Most of the pupils at my school dispersed widely after we were let loose on the world after secondary education. I only keep in touch with a handful of school friends – way more since the advent of social media…..but still relatively few. Those I do keep in touch with are some of the closest friends I have – a bond of history, age and shared formative experiences means we understand each other & are able to support each other way better than most. Our classes in the first couple of years of senior school were sorted by alphabet….and then in S3, after subject choices, by academic ability …or by gender. Those were the days when girls weren’t allowed to do woodwork or technical drawing and only the brightest were allowed to do Latin…..and you either did science or languages. So having a surname beginning with an H – I spent a couple of years with the “G-M’s” and then with the “B” stream of “able but not setting the world alight pupils” and with a science based subject range……there were whole sections of the school I never shared a class with! Academic boys specialising in arts & languages and surnames staring with N onwards are a complete mystery to me. Not qualifying as one of the cool kids (yeah even then! 😂😂😂), not being good at a team sport (swimming was quite anti-social in it’s training schedules even then) and living a wee bit out of the village all led to a narrow social group….and means that school reunions are full of people I don’t recognise and can’t remember. And a few that I DO remember bring back some not so pleasant memories. The school had a mix of day pupils who lived locally, travellers who needed a bus to get to school from farther flung towns – and boarders, who seemed exotic and elite – and were quite often scary, as some reacted to the hierarchy of boarding house life by taking it out on those further down the chain. 35 years on and even if I recognise their names on paper – actually putting names to faces is a whole lot harder.
Ordinarily, a school reunion would be something that you’d consider is made easier by the addition of a reasonable amount of alcohol. Before, during AND after. You know – to shore up your confidence…make small talk easier….and to brave the memories of childhood name calling and old crushes. But of course I chose this year to be alcohol free – so that wasn’t going to be a prop I could use! At the grand old age of (very nearly) 52, I am lucky enough to be comfortable with who I am…..and am more than capable of making an arse of myself without the benefit of alcohol! Interestingly from an alcohol free perspective, the non alcoholic drinks were put on a table in the far corner of the gathering space…..with the alcohol table at the other side of the room. It felt a bit like the cool kids v nerds was something that carried on into adulthood – and while I socialised with people I recognised and hadn’t seen for years – I’m also no wiser as to who some of the unknowns were…..as I never had to squeeze past them to refill my glass…and missed opportunities to discover wether, but for a different surname letter, we might have been good friends! Once again though I was struck with how uncomfortable some people find my decision not to drink – and how normal and normalised heavy drinking is amongst my peer group.
From a sugar free perspective I’ve learned over the years that I’m better at complete self denial than trying to limit myself….so better to eat before I arrive than restrict potentially sugar laden “nibbles” at a buffet table. So instead of stressing about the food, or embarrassingly trying to eat off a paper plate while clutching a glass of water, I opted for grabbing something to eat before hand and kept my back to temptation! Actually I probably needened have worried as the “nibbles” looked to be relatively healthy. The meats & cheese would have been (mostly!) sugar free – but it would be rare to find the biscuits & bread served with it were equally zero rated! So for my £25 ticket – I got 3 glasses of sparkling mineral water and a couple of glasses of tap water. Happily donating my wine rations to those that may have regretted it this morning!
All in all a good night (much thanks to the organiser)…..catching up with school friends I have never forgotten but haven’t seen for 35 years….having lost touch when parents moved and surnames changed. Something that social media is unlikely to let happen for the next generation. Lovely filling in the gaps from people that I had caught up with at previous reunions at 20 and 25 years….and realising that some school friends live nearer to me than I had realised….and getting hugs and laughs with closer friends – some that I see way more regularly than I see far flung family. The end of the evening was dictated by train times….cutting it so close that we literally had to leg the last 400m ….funnily enough the last time I ran that far would have been while I was still at school!