Invited by the Head of English, I talked to my old school a few days ago. More accurately, in case aforesaid teacher may read this, I talked to the girls not the school itself. I recall that I did speak to the walls or toilet doors when a student there, but got less feedback.

On returning to school, all the years fell away and I had a faintly guilty feeling, expecting at any minute to be found out. Even now, I suspect that this blog may reappear on my pc with red all over it and C+ could try harder written across one corner.

The other speakers were extremely erudite, including an academic English lecturer, a playwright, a writer for Sky News, a pilot with an amazing life story, a performing poet. And then there was me. The academic lecturer believed my life to be wonderful and glamorous, meanwhile I felt completely overshadowed by her.

This morning I reflected on how glamorous my life is as I sat in my tracky bums and slippers, hair styled ‘a la cyclone’, drinking cold, nearly forgotten coffee. The public perception of Medicine is that you rush from whizzing out somebody’s potentially fatal appendix cancer, to making an astonishing diagnosis with very few facts.  ‘So, your symptoms are pain in your left great toe when you pass urine, eyes turning green in a thunderstorm and wrists swelling on alternate Tuesdays. This is clearly Bulbosarki-quarki leukaemia of the rarest kind and I can save you with a single injection.” We obviously attend so many cardiac arrests that our skill levels are massive; we reject the Kiss of Life, needing only the Pucker of Life.

On being asked to talk to the school I did wonder whether to make the experience more interesting for the girls by taking along a prop, the obvious one being my 20 old son who features in many of my blogs and looks like Heath Ledger. However, I realised that this would be a terrific way of making sure that no one listened to me at all, so rejected my prop and asked him to go to parents’ evening on my behalf for my 13-year-old instead. He’s very concise in his outlook. Normally after these events I download at considerable length to my kids and husband, whilst making a game plan of how we will proceed. “How’s she getting on at school?” I asked Alex. “Great.” “That’s it? No more detail?” “None needed.” An entire parents evening encapsulated in one word. It’s a gift.

At the school many things had remained unchanged, which was wonderful for my nostalgic soul. This included meeting an art teacher (Madame X) who remembered me from 35 years ago, possibly because my artistic abilities are so excruciating. Even now I draw aeroplanes on their sides with wings sticking up and down and people like sticks, although through regular practice, I can now draw an extremely passable amoeba. X looked exactly the same; clearly a Dorian Gray effect going on here. I’m going to report her to the Witchcraft and Wizardry Health and Safety Commission for so clearly abusing her power. (Not that I am suggesting she’s a witch; far from it. Sigh. Stops digging. Puts down spade. Climbs out of hole.) Another speaker, of my age group, produced a photograph of herself and a friend at school. Madame X recognised the other girl and could name her. This extraordinary mental feat has embarrassed my grey cells into action. How grateful I was for this as I grappled with Japanese audiotapes all the way home.

Oddly enough one of the highlights of my visit was being taken to the deeper recesses where there was a secret loo which must have been created immediately after the toilet prototypes, being an improvement, not Crapper. As I admired it, I feel that my History education could have been improved by being introduced earlier to this bog standard example of Victorian sanitation.


Flushed with delight that some things never change, I said goodbye to the school. Yes, it was the buildings this time. Nostalgia is lovely, but was so much better back then.

Alison Gardiner


About alisongardiner1

Writer of YA series of books. Broadcaster/podcaster Litopia After Dark.
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