I have a neice. Well, two of them actually. But I'm only talking about one at the moment. On her eighth birthday, which was Monday, she told me that she likes the colour blue way more than she likes the colour pink and she expressed bother that blue was considered a boys colour. She's also into Monster High, which is a collection of barbie-esque dolls modeled on supernatural creatures, tending to have bizarre fashion tastes. I personally find this a healthier thing for her to get interested in than dolls that promote mainstream fashion. We're all weirdos deep down, after all. For her birthday she asked for one which has two heads, and a scaled skin texture, and an awesome snake-like tail instead of legs, and she said she chose it because it looked more interesting than regular dolls. She also said she'd like to dress like this character for Halloween.
To which I responded, "Why wait until then?" Because I'm awesome like that. If I had the resources I'd get that costume together for her by the weekend!
But to bring us back to the question of blue being for boys and pink being for girls, this is relevant to todays blog post, because the toilets of this place reflected this. The toilets for those who pee with their willies had a blue colour, and the toilets for those who pee without willies were pink, just in case those using them needed reminding which was which and the presence or absence of urinals wasn't a big enough clue. Guess what I explored! Where else can one find such societal indoctrination? That's right, a freakin' school!
Now, to protect the identity and location of this school, I will not be disclosing its name or where you can find it. It is beyond Shrewsbury though but so far I've had absolutely no complaints ever about the times the name of this blog makes no sense. For newbies let me just say that when I started it, it was purely to do views from rooftops in Shrewsbury. I've just expanded my horizons. But regardless, anything I photograph in this school that does mention the name or address of the place will be censored with a graphic of a Doctor Seuss hat. As you do.
Who am I protecting this school from though? It's been pillaged and plundered. It's been scribbled on and smashed, and set fire to. The fact any relics remain is, to be honest, quite baffling. And yet there's school work still on the walls, and toys, books and photographs still here to be found. Click a picture to see it big.
An anti-bullying poster among the ruins.
Schools are deceptive in that they look far larger than they actually are, but once you learn them and figure out the layout, it's all actually quite simple. The nostalgia I was experiencing was very uncanny, and I didn't even go to this school, but apparently schools give off much the same vibe throughout the UK. The school I went to is still open, and not in a smashed-window kind of way.
This school was actually built in the 1950s and reports show that the school had 385 students in 2005, but this dropped to 312 students in 2006. It closed in 2007. I don't know why.
Here we have a kitchen area, confusing because it opens onto a room with rather comfortable-looking homely furniture. I initially thought that this must be the staff room. But there was an abundance of toys scattered around, indicating that this was more of a lounge play area. Something we never had at my school!
Some discarded shoes.
There were a bunch of smaller offices around the main entrance.
A computer monitor. The remaining equipment was quite baffling. This school has been pillaged countless times. In 2013 a man was arrested for robbing the place of lead, and all over the place there is evidence of piping and whatnot being stolen. Most of the flooring has been ripped out in the hallways. And also if this monitor was left then it's fair to assume that the rest of the PC was probably left too, along with others, which have now been gone. So it was a surprise to find one lone computer monitor. Sure, it's an old box one from days gone by, but it must be worth something!
Moving on, there was a door which still had a sign on it saying that it must be locked at all times. The door, however, was wide open.
Now this was definitely the staff room! Look at these chairs! You never see chairs like this in a British school unless it's a staff room!
A smashed television.
The following pictures are from what I assume is an art or design room, based purely on the fact that there's a textile cupboard and a bunch of other signs and notices. There was also some pretty eerie graffiti.
I never did find them...
Written on the wall next to this door was "Pillow Party Like," with an arrow pointing at the door. Inside this classroom, I found out exactly what it meant. Feathers were strewn everywhere.
I'd actually love to have a massive pillow fight in an abandoned school.
I found some changing rooms. I should note, the floor of these rooms are covered in tiny shards of glass. My footsteps crunched loudly no matter where I went. Anyone else in there would hear me, but I would also hear them.
That's an odd chair to find in a school.
But what were these changing rooms for?
That's right! A freakin' gym!
Continuing around the school...
My favourite room was this massive assembly hall, complete with stage and strewn wreckage. One could probably pick through this for days and find leftovers.
Just look at this place! It's amazing!
There's a tree shaped bookshelf which I'm surprised is still intact.
Some pretty awesome curtains.
The area around the fire damage still smelled of smoke. I have no idea how recent it was, but stepping into the odour as suddenly as I did made me panic momentarily that someone had set fire to the place as I was exploring it. Now that would be an adventure! But no, this fire damage is old, and I'm very lucky it didn't spread over the entire school or there would be nothing here for me to check out.
Amongst the ruins, a book.
In its current state, any young lady wishing to use the toilet would have to take a leap, and pray nobody was leaning against the door on the other side.
There's cleaning products in here.
Just in case the lack of urinals and the signs urging people to not flush their sanitary towels wasn't a big enough indicator that these toilets are for those who have a vagina, the interior was painted in a nice peachy pink.
Meanwhile, just in case you couldn't figure out by the urinals, or at least whats left of them, that these toilets are for those who stand up to pee, these toilets were painted blue.
They're still in better condition than toilets in some pubs and clubs, even if they do have stupid colour coding.
Gender stereotypes and gender roles are something I do object to, what with identifying personally outside of the gender binary and having several friends and acquaintances who also identify outside of the gender binary. In fact, as a follow up to my friend Giselle's gender binary photo project which had me photographed in Laura's tower and around Shrewsbury at various angles where my anatomical gender was uncertain, Giselle and her partner Beth let me tag along to a non-binary meet up in Wales where the gallery of images, not just of me, were displayed. There we dove into the deep end of the concept of genderlessness, and it reinforced in me a strong desire to get into the habit of using gender neutral pronouns. Nobody likes being misgendered. I mean to put this into perspective, somebody who both has a male mind in a male body hates being referred to as "She" and someone who has a female mind in a female body would probably be slightly more tolerant at first, seeing as masculinity is usually much easier to bruise, but they'd nevertheless get uncomfortable if the entire world insisted that they were male and referred to them as "Him." And the same rules apply to those whose minds are the opposite genders to their bodies, and when someone feels that their mind is completely genderless, how do you know?
At this meet up, this was indeed brought into question. The event planted it into everyones mind. You know, thoughts like "That looks like a male. But they're at a non-binary meet up, so let's not assume, and not get careless with pronoun flinging." And then the whole irrelevance of gender boxes becomes apparent. I don't need to know what anyone has between their legs. We're not making babies. And once the irrelevance of gender becomes apparent, so much else becomes laughable. All the double standards, gender expectations and generalisations, and gender roles that society flings at us, they're just silly. As a small child, as far back as I can remember, I questioned internally why I had to exist within a binary. Why couldn't I simply exist? I'm a genderless mind trapped inside a male body. Of course I live and work in small-town Shropshire and as much as I love Shropshire, these concepts are still new to the people, so I don't object to being misgendered as strongly as I could. However, I do have a peeve. At the lampshade factory where I work, I hear from the deputy manager on a regular basis the phrase "typical male." And you know, it's annoying. I already have to resign myself to being referred to as something I don't identify with, but it's offensive to be told that those traits of my personality perceived to be negative are typical attributes of being a male, thus defining my maleness.
Anyway, working on the logic that anyone who brings gender into any situation it doesn't need to be in is in fact fixating on ones reproductive organs, I decided one day after hearing the phrase "typical male" for the billionth time, (and I urge ANYONE who suffers workplace sexism to do this) to simply tell the offender to stop thinking about my goddamn willy!
And naturally, she was a little struck by this. And before a response could be uttered I continued with a full blown rant. "You're always on about it! "He's a maaaaaan. He's got a willy." Well it's not anything special, you know. Loads of people have them! A lot of them are even better than mine!"
And that ended the conversation quite swiftly and the subject of my reproductive organs has yet to be brought up again.
And unless I decide I want to co-create a baby, that's the way it should be. I mean really, who cares?
But after this lengthy digression, the toilets at the non-binary meet up were not labeled Male or Female. Instead they were labeled Sitting and Standing. It was awesome. Again, it points to the irrelevance on the subject. People go to toilets to excrete and urinate,
Aaaaand back to the school!
Moving onto the upstairs! More classrooms, smashed glass, wall scribblings and leftovers remain!
In one classroom, some students had written "Goodnight" to the school on the whiteboard. I've censored the name of the school but really, I'm quite shocked this writing on the whiteboard has survived. It's written on with marker pen.
Onto the science lab! This place has seen better days.
With so much left behind, such as school work, computers, furniture, toys, cleaning products and whatnot, it does make me wonder if any chemicals were left in this science lab.
Obviously their absence now wasn't conclusive evidence that they weren't left here, given that it's been around a decade since this place was closed, and how wrecked it is. I'm more surprised by whats still here than whats gone!
I'm going to assume this next room was a music room.
And based on the posters and shelving, and a hexagonal table which is more communual than your standard forward-facing desk, I assumed that this was a library. Of course that hexagonal desk could have been dragged here from the science lab. Granted, that takes some lugging, but when existence consists of riding a gas-coated sphere around a giant nuclear fireball and that's considered ordinary, nothing surprises me anymore. What I'd love is to speak to former students of this place. Of course, that would only happen if by chance they read this article, which is slim seeing as I'm not announcing the name of the place. What a dilema.
A lot of the other classrooms were very samey but had some interesting tidbits.
In the dark, I totally missed that whatever-it-is hanging from the ceiling. I wish I'd taken a closer look. What even is that?
This next room has a bunch of paper monkeys with articulated limbs hanging in a line above the whiteboard.
And check this out! A smashed VHS tape!
Now this piece of gadgetry will be familiar to anyone who attended school over a decade ago. It's a relic from days gone by that anyone reading this who has been educated in these days of interactive whiteboards won't recognise.
That's right, it's the head of an overhead projector! Surely this belongs in a museum! For the younger readers, Early Humans used one of these to educate their young. The teacher would print what they wanted the children to read onto transparent sheets, and then place these sheets on top of a magic light-emitting box that would then project the writing on the transparent sheet onto a wall, often a whiteboard. But Early Humans also had blackboards once, and so usually they'd have to project that stuff somewhere else, or cover the blackboard in a white sheet.
20th Century kids also found it hilarious when the teachers accidentally put the transparent sheets down on the projector the wrong way up so that the text would be inverted on upside down. We might sound easily pleased but lets be honest, your generation is currently amusing itself by putting cartoon dog snouts on everyones selfies, so let's not judge.
I'm loving this graffiti. "We are watching you." Oooooh. But look below. 666!!!! Clearly someone very badass has come through these halls.
And next to that... "I know your here."
Goddamnit, my Here knows everyone. It has more of a social life than I do! Whatever my Here is.
Now this is creepy. An old school photograph that has been torn up and reassembled. I wonder where these people are today, and if they have any idea that this old photo of them is here.
As far as this school is concerned, that's about it. I did want to check out the exterior, as there was a ladder to the roof and whatnot, but given that people had been arrested in here before, it was late, and if I missed the train that was leaving in fifteen minutes I'd be waiting for two hours, I decided to call it a day. Last August this schools demolition was given the go-ahead, apparently to make way for new houses. That's probably a good thing, given that this place has been pillaged and used for nefarious misdeeds, and is quite an ugly addition to the neighbourhood.
Anyway that about wraps it up. The blog will cover something thats actually in Shrewsbury next time, but before I can write that up I'm going on holiday to Whitby to meet some of my friends who don't live in Shrewsbury. Whitby's a bit of a trek and I have no blog related reasons to go, but should I spot anything you'll no doubt have a post on that.
Meanwhile, I often ask for donations to this blog and so far my readers have donated a bit. Today I urge anyone who would donate to this blog ordinarily to instead donate to my friend Zena Jones. Zena's neice has cystic fibrosis, and her fundraiser is to improve her quality of life. Zena herself will be removing her hair to raise money. I'm not sure how old exactly this neice is, but she's very young and it's very noble of Zena to set something like this up. I met Zena when I stayed in Liverpool during my trip to Camelot and she is among the nicest humans I have ever met. So please, if you have money to donate to this blog, donate it instead to Zenas cause. Click here for more info.
Also check out Zena's art page. She has phenominal talent.
Also check out my Twitter and Instagram so that you can find out when I update this blog and also see the occasional photograph from blog posts to come. But most important of all, go out and make someone smile.
Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!