Old School, New Times

When I was visiting St Andrew’s at Rangi Ruru the other day, I decided to take a look at the rest of the school grounds. Rangi Ruru Girls’ School is, I believe, out for the summer holidays, so there was no one about to object to my nosey presence. The last time I was in the area was before the earthquakes began in September 2010. In the intervening months I have read about the damage to the school buildings as well as progress with renovations and new building plans . I thought I was prepared for anything I might see when I drove to what I remembered  as the front entrance to the school.  BUT I WAS NOT PREPARED; NOT PREPARED AT ALL.

I was stunned. Many of the buildings I had known in my school days, and since, were gone. It was as if the frame that contained a significant portion of my  life’s tapestry had turned to dust and left my fabric floundering in thin air.  A weird sensation. And to make the scene even stranger, there was the old boarding house,  known as Te Koraha, fully exposed to the street.  I spent five years of my youth in Te Koraha and this was a  view of the building that I had never seen before. It was almost scandalous; as though I had chanced upon an elegant, elderly lady displaying her best lingerie, and way too much flesh, in public. In her own way, she looked beautiful but completely out of character.  I wanted to shout, ” Cover  up. This is unseemly.  Someone might see you.”

Then I had a chuckle at my reaction and remembered a time, from long ago, when, for reasons  I now forget, we boarders decided to put coloured light bulbs in the entrance way to the boarding house.  I think we were trying to add a little warmth and vibrancy to our lives. But, not long after the lights were turned on, the Matron came down on us like a ton of bricks, (or in modern parlance, like a Te Koraha chimney in an  earthquake!). Someone, possibly even the police, had complained that it was completely inappropriate for a girls’ boarding school to have a red light at its front door. What were we thinking, encouraging every Tom, Dick and Harry to come and knock at our door. Help! Such disgraceful conduct!  The offending lights were promptly removed. I doubt if  even a quarter of us  knew the significance of a red light at that time!

And, no one explained how we had, in the space of a few minutes, moved from a right-living suburb to  a neighbourhood of debauched and misguided manhood; nor, how any of these dubious creatures would have made it to the front door.  We lived in a school community enclosed by gates and fences. To leave the school gates without permission was almost a criminal offence. An offender, if caught, was usually gated, and, for the serial offender, there was always the  threat of expulsion. Note that, though there were strict rules, many were unafraid to break them 🙂

Sounds a dire existence,doesn’t it? But I  was, for the most part, happy enough during the years I boarded and studied at Rangi. I only mention the memories of the gated lifestyle as a way to explain the incongruence of the reality  that confronted me.

After my shock at the view subsided, I felt glad, enormously glad, that the old House was still standing, beautifully restored and, once again, taking its rightful place at the heart of the school. Only now it is the heart of a  school that  is open to the community, with only the lightest of boundaries; as all good schools should be.

Here is the view that so shocked me. It will probably seem perfectly ordinary to those meeting it for the first time.

Old House, New View

This is the entrance where we placed the offending light bulb. Please note the door is now painted red. Does this suggest that our colour choice for a welcoming entrance was way ahead of its time? The Entrance

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21 thoughts on “Old School, New Times

  1. Elephant

    Oh my, I am not sure where Ranga Ruru is – I just know so little. This is a beautiful expression of how change strikes us all. Nice – very nice!
    Thank you for telling me about this story,
    Elephant

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Glad you enjoyed the story 🙂 It may not matter where the school is, in the sense that my experience of boarding school would ring true for my generation whether they were in England, or any country associated with the British education system.

      Reply
      1. Elephant

        Well, that would include my mother and she would want to be sure other people knew exactly where she was from. But I understand and I will look up the school’s location. It was a lovely story!

        Thank you,
        Elephant

        Reply
    2. Gallivanta Post author

      Glad you enjoyed the story 🙂 It may not matter where the school is, in the sense that my experience of boarding school would ring true for my generation whether they were in England, or any country associated with the British education system.

      Reply
  2. leapingtracks

    This is so beautifully written. You convey such powerful emotions with the lightest of touch. I have read the whole post several times and each one has revealed something different. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. kurtnemes

    A beautiful childhood coming of age story. You brought out a vital point about girls being punished for something that men can’t control in themselves. This is still an issue in almost every country today, from the last election in the US to what’s happening in the middleeast today. Thanks

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you for your pertinent observation. You made me realise that although we were unjustly punished for a totally implausible “possibility”, our elders and the community were really only trying to take good care of us. And for that I am grateful. Genuine care is something many girls lack.

      Reply

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