Last time I made this pilgrimage it was crawling with contractors pulling down walls and installing new wiring. Feel the skin on this bannister. Do you think of ripe chestnuts, as I did? Remember I told you how I’d slid down it that time when I thought the whole school was in Assembly? But old Killer-Watt saw. I was so scared I fell off halfway down and peed my pants. And he made me stand (again) all lunch hour on this landing so all who passed by would know how dim I’d been. I cried though when they put the tadpole in his tea because its legs were just forming and it seemed such a waste. The other times were for talking, here in this classroom that stank of dead books and wet shoes drying by the radiator. In this very room that now houses rows of filaments in glass bottles all neatly labelled. In this room, we were told (frequently) Joseph Swan invented the electric light bulb, but Thomas Edison got to the patent office first and grabbed all the glory. It was a woman ahead of her times who bought the place and turned it into a private school – did I tell you she knew Emily Pankhurst? – because it was her dream to illuminate the minds of children. You have such energy. Would you like to? I’ll stand at the bottom and catch you if you fall. There’s only the Curator to see now and I think he’ll turn a blind eye. These are more enlightened times.
First published by The Sunlight Press, July 2019.