My school building was demolished just a few years after I left. The school moved ten miles out into the suburbs, and I pompously tell people that I pity the kids who are missing out on the life lessons you learn from the crush for the 29 bus and by dodging drug dealers and their hashskunkweed mantra.
I say that I pity them missing out on all those record shops, but they’ve nearly all closed down anyway. Tower, Virgin, Slow Motion, Shakedown, Rhythm, Hammerhead and, of course, Music & Video Exchange.
Being more honest, I don’t really care too much about the next generation of kids at what I refuse to think of as “my” school since it was transplanted across London. I just feel strangely sad knowing that I can never go back.
It’s not that I want to go back in time. Few things fill me with a fraction of the horror of the prospect of reliving my school days. We may complain that youth is wasted on the young, but a even a moment’s thought will recall the regular misery and constant swirling confusion of those years.
No, we don’t want to be young again. What we want is to live our lives over with enough knowledge of the future to avoid all those pratfalls and pitfalls we stumbled into first time around. Even if we could manage that, we’d surely make plenty of brand new mistakes and even more horrifying slips into social awkwardness.
With the demolition of that stale old building, what I really regret is the lost opportunity to experience that dizzying lurch in the pit of your stomach that a visit would bring. It’s more than nostalgia. Nostalgia is defined as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for a period in the past”. I know from similar steps back in time that walking those halls would elicit something much more powerful, slightly sickening, violent even.
That can never happen now. Instead, there are the fevered, anxious dreams of being back there, which bubble up with surprising frequency.
Usually in those dreams I’m a student again, with exams coming up frighteningly soon. I’m looking for my classroom, having somehow neglected to go to any previous lessons for this subject for the last two years. If I can only make it to this lesson, everything will be okay, but I can never find the class. I look through my disintegrating schoolbag over and over but my tattered yellow homework diary, with its vital timetable at the back, is nowhere to be seen.