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Friday, 27 March 2009

And so it goes

The Welsh Office gave the school a grant that could only be spent on a work of art. Eventually they settled on this, a monument that dominated the front of the school. The artist attended several assemblies explaining the concept, and of how, at certain times of the year, the sun would erupt from the monument's tip. 'Like bloody sperm' somebody muttered - a remark close to the truth. St Joseph's must have been the only catholic school in the world with a giant phallus guarding its entrance. This picture doesn't show it in all it's glory, but what we had was a slender stone spire with a central slit, and at its base two brick rings resembling testicles - oh, and every so often the sun erupting from its top.

Buildings have a habit of falling down after I’ve left them. The Junior Boys school was one, morphing first into a social club where I had the immensely sad experience of pissing in a classroom turned urinal. I think it may have been where Robert Chard once sat. A year or two later it was demolished more thoroughly.

St Josephs, a purpose built comprehensive suffered much the same fate. It epitomised 1970’s ‘cheap-build’ – a series of glass and aluminium blocks loosely linked with aerial corridors. Freezing in winter; in summer hot enough to grow peyote. Now that would have been a good idea.

It must have been chilling for those under Stalin who fell out of favour, and – if they lived long enough – found themselves written out of history, erased from photos, walking ghosts.

It’s much the same feeling when a building is erased in a moment. For neighbours it may have been just a landmark, a piece of street furniture. For those who worked there, something greater is lost but it is hard to put into words. All you have left is memories - the worm without its apple.

I think of the sweat and toil, anger, frustration, friendship, achievement, and joy. I think of countless assemblies, my back anchored to the same piece of wall, the never ending homilies that sometimes had a point, the badly sung hymns, and kids – faces I can never forget.

Everything is gone, even the ‘monument’ built in the style of a giant penis.

The new St. Joseph’s built less than a mile away is a more modern affair but lacks the windswept spaces and the gothic, unkempt grandeur of a building falling around you.

In its place stand some modern houses built too close together.

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