We travelled into Southampton to revisit David's past and further afield Portsmouth to visit Southsea Castle and Brighton for a stroll along the promenade and time for me to indulge in the smell of the seaside: candy floss, donuts and chips covered in vinegar. I spent my time hoiking dogs out from the briney and stopping them from eating crabs, watching Mac and David sail past and reading, reading, reading, oh and eating the most gorgeous cakes, home made by the local shop owner.
As a result the dress I had decided to wear for the Class of 1987 school reunion was decidedly tight. Hm. No matter, I threw a pashmina around the worst bits and tottered out in my heels leaving David to unpack and start the washing. I felt almost glam as I strolled in through the front gates of my old school but was immediatly beseiged with the glum feeling that I always got as I passed through the wrought iron monstrosities: freedom curtailed, head down and get on with it.
The Assembly Hall (far grander than I remembered it) was bedecked in streamers and bunting and those chairs you only even seem to see in schools - wooden, chipped and destined to catch your tights/skirt/dress as you stood up. Trudy came screeching towards me and slapped a sticker onto my bosom that gave my name "as was", the name of my class (5L) and the name of my Head of Year (Mr Jarvis). Monica Travis (now Monica Travis-Hunt), she of the jumping out of window fame, peered at my bosom and we were off. Our fellow classmates were dissected "wonder what Tracy Baker's up to now, stuck up cow" and "I heard that Cheryl Clarke has had her whole body lifted".
The unfortunate side-effect of having your names on your bosoms meant that we were leering at passing women quite unashamedly. "Lisa Morris!" Monica and I both shrieked at first sight of a tall, slim blonde. "No, Angie Taylor" said the blonde as the "real" Lisa Morris stepped out of the shadows - still tall but seemingly the same width as height with mousey hair and a sunburnt face. I felt almost Kate Moss-like and began some serious hair tossing action. Oh, and the memories. We fell into our old class groups almost immediatly, we were set to eat in our class groups which suited me fine. Twenty minutes surrounded by my old classmates and I was enjoying myself immensely.
5W were the Glamourpusses and had the likes of Becca White (now a catalogue model) and Caroline Wilkinson (Head Housekeeper at a Royal Palace) in their class. 5A were the Goody Goodies: Angie Taylor (who simpered "just a housewife and mother" all night) and Ann-Marie Anderson (accountant and knows of David). 5V were the Geniuses and everytime there was an award to win, someone from 5V won it - Lorraine Morrison is a member of MENSA and Maria Antyanlou owns and runs her own restaurant in Cyprus but "came back for tonight, wouldn't have missed it".
5R were the Worthies with Artie Devereaux the lead Do-Gooder. No surprise to learn that she's somebody high up in social services now. Tessa Simpson is a bona fide nun. Seriously. Complete with mini wimple. My own form, 5L were known as the Rabble which will surprise you not at all dear friends! Louise Fisher now runs her own tattoo parlour but is remarkedly ink free herself, Monica Travis-Hunt is a police officer in CO19 and me, well I go through life - as my fellow classmate Amelia Johnson put it - "like an unrestrained labrador, keen to do everything and anything, all at the same time". And last but not least, 5Y were known quite simply as the Yawnmakers. Boring to a fault they were. Roberta Rowlinson is another "just a housewive and mother" and didn't move from the door all night and Desdemona Hawkins is a vegan and railed against the "destruction of the ozone layer". Everyone was still giving 5Y a wide berth, 20 years on.
And the teachers - they looked so old! Miss Williams, forty one when she took us for music, is now a glamourous 62 year old, complete with LBD and cigarette holder, her once girlish voice now "ruined by gin and ciggies darlings" and married to a "gorgeous Italian man called Claudio". Her fourth husband. We all gathered round her and, despite 20 years and the fact that nearly all of us had changed names, she identified nearly all of us. "Louise Fisher - such a glorious singer" and "Amelia dear girl, such a talent for the piano". Amelia revealed that she herself now teaches music and Miss Williams wiped her eyes with a delicate lace handkerchief. Of me she said "Darling, what you didn't have in tune you more than made up for in style".
All of the forms were mingled up for lessons and Mr Pollard fondly remembers his Thursday afternoon art classes "double period, last lesson of the day". "I remember quite clearly the trauma of getting a class of either pre or post menstrual girls to sit down and do my life class" he said as he gave us all his haughty look. Caroline Jamieson and I exchanged glances at this - we were the main culprits in the tale he was about to recount. "The girls from 5W were more concerned that the male model would find them the most attractive, the 5A ladies were appalled that I had introduced a male model for the afternoon's activities, 5V were busy sharpening their pencils as were the one or two from 5R" Caroline and I tried to escape at this point but, as always, Mr Pollard's booming voice stopped us in our tracks. "The only two young ladies from 5L," he continued as all eyes turned to Caroline and I "were hysterical with laughter at something that would become quite clear whilst 5Y huddled behind their notepads in terror".
"And then it happened" Mr Pollard smiled. "The male model took up his position (let me just say at this point Dear Reader that he was in his early 60's and wearing a flesh colour pair of tight pants "to show muscle definition"), facing away from the multitude of giggling girls - it was at this point we all spotted the large mirror, propped up on the desk opposite him so that everyone in the class could see not only his back but his front as well." It took Caroline and I half an hour to get the mirror off the wall in the toilets and we got a week's worth of detention - but it was worth it!
For those that wanted it, there was a tour of the school but it didn't take in the bikesheds, the back of the English hut nor the alleyway alongside the canteen - they're the bits I remember most!
Our then headmistress, Miss Wilson, had sadly passed away (a tree had been planted in the main courtyard in her memory) but the current headmistress welcomed us back to the school that nurtured us, taught us, cossetted us, protected us and made us what we are today.
I left with a handful of phone numbers, promises of lunches and a tour of Scotland Yard for me and Mac. School reunions are just like school - you don't necessarily always want to go but you have a good time while you're there.