I wonder if she’s wondering?

I don’t know if everyone does this, but I often think back to when I was at school and wonder what happened to those people I remember from long ago… Sometimes it’s possible to find old friends or school buddies – I did so with much joy recently. However some reunions are just baffling… “where is that funny fun person I remember? Who is this po-faced individual with no sense  of humour? What happened to change them… or have I misremembered, was this always how they were?‘” Sometimes strange things are revealed, unexpected things – some are lovely – this person always really liked and admired me and wanted to be a closer friend, this other person was a bully and really unkind but I never saw it or guessed.

This morning for some reason I was thinking about my birthday, and remembering when I was at junior school, it might even be infant school, there were a couple of friends whose birthdays were either side of mine. One was called Catherine, and I can’t remember who the other was – John, maybe? What happened to them? How did their lives pan out? Catherine must have moved schools because she wasn’t in my class later on… and thinking about it now, I used to play with her because she lived in our road, so maybe she didn’t even go to our school? I guess I was about six at the time… Does she ever think back over those many years and remember a little me she played with?

Then there were the twins who also lived in our road and also moved away, Richard and Elizabeth, I wonder where you are now, I hope you’ve had happy and successful lives. Living in Cambridge there were a lot of visitors to the university who stayed for maybe only a year or so; their children came to school, then they too disappeared – little Polish Jan, and Pierre from France, and another little girl from Poland, Ewa, Carla from the States and someone whose name I’ve forgotten – maybe she was Virginia, from Australia. There were other little children who I now know didn’t have such happy lives, and sad things happened to them while they were still young; I hope they escaped their situation and were able to  find happiness.

Often quoted because it is so true –  “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”…

My 2017: September

Our lives had seemed very settled… the children had left home and we were busy with all our activities, then suddenly we had some exciting news! Daughter was moving back home – just temporarily to build up some funds to go travelling, but even so, we were thrilled and very pleased!

So that was one bit of excitement, but in a way not unexpected… what else happened in September though was very unexpected and really thrilling!! Here is the story behind it:

Way back when I was at school, we sometimes had people join us who were only with us for a year or a couple of years because their parents were in Cambridge for some reason. It was always nice to welcome new people from different places but one girl who joined us immediately became a friend. I think we were quite naughty (in an innocent way) and probably very silly; the sort of things we did was to swap one shoe, so we each had a brown shoe and a red shoe… and I’m sure there were lots of other things too, which I don’t now remember.

In those days the only way to keep in touch was by letter… and I don’t think we actually ever wrote to each other when she left our school. I’ve often thought about her over the years…

If you can spot me on the back row, you can spot her, standing next tom me – she must have been standing on a step because she looks taller than me, but in fact we were the same height!

Luckily these days, there are lots of ways of keeping in touch – and also finding people you’ve lost contact with… and so it was with us! We found each other!! We have been writing, and although it is decades since we saw each other (we never met again after she left school) we are just as ‘in tune’ with each other as we ever were.

She is an artist, and I am so excited because she and her brother and sister are having an exhibition in London, and I am going up there on Friday to see it!  More exciting still, she has been on some travels, and was able to drop by for lunch on her way back to London! Well, it was so lovely to see her and meet her family! I think we just about talked nonstop!

It really is amazing that whatever it was that sparked our friendship all those years ago is still there!

We didn’t just spend that day together, my daughter and I travelled to London to visit my friend and to see her exhibition, and here is what I wrote about it:

My daughter an I visited her exhibition.

I’ve seen lots of photos of her fabulous paintings, but photos and the real thing are no comparison! Her work, landscapes, domestic interiors, still lifes (or is it lives?) are just wonderful, and i very much enjoyed seeing her sister’s photos and her brother’s ceramics. It was a wonderful day, and a picnic lunch in the garden at the back of the gallery made the whole thing perfect.

Discovering places… the exhibition was held in a most interesting gallery in a two hundred and forty-year-old mill… not just a mill but a huge industrial mill for producing flour on a huge scale. Built in 1776, the House Mill is the world’s largest surviving tidal mill. It was built on the site of a much older mill, with foundations dating back to between 1380 and 1420.. It was called the House Mill because it was sited between two other houses… simple! There was a windmill also on the site, but it vanished halfway through the nineteenth century. Forty years after the House Mill, another mill was built opposite with a clock tower which gave the mill its name – and the fact there were three mills ensued for obvious reason the place was called ‘Three Mills’;  the site was ideal for such operations with the River Thames giving reliable free power!

The Clock Mill

I didn’t realise until I looked it up, that the House Mill lies on an island in the River Lea, a tributary of the Thames, although I should have realised as we went there, that there was water at the front and at the back. Obviously milling grain for flour was the chief task – except when England’s security was at risk with the threatened invasion by the Spanish Armada in 1588, when a gunpowder mill was established. Another interesting part of its history was when it was used as  a gin distillery – with the popularity of gin again these days, the fashionable drink, maybe that’s another future plan! Milling stopped in 1941 at the House Mill, but continued at the Clock Mill  until 1952.

You may be too late for my friend’s exhibition, but the House Mill and Clock Mill will remain her for centuries to come… so plenty of time to visit!

http://www.housemill.org.uk

 

Wondering where she went…

This is a true story but as usual I have changed the names identities, circumstances and locations.

Lily left her small junior school and moved onto a secondary school on the other side of town; it was a well-thought of school and children came from all over the area, some catching buses just after seven in the morning and not getting home until six at night. There was a group of children from Lily’s junior school all going to this school, so she had a few friends already; however the three year seven classes were arranged in alphabetical order, so the people she knew were in different classes.

It wasn’t long before Lily knew all the people in her class and soon made friends; she got on well with most of the others, some she liked more, some she liked less, but no-one was horrible, so all was well. There was one girl Lily was secretly fascinated by; Lily was one of the tallest in the class, but Nancy was the tallest. Nancy wasn’t just tall but she was big as well – broad-shouldered, big hands and feet, and was strong and athletic.  She had red curly hair cut in an unfashionable style, freckles all over her pale face and was always very cheerful and happy, but to Lily she seemed to have a lumpy awkwardness about her, as if she didn’t quite fit somehow.

Lily knew little about Nancy’s home or background, which was the case with quite a lot of her classmates – they knew everything about each other in school, but not necessarily anything about their other lives. Lily and Nancy were in the same class for most things, and although they always got on, they weren’t really friends – Lily’s friends were what you might call ‘characters’, and looking back she realised  they were strong-minded, intelligent, and with an off-beat sense of humour.

A compulsory class which everyone had to do was ‘dance”; the children wore tunics and what I guess you might call knickerbockers, in primary colours – how foolish and embarrassed they all felt.  A middle-aged woman played a piano and they were instructed by a shouting teacher  in this terrible free-dance class which was just awful… years and years later they would reminisce with horror about it!! Lily had a blue tunic which her mum had bought second-hand. Nancy had a green tunic which actually complimented her hair and complexion. They all leapt about, the teacher shouting instructions at them, and the biggest person in the class, Nancy, leapt and bounded  the most enthusiastically – for she was a ‘good sport’. Lily always felt sorry for her – not pity, but sorry that she was so big and… well, lumpy.

Nancy was such a nice person, everyone liked her… but years later Lily couldn’t remember who her particular friends were.  When they were in their last year at school, studying for their English exams, they were given past exam papers to practice with. When they had finished the particular question, they got into groups to read out what they had written, the first time they had done something like this. Lily as amazed at the story Nancy had written – it was brilliant!! It was really, really good! She had never realised how good Nancy was at writing, how imaginative and creative.! That was the last real memory Lily had of Nancy at school… she left, moved away, and eventually settled down with a family, a career and all she wanted.

Over the years, before there was the internet and an easy way to keep in touch, Lily tried to stay connected to old school friends through writing letters, but that drifted to a full stop. Lily had been happy at school and often thought back and wondered what her different friends were doing, wondering what lives they had, what choices they had made. She thought of Nancy, big, red-haired Nancy who had danced so enthusiastically in the awful short green tunic and knickers, Nancy who was such a good writer.

Many, many years passed, and there was a school reunion which Lily was very excited to attend.  It was interesting to meet other people she had known so well so many years ago…  There were surprises… a bully who had been so mean to others (not to Lily) looked a funny little soul, older than her years and  with a very staid life; a girl Lily had always admired and had secretly wanted to be friends with, had secretly thought the same about her! Three girls who had been so close, best friends since junior school – well, two of the trio had mercilessly bullied the other! Some girls, apart from obviously being grown women, looked exactly the same and seemed exactly the same, some were unrecognisable!

Lily was having a wonderful time catching up with dear friends, chatting non-stop and hearing all the news. Suddenly the door opened and in strode a tall woman; she had a flame of red hair,  confident, friendly smile on her perfectly made-up face, head up, shoulders back, fashionable clothes and high-heeled boots… it was Nancy!!

Lily rushed over to her and they immediately began to chat, catching up on each other’s lives! It was obvious that Nancy was successful and happy; she had the same lovely manner and kind way about her, the same sense of fun. She’d had a happy life, a successful and fulfilling career, was very happily married, travelled, pursued her hobbies and interests and all in all, life was wonderful for her!

As Lily drove away after a very happy afternoon, she thought about Nancy… all these years she had secretly worried about Nancy; how relieved and happy she was for her old school friend!!

Hello old friend!

Way back when I was at school, we sometimes had people join us who were only with us for a year or a couple of years because their parents were in Cambridge for some reason. It was always nice to welcome new people from different places but one girl who joined us immediately became a friend. I think we were quite naughty (in an innocent way) and probably very silly; the sort of things we did was to swap one shoe, so we each had a brown shoe and a red shoe… and I’m sure there were lots of other things too, which I don’t now remember.

In those days the only way to keep in touch was by letter… and I don’t think we actually ever wrote to each other when she left our school. I’ve often thought about her over the years…

If you can spot me on the back row, you can spot her, standing next tom me – she must have been standing on a step because she looks taller than me, but in fact we were the same height!

Luckily these days, there are lots of ways of keeping in touch – and also finding people you’ve lost contact with… and so it was with us! We found each other!! We have been writing, and although it is decades since we saw each other (we never met again after she left school) we are just as ‘in tune’ with each other as we ever were.

She is an artist, and I am so excited because she and her brother and sister are having an exhibition in London, and I am going up there on Friday to see it!  More exciting still, she has been on some travels, and was able to drop by for lunch on her way back to London! Well, it was so lovely to see her and meet her family! I think we just about talked nonstop!

It really is amazing that whatever it was that sparked our friendship all those years ago is still there!

Thinking of old friends

Tonight was quiz night at the pub; it’s such a social and sociable occasion, and thanks to this event I’ve made lots of friends and many more nodding acquaintances. I used to go down with my daughter, just the two of us, and we often sat next to an elderly lady who was in a team with her son and several others. Through chatting to her we got to know the son and several others who all live in the village.

People don’t have set positions in the pub and after a while, when it was my son who came down with me to the quiz (Tuesday night is band practice for my husband) we got to know team ice-cream, a couple who own the best ice-cream parlour in the world, and their friend. It wasn’t long before we amalgamated and became a single team… and when joined by others, including a lovely South African friend and her partner who is a pilot (on the rivers not in the air) we became a double team. Time moves on, son has new friends and soon we have an international branch – Spanish, Hungarian, and most recently Latvian!

It was when I was talking to our new Latvian friend I remembered when I went to secondary school;  I was lucky that it was a grammar school with girls from all over the county. I had several friends and people who I knew who came from the same primary school. However, when I arrived in our new class, I began to make new friends. One of them was Latvian; at that point I had never heard of a country called Latvia and I was fascinated! I guess her father, and maybe her mother too had arrived in England as refugees or displaced persons as they were then called…or maybe her father had fought against the Germans in one of the services, I really don’t know.

She was a lovely girl, with blond hair in long plaits, and very blue, blue eyes. I liked her very much and have very fond memories of her. As the years passed we drifted apart in school, but I have always remembered her. I don’t know where she is now, but I hope she has a happy life… and it would be wonderful if she remembered me too!