My former school is about to celebrate its 50th anniversary. There was a cocktail party ten years ago for its fortieth, which I didn’t go to, and a ball for its something or other. I didn’t go to that either. The only times I’ve been back there since I left (a long time ago) was for a reunion which I was dragged to by one of my friends where I didn’t recognise anyone – literally, I’d expunged my schooldays so successfully from my memory that names didn’t ring a bell let alone faces – and when I visited the school as a putative parent. I got a lot of enjoyment from the amount of fawning over dished out to an Old Girl with three daughters, especially as I’d been distinctly a lower form of pond life in a big pool when I was a school girl.
I wasn’t a success at school. Not all of that was my fault; I was hopelessly ill-equipped to go to boarding school aged 11. I’d been educated at home by a governess – my father didn’t see why girls needed to go to school, I’m the youngest and the only girl in the family so I had a vocabulary of someone much older because I spent so much time with adults, we lived on the edge of a village so I was alone a lot of the time, I didn’t even have someone to share my lessons until I was nine and I didn’t belong to the brownies or the Pony Club so basically I had no idea of what girls en masse were like and no social skills for behaving within groups. And as if I didn’t stand out enough from the crowd already I was also 5 foot 4 inches tall aged just 11, 5 foot 9 1/2 at 13 (luckily I only grew another half inch after that).
If I’d been good at sports I suppose I might have redeemed myself and become one of the marginally popular ones, but I was the one whom in the inter-group netball match didn’t get on the team list at all. There were 7 players, three reserves and a substitute. There were 12 in our group…
It wasn’t all bad, I wasn’t bullied, generally just ignored and considered a bit “odd”. I made a couple of very good friends, both are still close friends, and we spent wonderful long introspective hours discussing ourselves and what we might become or sneaking illegally into the music rooms to play Leonard Cohen and analyse the meaning behind his lyrics. All the same I got out of there as soon as I could and went to a day school in London to do A levels, feeling very content indeed to put boarding school days behind me.
Then the invitation for the 50th turns up. It’s for a sleepover. A sleepover, I kid you not. You get to relive your school days with a night in a dormitory, you can ask to be put in with certain girls like they used to when I was there and we’ve been promised that there’ll even be the cocoa trolley for a hot drink before lights out (admittedly at 11pm rather than 8.30 as we used to have it).
Amazingly enough, quite a few old girls have already signed up for this form of torture. What if no-one wanted you in their dormy and you had to settle for the ignominious shame of a single study bedroom (so desirable at one time)? Or that you found you were the last one in and had been allocated the top bunk in the draughty place by the door which you weren’t even sure you could climb up to any longer? And when I’m in my last hours I can’t imagine I’ll be thinking, ‘If only I could have one more cup of that cocoa from the trolley, it was really nice that they made sure it wasn’t too strong with lots of water and that thick skin was so delicious.’ Then, in the morning there’s going to be a rounders match…
At the beginning of this year I made a resolution to push myself and do things I wouldn’t normally but some things are just too much. Sorry ladies, this is one invitation I find all too easy to refuse.
Susie@ desperateanglohousewives said:
I am happily the worst ” old girl” too plus I ADORE Leonard Cohen. Originality is far superior to grouping out with a bunch of old/tired/ girls… Sans interet !
When ARE we having lunch!
Soon I hope, are you still very busy at work?
I was a boarder too from 12-16. After being in my class for a term or so where pupils had the habit of writing loads of abbreviations on the blackboard – for example 4mdumb (4 more days until my birthday) and I decided to participate. Pretty quickly I was put in my place by the following abbreviation ‘ngsbsanh’ – which was translated as ‘new girls should be seen and not heard’!!.I generally didn’t mind boarding too much but going to a reunion absolutely doesn’t appeal to me either! Wise decision!
That sounds even unfriendlier than my school! Though I, as a brand new girl, was givven the very worst job on the form cleaning rota and informed by the form captain that if we didn’t get the form tidyness prize it would be all my fault.
Horrible thought. Going to boarding school at 8, I hated every minute of it and the thought of going back there, or meeting any of the people from that era makes me shiver. Still trying to erase the memory of warm banana custard with brown bananas covered in stringy things, and jelly with skin.
It was the braised beef – braised for hours until it had reached the consistency of shoe leather and had a faint greeny tinge to it – that gave me the shivers. And it was years before I could eat anything with celery in it, I can still visualise those long, brown stringy things that tasted of nothing and had been smelling out the whole school since nine o clock that morning.
Helen Devries said:
Is money involved somewhere here? Would they tap one for funds for supporting the sagging ceiling of the staff room?
Otherwise I can see no purpose in a reunion…people you liked you kept in touch with, people you didn’t you would hardly want to see again…people you’ve forgotten you are hardly going to recognise…and the mention of food in the above comments hardly promises a gourmet feast…even with cocoa!
They’re having a dinner before the dormy sleepover… They’re charging £40 for bed and board – I’d have to be paid many times more than that to go.
Schooldays are not necessarily the happiest of one’s life. I didn’t go to boarding school but I don’t think I’d have liked it if I had. My school doesn’t exist anymore – not due to me, I think. But I’ve always had a horror of these reunions where everyone is scanning everyone else for signs of age and being economical with the truth about their successful careers.
And now we’re all that much older you also have to listen to boasts about how incredibly intelligent/successful/goodlooking/perfect their children are. Funnily enough those boasts always seem to come from those who were most intolerant about children as toddlers.