Once upon a time we were all pupils of TCS 1956-1963, mostly from different towns in Middlesex, some from different backgrounds, but all at roughly the same educational standard, having passed our 11 plus. We gradually found friends in the classes we were allocated to be in, 35 to a class, four classes. I think most of us pictured above and below were in 1A or 1B classes when we first joined TCS.
We were gradually steamed as our abilities of passing exams dictated and we ended up, most of us having passed our GCE O levels in 1960 and 1961, in the lower sixth studying for our A levels. Eventually we progressed to the Upper Sixth Arts or Upper Sixth Science, depending on our chosen A level subjects. We then occupied a house adjacent to the school grounds called Mendip Lodge, or as we all called it ‘Mendy Blodge’. Some of us had left school to enter into their commercial careers, but we others, left behind to study in the hope of going to University, still kept in touch with our old class mates.
Here are some of us after exams in 1961, and at a wedding of one of the girls who had left after taking her O levels, to start her commercial career.
Here are some of us again. What a motley group of 70 year olds!
Some of us had been keeping in touch with each other via Xmas cards and the occasional letter over the years, but most of us had lost touch, having moved away to different parts of the UK and some of us were even living abroad.
Friends Reunited brought me and my friend Rosie together again. Rosie was still in touch with Alison, I was still in touch with Sandra, and some others had kept in touch with other girls in our school year.
Eventually we realised there were enough of us to have a huge get-together and we had our first official gathering 40 years after leaving school, when we returned to our old school to have a look around again, followed by a meal in a café nearby. One of the girls then invited us back to her house, not far away in the same town where we had attended school. Unbelievably none of us had changed much, except for a few added pounds on some of us, and of course the “laughter lines” on our faces.
Another ten years on and a few of us were keeping in touch on Facebook. Alison, who lived in the Bahamas was coming over to England for her annual family visit and suggested we meet up again. This time we met at a restaurant on the South Bank in London and had a good old chinwag over a lovely meal, followed by a walk along the South Bank and another refreshment stop at a café.
We then decided to try and make it an annual event, which so far we have kept up, except that I couldn’t go last year because my daughter who lives in Canada was here on a visit at the time. Every year so far someone has been missing for some reason or another, and every year we also seem to find an extra person added to the reunion group.
We were all 70 this academic year, so it was a special reunion for us this year. Sue very kindly offered to have us meet at her very beautiful house in the wooded countryside, a few miles from Godalming, instead of our usual meeting on the South Bank.
I live in Northamptonshire, Rose of the Shires, home of squires and spires. I usually travel by train to our reunions on the South Bank. I can be at St Pancras within an hour from my house. Then it is a 59 bus to Waterloo Bridge and a five minute walk for me. Easy Peasy! Not so a trip to Godalming. Three changes of trains. I couldn’t face that. I would have to go by car.
I started making plans.
Problem one was leaving my young dog alone at home for so long during the day. I got that all organised in the end by barricading her run so that she could not do any damage or, worse, escape. However, on the morning she demonstrated that my barricades might possibly be ineffective, so in the end I had to lock her in her room with a gate between her and the outside, so that she still had fresh air, but nowhere to relieve herself. How do you force a dog to “Go do tiddle!” when she doesn’t think she needs to? She wouldn’t! I expected to return to a puddle or two!
Problem two was my old car. I don’t take it very far these days. Nothing electrical works properly, so no radio, no electric windows and intermittent aircon action. However, I had taken it to the garage to have everything checked over for safety, so was fairly confident that I would be able to get there and back without breaking down or worse.
Problem three was the M25. I had decided a few years ago I was never going to use it again having sat in a traffic jam for seemed like hours, needing the loo. These days I can’t stray too far away from a loo. However, there was nothing else for it but to use the M25 to get to my destination. I braced myself, had no coffee before leaving home, and gritted my teeth.
Problem four was my memory, and that of my mobile. I have no sat nav. Would I be able to remember the route I had googled? I had written down on a piece of paper all the road numbers I needed to look for, where to turn right or left etc. In the past I knew how to find places using a map, so I took one with me, just in case my phone had no reception and I could not find my way using the map app on it. In the past, whenever I have tried to find where I am and use voice navigation to get to my destination, my map app kept telling me I had to download something to be able to use it. Couldn’t do that because my phone memory was full! Grrr!
On the day I was all prepared:- hair trimmed, nails done, bathed and beautified, matching outfit hanging ready to wear, champagne bottle packed in my cool box with ice packs around it. Dustbin day. They would be here, as usual, before 9.30am and the barking from my dog would be over and dealt with by me before I left. Then I watched them at the back of my house, following a different route than usual. Oh no! A different driver maybe had decided to do the route in reverse and our street would be serviced much later than usual.
I changed into my outfit, hoping that at least they would come and empty the bin before I left at 9.30am. I could leave the bin outside the back gate. I dare not go past my dog dressed in my outfit or I would be covered in fur and loving slobber. Such are the trials and tribulations of having a boisterous young GSD. I loaded up the car and waited and waited. By 10.15am I decided I would have to go and leave my dog to annoy the neighbours with her barking at the binmen, which I knew would last probably as long as the annoying house alarms that go off on a regular basis without reason. Ah well…..
So, three quarters of an hour or so after my planned time of departure I got on the road. I would at least get to the M1 within 20 minutes or so, wouldn’t I? Wrong. Roadworks had sprung up since I did the journey last Friday. Grrrr! That put me back another ten minutes.
However, I made good time on the M1. Unbelievably that was trouble free. All roadworks seemed to have been finished and there was bags of space on it to cope with the non rush hour traffic. I reached the M25 in record time and the traffic on it was running well. I thought I might actually arrive in good time.
I spoke too soon though because I soon reached a gantry saying “Traffic queue ahead” and “60,60,60,60”. Urrrgh! Here we go! A hold up as usual. We ground to a halt well before the “40,40,40,40” sign on the gantry above the road. Then it was shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, a few feet at a time. Next gantry “30,30,30,30”. We should be that lucky?
I tried to find my hostess’s phone number that I had wisely entered into my phone before departing. I wanted to text her that I was on my way but would probably be late, but before I could we moved a few feet more. I can’t seem to work out how to use my phone to text when I am on the move, even at the slow speed we were enabled to do. How people get caught for texting whilst driving, I’ll never understand!
First it was the M40 hold up, then the M4, then Heathrow, then the M3. To amuse myself I started singing to myself my version of Chris Rea’s “Road to Hell”.
Well I’m driving down the road
but the traffic doesn’t flow
and air’s filled with every poison
you can think of.
And I’m underneath the gantry
with nowhere I can go,
hacked off beyond belief.
Can’t wind down my windows,
and the frustrated fear of lateness
chokes the smile on my grim face
and patience is running out my elbows.
This ain’t no technological freeway,
oh no, this is the road to Hell.
I looked at my phone. 12.30pm. Surely the traffic would start flowing soon? Eventually it did and I prepared myself to look for signs of the A3 at junction 10. When I reached it I found it running well. That was something, at least.
I was looking for signs as instructed by google maps for the A281, 17.1miles from the M25. I spotted a sign then a slip road, right on the correct mileage. I whizzed off the road, past a garage and into a tiny village over a weak bridge and turned left at the very first turning I came to. This was not in the instructions. It should only have been a few yards before I turned left. I found a convenient place to stop at a bus stop by a village green and called my hostess to let her know I was late and possibly lost.
Having at least let my hostess know I was on my way, I looked at the map app on my phone to see where on earth I was, and where I needed to go to get to my destination. My written instructions were quite obviously not going to be any good any more. I tried to set my map app to voice navigation, but it kept saying I needed to download more. Urrrrgh! Can’t do that, phone memory full.
I continued on the road I was on in the hope I would soon reach civilisation, or at least a road sign. Having driven around a roundabout twice looking for a sign that would mean something to me, about ten minutes later, which seemed like an hour at least, I found a garage and stopped the car with relief. They would know what road this was, wouldn’t they? No, not a clue. No idea where the place was I was looking for either. Luckily a customer buying petrol knew where it was and pointed me in the right direction. I finally got to my destination at 1.30pm, over 3 hours after leaving home and late for lunch.
What a delicious buffet Sue had prepared for us. A whole poached salmon, some lovely chicken concoction in a cream sauce, salads, potatoes etc. Just what the doctor ordered. My frustrations of the previous hour or so soon evaporated. One of the girls had brought desserts her very talented son had made. Some of the girls had brought some very delicious cakes for teatime later. Others had brought Prosecco. I had taken pink Champagne, chocolates and some nibbles with the intention of arriving well before lunchtime.
We’d had a lovely meal, and a lovely get-together reminiscing about other girls and our old teachers, looking at old photos and generally catching up with each other. All too soon it was over and at about 6 pm it was time to go and face that wretched M25 again. That is, if I could find it on the way home.
I left and followed the route back that I had arrived by, knowing that at least I would be able to find the A3 again, even if it was the wrong way. Wrong!
Where do signs suddenly disappear to when one gets near the road one wants?
I was driving over the road I needed to be on. Reached a roundabout. No signs, except to somewhere I had never heard of going left. I needed to go right. No entry sign there. Okay then, straight on. Ended up in some village and looked at a map, a proper map, in a map book. I was heading for Farnham. That was near the M3. That was nearer than going back to find the A3 again, which seemingly didn’t want me to find it. One can’t miss the M3 can one? I’ve heard of Frimley.
I carried on my way. Followed all the signs for the M3, except for when they disappeared again. Why do they do that? Went round a roundabout twice again, and returned to another roundabout I had gone round earlier and took another exit. Ah M3 signs again. Now, should I go left or right on it? I saw a sign for London. Well at least if I headed towards London and reached the end of the M3 I would know the way from there. Maybe.
Fortunately I didn’t have to travel that far. I found signs appearing for the M25. All was okay now, so long as the road signs were still pointing to the M25 and didn’t disappear again. I was expecting the M25 to have been well clear by this time. Everyone would be at home and enjoying their evening meal by then, wouldn’t they?… No way! Everyone was still travelling on the M25. I gritted my teeth again and hoped my bladder would last until I got to the M1, Toddington services.
We slowly progressed along the crowded M25, shuffling as usual through the holdups around Heathrow, the M4 and the M40 and I was very relieved to see signs for the M1. These days, at that time of evening that usually flows normally.
I gratefully pulled onto the M1 and quickly sped into the outside lanes, overtaking all the slowcoaches who were trying to decide which lane they should be in. When the traffic chaos after that junction had settled down, I settled back in my car seat and ungritted my teeth. As I have no working radio, I started singing to myself as I quite often do on this road (with apologies to the Pet Shop Boys and anyone who lives in Middlesex):-
Go North, where the roads are fine.
Go North to that home of mine.
Go North, where the air is clear,
away from polluted atmosphere.
Go North, where my pup awaits
Go North, leave that road I hates
Go North to the roads I know
Go North where I know where to go.
I’m coming home, my little Lex,
I’ve left that big, bad, Middlesex,
I’m driving back through the shires
to the home of squires and spires.
Go North, I’m now well on my way
Go North, I’m coming home to stay…
Before long I was at my junction and on familiar roads again. By now the frustrations of trying to find my way around without a sat nav or co-pilot armed with a map, and the horror of sitting going nowhere on the road to Hell were all forgotten. I was looking forward to seeing my Lexy, wondering whether her bladder would have held out, as had mine.
She barked with joy as she heard my car arrive, poor little love. She almost jumped over her dog gate as I opened the kitchen door to her room. She was jumping up and down like a kid on a trampoline. I nearly got licked to death as I went in, but she didn’t wet herself with excitement even though she had been without a loo for over twelve hours. Well done, my little pup. That is the longest time she has ever been left.
With my nightmare journey over and my dog settled, I texted Sue to tell her I had arrived home safely, and to thank her for the wonderful spread she had prepared for us. She said she was thinking of hosting our reunion again next year.
OMG! Not the M25 again!
Here we all were at our reunion in September 2012
and here we are again at our reunion in August 2013.