Do you remember the smell of mimeograph ink? Actually I don’t but I know I would recognise it if I were to smell it ever again. It would bring me back as fast as a DoLorean back to the 1980s in my primary school.
I had the most fantastic school. I mean in terms of architecture. Although it was the local public village school, it was in a manor. Superb ceiling mouldings, solid wood flooring, wrought-iron banisters, an old-school bell, an actual theatre with thick burgundy velvet curtains, a park separated into two sections – the sports field and the so-called playground with a tree-lined walk and two lion statues…
When all the compulsory security measures started to multiplied along with the number of kids in need of a school, the building was turned into a storage versatile space and the mayor left it wear down for many years.
It’s now back to its former glory and cleverly used for cultural events, but still, it’s a shame. What a wonderful site to teach pupils about respect and humility.
Another fond memory from that period was the End of School Year Prize-Giving Ceremony. Every pupils from every schools in our town were presented in front of the Mayor and the municipal team. We were called one by one and received a certain number of books, a gift accompanied with a little hand-written certificate listing the number of prizes you got. I never really knew how it was calculated (I guess it was in relation with your grades?) but we all got one: Reading prize, writing, maths… And there was that extra special one: Le Prix de Camaraderie (The Friendship Award). That one I have really wondered how it was chosen. I don’t recall any kind of voting system or even an explanation of any kind.
To me it was the best one you could get. But I’m not sure I ever got one!
I lived 2 streets away from the school so I didn’t need to take the bus. The chestnut trees followed me all the way. The church bells marked the time I had to go in the morning, and also bedtime in the evening. It hasn’t really changed since this photo was taken (early twentieth century?). It was so sereine.
We had a supermarket just outside of the town center but you could still walk and didn’t necessarily needed a car. My mother still refers to it as Record although it has actually changed name a multiple of times. It still exists. It is a little bit dated on the inside, but you can still do your weekly grocery shopping there as it is big enough. It even has a sushi corner now !
When I was born it was still a village, surrounded by vegetable fields. The end of summer fair was actually called Fête à la Carotte! But new housing developments started to replace the carrot gardens and by the end of the 80s, that wasn’t a village anymore. These new houses all looked the same. At school, most of the kids had lived in the “old” areas for a couple of generations and anyone coming from these ridiculous looking blocks we’re outsiders. But after a while we all got accustomed to these fakes new streets with flower names and something even worse was built: a Kaufman & Broad development of single family homes. Suddenly, our village looked like an American town! Thank God they were on the outskirts of the town.
While I was in secondary school a huge even rocked the quiet life of our community : Lady Diana came to visit the British School of Paris which is situated by the river Seine – not so far from the Kaufman & Broad American houses! A dozen of French pupils were invited to join the ceremony amongst those following a curriculum with additional English classes – which I didn’t. We were so jealous and envious.
I have been lucky to be able to come back to my hometown several time since I moved away. It hasn’t changed that much even though it is now a fancy and wealthy suburb for people working in Paris.
I was in the neighbourhood a few weeks ago and once again, I realised the magical effect being there had on me. It smells like home. Weirdly, I remain attached to the place in a very instinctive way, sniffing the air like a dog, waggling my tail, happy and reassured to be somewhere I know.
I wish I could be swallowed by these photos and live a static version of existence. Stuck forever in a still piece of perfect nostalgia.
I wish I could delete everything sometimes, overwhelmed by the vast gulf between the sort of life I’m living right now and the easiness of it all when it was in black & white.
Jessica mentioned that old joke in her previous post: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
How do you digest decades of your own life? One bite at a time too I guess.