I’ve been thinking a lot about my time at Gap House boarding school over the last few days. Especially after visiting it on Wednesday, you can read my post about the day here. Here are some thoughts about my time there. I hope you enjoy.
It’s ten past nine in the morning and I’m sitting out in my garden with a cup of tea and Max the doggo mooching about, and I’m think a little about the last few days. Wednesday in particular.
The purpose of my trip down to Broadstairs was to go down and see what had become of my old boarding school. I knew it wasn’t a school anymore but I didn’t know what had become of the building and the grounds. In short, nothing. It’s just been left. Abandoned to to let nature and time slowly break it down. It will take some doing though, because that building has a strong core.
It breaks my heart to see it like that though. It’s a pipe dream but I’d love to buy it all and make it into an artists retreat and youth centre. Somewhere people can come and create in a peaceful environment, and where youngsters can spend time and socialise and I’d have people there who could help and advise them on the adult world. I’d make a safe space for all who came there. It’s something I’d love to do in my home town as well, but it is just a pipe dream. The odds on me having the funds to do anything like that are slim. But I can dream.
The reason I’d love to include Gap House in that is my memories from there, and how safe a time in my life it was. Gap House changed my life. Apparently I was a little sod when I was a kid (hard to believe, I know!), but in the two years at gap house I feel like I learned how to communicate much better than I had been able to. My dyspraxia was considered a severe case and I think I’d act out because I did struggle to communicate so much.
I don’t really remember much of it. My childhood in general is kinda fuzzy, but I remember speech therapy being difficult. I remember having to stand outside the staff room during a break as punishment (no idea what I did twenty years later), but my dominant memories from that time are happy ones. Playing football cricket in the paddock, going into Broadstairs (both through the houses and along the beach), cinema trips. We went ice skating one time which was a lot of fun, although a house parent broke their arm. So it might not have been as much fun for them! We’d go swimming, and for days out around Thanet.
I was one of the children who would stay for two weeks at a time. There wasn’t often many of us, in the second year it was just three of us. Those weekends were when I had some of my favourite times. We’d build a fort in the gym with whatever we could find. We’d use blankets to make camps between the beds. There was a little sneaking around after lights out. We had a load of animals there, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, chinchillas and more that I just can’t remember now (my memory is like a blackhole unless someone reminds me of something!).
Something I distinctly remember doing is burring a time capsule in the sorta of overgrown bit of the garden. I say overgrown, if I remember right it was let to grow like that as a sort of nature habitat. I hope it’s still there. I hope the land doesn’t get bought by a developer and a god awful apartment building is building in its place.
We had a dining room, that looking back I want to say was a little snug when full but was nice. On a Saturday evening we’d sit and eat dinner in the TV room watching Gladiators, and I want to say a couple of other Saturday night shows. Maybe Noels House Party? I can’t remember for sure now.
One of the highlights was being chosen to play Christopher Columbus in a Christmas play which was basically Christopher Columbus, This Is Your Life. I can remember that very distinctly. We also went to the Isle of White Camping one year for a week. This was amazing! We saw The Mary Rose before we left the mainland, which was fascinating. Then on that week on The Isle of White, I just remember it being a lot of fun. Walking down to see the Needles, the actual camping in tents. Toast cooked on an open fire. We also went to France the year after for a week. We camped in the garden of one of the home of one of the staff at Gap House and if I remember right, it absolutely threw it down for the week and we ended up sleeping on the kitchen floor of this beautiful house in France.
My post the other day got comments from a couple of the fantastic people who worked there. Whether it was the teachers, the house parents, or even the cooks, they all worked to make Gap House a fantastic place to be. I spent two years there. In that time I grew in confidence (which was then snatched from me when I was a teenager, that’s another post though), and I’m only now truly beginning to appreciate just how important all at Gap House were in helping me as I learned to live with dyspraxia.
Thank you all for giving me those skills and those fantastic memories.
Today I went to where my old boarding school at Dumpton Gap is. I wasn’t planning on documenting the experience at all let alone as I did, which is why it might seem to start suddenly. I’m going to write it verbatim, as I wrote it. I hope you all enjoy it.
As I sit here on the concrete water break thing I have a desire to go and walk through the surf, bare feet. I have the urge to go into the English Channel up to my waist. Up to my chin even. I didn’t bring a swimsuit. I don’t even own one that fits. I don’t even have a towel!
I have no reason to be scared of the sea. I do fear open water. The sort of water that my feet will never touch never be able to touch the bottom. I’ll never go too deep in the water. Chin deep, no. but waist deep, why not?
For today I’ll sit here and drink this can of Pepsi Max. I’ll let the breeze off the sea wash over me, giving me that hit of sea air salty sea air I remember from so strongly from childhood.
It’s emotional sitting here. Seeing my old school abandoned and left to crumble is heart breaking. My two years there changed my life in many ways. Most of which I hadn’t haven’t even realised yet.
If I had the money I’d buy it and makin make it into a retreat and a centre for young people. That’s a pipe dream though. In this world of raping our heritage it will likely be torn down and an ugly block of flats built that doesn’t fit.
On a clear day we’d look for France on the horizon. Today it’s a clear, beautiful day but I can’t see our European neighbour. I see Haze. I’ll be buying some binoculars, a beach towel and some swim shorts for my next visit to the coast.
I am going to go into Broadstairs, but I’ll take a gentle drive and save the walk along the beach front for another day. I can feel wisps of anxiety creeping in, in and I don’t want to push myself too hard.
This is so much more overwhelming than I thought it was going to be. The salt air, the sound of the waves gently crashing in. The wind across my bare skin. The beautify of it. Why did I allow fear to stop me ex exploring this for so long?
I finally get the courage to sit on the breakfront. My hands are shaking and I need to pee, but the wave splashing mere feet from my feet occasionally splash on my legs and it feels good.
I only realise now how crippling this irrational fear had been.
The water in my eye I tell myself the tears in my eyes are because of the breeze but I know that’s a lie. Its emotionally overwhelming.
I get the best view of my old school from here. Such a beautiful building. The one that replaced it, I drove by. I’m sure its very good and but it lacks the character of Gap House.
I’d forgot how the sea could be two different beautiful colours.
Sitting in my car I see seagulls atop the roof of Gap House. Its character is still there. A lack of maintenance, no care for it will ever erase that.
I’m going to take a slow drive into Broadstairs town now. Curious for the memories and emotions that’ll conjure.
Does this qualify as a pilgrimage?
The beach is called Dumpton Gap. This is my second stop in as many minutes since I pulled away from where I was parked.
I couldn’t park in Broadstairs. So I drove back to Dumpton Bay, having decided to walk along the seafront.
I have a yearning to be here. For the sound of the sea and that salty sea air. Even the raucous seagulls. My parents go on holiday to Paignton each year. my dad spent a small part of his childhood there. I thin kI understand why he is drawn back there now.
Is this where I belong? on the coast? Id This feels like somewhere I shoaled be striving to end up.
Time to walk the short walk into Broadstairs.
Those two shades of colour of the water, the greener of the two seems to be where the bay begins. I’m sure theres a scientific reason for this. for me its just beautiful.
This time down here I look at the haze on the horizon and can just see darker shapes. Is this France? or boats.
Is this just nostalgia? or is this where I belong.
I walk along the top of the sea break. Yes there is fear a section of concrete will break away and I fall, but I was sitting on it not that long ago. I know the chances of it breaking are slim to nothing. I walk along it in the hope of the surf splashing up.
I remember walking along here when I was young. With fellow students, teachers and house parents. The older children could walk into Broadstairs town without adults but in at least pairs. Not along the beach though. We had to have an adult with us if we went onto the beach front.
It feels good being out in this air. This is not a million miles away. It’s a simple drive. There is nothing except my own fear holding me back.
This overwhelming but it feels good.
I’m craving the sand between my toes. The sea water on my feet and around my ankles. I must be able to find a beach towel somewhere. I know I don’t need one but I feel like I do.
As I approach Broadstairs town and beach it strikes me me how I’ve just walked a walk I haven’t done since I was eleven. That’s 28 years ago. I wouldn’t have been able to do this even three weeks ago.
I’m looking at hotels and wondering what their rates are. I need more time down here.
Walking on sand in trainers remembering how different it is to walk on. On the walk back I will be barefoot.
I always forget how big, and arrogant seagulls are.
I’m full of regrets and a little anger at not having done this before now. Of not exploring more.I’ve been saying for years I want to get out more, see more of the UK to start with. Realising how much fear and anxiety has held me back, that I’ve allowed to hold me back, hurts. But I’m not letting this sour the day. This is fuelling the urge to get out. The more I can do this, the more I overcome these fears that have no reason to exist.
The next time I come to Broadstairs I will park at Dumpton Gap and make the walk. It’s good for my soul.
This feeling is alien to me. My head should be screaming at me to flee, get back to my car and get home as quickly as I can. Even the fact my car is a ways away should fill me with anxiety. It’s not though. This calmness, this peace isn’t alien. It’s what I should be feeling. Not fear and anxiety.
I don’t find a beach towel, but I do walk through the sand barefoot. The sand is cold in the shade and hot, but not unbearable, in the sun.
I almost walk back along the concrete barefoot but it’s just a little too harsh for comfort.
I’m looking forward to the walk back. From Dumpton Gap to Bay to Viking Bay, and back again.
I’ve brought trinkets and notebooks (they had awesome notebooks!) in th a couple of the shops at Viking Bay. I spend a few minutes w off the seafront in the town, but not long.
As I start my walk back I realise the tide is slowly going out. I stop to watch th as seagulls skim the surface of the with a precision that I can’t comprehend.
The seaweed is so pretty as the retreating tide exposes it.
I watch the people swimming and admire them. I we don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough or a strong enough swimmer to do that. I’m okay with this.
Is promenade the right word for this concrete path? It seems to fit but I’ll look it up later.
As I walk back to my car I feel I’m walking a little quicker. Not much but just that bit faster. I don’t think it’s anxiety. I think it’s where that feeling of being overwhelmed is softening. There’s been times where I’m feeling almost fuzzy headed. So much to feel. So much to take in. I think It’s going to be a few days at least as I’m processing all this.
Maybe this quicker pace is an urge to get home? I think my mind, mind body, and soul are ready to be in my safe space again. I’m not panicking though. There’s no tightening in my chest. No thumping heart. I’m just ready to take a nice and steady drive home.
Thinking of driving I realise I wasn’t nervous or anxious or scared driving down. This pleases me.
It has struck home just how much I’ve let fear and anxiety ruin me and my life. I’m not going to dwell on it though. I’m not going to let it fester.
My brother has inflatable canoes. Maybe we could bring them down here one day.
This urge to go home isn’t stopping me from stopping and writing my thoughts down.
I hadn’t planned to document they but I had that need to. I’m glad I brought my bag with notebook and pen. Although I haven’t touched my iPad of the book I brought with me.
Money is tight at the moment. But I can afford the fuel and I had a small budget that I’ve stuck to. I’ll be more prepared next beach trip.
I’ve always had a fascination with the sea. I wish I hadn’t let my fears suffocate that.
I haven’t spoken to many people. I regret this but thats something hat will come with more time and exploration.
I feel a little silly and weak with what I’ve felt today. Even sillier for realising just how much I’ve let fear and anxiety ruin my life.
I set out today with only a vague feeling that I needed to do this. I didn’t know what I was hoping for. What I’ve discovered is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
As I sit on this bench, my car a couple of hundred yards away, I’m fearing that I’ll loose this urge ability to act on the urge to explore. That the fear and anxiety will take it from me again. I can not let that happen.
This was something I had to do on my own. I’d like to these with someone else to share the experience, but somethings I need to brave on my own. To build my confidence.
I’ve stopped at a services close to home. I should have stopped sooner, got a drink as I haven’t drank or eaten enough today. But I did go over my budget a little and I’m close enough to home not to worry about it.
I haven’t been watching the clock on the sat nav on this journey. Not long ago I would have done. I can feel anxiety, but it doesn’t feel as dominating as it used to be.
Now I’m home and reflecting on the day I feel more determined that ever to continue this exploration. Yes, summer is almost over but that’s not going to stop me.
Today was a hard hit. A hard realisation of all the time I’ve lost. Now’s the moment to make sure I don’t feel this way in twenty years time.