Saturday, 15 June 2013

Back to the start...

I am quite a nostalgic person.

Where other people may choose not to look back, because it's painful, or because they don't like to think about the fact that it's over.

I'm not like that. I'm a great believer in not just being sad because it's over, (which you are perfectly entitled to be) but also happy that it happened.

Last night, on the 14th June, 2013, I went back to a place where it had all started for me - Sellincourt Primary School.

I attach a lot of sentimentality to Sellincourt. It was where I spent 8 years of my life. It was my second home. It was my second family. I can most definitely say that it was rare, if ever, that I felt going to school was a chore.

I clung on to those memories so fiercely. I didn't want to let go. My life was Sellincourt in many, many ways. When I was leaving, in the summer of 2007, I was tearful and upset, not wanting to say goodbye to all the amazing friends I'd made over the years - not wanting to say goodbye to this school that had taught me so much, and not just in lessons.
I even came back - as often as I could - in my first couple of years of Secondary School. I visited often, having a look at how things were.

But as you get older, and you grow attached to other things, your old attachments begin to take a back seat. Especially as some of the old teachers who I loved so dearly from my time at that school left, and with my exams beginning to get in the way, my motivation to go back to the school for grew less and less.

Looking back is one thing. But it's hard to take a literal trip down memory lane if many of the remnants of those memories are no longer tangible.

Last night, though, was a special night. It was the retirement party of Florence, a teacher who had looked after me and many other children in Reception, who was there before I even began at the school, and was there until long after I'd gone.

I'd always got along very well with Florence. Like many of the people - children and teachers alike - who came into contact with her, I felt I had a very special friendship with her. She was always very warm and welcoming, and everyone adored her.

My mum had suggested I go along to this retirement do with her, especially as Florence would probably really appreciate seeing another old friendly face. I happily obliged.

But, as is inevitable with a woman as loved as Florence, I was not the only old face to be there last night.
Many of the teachers who had long left, or had just been gone a short time, were there, as well as the few from my time at Sellincourt who are still there now. I saw Mrs Harding (the former Deputy Head), Mr Daley (the former Headteacher), Mrs Singh (my Year 1 teacher) Mrs Johnson (my Year 2 teacher) Mrs Murrel (my Year 4 teacher), as well as Ophelia, Ms Allen, Mrs Barrett, Anne, Mrs Black, many teachers and staff who had been a huge part of my life for so long, and it was an absolute pleasure.

Without having originally planned to, when the floor was left open for such purposes, I got up and made a speech about Florence and my memories of her. Her kind nature, her amusement at the fact that I was always last in the lunch queue, her little song, "Hard work is good for you, la-la-la..." (which she still sings to this day - as testified by the current students!). I got a round of applause for singing that song, in the middle of my speech - something I certainly wasn't expecting(!)

For that brief, shining moment though, not only was I sharing in everyone else's love of a very special lady...
I was back on stage in that school hall. In assembly, in the Christmas show, in the Leavers Play, whatever - being stood on that stage and being applauded for a little performance. It took me back to some of the very happy memories that I had at that school, and to one of the reasons why I love performing so much. This notion of entertaining and being appreciated of course, but also the fact that I had put a smile on people's faces.

And for those couple of hours, not only was I 17 year-old Henry Mendoza who's just finished his first year of A Levels...

I was also little 11 year-old Henry Mendoza. Full of hopes and dreams, and love for his fellow classmates - and teachers.


Florence and some of her 'children' - former students.
Florence is stood on the right :)