7. Hasta La Vista At Tulse Hill Comprehensive

Not everyone would want to admit that they went to the same school as ex Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, but I decided to come clean!

Opened in 1956, Tulse Hill Comprehensive was situated halfway between Norwood and Brixton, and was an iconic landmark for extremely bland 60’s architecture. It was built as a large, glazed oblong box, eight storeys high with four enormous lifts that carried pupils to the heights! It was said to be the highest school in London. There were also staircases, which most of us were compelled to use, with rather power hungry Prefects guarding each turn. Going up, you had to walk on the left, going down, on the right. Rather like the British road system. Although the large volume of human feet trampling up and down at the sound of the bell signalling a lesson change, tended to resemble rush hour in Calcutta. There never seemed to be enough time to get from one lesson location to the next, especially as the new boy, trying to navigate my way up and down various floors where specialist subjects were taught.

I seem to remember the top floor was preserved for the mathematicians.

It was always a struggle for me to get to the top floor! I much preferred the lower echelons of English Language, Art, Technical Drawing and Music. Geography and History were half way up the building and I can’t remember where Religion was. Probably in an anti-building.

Mr Thabalscoa was an imposing teacher and attempted to teach my class of 38 to speak Spanish. I still remember the lessons now because I was terrified that “Sir” would point his Spanish finger at me asking me to translate the next line of the text in Spanish. I experienced a similar fear as a student at Spurgeon’s College in London, some years later when Stanley Fitzsimmons, the Greek and Hebrew lecturer, would point randomly to students in the lecture room, asking them to translate the next verse in the New Testament Greek Bible into English.

My Music teacher was Derek Moon who became a famous organist, performing at various church functions around the country.

I understand he is now living in Frinton On Sea on the East Coast of the UK with his wife Elizabeth and although in his late 70’s still performs in concerts and preaches. Mr Moon taught us a singing exercise we had to do which involved placing four fingers from one hand vertically into the mouth, so that our mouths would open wide enough to expel air with the force required for the louder notes! I must confess I never really had much trouble opening my mouth, even though I was quite a shy lad in an environment which was more about survival of the fittest, than reaching high standards of academic learning. When I left the school after only one year, Mr Moon presented me with a book called, ‘Whitfield’s Journals’, all about one of Englands great and courageous 19th century evangelists. I still have the book to this day signed by the man himself! Derek Moon that is, not Mr Whitfield!

You may be wondering why I only lasted one year at the school. It was because my mum and dad decided to up sticks and move from London to the Isle Of Sheppey in Kent. That in itself was a huge culture shock which I’ll tell you all about in a later BLOG.

By the mid 1990’s, Tulse Hill Comprehensive had been demolished, making way first for an archaelogical dig carried out by the British Museum revealing an early Saxon settlement dating from the 6th century, and then a new housing development was built.

School could be very ‘tribal’ with various gangs prowling around finding victims to devour!

At my next school I was appointed Head Boy, but still found myself crouching on the pavement outside the school one day surrounded by the school gang baying for my blood! Talk again soon!

About Steve Flashman

Steve Flashman is a singer/songwriter, published author and has appeared on TV many times over the years. He toured extensively as a professional musician and set-up a Short Term Service Charity which worked in some of the poorest areas of the world. He is currently living in Buckinghamshire UK with his wife Sarah and is Vicar of two rural parish churches.

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