Sunday, 22 June 2014

Class of '89 reunion

My school was in a beautiful market town.  Like everyone I have mixed feelings about my old alma mater.  On the one hand the girls were all lovely, there was no bullying at a time where bullying was pretty rife in most other schools. There were no 'cliques' everyone was friends with everyone and we were all a bit clueless when it came to navigating completely new rules of engagement at university.
The school was very academic and very religious, it drew from the university and from all of the research laboratories in the area.  My dad sold cars and my mum was a hairdresser who was very house proud and could often be heard to say 'Why do you want all of these books? You're only going to read them and they'll gather dust'.
So I was never really prepared for the love of knowledge for knowledge's own sake.  It was a means to and end, and the end was a better paid job and more opportunities than my parents had.  They had both left school at 14, and I have always been in awe of quite what they have achieved with the world weighted against them.

So at school, I was stunned by my friends whose parents refused to have a tv in the house, but had their own library, or the ones that went home in the evening and did advanced mathematics with their professor fathers 'for fun'.

I loved my friends, but teachers made it clear that my life was dilettante and superficial.  It's only with hindsight that I can see how judgmental they were.  A thousand little criticisms that were targeted at my home life and upbringing, that at the time, I didn't understand.  But now I see as plain old intellectual snobbery.

As soon as we were allowed off the school grounds I got a number of part time jobs that I fitted around my lesson schedule, and for the first time, I felt free to breath, I think that is why I have such a affection for the town, perhaps more than for the school itself.

I organised kids parties at the local leisure centre, (and got to use the sunbed for free, a great bonus in the melanoma-ignorant years)
I also worked at a gun centre where one of the notorious gun-nutcases who went into a local village and killed nearly 20 people came to shoot, but that's a whole other story.

I came to understand the love of knowledge much later, probably only when I had my own children, for whom I want to know things.  I want to know about great writers and their quotes and the important ideas from philosophers and to be able to explain the Higgs Boson and what Hedge Funds do.

If I had had this kind of inquiring mind back then, it would have made up for the perceived short-comings that my teachers saw (I had pink flash trainers, not green flash and sometimes wore a ribbons in my hair and read Jilly Cooper for fun not Tolstoy).

But as the the TV ad says 'We are only made of our one to ones' (quite deep for a 30 second mobile phone ad).  Everything that i aspire to, accept or am thankful for is a result of these very formative years and when the invite came through for a 25 year reunion, it was the first time that I actually felt a pang of nostalgia and wanted to return.

Since my friends there were always a mixed bunch, the outfit or how we looked was largely irrelevant, we genuinely didn't care about appearances.  Make-up, jewellery, anything other than 'regulation' uniform was banned.  And I LOVED it, by the upper sixth we could wear 'home clothes' except the rules were so onerous, it made uniform a dream in comparison.

However for those that like to see the clothes (and that's me too btw).
I wore a Coast skirt and top (both in my favourite brown hues and bought for about £5 each on ebay)
With my 'real rockstuds' (I have found a good source of very similar design but they are not quite as authentic so need to differentiate between the two)
 And the 'may be' real Hermes bag which was a gift from a Chinese supplier that I used to work with a few years back.  This outfit does if course sit in the 'ugly clothes' category according to anyone at my new job, but with this crowd, the one thing I know I can be is myself.  I also through on a bucket load of fake tan, mainly because this was another 'banned' substance back in the day.

The school is almost unrecognisable, we were taught in wooden sheds and post war portacabins. The facilities are now amazing, with an old girl leaving an endowment of somewhere around £12million to completely change the place.
I was a bit gutted that they are changing the outdoor pool in to a science block, that was my sanctuary.  We were told that our A level results would be inversely proportional to our suntans, but we all spend hours around the swimming pool gossiping and catching some rays.

Here is some of the gang over lunch. ...

Noone has really changed, some of them I haven't seen for 25 years. but we were pretty much all exactly as we were all of those years ago...

 Rudely on my phone, but unfortunately getting some news that will change things a lot for the family...

Such a lovely, peaceful day, I laid some demons to rest, but most of all realised that only people matter.


  1. Aww, I love reading about these events. My school was really academic too, I was a bit of a misfit ( I was told to get married before I was 20 as I had no hope of ever getting a good job - quite true in many ways, I have mooched along in minimum wage jobs all my life) but had friends so I loved my school days, we were all the same too - just older.
    Our cocktail that night was vodka and a Kwenchy cup cola!

    I am so brown just now, I have tanned hard in the last few weeks, I need an intervention.

    1. I can't wait to see more pics from all of your trips. It's so lovely to see all of the familiar faces, for all the opportunities that there are in the world, there is still nothing like roots.

  2. You are so right, only people matter. It sounds like you clearly know yourself, which is the key to a great life, if you ask me. It seems some things never change though. My pet peeve however is why a smart student can't also wear pink shoes without her teachers thinking less of her! Hope family is fine. Thanks for the very beautiful snapshot.

    1. With hindsight I think it is the old adage of people fearing what they don't know. For a hard core academic the pink shoes are as alien as quantum physics is to me. I'm keeping everything crossed for better news next week xx

  3. What a lovely post and yes you are right, it really is only people that matter xx

  4. I loved this post. I missed my 25th reunion due to a family event, but to be honest, I'm not sure I would have gone. I wasn't as fortunate to attend a school without cliques .. and although I did really enjoy my years there, I don't really have any interest in meeting old school peers. Those that mattered are still my friends today, so after that, I'm not really bothered about the rest! I'm sorry to hear that there is bad news in your family. I hope things improve x

  5. I am so envious you had this - I went to an international school so it is a logistical nightmare to organize hence we stick to facebook and seem to have quasi interweb reunions there...
    You wrote so well about the mixed feelings and all the issues it brings up. I also think that education for girls was still treated in an odd manner. Sometimes too militant and sometimes it was flower arranging. But it is always nice to see an old face. Primal almost in its comfort. I do hope things are ok though with your family?

  6. Such a great post. Really enjoyed reading about your inner-feelings. Glad you got to lay some of these to rest x


I would love to hear from you and quite happy for some lively debate so feel free to say what you think! ....