It is a surreal experience in many ways attending a reunion after 40 years since starting life as young student aged 18 or 19 years of age. And in many ways the College that I attended for four very happy years, was somewhat different from many. The reason being that it was basically in the middle of nowhere, located within its own rather lovely leafy compound just outside of Middleton in north Manchester. In a sense this gave it an identity all of its own. The reason being that it was like living in a bubble, where everything that you needed was contained within, and in many ways the outside world was just that, the outside world.
My first ever day was a strange one, as my parents drove me up from Birmingham and I registered at the college reception and was told that my room was to be on the third floor of a rather stern looking block called Our Lady’s hall. So my mum and dad and my sister helped me take my somewhat meagre possessions up the stairs (no lifts back then ) to the third floor and my cell block for the next year. I then sorted myself out and then my family left me to my own devices. But, only after my mother handed me a poignant red leather key holder, symbolic of my newly found freedom and young man independence. After they had gone and the silence descended, I decided that there as no point staying in on my own. As I opened the door to head for the bar a gangly youth appeared from the door opposite, we looked at each other and this chap said are you going to the bar, I said yes so off we went. This chap was called David and he was from Ilkeston in Derbyshire. This was to be the start of a 4 year journey that saw me arrive like anybody else, a lone student propelled into a new and somewhat uncertain journey to ultimately earn myself a degree, and of far more importance. Learn the skills of life to get on with people and fit into society. Albeit a unique cocoon of a campus in the middle of nowhere.
And so that was how the journey started, so fast forward 40 years on and there I was walking into the Piccadilly suite of the Holiday Inn in central Manchester, about to meet with people that’s I had not seen for 36 or 37 years. It was fascinating to meet these older versions of what were once very young people, now of course most of us were about to turn 60 years old. Ironically once you actually realised who these people were, everything was exactly as it used to be. The voices and mannerisms were the same teenagers that we had met all those years ago. The only difference was that just like me they had been wrapped in a different suit, of wrinkles and grey hair, and indeed in some cases no hair at all. The dynamics of friendship were precisely as they had been, it was as if nothing had changed, because it had not. The best bit about it all was the mutual reminders of things that had occurred so long ago. But of course once reminded there were as funny as they were back in the day that they happened.
So, I have to say I found the whole experience extremely enjoyable, it was truly great to catch up with old friends who are like me, just old. The laughter and memory flowed along with the beer, with stories swapped and potted life histories gained. It reminded me just how significant and influential those relationships were back then, after all in the bigger picture of things 3 or 4 years lived out of 60 is a very short time span. But we learned to live together, laugh together, and in many cases love together, and those bonds are deep and strong and last far longer than you think. And more importantly give you life skills that you simply do not get anywhere else. So until next year when hopefully God willing we shall all meet again, where the class of 1979 will reunite 41 years on.