more of the convent

Orange Hill pano July2022 sm

Still in Burnt Oak, this is up Orange Hill Road, around the corner from my mum’s house. It’s part of the old St. Roses’s Convent (I drew the main building of that a few years ago, see “the-convent-at-the-top-of-orange-hill/“), which was next to the long-since-moved St. James’s Catholic School, and also next to the Watling Community Center, which is where my mum and dad had their wedding party back in 1991. I used to walk past here most days as a kid. Well, some days. If I was walking to Edgware I would usually cut down Boston and up Littlefields to get into that side of Deansbrook. I used to walk past this way if I was heading up Deans Lane to the newsagents Eric and Mavis up by the Green Man, because they had a better selection of magazines and comics there, or to the Golden Fry chip shop. It was Golden Fry wasn’t it? No wait, Golden Fry was halfway up the Watling. I have forgotten the name of the chip shop; it’s called King Neptune now I think, but it used to be something else when I was a kid, I’m sure of it. There used to be a small police station across the street from that chippy, the Cop Shop. Anyway all that is on a different road. I would also pass this when I would go on my run, which would be all uphill, up Orange Hill, Deans Lane, past the Green Man (the junction with Hale Lane where there used to be a pub of that name, long since turned into a Harvester), up Selvage Lane to Apex Corner, where I would stop for a rest, before running back downhill again. That’s what I did in the early mornings while I was back in London (until my foot started hurting), and I thought to myself right, I should draw the rest of the convent. So I went out there in the morning and drew about half of this, adding in the rest of the details when I was sat down (resting that dodgy foot). It’s worth colouring in, but I couldn’t be bothered this time. Maybe I should make a Burnt Oak Colouring-In Book. There’s an idea.

If you want to see the previous one I drew, on another early morning walk, here it is. It’s funny, my memories of this particular building are usually after dark, this looming many-chimneyed building against a rainy purple-grey sky, an occasional light from a window, but here it is on a nice bright summer morning. 

Orange Hill Convent

the convent at the top of orange hill

Orange Hill Convent
This is another very early morning sketch from back home in Burnt Oak. It was Father’s Day, and I was up super early so went out for a walk in the early morning June sunlight, when hardly anyone was around. The light was golden and heavy, rising beyond the Mill Hill end of Abbots Road, while I stopped at the Orange Hill end and drew one of the more impressive local buildings, the old Orange Hill Convent. Look at that chimney! That is a serious chimney. I remember the nuns, coming up and down to Burnt Oak, and I was told I had to greet them with a “Hello Sister” (not “Hello Nun” as I had been doing up to that point). Many years ago this was next to St.James’s School, the local Catholic school that I never went to (what with not being a Catholic), but would have been handy (being only two minutes from home; my actual school Edgware was a much further walk, and I did it daily – and slowly, as my old teachers will attest). My younger sister did go there, but only after it had relocated to Grahame Park. I remember friends of my older sister though who did go the St. James’s (my older sister by the way went to Orange Hill, just around the corner, which is also no longer there), they used to talk about St.James’s purely in terms of their terror at the nuns next door, Oh the nuns, so strict, the nuns! Which I never believed, having only met the nice sweet nuns going up and down the street, and saying “Hello Sister” to them, and they would say “oh hello young man” back. But then, I wasn’t a Catholic.  Pupils at St. James’s wore uniforms of two different colours – black and grey for the boys, green and yellow for the girls. It’s funny living in the US now and high school kids not wearing uniforms. We could always tell where kids were from by their uniforms (which was exactly the point, I think, for when kids from different schools got into trouble, as was not uncommon – trashing a McDonalds, running rampage on a bus, throwing things (or people) into people’s gardens – then the head of that school could be contacted and the boys or girls would get into trouble and very pointed words would be had at the school assembly next day. Yeah this happened a lot at Edgware (not by me of course). Our uniforms were blue, white and maroon. Our rivals at Mill Hill Country High had similar uniforms but had cherry red instead of maroon. There was one Catholic girls school who were kitted out all in purple, in Finchley if I recall, and were nicknamed locally “the Purple Virgins”. Not by me, of course. I always loved how tall and imposing this building was, on those dark early evenings when the rain was lashing down it would appear like a haunted mansion out of the gloom. I do remember as a kid though, my friends and I would go to the field behind it, next to the Watling Community Centre, to get conkers from the big horse chestnut tree. We’d look around for those big green spiky balls, peeling them open to find a huge shiny conker inside. Now I know this sounds like something that mawkish sentimentalists will post on groups on Facebook, oh remember when all we had was conkers, not like now where it’s all video games and obesity and violent crime (you know, the sort of Facebook post with a comment thread that quickly turns xenophobic, regardless of the original subject), but this is in fact true, we did go and get conkers from a big tree just behind the convent. I was a pretty innocent kid, it has to be said. It was all football stickers and conkers. And video games to be fair, my brother and I spent a lot of time playing Donkey Kong. I did go to karate class a couple of times in the building next to this, but I gave it up because there was another boy from my school, who I think fancied himself as a bully, in the karate class one time when I was 11 or 12 and he just spent the entire time laughing at me from behind and making disparaging comments. He then followed me down Orange Hill trying to talk to me, not in a particularly menacing way, but I didn’t want to talk to him, and I knew that next day at school he would basically have all his cronies humiliate me for attempting to do karate. So I never went back, which was a bit of a shame. Kids eh. I would probably have been rubbish at karate anyway, but I do think of that when I see that wall in front of the convent. Here I go again, memory lane. Well the school building is gone, replaced by houses and flats, I don’t know if the chestnut tree is still there but I doubt kids are picking its conkers, in these days of violent obese video crime games, and it’s probably too late for me to go back and try my luck at karate now, but the outline of this old Convent still stands out at the top of the hill like always. And finally, I sketched it!

get thee to a nunnery

flaws, mostly

Part two in a series. This is the old convent up on Orange Hill Road, Burnt Oak, the one that provided the nuns for the adjacent St. James’ school. Opposite there was another school, Orange Hill. I went to neither. Both are now gone. My old school though, in Edgware, is also now gone, demolished, an old comprehensive replaced with a futuristic brutal looking academy. I’ll bet the bogs still fit heads down them though.