Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Sleeping Dogs

An envelope addressed to me arrived yesterday. I couldn't recognise the handwriting or the postmark and so I tore it open with curiosity. Several papers fell out, and the top one was headed 'Reunion'. It was an invitation to a tour of my old school, followed by a dinner with all my old school fellows. My initial reaction was interest. It was such a long time ago, what would they all be like, it would be so intriguing.

I unfolded the papers and read through the details. It wasn't expensive; it would be a laugh. I looked at the names of the various organisers, names of people I hadn't thought of for decades. In the back of my mind, doubts began to gather.

Was it my imagination or were the people who had taken on the dreary tasks of organising and catering not exactly the same people who'd always been desperately scuttling about trying to be accepted all those years ago? And hadn't I actually had virtually nothing in common with almost all of these people and been overjoyed at the end of each term when I could finally go home and spend some time away from them (and, in fact, during term time, hadn't I spent an unusually large number of hours inside my cupboard, with a torch and a bag of sweets, sitting on my laundry bag, reading peacefully [actually wouldn't any number of hours thus spent be classifiable as 'an unusually large number')?

Then I unfolded the 'Questionnaire', which was labelled 'Just for Fun'. As I read through the questions, memories of schooldays 'fun' came flooding back.

Of course, the thing was such a hoot, where was my sense of humour, really. It was all meant as 'a bit of a giggle', that was all. 'If you made it to university' it began, (perish the thort being the implication in that particular milieu - amazing to think one's parents paid for a school where the prevailing ethos was one of scorn for scholarship), 'did you manage to finish?' Were you to answer yes to that question then, if the values of the old days still remained in force among the group, you had instantly marked yourself down as a loser swat.

Next came, 'How many times have you been married?'  which made no allowance for anyone who might have failed to get over that vital hurdle - but then again it was the main goal of a woman's life, don't you know. There followed: 'How many times have you been unfaithful?' (again, an assumption that you have at least once),'Have you got a lover now?', 'If yes, is your lover male or female' (oh the frisson of pure horrified excitement at the wild suggestion behind that one), 'What age were you when you married?' (a very important question - code for did you really win the race or just get taken off the shelf by someone who hadn't been a winner either), 'Have you lied about your children's paternity?' (I am so po-faced aren't I - I just find that such an awful idea and really unfunny as a possibility - gosh, I'm beginning to feel fifteen all over again), 'If yes, how often and how many fathers?', 'How often do you take cruises?' (what planet are these people on?), 'Do you play bridge?', 'Do you knit, crochet, do tapestry?', 'Do you take blood pressure medicine?' and on and on it nosily, (oh come on, ZMKC, it's just a giggle), goes.

Shudder, shudder, shudder, I had genuinely forgotten that these ninnies formed the background of my days for several years.

And double shudder, I had also forgotten that I, while possibly less tawdry (or more prim and dreary) in my preoccupations, had also been at fault in a much more reprehensible way. The fickleness that I cannot explain but which was a major feature of my personality in my childhood meant that I made and broke friendships utterly thoughtlessly and in a manner that makes me feel thoroughly ashamed. I realise now that I must have genuinely hurt people's feelings. How dreadful, especially at a boarding school to be left suddenly, inexplicably, high and dry by someone who you'd thought was a friend. I really was extremely horrid.

So, I won't be going to my reunion, but I'm grateful to have been invited. It was an unpleasant blast from the past that shook my complacency. I can't undo the things I did all that time ago, but I'm glad I've been reminded what a beast I was. It will spur me on to try to be better and kinder from now on. I wonder if I should start by learning bridge.


10 comments:

  1. I don't blame you. I have no urge to revisit the 'happiest days' of my life (although I'm looking forward to a university reunion in July).

    The questionnaire is rather depressing and while its authors may protest that it's "all a bit fun", it leaves a sour taste in the mouth.

    Perhaps I'm just being prudish.

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    1. I guess a difference between those we meet at school and those we meet at university is that those at university usually have chosen to be there and like their subject - which may also be the subject you yourself love, so you're really pretty likely to be among kindred spirits there.

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  2. I was doing well and wondering why on earth you wouldn't go until I reached the paragraph that starts "Next came, 'How many times have you been married?'"...then I understood...

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    1. Do you think the more times you have been the greater your success within the terms of the questionnaire?

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  3. Not going?! Why ever not?? I've just been to my 40th high school reunion and even though I was always on the outer at school I was surprised to discover that I loved it, but was hugely disappointed at the poor turnout! I had gone to all the trouble of travelling 4 hours to get there, and so many locals hadn't even bothered. So, give the rest of them some thought... it's not just about you.

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    1. You're right - I should give one or two people the opportunity to flense me about what a selfish git I was/am. Cathartic all round, possibly.

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  4. Q: 'Do you take blood pressure medicine?'
    A: 'Didn't think that I needed it, till I started on your questionnaire.'

    I have received no invitation to a reunion since my 10th. I didn't go, but I was interested to see that the person organizing it was the best athlete in our class and not somebody I'd have expected to take an interest in organizing anything.

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  5. Maybe he was preparing for a career in sports administration.

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  6. Answer all those questions, and the best bits could be on Twitter or Facefook [that was a genuine typo, but too good to correct] in a matter of days. Or, you've given your Old Best Friend the perfect opportunity to blackmail you forever, especially about your illicit cruises.

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    1. I'd be cruising for a bruising?

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