They say you should never go back, but I was dismayed to find my old alma mater (a phrase you’d never hear around those parts) had become dishevelled, unkempt. Some of windows of Sir Frank Markham School were smashed and boarded up; a hideous bright blue paint slapped on to cover the graffiti and damage; and, worse, it was covered in high fences, more a prison camp, it appears, than place for learning and making friends.
And what a school it once was! I was sporty and smart-ish, so I fell into both camps and enjoyed my time there. The campus was clean and new and, compared to the North London home that I had left to live in Milton Keynes, full of green spaces and fresh air.
But seeing them again – well, those spaces that had witnessed some of my most pivotal teenage moments now felt desecrated. Although I was powerless to stop the memories from washing over me, it felt a mistake to sully them with an atmosphere that I’d rather forget. Maybe it’s me – the field where we once played football every lunchtime looked bare and uncared for and the wall – where we’d meet – seemed smaller than before, less imposing.
A new Academy nearby, still a building site but with construction well under way, puts my old school in the shade, quite literally; and metaphorically, too, since it’s hard to imagine how young people can be happy and learn in such an environment. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m just being old and sentimental and being old I shouldn’t be surprise that things change, and sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.