Underground artefacts

Bill Spiedels Underground Tour, Seattle 2018

Bill Spiedels Underground Tour, Seattle 2018


From the age of twelve, I went to a boarding school for girls.

I may have talked about this before. Fifteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, a schoolfriend and I decided to take a trip and go back and visit. No longer functioning as a school, the buildings were now being used as a camp for young people during the holidays. As we drove in, I remember thinking everything looked smaller than the school in my memories.

The school hall was still there, complete with a stage at one end where our headmistress stood at a lectern addressing us all during assembly every morning. Winter mornings were dark and cold. Wood panelling covered the walls and a wooden floor stretched from corner to corner. All that wood needed a polish. I can still smell the thick sweet odour of the wax used and the sight of the large, heavy machine that buffed it into the floor.

One winter weekend, a fake ice rink was created in the hall. The wooden floor was covered with large pieces of thin plastic that fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle. I think the plastic had an oily surface.

We wore ice skates with a thicker blade than for ice and spent the afternoon scraping around the hall in large circles trying to stay upright, trying not to fall, the more skilful girls turning and skating backwards having practised on their roller skates down the corridors of their boarding house. Music of the ‘80s boomed from speakers that sat on the stage and disco lights flashed in time to the rhythm. Tiny granules of plastic gathered on our jeans flicking up as everyone's skates cut the surface of the floor. For a few hours, the gloom of winter faded.

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