Saturday, 7 September 2013

Blackburne House class reunion

Yesterday, it was the turn of the southern contingent of my school classmates to meet up. To our delight, some of the northerners (I went to school in Liverpool) came down for it, too. We met in the ground floor cafe of the National Gallery. The table was booked from 11am  to 1pm when there were plans to go for a picnic, but as it was raining, we stayed put till 4.30!

It was wonderful catching up with what everyone had been doing over the last few decades! Some of us hadn't seen each other for a staggering 50 years! Yet we soon acclimatised to each other's grey hairs and wrinkles and it was just as if we were still in Miss Arthur's English class together, trying to work out the hidden meanings in Browning's My Last Duchess, or ducking the blackboard rubbers chucked by Miss Hodgkinson, our fiery French teacher.

Blackburne House (aka Liverpool Institute for Girls) closed 25 years ago and is now an education and conference centre and even has an award-winning cafe

The days that saw us sprinting round a frosty schoolyard, chasing a netball in our yellow Airtex tops and regulation navy-blue knickers, to the sniggers of the art students over the road, are long gone. We reminisced about the 'phantom flashers' who hung around in the street below our first floor classroom; about who who went out with whom; and I learned the sad story of how our headmistress ended her days, lying alone and undiscovered in her flat over a Bank Holiday weekend, having suffered a stroke. Poor thing. She was a rather remote, cold individual who never looked you in the eye, but she was fiendishly intelligent and spoke fluent Russian. It was she who encouraged us to learn it up to O-level standard - though we only signed up for the classes as they were held in the boys' school down the road. What nobody told us was that the boys in the Russian class were two years younger than us, and horrible lot of little yobbos.

It was fascinating to learn about what we'd all done with our lives. A surprising number had become teachers. L became an air stewardess, then a purser, travelled the world and married a pilot. J  married a jazz musician. E. married a Spaniard and lived in Spain for many years. Many of them are on their second marriages now. I feel I've lived quite a dull life by comparison!

Robbie Burns said, 'Oh wad some Pow'r the gifite gie us/To see oursels as others see us.' I wanted to know what I was like in my teenage years, so I asked them all what their abiding impressions of me were and I wasn't prepared for the replies. They all said I was 'horse-mad'! I'd quite forgotten that phase of my life. I went off horses once I discovered boys, but my sister and daughter are still horse-mad so maybe it's in the genes. I was also known for my singing and poetry-writing. I can't say I've done a lot of singing over the past couple of decades. Maybe I should start again. It really was a brilliant day.

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