Friday, 9 May 2008

Class of 1975

It's one thing after another at the moment - I've now caught a cold, complete with sore throat and dripping nose. At least it should be gone by the time I'm free to lead any sort of life again.

School building
The school reunion was of the class of 30 girls that I joined at the age of 11. We all remained together in that class until we were 16, and most of us stayed on at school until we were 18. That class was very special, and it was probably because of our form teacher in that first year, Mrs Taylor. She was an amazing teacher and a wonderful person, and last week we all met her again - she joined us in the restaurant.

She is more than 80 years old now, and still amazing. Considering how many pupils she would have looked after, she remembered more names from the photos that people brought than I did. She had always been calm, always supportive, always ready with a smile or a compliment. I had less to do with her than many, given that she taught Art (which really isn't my thing). Even so, she always made me feel special, as if she particularly cared about me, and I'm certain that every girl she spoke to would have felt that way.

As we sat at the table, catching up on the elapsed 25 years, Mrs Taylor leaned over to me, and said quietly, "They called you 'brainbox', didn't they?" They certainly did, and plenty of other names in similar style. I was always top of the class, which was tough on Laurinda and Kate who had to compete for second place.

There were four parallel classes in our year, and for some reason they had very different characters. 1-5 was a bit pathetic and wet, and 1-7 were rowdy and rebellious. I don't even remember what 1-8 was like. We were, and we still are, 1-6. 1-6 was undoubtedly the best. When I walked into the restaurant and saw all these elegant ladies, they looked like strangers with something familiar about them. After about an hour, their faces had somehow morphed into their instantly recognisable teenage versions.

As a class we had our moments. There was the time that Elizabeth climbed out of the window onto the roof of the floor below and got caught, and the mass detention that we were given when Debra's cardigan went missing, presumed stolen. Suzanne's best friend told us that she was off school because she was pregnant - totally untrue, but she had quite a reception when she returned. We had a new French teacher in the third or fourth year, and in one lesson, we made her cry. I look back now and my heart goes out to her, she was doing her best, but a little bit of evil got into us that day. On the scale of school-based misbehaviour, this was very tame, but we were all pretty intelligent and not often disruptive.

The reunion was brought together by Andrea, who performed the same miracle 13 years ago without the benefit of the Internet. This time she managed to find 27 out of 30, and only two couldn't come. Then this week another one emerged from obscurity, just too late to join us.

I didn't actually manage to talk to everyone, even though I was there for five hours. I think only two of us don't have children - the record went to Lesley, who's pregnant with her sixth. I tried to feign interest as yet another photo of two, three or four children was proudly waved under my nose. I was much more interested in how people looked, how their character remained so similar to their school personalities - quiet, flamboyant, thoughtful, loud, glamorous. I was particularly pleased to see Ritu and Sue. Ritu and I played tennis after school; Sue and I played the clarinet together.

And it doesn't end there - I deliberately didn't spend much time with Liz because she lives nearby, and we have arranged to meet up after the exams. With any luck, Roz will join us - she was one of the two who couldn't be there, and she was my best friend for quite a bit of my time at school. Best friends were so important at that age. If you didn't have one, you could be very isolated.

It was wonderful to see everyone again, and unlike the last reunion, I feel utterly comfortable with who I am. I no longer harbour resentment, or guilt, or the constant need to conceal my intelligence or apologise for the good fortune of my genes. I always got better marks than they did, and while it's not fair, it's not actually my fault. I have reached where I am now through that experience, and it's all good now, even if it wasn't always an easy ride.


aims said...

I've never been to a reunion like that - just live too far away from where I went to school now.

It sounds like it was fun and how lovely to have such a special teacher still around and attending!

Tina said...

I think that's very brave of you Lola. I'd dread a school reunion, but more for the fact that people would recognise me instantly, thereby crushing my tenuous belief that I've changed into quite the lady.

Will pop back much more often now I'm back for good.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure how Kate feels - as she was always competitive - but I was quite happy for you to be top overall as it actually took the pressure off the rest of us!