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