A non-existent school past

A non existent high school alumni group points to whether I have a past school life and asks whether my memory of it is simply a figment of my imagination.

At the end of the movie The Shining the camera closes in on a 1921 photo which shows current hotel guest Jack Tottance who had throughout the movie been going crazy and communicating with ghosts. Although it seems to be up for discussion, one of the implications of the photo is that the Jack that we’ve been following in the movie in the present is either a ghost of the past or a reincarnation. In effect, Jack does not fully exist in the present.

I think I’m ‘victim’ to a kind of opposite event.

not quite a school reunion
Ghost of the past.
Image credit: http://illusion.scene360.com/movies/72675/stanley-kubrick-film-inspirations

I found that there was an alumni group from my secondary school on Facebook and I thought it might be interesting to check it out. It’s a closed group so I asked the owner if I could join. We were in the same class in primary school and then moved up together to senior school and although we never kept in touch afterwards I figured she might remember me.

She didn’t, and it took a couple of emails to remind her convince her of who I was am. Finally my membership ‘application’ was approved and I was free to browse through the photo album.

Over 400 photos had been submitted. Some were random shots of the school building – ‘proper’ photos which had been taken with a 35 mm camera taken to a chemist for processing and developing and picked up, likely with 23 or 35 others, some two weeks later. In time this photo had aged like us school pupils, and faded a little before it was scanned with a technology 30 years more advanced and uploaded to a server so far away it’s in a different time zone. Unheard of back in 1983.

Today, sepia is an effect applied digitally to photos to make them look aged. There’s no need for that with these photos from 30 years ago! The school had a presence. The reddish brown gives a sense of foreboding just as it had in real life when I was there. Looking at those photos you’d know it housed nightmare teachers. I wondered what had become of those teachers – the ones who told me I had no hope, but more importantly the ones who believed that I did and supported me. (Mr Holiday, I salute you, sir).

I could see from the photos that the sizes of some things were smaller than they used to be. The railings used to reach my chest, for example, but today’s memory translates that to a height higher than it really is. I can see now that it’s waist height. The trees at the back of the playing field were smaller than I remembered too. Not because they have been growing (or shrinking) since but because I’ve grown since. There’s a funny one – I grow and my memory shrinks.

Changes in apparent size or sepia-induced sense of foreboding didn’t apply to the photos of my classmates. Fixed focus cameras held by excited hands of 11 year olds in moments of fast excitement meant a lot of fuzzy faces through lack of focus.

Lack of focus“. Yeah I think that appeared on my report card. I never did find history interesting.

Over 400 photos bringing back lots of memories and lots of feelings. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t in one of them. Not even in the class photo taken at the end of the year. It’s as if I wasn’t there. Ever.

Out of interest I sent someone on the group a friend request, and rather quickly the reply came – “Sorry, who are you again?”. Was I even at school? Are all my days of education a figment of my (or someone else’s) imagination? Perhaps; I remember my teachers who favoured closed-book exams used to say it was good to have things in your head…

OK, I can’t remember the future, but what about remembering a past for which there seems to be no evidence? Time: they say it heals everything. Some things that did happen in my school are probably best forgotten. Some of the twatty kids too – it’s just that I never thought I’d be one of them.

And here’s another odd thing: I started drafting this post several months ago. And now that’s it’s ready I returned to the Facebook group to pull out a photo.

And the group doesn’t exist any more.

Paul

PS: Yes I know – a blog post about a Facebook group which doesn’t exist and if it does then I didn’t…

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Mental time travel with imagination

I’ve had a double helping of mental time travel recently – I found a school exercise book from when I was about 10 years old, and I’d written a couple of short stories about clocks. Young children often have wild imagination, and I think that this should be nurtured – after all, the world is built on the backbone of imagination!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein.


Reading diaries and journals in a way takes us back in time. (At least, it was the case in The Butterfly Effect! 😉 ) It’s a form of mental time travel.

This being the case, I’ve had a double helping. I came across an old school exercise book – there’s no year on the date, but judging from the content and the teacher’s handwriting, I think it’s from the 1982 / 1983 school year. (Apparently, like the UK tax office who start their year in April, schools adopt a different year to the standard Gregorian calendar…)

Reading through some of the stories, many of which were descriptions of my life at the time, really seemed to take me back. I was surprised at myself at how many of the events I could remember, and I could also remember how I felt. This in itself was an odd feeling…having different feelings back then than I would have now given the same circumstances. Time and experience has made me into a different person..but not in one go, rather, as a progressive series, building upon previous moments in my life.

A couple of stories struck me, and I’m posting them here.

They’re not quite time travel, but apparently I had an inkling of an interest in the theme of of clocks and time…

Hope you enjoy!

The Clock that Went Bonkers

17th November

Flying Scotsman

“I was riding along in a flying Scotsman. There was a clock that had a very loud tic…….TIC TOC TIC TOC. and so on. I was looking at this clock when it went bonkers. First the hands started to go whizzing round and then they broke through the glass, through the open window and then they started to fly round the flying scotsman.

They pointed at me and shouted “Supermonkey!” As the hands were off the main part of the clock, it started to make a humming whizz. Then the flying scotsman captain came and he put things right.”

Midnight Hour

5th February

Midnight hour

“I had just went to bed. The clock was going very fast with its tics……..TIC TOC TIC TOC. I changed the clock so it said 24.00. Then I sneaked out of bed, went to the sweet jar, and took some sweets out. I then went outside I saw a skeleton party I asked if I could join in, but they did not talk in my language. Well what did I do!. I started dancing but they threw me into the garden pond. I tried to swim out. Then I found myself rolling in my bed.”

And my teacher’s remark…

Paul, some of stories are becoming rather silly. You have a good imagination so don’t only use it for funny stories. I expect your work to be much more interesting to read from now on. See me.

Ah yes, the “See me.” comment! The true dread of a sensitive young schoolboy who wore his heart on his sleeve trying to write things down and getting called up in front of class to justify the wanderings of my mind to an elderly lady who couldn’t think past full stops and and capital letters (apparently she didn’t care for the definite article), and to the jeers of school mates hungry for some entertainment.

I was very sophisticated back then. I used my sleeve for wearing my heart and not my snot. I guess Miss Powell (name possibly changed…) would have had it otherwise. Some 32 years later, I still disagree with her. The world is built on the backbone of imagination.

I wonder what she’d make of this blog! I’d like to think that she’d approve of some out of the box thinking that has lead to reading some fantastic articles on other time travel blogs and websites, pieces of time travel fiction and watching time travel movies. To think that out of imagination come ideas which create and shape the world we live in. That through our minds, anything, if we really try, is possible.

But what do I know? The thought of my old school teacher being able to accept imagination is in itself…a product of my silly imagination! 😉

Paul

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