. I consistently failed the old “O” level English examination until 1983, two years after leaving school. Indeed I also failed the examination in the Summer of that year as well!
When I decided to retake my failed examination something remarkable happened. This was at the former Doncaster Metropolitan Institute of Higher Education in that same Autumn. They held evening classes at the now demolished site in Waterdale, in the centre of town. All of us attending were there to redo in a matter of a few weeks what we had tried, and failed to do that Summer.
I wish I could remember the name of our teacher. He changed the course of my life – in more ways than I knew at the time, and not only in the English language. He shut the classroom door, and gesticulated that he had something to say to us almost as though he were afraid of saying it and might lose his job if he said it out aloud.
I can’t remember now when the course began, but he didn’t have a lot of time to change our failed examinations into passes. Therefore I can’t remember exactly how many weeks he said that we had, but what he said was truly astonishing. He said that we had only so many weeks until the examination, but he could guarantee us success if we would follow his method. There was only one catch: his method was an old fashioned one, and some did not approve of it in modern teaching.
Until these evening classes, I had used English “automatically” with my internal “autopilot”. That is to say that I wrote what I should say, and never thought about it any more than one thinks about how one walks. It is my belief that many people are now doing this very thing, and without most of these realizing it, their language does their thinking for them rather than letting them express ideas that they themselves have put together. Our teacher wanted us to analyse our language.
Obtaining so our surreptitious consent, he then introduced us to what we had thought was a very dirty word – grammar! In some respects, English is like a building that has lost one of its rooms. We started looking not just at how that building was today, but how it once used to be.
English address is a good example of this, where the plural has now to double up as a singular. Unless you know that, then it seems like the use of a plural verb, “are” for example, when one is addressing only one individual is just one of the many exceptions-to-the-rule that plague anyone who wants to use the language. Unless you have the grammatical bird’s eye view from above, then indeed it will seem like many complicated rules and exception to the rules just as in our example here.
We started writing out tables…. I am, thou art, he/she/it is, we are, ye(you) are, they are. We briefly looked at Middle English, but I have to say that most of what I now know of that came later. Nevertheless it was from the interest this evening class ignited inside me. Needless to say, I could see why verbs ended the ways they did very quickly. In Modern English, one simply cuts out the “thou” address, and replaces the “eth” verb ending with the “s” that we have today in the third person singular. Not complicated at all!
One of my major sins used to be the misplaced apostrophe. This subversive grammarian taught us that there were two types of apostrophe: the first when the apostrophe was used to show omission, and the second use to show possession. This was before I ever even heard of things like the genitive case, through my own study that followed!
Since I often pop into George Barton’s blog, and follow him on Twitter I have been introduced to the term “the apostrophe police”. This refers to those (like me) who have the audacity to pick people up on misplaced apostrophes. Nevertheless, for those of you who once and for all – guarantee! – want to learn this so you never make a mistake again, I shall give you the infallible rule.
The first use of the apostrophe is for an omission. Instead of writing the two words “it is”, you can contract these to “it’s”. The apostrophe stands for the omitted letter “i”. Instead of writing “you are”, you can contract to “you’re”, and the apostrophe is in place of the omitted letter “a”.
The second use, which I began this post with when I referred to the school uniform theme my blogs now use, is to show possession. You can very simply find out where to put the apostrophe here by rewriting the sentence using the preposition “of”. For example:
- the children’s toys – rewrite, the toys of the children (you know to put the apostrophe between “n” and “s”)
- the child’s book – rewrite, the book of the child (you know that the apostrophe is between “d” and “s”)
- the boys’ choir – rewrite, the choir of the boys (unless you really mean that one boy has started, and perhaps leads the choir, and that it is his project – then you know there are several of them, and the apostrophe comes after the “s” at the end)
- the boy’s friend – rewrite, the friend of the boy
So, whatever it is that you actually mean, write it first as an “of” sentence it you are in doubt! This always works! So if anyone thought that I had made a mistake at the beginning of this post, it should now be apparent that I was writing about the theme of my blogs (and not my blog). Yorkshire Viking Norway is twinned with a Norwegian sister blog.
I wish I could remember the name of our teacher who got me my English qualification. I should like to thank him. However I cannot, but I pay tribute here. What is more, if you follow the advice above, neither will you go wrong. Ever!
“I’m going to mark its end, because somebody has to. I’m also going to speak well of the place too for the same reason.” – Adwick Style
I cannot tell you how strange it feels. Yesterday I received photographs from Saturday’s tour of Adwick School, and today I was sent more from a former pupil of the even older Percy Jackson Grammar School. As I meditated upon the beauty of the Polar Night here, I tried to take in these wistful reminders of my childhood whilst juxtaposing the thought that EXACTLY thirty-three years ago, I was starting my very first day there.
In fact this is more than juxtaposition in time. I’m now over here in Norway, and these events – both then and now – are way over the sea in England. Nevertheless I also feel a strange satisfaction in doing what I am. I have read many a spiteful comment about Adwick this last year, and feel that someone ought to point out that whatever its difficulties at its end, it was once highly respected. Someone has got to cover its end in a fitting way.
So my blog and I are like a kind of satellite, now with very little connection to the land that originally launched it, orbiting above and separated by a huge distance – yet transmitting a message that more should broadcast terrestrially. Fortunately I know that I am not entirely alone, though. After all none of the pictures I have of Adwick School these last days were taken by me! It may be ironic that a blog based in Norway has taken on this task (for that no one else has done so), but it is fitting that that very irony demonstrates the once great name our school once had.
Indeed there are former pupils living all over the world. One should also include those who went to the Percy Jackson Grammar School that preceded Adwick School. These people have been very active with reunions, and are a truly international bunch. We have perhaps differing views about the demolition of our former school, and the rebuild; but we are nevertheless united by our respect for where we grew up. Whatever our personal views, we do not rejoice at our school’s demise.
What has saddened me in the last year, then, has been to hear what I can only describe as contempt, on the part of certain people who still live in the vicinity, for what is and always will be a part of their own history. It saddens me that for these, it is also incredible that anyone should wish to mark the end…. yet in truth, they have never appreciated the worth of what now is lost.
I would rather not end this on a negative note. Therefore let me leave my point concerning those who have come with harsh words with the following observation. With the exception of one person whom I know personally, and who had a very difficult time at school, most of the comments I have read – on Facebook and similar sites on the Internet – come from relatively younger people. We are all aware of the problems the school faced in its final decade, before ceasing to be Adwick School. Yet let not that generation speak for mine!
So now we enter the very last days for what was our school, what was our childhood, and indeed what we for some time have been mentally preparing ourselves for. Seeing the photographs my friends have sent – I shall publish more (I already have permission for most of them) – I nevertheless can see that our old lady has become tired. The buildings, especially the old senior wing further down from the Percy Jackson building photographed here, show their age; and a certain melancholy pervades all the pictures I have seen.
Thank you everybody who has sent pictures to me. I wish especially to thank Janet Roberts for this wonderful group photograph. I have taken the liberty of posting it, but naturally I shall withdraw it if you would rather I do so. Adwick, there are many who have not forgotten thee!
Of course Adwick School was firmly on my mind today. My friends from school would be paying their last respects, and just as their tour of the condemned buildings began I took myself out on to the beach at Vestbygd.
A year ago, I had photographed brilliant colours coming to this place. This year there was so much cloud that black and white had to do. Perhaps the weather only reflected the sombreness of the occasion in England. Norwegian Time is one hour ahead of English time, so this picture was taken while the tour of my school was going on.
It is an odd thing that – of all the places – I should end up back here. Vestbygd School, which is itself threatened with demolition, is the one school in Norway with a connection to Adwick School. Back in 1997, when I worked in this municipality before, I had travelled to Adwick School with two of the pupils from Vestbygd. They had enrolled half a day there, and one of them even used my old school tie!
The darkness is upon us. The Polar Night has come.
Tomorrow is the big day. My friends from school go back to school – or back to that shell where once its spirit lived.
Today was cloudy. I was unable to take the pictures that I got a day ago, and which I know so many return here to see. So I shall publish one below from Wednesday. Today it was mostly grey all the time. Since it does not start to get “light” (everything is relative here) until about half past nine in the morning, a sense of gloom has pervaded the entire day.
Strangely enough, this is not unlike Friday 7th December 1979, apart from the obvious enormous difference in the hours of “daylight” (once again everything is relative). That was also a grey day if memory serves me right. My parents insisted that I go into my old school, Don Valley High School, to return some books. I had also to be “de-registered” there before starting Monday at Adwick. It was something I wasn’t too happy about, but in those days I had not any choice in the matter.
So just as tomorrow is a day when my thoughts will be on Adwick School, so too the immediate days before Monday 10th December 1979. I can remember them as if they were yesterday! How time has flown by, and how we have all aged!
However, enough of my musing…. since it was so grey today, as you can see in the photograph above, below is a picture that I did not show on Wednesday. They say that smells bring back memories. I think the views of nature we have are rather conducive to doing the same, if only because they dispose one to contemplation.
Yesterday I received an e-post from a former pupil of the Percy Jackson Grammar School (which was the earlier name of Adwick School). I was informed that this Saturday my old school will be putting on a tour of its premisses – the last chance for those who went there to see where they grew up. During the Christmas holidays, the present academy will move out of the premisses and into its new buildings – and the older school buildings will all be demolished.
There is a Christmas Market and tour of the ‘Old School’ – the Former Percy Jackson Grammar School/Adwick School on Saturday 8th December 2012. The market begins at 10am and ends at 3pm and the tour starts at 12 noon – assemble in the reception area. This, as you may know, will be the last chance for many of us to visit our former school before it will be demolished next year. The new building for Outwood Academy, Adwick will be completed very soon and their use for the old buildings ended. They plan to move during the Christmas holidays – e-mail from former pupil.
Of course I should have liked to have gone. Unfortunately it is completely out of the question. Even if my economy allowed for a jaunt back to the United Kingdom (which it does not), I have other engagements this weekend. Nevertheless my heart will be there, and I have friends who are going. They have promised to take pictures. If they permit me to, I shall post some on this blog.
As I have maintained since the rebuild became known, although I do not oppose it – I think the new facilities are a great thing for today’s children – I will not be sending up the rockets the day the bulldozers move in. Some apparently feel differently. However, I think they are making a mistake. Whatever the failings of our teachers (I have a friend whose memories of school and Adwick in particular are not indescribably happy ones), our formative years are just that: they remain a part of us, and speaking for myself Adwick School will therefore remain a part of me.
On the other hand, I realize that it went from a school with a very good reputation, to one with serious problems, and I cannot speak for those who came after my generation…. one of whom has said that he would like to press the button the day it comes down! I still think that this marks the end of an epoch, and as such we should observe it with quiet dignity. Even if I think that they have done the right thing building new, it is still a sad day to lose the last seat of childhood authority.
Therefore as we now approach this end, Adwick School unashamedly comes to the fore of this blog. On this day, the fourth December 1979, my parents and I met the headmaster Mr Atherfold in the morning, and it was agreed that I should be transferred there. I remember that there was a system of coloured lights outside his room, saying when he was busy and when you could go in! In the afternoon my father took me to Cliffs in Doncaster, where I was fitted out with my Adwick School uniform. I was to start school the following Monday, 10th December. It seems a little strange that these dates fall exactly with the days this year, thirty three years later, just before it all comes to an end.
I should like to thank those who have promised to take pictures for me. Not everyone feels as comfortable with writing as I do, but words for visiting an old school just before it is demolished will always be found wanting. How do you express your feelings? When you see that place that once was “up there”, now very much at your own level? When what was strange and new is familiar, old and worn out? When that room you feared to approach is now just a mundane place?
So thank you to those who are going Saturday. I cannot exactly say enjoy yourselves, but I do hope that you will find the tour meaningful.
In my previous post about the final countdown to Adwick School’s last day in use, I noted that everything of our school apart from one solitary building nearest Tenter Balk Lane should be demolished. This is not true. Every building that was part of the old Adwick School shall go.
I am currently studying the eight page long (and really quite verbose) planning document, whereby the condition that the academy should have to reinstate the playing fields – is recommended discharged. It is clear from this that for us who went to Adwick, the entire school shall be demolished.
We who went to Adwick School, and its predecessor the Percy Jackson Grammar School, must now brace ourselves for the inevitable. For a whole year now, we have known that our school has been condemned, and that when the new school is built what was ours will be demolished.
apart from one solitary building in the old North wing (which was a science block in my day), nearest Tenter Balk Lane, and is now neighbour to the new Community School – will be completely demolished. What used to be our old Junior wing will be gone. What used to be our old Senior wing will also be gone. The covered way, the music block, the gym and everything that was our world – gone! *see correction
To mark this event, the Yorkshire Viking has now a countdown showing the number of days that our old school will continue to function as a school. After the Christmas holidays, the new academy will move out of its buildings, and into the new facilities. In other words, the countdown isn’t exactly a countdown to the demolition – but since that is expected shortly afterwards, it won’t be far off.
You will find the countdown to the left of the pages of this blog. Since I do not know the exact times of the school day, I have set the timer’s “zero hour” to three o’clock in the afternoon.
Today I was out at Vestbygd. It’s a little village 45 kilometres (or 28 miles) away from the municipal centre of Lødingen.
As you can see, the winter has arrived. The white stuff came earlier this week. It makes for very demanding driving, since yesterday it rained, and now the temperature hovers around zero. On my journey I saw two big lorries that had got stuck.
Fortunately I arrived at the school safely, being welcomed by the year’s first snowman. The school brass band is putting on the musical When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town, and I am playing the piano. Today we had a rehearsal from ten o’ clock until five.
Because I used to work here between 1994 and 1998, it was a strange feeling. It is almost as time has stopped still. Yet like my own school in England, this school is marked for demolition. Actually, the decision was deferred last week, but suffice it to say that this is how things are now looking.
In the breaks between our rehearsal, I walked around the school, and the experience was rather surreal. This is the one place in Norway with a connection to my own soon-to-be-demolished school. I took two of its pupils in 1997 to Adwick School. Moreover, I realized that my first meeting with Vestbygd School was this very weekend in October eighteen years ago. I had been on a youth camp with the church, and we had all slept at the school from Friday to Sunday. When the band ate pizza during our lunch break from rehearsal, I realized that the last time I was in the kitchen there was indeed on that camp!
If, as now seems likely, the school goes the way of Adwick, it is for very different reasons. Vestbygd School was built at a time when there were some 150 children there. Today there are about 23. This means that, for the council that is already cash-strapped, the buildings are just too expensive. However, their proposal to move the old people out the old people’s home and move the children and nursery there has stirred local feelings…
Still, it seems odd that at the time when my former school in Doncaster is now entering its final days, the one school that has a connection to it here might also go the same way. I shall keep you posted!
Since my Norwegian blog was launched last year, I have maintained a twin blog system. I have one blog for English, another for Norwegian.
I intend continuing thus. The system has served my blogging needs very well, and further allowed me to be much more radical in my Norwegian (since May this year I have favoured Nynorsk over the more usual Bokmål). Nevertheless the matter relating to my former school merits coverage in both blogs. Because of this, I have also made an exception in just this case alone, and you will find an English translation of the original Norwegian post on the Norwegian blog itself.
The translation is but that, and is therefore on a separate page. The alternative would have been to put the translation on this blog, as I have before. However, in this case both blogs will be covering what effectively is the end of an important part of my formative years. That is why I feel I have to cover these developments on my personal blogs. It is “front page” stuff in a sense.
Both blogs will therefore continue with their own separate identities, but the Norwegian one will also cover this story from its own angle.
Thou shalt become our enduring myth. Reason there is we still remember thee – if only in contempt!
Soon shalt thou be gone. Some quip*,
they would like to press the button
when they finally despatch thee to eternity.
Methinks getting rid of thee will be much harder. Thou wilt haunt our collective memory,
long after thou hast gone.
Thou shalt be our Titanic; thy years our own Atlantis,
A story we are never finished with,
A legend living on within,
Powered by what we will not own:
our conscience and our loss.
Thou shalt be our lasting myth. Live thou long when thou art gone!