It took me ages to get ready.
Everything I tried on seemed wrong.
I looked too fat, too frumpy, too old (!), too…. well… too unlike my 18-21 year old self.
We were all training to teach and within the first week or so of college we’d become firm friends.
And today we were meeting up after 4o years.
There were five of us, all students on the same corridor in the hostel and we soon discovered that we shared much in common.
We wanted to teach.
We were fascinated by children’s development and learning from 7 to 11 and wanted to be part of their education. We wanted their school days to be fun, spontaneous, child centred and memorable. We were ‘in love’ with teaching and all that it implied.
We were all full of naive optimism and a blossoming confidence.
Mnay of our attitudes to children and to teaching were the same.
We wanted the best for our future pupils.
We worked hard, tried to pass our exams, stayed up late preparing for our teaching practices and stayed up even later sobbing over boyfriends. We told each other everything, gave advice, encouraged one another to be positive when teaching practice was a bit of a challenge and kept secrets if asked.
- New experiences.
We could hardly wait to learn…
about Chinese food,
drinking in pubs,
dancing the ‘twist’ (thanks, Tuck, for showing me the right ‘technique’),
and suede coats.
We spent our ‘student grant’ – yes, it was that long ago! – with care, shopping in Dorothy Perkins and only peering in the windows of Russell and Bromley.
If funds allowed we would even go into town (London) to walk down Carnaby Street where everyone seemed ‘trendy’.
We rode on the backs of scooters, often without a helmet! , amazingly one of us even had a car, and sometimes we walked down the never ending, dark driveway back to college late at night, in the rain, after the last tube had dropped us at the station. No money for taxis!
Trips home were rare as fares were expensive even then. Once or twice Judy and I hitch-hiked home, a practice that seemed safe back then.
- Naive optimism..
We were 18 when we met.
So much ahead of us.
We couldn’t have imagined then what lay ahead – cancer treatment (successful!), family upsets, deaths, weddings, babies, promotions, realisation of ambitions, arrival of grandchildren.
At 18, I would have been very concerned at the idea of one day having a child, let alone a grandchild!
And so…we met up…
at a holiday cottage in Dorset, where one of us was staying with her OH.
And as soon as we saw one another all thoughts of my appearance were forgotten. I squealed with excitement and tried to hug everyone at once. I couldn’t believe it!
Champagne was drunk, ( a friend had lent me her ‘everyday’ champagne glasses, I kid you not, in case the cottage had nothing suitable,) and we drank a toast to Judy, who couldn’t be there.
We told one another that we all looked exactly the same, none of us had changed a bit although we all knew that wasn’t true.
Or was it?
What we shared was exactly the same, except for one aspect, the naive optimism.
We still had the same values and attitudes.
Only the naive optimism had gone, squashed under a layer of paper work, politically correct rules and regulations and sheer hard work in our classrooms.
But we knew that what we had shared in the 1960′s had lasted through the years.
Laughter, tears, love, caring, concern for one another’s health, interest in family, divorces, re-marriages, births and deaths, all were as strong as ever.
Still there, for all to witness.
We’re scattered around the country now of course.
But if anyof us is sad or needs a listening ear, we know we can call. Whenever one of us is ‘in the area’ she always tries to visit, even if it’s only for a couple of hours.
Squeals of excitement and gales of laughter echo all around us, just like the squeals and laughter of those ‘apprentice teachers’ long ago.
This post is for them, and their OH’s - Ros, Tuck, Les and Judy.
I’m lucky to have known you at such an important stage in my life, and lucky that our friendship has kept us company and supported us throughout the years.
Over to you.
- How far back to your oldest friends go?
- Do you meet up?
- What do you still have in common after all the years?
Photo by Paul Robertson on Flickr.
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