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Twenty years ago

Twenty years ago, my family moved to London for a year. I spent first year secondary school at North Westminster. At the time, it was an experimental school, one of the first to offer some choice of courses, with less emphasis on specialization, in the first few years of secondary school. It was an eventful year - I made my London stage debut at the Shaw Theatre, thanks to the school drama club; the school librarian introduced me to Anne McCaffrey's books; and English classes introduced me to Rosemary Sutcliffe's books. Since it was one year alone, I remember the people I knew that year with relative clarity. They were all starting a new school too, but most of them stayed on at it after the first year, and so their years must blend together in the same way that my memories of high school do.

Z. was one of the few people I stayed in touch with from that year. We sporadically sent each other postcards, sporadically meeting up on either side of the ocean. At one point while I was at Smith, I woke at 4 in the morning to take the bus down to New York City to see her. We've both been in the same city for the past year, and now she's moving back to the states. Not working anymore meant we could finally coordinate schedules and meet up. So tonight I had dinner with her - and with two other people who were also at North Westminster with me all those many years ago. They had no reason to remember me, and didn't, and I only remembered one of them, but we still had news in common. Most of their shared friends are people I remember.

Just the other week, Z. and E. went back there for a reunion, to see the teachers one more time. Only this time, there might not be another. The institution is closed now, slated to be replaced by an academy, the UK government's major education project, commercially-sponsored schools. I wondered, hearing how the school hadn't been renovated since we were there, if part of the incentive in going to an academy model wasn't just a chance to have the money to update the infrastructure. Would they get it any other way?

The school was relatively new and innovative when I started there. Perhaps, if the academy model works out for it, it'll occupy that niche once again for other students, visiting or otherwise.