During most of my school years, reading material was procured from Hyson Green Library on a daily basis and, later on, from Central Library in Nottingham before it went down market and took up residence in the less than inspiring surroundings of a former bed shop on Angel Row.
Although The Manning wasn't large, it boasted two libraries. The senior library was on the first floor of the Admin Block , its windows overlooking the front entrance and Gregory Boulevard. Girls were not permitted to use the senior library before the fifth form. Prior to that, we had to make do with the junior library which was something of a misnomer to say the least.
Behind The Manning School, running parallel with Austen Avenue, was the staff car park, bike racks, dustbin shelter and...The North East Hut. Of three 'huts' on the premises, two of which were green-painted wooden constructions in the Upper Quad, housing the Sixth Form, the NEH was easily the most ancient. In all probability, it served as the builders' refuge when, in 1930, Manning was being constructed. The builders left but it remained, lurking in its dingy corner behind the windows of the dining room, to serve a variety of purposes over succeeding decades.
A prefabricated construction with a corrugated tin roof , the NEH was probably comprised of at least 50% asbestos and sensibly so since it contained a large, cast-iron pot-bellied coke stove which spat red hot motes indiscriminately at anyone who failed to observe a respectful distance.
Utilitarian by any standards, the NEH sported a bare concrete floor, an assortment of wobbly wooden chairs, a rickety fireguard , curtains which hadn't been washed since the year dot and a couple of shelves, just above floor height, stocked with dog-eared, battered, pre-war books, their fly leaves tattooed with an oval stamp which declared, "The Manning School. Nottingham City Education Committee." On the basis of these two shelves, the NEH merited recognition as a library .. of sorts . I recall borrowing such volumes as Schubert Piano Pieces, When Marnie Was There, A Golden Treasury of Poems (whoops, still have that one) and English Kings and Queens. There was no ticket system and, unlike the senior version , no one breathing down your neck if you didn't return your borrowings. SInce there always seemed to be more shelf than books, a goodly number were probably nicked!
Sparse as it was , the NEH was the most popular place on the site in winter. Why? It was warm! Soporifically so. Manning was, by design, a draughty hole. All the classrooms had french doors to the exterior elevation which, by 1969 at least, boasted huge gaps through which the rain and wind rushed in eagerly. Internally, all the classrooms opened on to the quads but for a single-glazed, leaky glass -roofed corridor where it was commonplace to see icicles hanging like bunches of jagged grapes, INSIDE, during the winter months.
English literature in the NEH after sadistic exposure to the elements on the hockey field with Pickleface was as near to bliss as The Manning ever got. Frozen girls, collapsed on wobbly wooden chairs arranged in a circle around the coke stove, following the text of All Quiet on the Western Front, Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre or the Mill on the Floss. Within 10 minutes of Mrs Robbins' (we named her 'Harold'... she had 'proclivities') droning intonations, we entered the hypnagogic state that precedes slumber, only to be rudely awoken by peremptory cries of "Holroyd, you're on fire! Put your skirt out immediately."
Blazing gobbets of coke, launched at random, rapidly seared holes in the skirts.. and sometimes the legs...of unwary girls.
During morning lessons in the NEH, one could play Guess what's for Dinner? as, once the school meals wagon had offloaded the requisite number of stainless steel buckets of bilge and slop, (I always brought sandwiches from home) the mixed aromae of rancid cabbage, burnt potatoes and fish seeped its nauseous way between corrugated roof and asbestos walls. Nothing was cooked on the premises in those days, having been macerated, boiled to a pulp and made forever inedible long before it reached the school kitchen.
Working as a dinner lady wasn't much fun either, for when English literature sessions were not in progress, the NEH served as a venue for violin lessons, ably taught by a peripatetic gentleman who had the most revolting rotten, yellow nicotine -stained teeth I've ever spotted on a living personage.
So far as anyone could establish, he owned but one equally nicotine-riddled corduroy jacket and similar trousers. Clearly, playing the fiddle only pays decent pennies if your name's Menuhin, Oistrakh or Stern. Lesser mortals who failed to attain such dizzy heights, spend their days in hot asbestos huts, having their ears assaulted by sounds which make the scraping of fingernails down a blackboard seem tuneful by comparison. Rumour had it that the kitchen staff spent most of their wages on earplugs.
A recent glance at an aerial view of The Djanogly City Academy site shows that the NEH, like the rest of the Manning, has been assigned to oblivion and, for that, I'm sorry. It was the one place where , on the not infrequent occasions when our teacher failed to turn up, it was possible to get a bit of unmolested sleep!