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.