Forty years on

On Saturday night I went to a reunion of my year from high school.  This was a “back to school” day where you could watch the football matches of the day, have a tour of the classrooms and facilities, and then have dinner.  I just went to the dinner.

The school is a boys private school.

In my time boarders made up about an eighth of the students – less by the end. Lessons seemed almost a sideline: the sociopathology of the school was overwhelmingly sport, played on Saturdays against other schools.  Rugby was the dominant winter sport.  In the junior age groups (13, 14, 15, 16) teams went down to “G.”  In summer, cricket and rowing shared the crown.  Tennis and swimming were outliers.  Soccer (as we called it then) and basketball were introduced under sufferance for winter and summer respectively.

Instead of an elected school captain, we had an appointed senior prefect – invariably a prominent athlete and cadet under-officer and usually at least reasonably academic. Once a king or queen in Narnia, always a king or queen. The same goes for senior prefects – he has sent out the invitations for reunions in previous decades and did so again this year, though with the assistance of the school which by now has become very organised in its alumni relations.

Email and the internet make this sort of thing much easier than it would once have been.  Starting a few months ago there has been a flurry of emails as far-flung ex-schoolmates hit the “reply all” button announcing their intention or inability to attend and the odd broadcast reminder seeking missing contact details.

I did not respond to these.  At these reunions, it is the sporty element and boarders who are best represented.  A circulated list of those who had accepted to date confirmed this prospect. Few of the people I had much in common with were on it.

Then a “reply all” from an unlikely source mentioned me.  I havered right up to the last moment, then took the bait, making the necessary payment on the Thursday just before.

On the night we were about 50 out of a year which started with about 150 boys in first form and ended up with about 125 at the end of year 12.

I don’t know if we ever had a ten-year reunion.  I went to a twenty-year one in 1997.  That was the first time I saw my school fellows as a group as adults.  For me the chief interest was the small group of people (including myself) who had turned out to be gay.  Even then, not all of them chose to make any general declaration about that.  We formed a little quasi-masonic secret society for the night.

I remember some of our little sub-lodge as having a miserable time at school.   It never really occurred to me that any of them might be gay.  It was sufficient explanation for their plight that they were not sporty.

I don’t even recall having any particular theory about NH, a singer and dancer who went on to make a career around the world, though perhaps subliminally I did.  I shed a tear on hearing of his death some time in the 90s and I still remember him for both his beauty and his sweet disposition.

Seven other members of our year have died since we left school, so far as is known.

This time I was “the only gay in the village.”

The noisy sporty ones behaved pretty much as I expected.  Rowers were the hardest-core.

It wasn’t a night of many revelations or long-deferred denouements.  Those mostly happened 20 years ago – apart from the news in the meantime that a he (not one of the gay group) has become a she.

Nevertheless I’m still feeling a little shaken up, without being able quite to identify why.  Maybe it is just a matter of reverberance, a milestone passed, and the reminder when seen together of how old we are and are becoming, forty years on.

 

 

 

6 Responses to “Forty years on”

  1. michael boyd Says:

    Well what about the BHP leadership thing, did you forget about that, something more interesting in diversion to focus on, I know its a long time ago, but sometimes its sort of good to finish things we started, isn’t it

  2. michael boyd Says:

    Or maybe your just stumbling on people

  3. michael boyd Says:

    You can moderate me out, your decision, but you have to live with yourself, it was hardly your problem, was it, made a good blog entry, though, for what that was worth for you

  4. michael boyd Says:

    A sad case, lol, like you really care !, for me, the whole thing took me all around the world , working for someone, well someone, can’t mention the name , lol

  5. Andrew Says:

    School reunions seem scary to me. The first questions that will be asked, are your married? Do you have children? Where do you live? (reverse snobbism may kick in here) What work do you do? (I’m a blue collar shift worker. Snobbism will set in here) You were so skinny. What happened? I remember your father. He liked a drink or two. As someone who is focused so much on what other people think of me, to the point of paranoia, I think it would be a disaster for me. As an aside, I amazed at how many of my classmates are now dead. I can’t imagine any of my classmates are gay. There was Derek Butcher in the form above me who wanted to marry David Cassidy. There is a good chance he was/is gay.

    Anyway, I admire you for attending. I guess it was easier the second time.

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